How I Didn't Get Hired At Macy's

Applying for jobs ain't what it used to be.

Editor's Note: This is an inspirational story for today. This originally ran in June. Just a few weeks later, Susan was hired as a writer for "Two and a Half Men." Remember, never give up on your dreams, and even if you have, remember they may not have given up on you.


Being a writer I'm used to rejection. Getting my hopes up and feeling the gut punch when things don't work out in my favor. Putting in blood, sweat and tears on a script only to have it end up on a shelf. Making spaghetti without sauce.

Yep, the life of an artist is filled with heartbreak. Wah, wah, wah. Who cares. I get it. I signed up for it.

But nothing has been more shocking, more confusing, more "how the hell did that not work out" than this last week when I found out I didn't get hired as a sales clerk in the children's department of Macy's.

Talk about gut punch.

Here's the story. A few weeks ago after another long, humiliating day of dragging used clothing across town only to make a few bucks, a semi-failed attempt at a garage sale to try and get rid of these clothes that I have now collected from friends and family, and a doctor's bill for my upper respiratory infection visit I came to a realization...


So, after finishing a day at the (where I'm certain I caught that upper respiratory infection) I took my girl to Macy's to shop for a dress that she could wear on the day of the big show.

At nine years old it seems she outgrows her clothes between the time I drop her off at school and the moment I pick her up. Shoes aren't fitting, shorts aren't buttoning, even her underwear is too tight.

She had worked so hard on her song I knew she wanted something new and special to wear for the day of the show.

We went straight to the sales rack and grabbed a few possibilities and, success, she found one she loved. What was even more exciting was when the sales lady rang it up it cost less than the sale tag said—sweet!

While the woman was putting the dress in a bag, and I was feeling the rush of good luck from the extra savings, I said, "You wouldn't happen to be hiring right now, would you?"

Now, I didn't go to Macy's planning on asking for a job. Nor did I think being a sales person was something I wanted to do. But while I was standing there, watching her in the this calm, air conditioned, quiet section of the store, folding clothes and scanning items it really looked like something I had no doubt I could master.

That ... and I was broke and desperate.

She smiled enthusiastically.

"We are, actually," she said. "If you go online to our website go to the job opening section and you can fill out an application. Good luck!"

Wow, the days of filling out an application by hand with a pen in a corner of a store sweating as you try to remember the zip code of your previous residence and the phone numbers of employers from seven years ago are over.

I thanked her and off we went. Hannah looked up at me, "Mommy ... you want to work at Macy's?"

Once again the look of disappointment that her mother was giving up on her artistic career of choice came over my kid's face.

"Honey, Mommy needs a job."

"You have a job. You're a writer."

"No, a job is something that can add sauce to our spaghetti."

I gave her a hug and told her I think working at Macy's would be great.

That night I went online to the Macy's Web site, clicked on "jobs" and started filling out my application. The first part of the application was standard; previous jobs, previous income, education, etc. I filled it all out -- the shows I wrote for, the development deals, the script options.

I was almost done with the application when I came to one last section... a 12-page questionnaire that seriously read like something out of a psychiatric exam. 

It was bizarre. The questions were all about conduct, personality, thought process, mood swings, character, motive and you were given multiple choice answers in the form of "true, semi true, not true, never."

I seriously felt like I needed to call my therapist about some of them.

"Hey, Paula, would you say I'm a leader always looking to change and fix things for the better?... Am I moody in the workplace if something in my private life has gone wrong?... Do people perceive me as ambitious? ... Am I perky?"

Honestly, I thought I was just signing up to try and sell kids underwear but apparently Macy's really likes to know the inner workings of their employees' psyche.

I tried to answer the questions as best as I could, but the writer in me couldn't help but over-analyze them.

"Well, it depends. What happened the night before that might have led up to a morning where I'm not my usual perky self?"or "How do I know why a customer was rude? Maybe he was raised in a violent home, taken away, lived in the foster care system where he was mistreated and therefore no one ever respected him or listened to him and he's got anger issues he hasn't dealt with?" or "I can be social but if I'm talking to a bigot I might find myself not wanting to engage in pleasant conversation ..."

You see my problem with this. Life is way too complicated. This is why I was a sucky student in high school and did crappy on tests. To me there is always more than one answer.

But, as midnight rolled around, I finally finished the damn application and sent it in. And waited ... and waited ... and waited.

Well, as you know already, I didn't get the job. I received an email from Macy's simply thanking me for my interest in a career at their store but that I didn't have the qualifications for the job.

At 16 years old with zero life experience other than figuring out how to smoke pot out of an apple and French kissing without banging teeth I could get hired at any mall in town! But now, at my age, with all that I have done, I'm NOT QUALIFIED?!

Okay, so maybe writing for Californication doesn't mean I can sell clothes but surely shopping for and dressing my kid for nine years should mean something!

And then I obsessed on that damn questionnaire. Did I answer wrong? Am I unstable in Macy's eyes? Do they think I might not handle Memorial Day sales well?

Needless to say one person was thrilled I got rejected. My daughter. She literally beamed when I told her Macy's didn't want me.

I, on the other hand, panicked. If I can't get a job at Macy's surely Nordstroms or Bloomingdales is totally out of the question.

And then, I went to the mailbox. There, inbetween the Penny Saver and my electric bill, was a small, but unexpected check in a Writer's Guild envelope. It was a residual for one of the shows I used to write for.

Thank you, God.

Hannah wore her new, pretty Macy's dress for the talent show and for dinner that night I made us a big batch of spaghetti...

With plenty of sauce.

larry June 20, 2011 at 01:47 PM
My daughter was a part time employee of Macys. She worked hard and always did a great job for them. Every Christmas she had a job there and looked forward to the employment and the money. So when she received a letter a few days ago that because she had not worked a sufficient number of hours this year that she was terminated , it really shocked and deflated her. Terminated, really? Go figure.
Christine Ashworth June 20, 2011 at 01:48 PM
I had to laugh! I've filled out that application, and I know exactly how you feel! What happened to the gut feeling of the person hiring? What happened to personality and flare and winning them over in person? I really hate this new system of hiring. Though I'm sure it prevents some bad hires, I know definitely it prevents GOOD hires. Like, neither you nor me got a job there, lol! Cheers, hon!
Susan McMartin June 20, 2011 at 03:08 PM
so sorry about your daughter, larry. we are living in perplexing times. tell her she is not alone and something is coming.
Susan McMartin June 20, 2011 at 03:09 PM
that is hilarious! maybe we should open a shop for all the macy's rejects!
Jennifer Stephen Clark June 20, 2011 at 04:39 PM
Loved your story and was so happy to read to the end for the happy ending :) Thanks for sharing ....
Susan McMartin June 20, 2011 at 05:06 PM
thanks for reading! and, yes, i'm glad it had a happy ending too.
maria muse June 20, 2011 at 05:50 PM
I look forward to your articles, we have a similar writing style, I think. Your stories tend to be bittersweet, like life. My heart breaks a little afterwards. I have to say, it sort of annoys me that Patch seemingly doesn't pay you very well! Do you have a blog? So you've had writing deals? Ever think about copy editing for extra money? Your daughter, who sounds amazing, is right... Macy's doesn't deserve you. I GET the point though, and its funny...good enough at 16, but not now--weird. And those questions are too much. I too overanalyzed...I would actually erase original answers. Anyway...
Laura June 20, 2011 at 06:19 PM
Okay, that's just weird. And I haven't found Macy's employees (at least in Sherman Oaks) to be especially "perky." They probably saw you as overqualified, as someone who would bolt at the first better opportunity, and made the decision for you that you didn't really want the job. And these days they surely have their pick of applicants. I worked retail decades ago, was probably ill-suited for it, yet had no trouble landing a job. Times they do change.
Susan McMartin June 20, 2011 at 08:30 PM
thank you so much, maria. life is bittersweet, isn't it? messy, flawed, heartbreaking and wonderful all at the same time. when i get comments like yours it truly keeps me going. thank you!!!
Susan McMartin June 20, 2011 at 08:32 PM
thanks for reading, laura. when things like this happen all i think is, "well, i know what my next column will be about." ;-)
Rhea June 20, 2011 at 09:07 PM
Thank you for writing this article. I can surely relate because I did exactly he same thing - applied online for a sales associate position and answered the online assessment. I was also called for interview. While waiting for my turn to be interviewed, I saw a new hire being assisted/oriented so I thought I may have a good chance to be hired. What I found weird was when the interview was over, the interviewer said they did not have an opening for the sales associate position. In the end, it may have been a good thing they rejected me because it probably wasnt meant to be. My talents and skills are for my future employer. As a friend said - what is yours nobody can take away.
Susan McMartin June 20, 2011 at 10:52 PM
your friend is right! i always believe that wherever i am, whatever is happening is exactly what is meant to be. thanks, rhea!
George Tataje June 21, 2011 at 06:36 PM
there should be a new employees bill of rights that prevents such job screening. when i was unemployed for just over a year, i had to fill out many of these kinds of online applications. i was rejected from getting a job at guitar center, despite having all kinds of experience in the music biz! sure, an employer can hire anyone they want, but a candidate should not have to jump through all these unnecessary hoops just to get an interview. why is it that nobody wants to "talk" anymore??? i'm disgusted.
Susan McMartin June 21, 2011 at 09:07 PM
thanks, george. it was a real eye opening experience. i miss the old ways too -- talking.
Cindi June 22, 2011 at 10:45 PM
Eye opening? I often wonder how some people who have jobs, keep them. While shopping yesterday I asked where the items I was looking for were located? It took '5' associates yes "FIVE" to find the simple items in the department and only after my sister and I found them first. Not difficult... I have been turned down for several jobs that I thought I would enjoy and would be different from teaching. Some of us just want a job where we can feel useful and needed as well as earning some money. Wake up employers....
Patty Glueck June 23, 2011 at 06:37 AM
Years ago, I saw an ad for a proofreader (I had experience in proofreading ad copy) for the magazine published by the Scientology center. Another co-worker (going for a different job) and I went on our lunch hour to apply. We were given a rather long application, including a psychology test (like the one you described). The co-worker took one look at the test and split. I did fill out the test, but didn't return the message left on my answering machine about coming in for an interview. Besides the test, I didn't care for the workers we saw smoking as they walked around. So many of them looked like they were this side of death.
Lynn Norton June 23, 2011 at 06:55 AM
The exact same thing happened to me! I filled out a Macy's online application. Not once, not twice, but THREE times. I was convinced if I applied for different positions, surely they'd see me as an asset to their company. Needless to say, they did not. I needed fulltime, but would settle for Christmas help. A friend who worked at Macy's told me a man in her department needed a personal assistant, and set up an interview. He wanted to hire me. Apparently, this was the first year that Macy's had gone online with their applications, and he didn't know what the procedure was. I was excited to have bypassed those silly online apps until he called the HR Dept., and they said I'd have to fill out an online application.... again. He apologized, but I filled it out again. The job I was applying for wasn't listed anywhere, so naturally, I was turned down. I called my future boss up, and told him the problem. The next day he called me up and told me the job was mine. I gratefully took it, and worked for 2 months, 6 days a week. By the end of my term, I anxiously awaited to hear whether I'd be one of the lucky ones to stay beyond my temporary status. Everyone assured me I would. The fact I had a Bachelor Degree; had been working in the industry off and on for over 20 years; and had raised two boys gave me great people skills. Letters were written on my behalf, and Macy's said they'd love to keep me on, but that I'd have to reapply online. So I did... and I got turned down... again.
Steven Doyle June 23, 2011 at 10:49 AM
In two years of unemployment, I've applied for hundreds of jobs. Several of them used the same idiotic psych test. I can't believe anybody actually makes hiring decisions based on that thing. With a little effort, you could use it to present the perfect employee profile. I also, in applying to Home Depot, had to fill out a form that asked me if I stole from my previous employer, how much I stole, what sorts of things I stole, and if I ever got caught.
Susan McMartin June 23, 2011 at 01:43 PM
wow, lynn, that is outrageous! thanks for sharing your story!!
Susan McMartin June 23, 2011 at 01:45 PM
steven, thank you for the comment. i have been overwhelmed by the response to this column -- so many smart, willing, capable people just trying to get a job and dealing with the same issue!
Susan McMartin June 23, 2011 at 01:47 PM
thanks, patty! good for you for deciding not to go in for the interview. i hope another job has come your way!
Christian Manansala September 16, 2011 at 01:44 AM
I think I now found my favorite writer in this Patch....!
Susan McMartin September 16, 2011 at 01:47 AM
christian, thank you! what a wonderful comment to come home to!
PJ October 11, 2011 at 03:46 PM
I found your article after googling "why did my Macy's application get rejected?"! After reading your story and the comments from others who experienced the same thing, I feel a little better now. I love helping people shop, have 3 years experience as holiday help in retail, would have been a great hire for them. They've been adveritising for Holiday Help, so obviously they need people. So sad they are rejecting so many people with brains and experience. I am starting to think their application process is meant to eliminate people with experience and critical thinking skills. The on-line application is from a company called "Taleo". And like one of your other commenters, I also found it similar to the Scientology "personality test". Hmmmmmmm. Could it be that the Taleo test was designed by a Scientologist? I loved the happy ending of your story and hope you are having continued success with your writing. Oh, PS: and I just saw that Starbucks is also using Taleo for their on-line app. Gack!
Susan McMartin October 11, 2011 at 05:50 PM
thanks so much for your comment, pj! sorry you didn't get hired -- their loss, indeed. keep doing the footwork and the right thing will present itself. thanks again!!
Rebecca January 19, 2012 at 05:34 PM
Like the others, googling "why did I get screened out of Macy's?" brought me to your blog, and I am still reeling from the rejection. After five years of cosmetic retail experience in another department store and a Master's in Management, I applied for an account coordinator (basically a manager for a certain number of Macy's for a particular cosmetic line) position. Not only was I beyond qualified, I got the cosmetic supervisor's phone number from a mutual friend, and she was totally thrilled to have me apply. I answered the personality test with flying colors (coursework had prepared me to read the leadership tests accurately, so I knew how to answer it), and my "in" said she would make sure my resume was reviewed in hiring meeting. Somehow, screened out by Macy's. I am just ill over it, because I have wanted this job for fifteen years, and need to have this particular job for my eventual dream job with same cosmetic company. This was the perfct storm of "this job was custom made for me" and now, for some inexplicable reason, it will go to someone else. I am so frustrated! I applied for an even lower position with Macy's and had my application rejected within a half an hor for a job that I had already had fifteen years ago! How can I be unqualified for a job I already had and excelled at???? (shaking fist in anger. . .) DAMN YOU MACY'S!
Susan McMartin January 20, 2012 at 02:15 AM
rebecca, so sorry to hear your story. hope it helped you to read that you are alone in this frustration. my only thought for you is that something else is around the bend. something that is MEANT for you and only you. hang in there!
Hassan F June 18, 2012 at 09:15 PM
I just applied for a sales associate position at Home Depot and within a couple hours after going through their 30-question "test" I received a rejection email. I have over 20 years worth of retail experience and even a Bachelor's degree in Business so I thought I was a shoe-in. Apparently I'm not "aligned with the talent they're seeking for this opportunity". I was honestly kind of bummed to read this email but reading this article and the comments make me feel a lot better. Thanks, Susan.
BonBon August 31, 2012 at 04:21 AM
I was at Macy's and saw their sign that they were hiring the holidays. I applied on line and interviewed a few days later This is where it gets weird. At the end of the interview I was told he would give my information to the people above him but that they really don't start hiring until October so if there wasn't a job available I should apply again in October. HUH? Why have a sign if you're not hiring & why do I need to apply again when they have everything & I just interviewed!


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