So, a day or two after that second interview, the CEO called me again.
“To be honest, you are the most highly qualified candidate with the most relevant work experience that applied for our post. But ermm…”.
I didn’t say anything. Nothing good comes after a “But”.
“We all liked you during your first interview. However, after our chat, I have reservations about whether you’d fit into our work culture. After all, you’re a scholar”.
Seriously, is that a statement or a question?
“However, what concerned me was your answer in our one-to-one chat”
I knew it. How accurate was the tingle I felt in my gut?
“We really need someone invested in our role and won’t leave immediately at the offer of a scholarship”.
I tried to explain that post-graduate level scholarships are highly competitive and take almost a year to apply. Most scholarships will also require that you’ve returned to your home country and worked for two years after graduating before applying for another scholarship. I was willing to commit at least 2 years before thinking of applying to another scholarship.
“That doesn’t really guarantee that you’d stay with us though, does it? It’s quite unfortunate as we liked you, but your commitment to staying in the role is our biggest concern. Thank you for applying though! We wish you all the best!”.
I guess I wasn’t selling it enough.
Thank God it was a phone call, I’d probably cry if we were talking in person.
I had a beer and ironed my work clothes for the job I had…the job I wanted to leave.
The Job offer
Two days after the rejection, I got another call from the CEO.
“I’ve talked to our team again, and I’ve reconsidered my decision. Based on your experience and qualifications, you are the best fit for our organisation. But errrm…”
I knew it. There was a catch.
“I’d like to hear your decision now whether you are willing to take the job offer”
Ahhh. So, she’s telling me to take it or leave it, right now. That was the biggest red flag ever.
“Can I take a day to consider your offer?” I silently added …because you just rejected me over the phone the other day, what the fuck.
“Uhh. No, I’d really like for you to decide now!”.
I thought about the salary. I thought about the weekend work. I thought about the money again. Then I thought about my current work.
“Uhh…could you tell me about your leave entitlement policies before I make my decision?”
“We have 20 days leave for all permanent staff”. She sounded annoyed.
“Wait, is there sick leave? Parental Leave?”
“No, we only offer the 20 days leave policy. Sick leave and parental leave are within those 20 days”.
“Wait, are you serious?!”. Something had stopped me from actually saying what I really thought. Which was, wait, are you fucking serious?!
“Why? What’s the parental leave entitlement in your current organisation?”
“It’s 3 months maternal leave and 5 days paternal leave. We also have 20 days annual leave, 7 days casual leave, and 15 days sick leave.”
This time, she sounded surprised. “Oh, that’s a lot of leave benefits”
No shit, if you compare it to the measly 20 days that’s supposed to cover everything from sick leave to parental leave. I thought about the money again.
“I appreciate you calling, but I would really like a day to consider your offer.”
“‘Alamoni, I’d really like for you to decide now!”.
It took a lot of self control not to yell "ERUGHHHHH! FOR FUCKS SAKE!" over the phone. In the politest tone I could muster, I made my decision.
“Thank you for considering me. I have decided not to take your offer”.
“Wait, are you sure?", she sounded surprised. "We can raise our offer! We can increase your salary!” .
How tempting. I really do like money...think about it Moni. Think!
I took a deep breath. Exhale.
“Yes, I’m sure I won’t take up the offer. Thank you for calling me though! I wish you all the best! Good-bye!”.
I hung up the phone, feeling like THE BADDEST BITCH. I like money, but I wasn’t going to be bullied into shit.
I went back to the job I hated with a little more appreciation (I still want to leave though). Surprisingly, I had no regrets about my decision. I learned a lot from that interview, and it still baffled me that the organisation emphasized the following:
· Pray together every day before work
· Staff must be involved in prayer activities and programs
· ½ day work on Saturdays
· 20 days leave (no sick leave, no casual leave, no parental leave)
The biggest red flag and what seemed hypocritical to me was that during the interview, the panellists emphasised that everyone in their organisation is treated like family. How many times did I hear “We’re like family, we’re like family!” thrown at me during the interview? How can you say, “We’re like family”, but not provide a basic entitlement for the staff’s wellbeing and health, especially when the majority of the staff are women? Maaan, how cringe! That’s exploitation right there, and that’s a no thank you from me.
I acknowledge that I’m in a place of privilege, where I have a choice and I can choose no. Some people who are in a financial pinch may not have the luxury of saying no and would have to take up a shitty job because they have no other option. I wish Tonga had more laws and policies that protect employees’ rights, especially outside of the Public Service.
Sometimes, it’s not always about the money.