Managing Editor Steve Hind follows up with RC Jessica Assaf, whose brutal reply to a recruitment email went viral earlier this month.
On the cover of the last edition of The Harbus, we heard from RC Jessica Assaf, who received a recruiting email from L’Oreal and posted her scathing response online. Two weeks, thousands of Facebook shares, hundreds of comments, articles in Jezabel, Poets & Quants, Racked and The Harbus later, we sat down with Jessica to gauge the reaction. We wanted to know what every HBS student instinctively thought: has her career been ruined forever?
Despite the massive reaction, Jessica didn’t think when she posted her email that she’d get any press. “I thought,” she said, “[the L’Oreal email] is funny, I guess I should respond.”
The response was borne out of a decade spent campaigning against the cosmetic industry’s use of chemicals in the US market that they aren’t allowed to use in Europe. What alarms Jessica is the lack of transparency from the US cosmetics industry, who she compares to the tobacco industry before it admitted that smoking causes cancer.
“People who smoke know the information about risks. For every product we use, for everything we eat, we should have the information to do a cost-benefit analysis. [In cosmetics] there’s no truth in labelling, most people don’t know what to look for, and there’s no safety testing or regulation… We’re not even aware enough to think about the decision”, she said.
Not everyone was supportive of her decision to post her response, or of her decision to publish name and email address of L’Oreal’s recruiter.
The commenters on Poets & Quants were particularly aggressive. Many were quick to see the HBS name and label Jessica’s behaviour ‘arrogant’ or ‘entitled’. Indeed the site’s administrators had to delete several over the top comments.
But on campus and over email, Jessica has found the experience overwhelmingly positive.
Far from facing any sanction from the school, Jessica said the reaction from her professors has been requests for more information about which products were safe for their families to use. She has seen a similarly positive reaction from her sectionmates.
Perhaps more surprisingly to Jessica has been the outpouring of support she has received via email. Most striking to Jessica were those from HBS alums who had worked at – and left – some of the cosmetics companies she campaigns against.
In the end, Jessica thinks her decision to take a stand has helped her career more than it has hurt it. One supporter, in an email, even offered her an internship!
But as she explained in her The Harbus article in our last edition, Jessica is committed to entrepreneurship within the cosmetic industry.
“I don’t think I’ve totally destroyed my chances of getting recruited. I’d be happy to work at some of the companies that emailed me in support”, she said, “[But} I feel so motivated and able to do anything because of the resources that I want to go [to the entrepreneurial] route first.”