Saturday 30 June 2012

Some unsolicited advice for employers on dealing with job applicants:

1) My timeline for obtaining a job is a lot shorter than your timeline for obtaining an employee.

After sending a resumé and cover letter or filling out your online application, an applicant may wait weeks before being contacted for a preliminary interview, weeks more before a second and, possibly, third interview, and yet weeks again before being offered a position with a start date still a few weeks further on. And let us not forget that the first paycheque is likely to arrive another two weeks after the start date.

MY timetable for getting a paycheque is yesterday. Every minute that I am waiting to secure employment takes days off my life due to the stress and strain of financial insecurity. I cannot pay my bills nor make any plans until I have a steady income. I am LIVING for that first paycheque and every day that you draw out the job-seeking process is torture.

2) I have a right to know why I was not chosen and asking does not mean I am crazy.

Whenever I am told that I was not chosen for a position, I follow up with the potential employer to ask why. I have never yet had an employer tell me. On the contrary, they are always quite taken-aback by the question and state that the fact that I even asked reinforces to them that they made the right choice in not hiring me.

If I were in charge, it would be mandatory for employers to provide detailed feedback to each candidate not selected, if they ask. Not only do I have a right to know, it would be useful to know what to change next interview. It is natural, when one is rejected, to want to know why. In fact, it would be a bit bizarre not to care, unless you had decided that you did not want the job. Actually, even in a situation where I had decided not to take the job if offered, I would still want to know, from the employer's perspective, why I was not chosen.

3) Do not expect detailed and personalised cover letters from burned-out job seekers.

You have probably only read one cover letter from me but I have written hundreds, perhaps thousands. They are tedious and time-consuming to write and burn-out sets in quickly. I am tired of explaining how my skills and experience match the requirements of the position, jaded from faking interest in your stupid, pointless job, and sick of proving over and over again that I am the right candidate.

My cover letter is terse because I am sick of writing them. Give me the damn job and you will see that I am the right candidate. I am not going to explain it one more tedious time in yet another bullshit cover letter.

4) Don't expect job seekers to repeat what is in their resumé in an online application.

Most large employers have online applications where, in addition to attaching a resumé and cover letter, one is expected to spend eons filling out a detailed work and education history. Usually it is mandatory to fill in all the blanks in order to click through to the next screen in the submission process, and often the note “See resumé is not an acceptable answer” is included on the form.

You know what? Most job seekers have spent a lot of time on our resumés, and we usually have a daily goal of job applications to meet. After filling in 25 of these online applications in a row, the job seeker just wants to type, “JUST GIVE ME THE FUCKING JOB ARSEHOLE” in each blank space on the form.  Not that I've done that...often.

5) Don't make me pretend to want the job for any other reason than the money.

Humans fall on a spectrum from “live to work” at one extreme to “work to live” at the other. Most people are well towards the “work to live” end. There are a few people so devoted to their careers that they would keep working if they won the lottery, but they are in fields so specialised that they are not on the regular job market so you are unlikely to encounter them when hiring. The reason I want the position is because I need to pay my bills, support my family, and fund my hobbies and pursuits outside of work. If I were independently wealthy and could do all this without a paycheque from you, I would not be replying to your advertisement.

This is blatantly obvious yet employers fail to grasp this basic point, insisting on asking the applicant questions such as, “Why do you want this job?” “What attracts you to this position?” “What do you think you will enjoy most about this job?” Any job seeker with an IQ above room temperature knows not to answer this question truthfully but employers would do well to stop asking it and put an end to the charade.

6) List the pay in your ad or, at least, make it crystal clear before the interview process begins.

I have wasted obscene amounts of time and money applying for jobs and travelling to interviews for positions that I was unable to accept because the take-home pay would not cover a quarter of my living expenses.

Since it is considered a major faux pas for the applicant to enquire about salary during the interview process, employers owe us the courtesy of telling us upfront so we do not waste our time and money. The exact hours, benefits, and telecommuting options should also be known before the first interview.

On a related note, if an applicant puts a minimum salary in their cover letter or application form, and the position does not meet it, do not waste the applicant's time. I recently applied for a position where I made my minimum salary explicit, was invited to interview, and then received an offer well below it. Minimum means minimum to survive, to pay one's bills; minimum is not negotiable. If you do not intend to meet it, do not call the applicant for an interview.

7) I am going to be angry when I am not chosen and this does not mean I am crazy either, just naturally frustrated and fed-up.

A job seeker is performing during the interview process, like an actor onstage. One is “on” and “up” during interviews, betraying no hint of fatigue or burn-out or boredom, projecting confidence, competence, enthusiasm, and friendliness. The job seeker's goal is to make a good impression and get hired. But once you tell me that I was not chosen, do not expect me to maintain that façade. Yes, there are exceptions: If the reason I was not chosen was not personal, or if there is a chance for a future job at the same employer, I will continue to be the soul of graciousness. Never burn a bridge you may have to cross again! But if I wasted time and money on a multi-step interview process, if I spent time taking tests or preparing work samples and written exercises or simulations – in other words, if I jumped through a lot of hoops and was led to believe I was a strong candidate because I kept advancing to the next stage – then do not expect me to be happy about not getting the job. You may be smug because you are done, you have chosen your new employee, but I am back to square one, having made a huge emotional investment in getting this job. You will notice a definite frostiness in my tone, a Jekyll & Hyde-like transformation, and you may hear some choice words of contempt flung back at you as I vent my frustration about my wasted time and energy and the necessity of having to get back out there and do it all again.

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