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I’m very happy with what I’m doing now, but earlier this year when I was pursuing work I had a chance to interview with a very large non-automotive high-tech company that wants to do business in automotive.  For those of you that know me well, you know that I spent 18 years in high tech—IBM, Compaq, and Microsoft—doing engineering, software, marketing, and finally sales.  I left that career in 2001.  And I now have, these years later, a good career going in automotive.  An unusual blend of experience.  Unique, to my knowledge, in this space.  A perfect fit for the job as described by this non-automotive company.

And I couldn’t get past the company’s internal recruiter.  Even with two referrals, one of them pretty high-powered.  I didn’t fit the “culture”.

I kept pushing, and, eventually, one of my referrals got me an email audience with the hiring director, which led to a call with him and then with one of his team.  The calls went very well.  I really like the director!  I’ve got a lot to offer.  Maybe the recruiter was wrong.

And I was still turned down.  Flat.

I’m not complaining about that part here.  Frankly, if I can't get the “date with the girl” after all this effort, then I just move on.

And maybe the issue was me.  I’m not perfect.  Okay.  Except I think it’s not just me.  No matter my fuller background, I am now to them just a “car guy”, and—much like the mob to some folks—once you’re “in”, you’re in.  At least in some of this company’s view, I suspect.  To put it another way, I didn’t “smell” right.  I smelled like a car guy.

I could tell in the calls, and one of them admitted this directly, that they consider it very hard to fit a “car guy” into their company.  Not that they have a lot of such hires, at all, to measure by.  Very few, in fact.  So that difficulty is likely in part a result of their prejudice against “car guys”, in my opinion—which is a prejudice shared, of course, (and amplified) by the stereotypes across the media.  The car guy (or gal, to be fair) “smell” is perhaps just too much for this company.

And so the company goes on now looking for a “car guy/gal” they can digest (or get past the “smell” test, better said).  I think they really, really need that hire and wish them luck getting it.  In getting a very good one, really.  In fact, I have offered to help them in any area that I can--and I will--as I still very much like this company.

However, I think they’re going to need that luck and help.  And maybe more.  Because, in my opinion, it is, and was, their prejudice that limits them, not the folks they were considering.  Or even who they eventually do hire for the position.

Like the prejudice in the marketplace against us that we can see every day and that sometimes stops or slows us great “car guys” and “car gals” with a bad stereotype:

It’s not us.  It’s our smell.

Or maybe their nose.

P.S.  I am very proud to be a "car guy"!  

by Keith Shetterly,
Copyright 2012  All Rights Reserved

Views: 171


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Comment by Keith Shetterly on June 10, 2012 at 7:59pm

Jason, me: to You:  Thank you.  From the bottom of my heart.  Even when I don't agree with you, I think you're the smartest person I know in automotive.  It really is amazing how folks view us, and now those prejudices affect their decisions.  And it was nice to read your support.  Thanks!!!

Comment by Jason Manning on June 10, 2012 at 7:11pm
Just read your post. I was in the same position with an automotive company that was looking to expand. The guy that interviewed me left the company within a couple months. He was worthless to me. His replacement didn't have a clue about the automotive industry etc. My point is that it wasn't you, was the company, it's personnel and their ability to accept change with an expert. They are in what I have labeled "The Stall." It's when a company begins to lose momentum and altitude. It's hard to pull out of, without experts. The company I interviewed with is in such a stall that I am happy I moved on. Just know that the any company who enters the automotive arena better have someone like you in their cockpit. Otherwise, it's going to be a bumpy ride. Keep moving forward, Keith.
Comment by Keith Shetterly on June 7, 2012 at 7:56am

@ Susan:  I don't think it's just me.  And I might not be the "fit" for this job, in all reality.  However, the direct comments were telling.  I love this company, though, and so I want it to succeed!

Comment by Susan Tyson on June 7, 2012 at 7:52am

It's ironic that a *technology* company with a product they want to market to *car guys* has a bias against a *car guy* w/a strong *technology* background. They'll have to overcome that internal barrier before they start marketing to *car guys* or they will never succeed ...

Comment by Keith Shetterly on June 7, 2012 at 6:51am

Actually, to be hip, it should be "Clozer".  Or "Clozr".

Comment by Keith Shetterly on June 7, 2012 at 6:35am


Comment by Tom Gorham on June 7, 2012 at 6:28am

LOL, I like "Closer"... Got my vote!

Comment by Keith Shetterly on June 7, 2012 at 6:19am

Thanks Nancy!  Perhaps we can come up with a name for those perfumes and colognes . . . "Eau du Lot" . . . "Apres Marquette" . . . "T.O. for B.O" . . . "Closer" . . . "Old Spike" . . . "Tyre Kiqqer" . . . "Bueno Gross" . . . "Bell Tu Bell" . . . "Fohnep" . . . "B-Baq" . . . "Rifurol" . . . "Hausdeel" . . .

Comment by Nancy Simmons on June 7, 2012 at 5:24am

I for one, love that new car guy smell!  There's a thought for a new cologne!  LOL..Great share Keith!  Thanks for sharing on Carbucks too, were the coffee drinking car guys and car gals hang out!

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