March 25, 2011

No-Name Jobs

hunting for work at a no-name company


An ordinary fellow, just returned from a fruitless search in Los Angeles for a Hollywood job, walks into a recruiting agency in Flint, Michigan, and sits at the first available recruiter’s desk.

She asks, “How may I help you?”

He says, “I want a no-name job with a no-name company.”

Recruiter: “What do you mean?”

Man: “A job and a company that are like ‘no-name’, ‘no-frills’ discount supermarkets and their groceries. The one’s with all the bright yellow packaging, minus smiley faces.”

Recruiter: “I’m sorry. But what are you talking about?”

Man: “Well, I want a job that’s a no-name job, with a no-name company—the flip-side of buying a no-name, no-frills cheap box of macaroni and cheese mix. I like those discounts—especially the macaroni, so I’m sure I’ll like those no-name companies and no-name jobs.”

Recruiter: “That’s really funny! Good joke.”

Man: “No joke. That’s what I want.”

Recruiter: “I can’t imagine what kind of company or job that would be. Besides, even if the concept makes sense, for sure they don’t exist.”

Man: “Sure they do—companies even more secretive than Blackwater Iraq consulting services and shadow-government “black ops”. I know that their packaging is not yellow, but it’s the same idea—the jobs and “the company” are best unnamed, unrecorded and even unmentioned. From their point of view, ‘no-name no blame’. Puts them in high demand.”

Recruiter: “We don’t deal with that kind of employment.”

Man: “Ok. Then how about jobs with really vague ads. You know, like “Looking for a new challenge? Want unlimited growth potential? Like people? Send your resume and $10 today!”—the no-name ones on phone booths and matchbooks that never tell you upfront what company it is, what you’ll be doing, what you’ll be paid, what your promotion prospects will be, your other benefitrs or what the working conditions and hours will be either.”

Recruiter: “Why on earth would you want that?”

Man: “So I won’t be disappointed like I’ve been with all my other jobs with companies that have names and names for their jobs. They never turn out to be what I hoped for or even what I expected. This way, no expectations, no disappointments. It’s like an arranged marriage—and lots of those work out pretty well in some countries. It’s true that the wife usually takes the stranger’s name as her new family name—so it’s not exactly ‘no-name’; but otherwise the marriages are like a combination of no-name shopping and no-name hiring.”

Recruiter: “I’m sorry, but all the companies I represent have names and job descriptions.”

Man: “Couldn’t you make an exception?”

Recruiter: “Excuse me?”

Man: “Pretend that one of them doesn’t use names, and send me there.”

Recruiter: “That’s cute—but not doable. Besides, what would that accomplish?”

Man: “It would guarantee I won’t be disappointed. On top of that, you know that the no-name groceries are available at a very low price one week and jacked up the next. So, maybe the job will be the same: low wages this month, hiked the next. I like having that possibility.”

Recruiter: “You are talking about two completely different aspects of business. ‘No-name’ makes sense as a marketing model that attracts consumers, not as a job-search and incorporation model.”

Man: “You’re telling me nobody works for the no-name supermarket companies—that the groceries and other products are magically created, say, with government stimulus money—which of course has created very few, if any real jobs, even though it has otherwise created wealth? Or are the no-frills products created by volunteers, like unpaid interns in big-name companies?”

Recruiter: “The government stimulus spending has created jobs—well, some anyway; besides, those jobs have names.”

Man: “Really? Name one.”

Recruiter: “We’re getting off topic here.”

Man: “I read that somewhere in China, tourists visit and photograph a rock.”

Recruiter: “Excuse me?”

Man: “I read that somewhere in China—northeast, I think, tourists visit and photograph a rock. A famous rock.”

Recruiter: “And?”

Man: “Well, the reason they photograph it is that they are told it is a very special rock.”

Recruiter: “What’s so special about it?”

Man: “The fact that it is very famous and has no name.”

Recruiter: “You’re kidding me.”

Man: “No, Ma’am. The rock is in Hebei or Hubei province—anyway, one of those two.”

Recruiter: “So what makes it so famous?”

Man: “Like I said—it’s famous, but still has no name.”

Recruiter: “That’s ridiculous. You’re telling me that the rock is famous only because it is famous and has no name?”

Man: “Yep. It wouldn’t be famous just because it had no name. Most rocks have no name. They still aren’t famous—never will be.”

Recruiter: “Well, then how did it become famous before it was famous? And how, after all of this fame, could it still have no name.”

Man: “Well, in fact, now it does have a name.”

Recruiter: “What’s it called?”

Man: “ ‘The No-Name Rock’.”

Recruiter: “No way!”

Man: “Yes way. It really is called ‘The No-Name Rock’—it’s a big one too. A couple of tons, anyway.”

Recruiter: “Let’s say I believe you. How did it become famous and still have no name?”

Man: “How is it that no-name supermarkets have become famous and still have no name other than ‘No-Name’? The trick with both rocks and supermarkets is not just to have no name, but to make sure everybody knows they’ve got no name—by advertising that fact.”

Recruiter: “Good point.”

Man: “You still haven’t told me why you can’t pretend to have a no-name company with a no-name job.”

Recruiter: “That would be unethical.”

Man: “Why? You would be helping me and the company.”

Recruiter: “How’s that?”

Man: “I’d be happy to have a job that wouldn’t disappoint me, and the company would obviously be happy to have me, if they actually go ahead and offer me the job. Besides, ‘a rose by any other name’ is not so different from ‘a rose with no name.’—Is poetry unethical?”

Recruiter: “OK, OK….I can give this a try…….Hmmmm…..Let me see…..Ok. Here’s one that I think may be perfect for you.”

Man: “How’s that?”

Recruiter: “It’s a no-name, no job company.”

Man: ‘You mean in addition to being a company with no name, it’s a company with no job?”

Recruiter: “Yes. It’s perfect.”

Man: “How can it be perfect if there’s no job as well as no name?”

Recruiter: “There’s a 100% chance you won’t be disappointed with it.”

Man: “I’ll take it.”

Recruiter: “Take what?”

Man: “That non-job at the no-name company.”

Recruiter: “Why on Earth would you waste your time applying for a job that doesn’t exist?”

Man: “I don’t like to work too hard.”

Recruiter: “All right. So, let’s do it. Now, what’s your name?”

Man: “Can I tell you after I don’t get the job?”

Recruiter: “Why not now?”

Man: “If you were applying for a no-name non-job with a no-name company, would you want to jinx your chances by being the only one with a name?” _______________

Read more in Candidate Management

Michael Moffa, writer for, is a former editor and writer with China Daily News, Hong Kong edition and Editor-in-chief, Business Insight Japan Magazine, Tokyo; he has also been a columnist with one of Japan’s national newspapers, The Daily Yomiuri, and a university lecturer (critical thinking and philosophy).