What a long, strange road back to working … some of it in 5-minute bits

Today I had the very shortest job interview I have had in the past two years while on this quest to rejoin the ranks of the employed – five minutes.

Crazy! Five minutes? Why bother?

Last week I applied for an editor’s job with a weekly newspaper in the Napa Valley region of Northern California. It is the region that is famed for its wine and food industry, as it should.

But because of the high cost of land for growing wine grapes and other agriculture, land and property are at a premium. That, in turn, drives up the cost of everything, but especially housing.

According to a cost-of-living calculator on the Sperling’s BestPlaces website, the community in which the weekly newspaper was located is about 50 percent more expensive than Stockton, where I live now. Housing alone in the Napa Valley community was 191 percent higher.

Figuring I might be able to commute, I ran a few more numbers for several nearby communities. The closest city physically was also the most expensive of the five cities for which I tallied the cost of living compared to Stockton. It was 134 percent more expensive that Stockton, with housing being 515 percent – 515 percent – higher than in Stockton.

Using my most recent salary, the calculator computed that I would need to make $83,826 just to live in the community where the paper was located and maintain my Stockton lifestyle, which by no means is lavish. It’s Stockton, after all, the same Stockton that Forbes named “the most miserable city in the nation” for the second time in the past three years.

The human resources representative conducted the telephone interview called right on time today, we exchanged pleasantries and she outlined the initial questions. It was only then that she noticed that my salary requirements – the salary I had made in Stockton without adjustment it for the Napa Valley cost of living – was $10,000 to $15,000 higher than the salary they were offering for the position.

To be clear, they were offering $30,000 to $35,000, which would be plenty to live on in many regions of the country. But not for Napa Valley.

The company that owns the weekly newspaper owns newspapers throughout the country. I know people working at newspapers owned by the company and I have applied for jobs at the company. I won’t use their name or the name of the newspaper, because I may end up applying again for a job with the same company.

But I wonder now if they use a one-salary-fits-all-regions formula, which just does not work. A person doing the similar work, say, in the Southeast does not need as much money to work, live and play as does someone living in the outrageously expensive Napa Valley. If the company is using a one-salary-fits-all-regions formula for setting salaries, they really ought to change that.

The human resources representative apologized for not noticing the gap between what they were offering and my salary requirements, and said she would call me back should the situation change, which she added was unlikely given what the person leaving the job had been making.

A 5-minute job interview. What a crazy, winding road it has been. Crazy.

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