Attention employers! (or how definitely not to organise work in a post-capitalist society)
As part of the growing army of the unemployed created by the biggest crisis of the capitalist economic system since the Great Depression of the 1930s (and soon to be compounded by the onslaught of the Con-Dem government’s ‘austerity’ measures), I think it’s about time someone brought up one of the less talked about aspects of how shite it is being on the dole: constant job applications.
While most jobs under capitalism involve more than their fair share of boring, repetitive and socially unproductive tasks, few can compete with the demoralising process of filling out application form after application form, in full knowledge that with the vast majority of them, you are wasting your time. For young people especially, with dozens and even hundreds of people going after every available job, chances are someone with more experience is going after each and every job you apply for. Of course we’ve little option but to keep on plugging away, doing searches, filling out forms, writing covering letters, editing CVs, changing the focus to what we think each particular employer wants – much like a really dull office job but without the compensation of actually getting paid a wage for it. This situation isn’t helped by the sheer irrationality of the job application methods used by many employers, most of which seem deliberately designed to produce an experience more frustrating than watching Nick Clegg on the news.
What follows is a list of some of the worst, most irritating features of contemporary job application procedures, compiled from my own experiences over the last few months. The list is far from comprehensive – please add some of your own in the comments section below. Consider this article as advice to employers (though I doubt they will take any notice), or as a guide for ‘what *definitely* not to do’ in organising work in a post-capitalist society; but for the most part treat it as some light entertainment for those of you (and I know there are plenty) who know exactly what I mean, having encountered exactly the same things yourself. For those lucky enough to not yet have experienced that depressing trip to your local Jobcentre Plus, to be condescended to and checked up on in return for a meagre £51.85 a week (£65.45 for over 25s – lucky for some!), consider it a sample of the kind of crap you’ve got to look forward to, especially if the planned government spending cuts are allowed to go ahead.
Attention all prospective employers:
- If you don’t have a specific reason –e.g. genuinely unique (non-bullshit) questions – then you don’t need an application form. Consider the amount of time people have to spend copying out the exact same information (education, work history, other skills and experience, blah, blah, blah…) into whatever poorly formatted word processor document you’ve thrown together with little thought. Does it really help you all that much to have all applications fitting your arbitrarily defined layout, with 4 year degrees squeezed into one thin column of a table, and a big block of empty space to describe some crappy temp job, just because it happened to be the most recent? Could you not just have mentioned what information you want a CV to include and save us all a fuckload of time and wasted effort?
- If you do require a huge, complex, 15-page application form, maybe keep that for a second stage of the application process, for people already being seriously considered. Spending 1-2 hours filling out a massive form only to never even receive a reply is just taking the piss. To any employer who has ever done this (and that’s the majority of them): fuck you.
- If you don’t know how to format a Word document so that blank fields work as blank fields, then don’t do it. Please do not just put blocks of underscores in the same way you would for a printed document. This does not work.
- Stop asking stupid questions. You know the sort of thing I mean. “Give an example of a time you have succeeded in doing x” or “Explain how you have dealt with a situation where y”. These are more common at job interviews, but appear in some application forms as well. They are essentially designed to test the applicant’s ability to bullshit. In interviews they test your ability to bullshit on the spot. Generally there are two types – questions far too vague to provide any real insight beyond “can this person think of something relevant/make something up that sounds like what (we think) we want to hear” (examples include “Give an example of a situation where you’ve had to solve a problem”), and those that are far too specific, seemingly designed to test whether you already have the particular knowledge or skills that you could only really acquire by doing the job that you’re being interviewed for! (Advice: don’t attempt to subtly point out how stupid a question is during an interview. This doesn’t go down well, it seems).
- Online (web-based) forms are great, if:
- they can be saved half-way through, or are short and to the point
- they can be used for multiple applications
- they work properly (most are buggy, poorly designed, and end up covering all the same information you have to submit in separate CV upload anyway)
- Don’t make us repeat ourselves. Stop making us say the same thing more than once. If you base application form questions on the structure of a job description, be careful not to put very similar things in different parts of the job description. Clue: using the same word or word groups in slightly different ways (‘organisational/organising/well organised’) does not mean you’ve written a new question or have created a new type of skill.
- Send a reply, regardless of the outcome. If you’ve got an email template ready it takes a couple of seconds per applicant. It’s not hard.
- Offer feedback if possible – if someone’s making the same mistake in all their applications and you don’t tell them about it, you are a dick.
- This one’s for recruitment websites – if your website is just going to convert my Word file to text, while fucking up the formatting, CV upload services are pretty much worthless. I can copy and paste text myself.
- I don’t know what I’ll be doing in two years time. Nor in five years time. This is at least in small part because I don’t know if you’re going to give me this job or not. Be realistic – nobody only applies for one type of job. If you ask me this question, you are essentially testing my ability to lie convincingly. Apparently I’m not that good.
- Maybe, just maybe, it might be nice to let people know by when they can expect a reply. And then stick to it. Y’know, like actually reply. Especially if they’ve already made the effort to travel across the country for an interview. kthxbye