The Container Store Doesn’t Want to Hire Harvard Grads

You probably saw this on the web this past week, but in case you didn’t a former Harvard University graduate and Emmy award winning writer got rejected for a job at The Container Store for the holidays.  She was very surprised by this, in a pompous I’m-really-to-good-for-you kind of way, but I’m desperate, so you would be lucky to have me. Here it is in her words:

“The email from The Container Store asking for holiday help arrived a week before my rescheduled MRI. Of course I applied! You would have, too, if you had one kid paying his own way through college, another applying, no health coverage, a bum boob, a broken marriage and an empty bank account. There is no time for shame in a recession. You do what you have to do. There are worse ways to spend your day than greeting visitors at the front of a store run by a company whose products you actually use. A week later, I got an email from the Manhattan Loss Prevention department at The Container Store. Here’s what it said:

Hello Deborah —

Thank you for your interest in employment opportunities at The Container Store.

We carefully review all applications and consider each person for current or future opportunities. At this time, we are moving forward with other candidates for this position.

Again, we thank you for your interest in The Container Store. We wish you much success in your job search.


The Container Store
Manhattan Loss Prevention

Reader, first I laughed when I read this. Then I cried. Oh, Reader, I cried and I cried, long and deep and mournfully. I cried for me and my kids, then I cried for everyone else in my same boat, then I cried for everyone in far worse boats. Because seriously, if an Emmy Award-winning, New York Times bestselling author and Harvard grad cannot land a job as a greeter at The Container Store — or anywhere else for that matter, hard as I tried — we are all doomed.

Really?  We are all doomed because someone who has a Harvard degree and can write can’t get a service level holiday job?

Let’s take a look at why she probably didn’t get hired. I’ll give you some possible reasons on why The Container Store decided to go another route:

1. It’s a temporary job for the holidays, where they need someone to greet stressed out holiday shoppers.  Many people work these jobs each year to get extra holiday money, they have experience doing this, they can be counted on, not to quit after the first rude person yells at them. Experience counts. Even in ‘crappy’ jobs.

2.  These jobs are boring and monotonous. Service level companies know that most Harvard educated folks would be bored and not engaged in these positions.

3. Looking at the application of someone with a Harvard education and being a writer, they might have decided the person would work only until they got a better job, and they wanted to ensure the person stayed on through the completion of the assignment.

4. Maybe they had someone who has worked ‘temporarily’ for them in the past apply to come back, that had previously performed well.

5. Maybe they got internal referrals of friends and family from their employees, and decided those hires might ‘fit’ better.

No doubt Deborah is smart and a good writer. That doesn’t mean she would be good for the container store, and it is pompous of her to believe she would be.  She didn’t see this ‘job’ as good, she saw it as a step down, and something she was ‘forced’ to do.  Sounds just like someone you really want working for you, right?  “Well, I don’t have anything else Container Store, I guess I’ll take your crappy job.”

The Container Store rejected a Harvard graduate because a Harvard graduate isn’t the best hire, the best talent, for the position they were hiring for.  I might not be a Harvard graduate, but that seems pretty simple to figure out.

6 thoughts on “The Container Store Doesn’t Want to Hire Harvard Grads

  1. Very good points from a recruiting/hiring aspect but I can’t help but notice the first three are based on assumptions. Granted, that’s what you have to go on sometimes when you have to make a decision and “fit” can be very subjective. However, it is probable that her I-can’t-believe-this-crappy-job-wouldn’t-hire-me attitude did not come up until she was rejected based on perceived assumptions.

    Here are some possible reasons why The Container Store may have made a mistake:

    1. With the current economy, there are many highly educated, talented and dedicated people that are out of work, who may bring a lot to an employer. They’re trying to survive like everyone else.
    2. Someone who has put in the dedication of higher education has probably been through a lot to get there and may have some pretty tough skin and a lot of staying power. I’ve worked with physicians for years and I wouldn’t want an employer to assume I would crumple at the first sign of an angry customer. Ha, I am highly experienced in that aspect of every day job happenings.
    3. An employer might consider assessing skills and potential value based on a personal interaction. Maybe this person is applying for a job that might set them on a new career path and they needed to do something drastic. Maybe they are looking for something that might bring them a little more joy than what they are currently doing (or did, if they are unemployed). Applicant shouldn’t oversell high level skills in this situation.
    4. Might there also be a fear component on the part of the hiring managers? I may not want to hire someone who appears to have the potential to show me up and take my job.

    Just some thoughts to expand this story the other direction.

  2. I find it interesting that people think they are entitled to jobs that they deem beneath them. All jobs require particular skills. Just because someone is highly educated doesn’t mean they have the skills to be the most qualified candidate for a janitorial position.

  3. Tim,

    I think you severely missed the overall theme of the article that she wrote. What you are talking about (albeit the title of the article) is merely a supporting story she used to convey a greater message to the reader. Control of our lives is a figment of our imagination produced during times when we seemingly have it all together. It can be snatched away from you even though you have been told your whole life that if you work hard and buckle down, you will have a safe and secure future. I don’t think that the author of the article would even argue the points that you made.

  4. I’m more impressed that they actually contacted her to give her a status rather than having her sit in some black hole somewhere.

  5. Amen, Tim. I have to admit, that when I was young, and had not yet come to the dark side that is HR, I would have also been affronted by the thought that a Harvard grad would be rejected for a job as a greeter in a retail store. Such is the plight of misunderstood artists that go by the name of Recruiter. Unfortunately, far too many hiring managers also do not understand that irrelevant accolades do not a good fit make.

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