Jumping Through Hoops

Applying for management positions is not for the faint of heart.  I sometimes think that prospective employers make applicants jump through so many hoops just to see how badly you want the position.  Or maybe they put us through this just because they can.  And believe me, they can.  It’s a buyer’s market right now in the United States and employers can have their pick.  Middle managers are a dime a dozen.

Each time you apply for a management position, you can know with confidence that you will be competing with hundreds of other applicants.  You want your résumé to stand out from the crowd, but if it’s too flashy or trashy it will end up dumped in the circular file.

Pastor Mom has a friend visiting with us this week; she asked me whether I am able to send out the same cover letter and résumé for each position for which I apply.  No, no, no… That would be far too easy.  Employers want us to jump through hoops, remember?  Get ready to perform a circus act for their amusement.  For example:  Even though the years in which you started and left each job are clearly listed on your résumé, one employer wants you to list the exact number of months for which you’ve held each job (apparently they can’t be bothered to do the math), while another wants you to list both the starting salary and the ending salary for each job and a third wants you to list the number of employees supervised at each job.

Then you’re supposed to list the name of each of your direct supervisors, along with an address and a phone number at which they can be reached.  This may seem like a simple request, but if you have a lengthy work history as I do, it’s not.  I worked for one company for 8½ years, during which time I must have had at least five or six different supervisors.  After all, different companies were involved.  Although I stayed put, state law required that the work be put out to bid every few years, giving me a new boss and a different color paycheck each time the contractor changed.  Even if I could remember the names of all my supervisors from fifteen years ago (which I can’t), how am I supposed to get them all to fit in that little bitty space?  Continuing with the circus theme, now we’re moving on from jumping through hoops to stuffing 23 clowns in a VW Bug.  And, come on, you know that most of these people are no longer with the company.  Who knows where they’ve since gone or how to contact them?  And do you think they’ll really remember me?  I know for a fact that some of them are retired or dead.  Should I provide the address and phone number of Queen of Heaven Cemetery as if I were trying to brush off some creep ogling for my digits?

This doesn’t even begin to account for my former employers that have since gone out of business or have been bought out by other companies.  I started keeping a notebook with the addresses and phone numbers of my old jobs (because I got sick and tired of looking them up online all the time).  Many of those addresses are different than the locations at which I worked way back when.  Building leases run out, cheaper rental opportunities turn up and next thing you know, the company has moved.  Now that I no longer look up addresses each time I fill out an application, I don’t even know whether the information that I am providing is current.  Imagine my shock when I recently learned that a county in which I lived for a couple of decades now has a different area code.  So even though some of these places were still in the same physical location, their phone numbers had changed.

And if you apply for a job that requires a government security clearance (and many of them do due to federal contract requirements), applicants must list every home address at which they have resided since the age of 18.  Um, let’s see now:  There was New York, then Rhode Island, then back to New York, then Massachusetts, then back to New York again, then three different places in Connecticut, a couple of addresses in California, then Connecticut and Massachusetts again, then finally back to California for good, where I moved around the state oh, maybe six or seven times?  “If you need more space, use additional sheets of paper.”  No shit.

Of course, there is a large box in which you’re supposed to write a description of your duties at each of your previous jobs.  Most applications include a bold warning “DO NOT write ‘See résumé.’  A résumé will not be accepted in lieu of a completed application.”  This means that, although you’re supplying a résumé that already contains all this information, it is necessary to retype it.  However, the box never contains enough room for this purpose.  This leaves the applicant with the choice of adding additional pages and attaching them as a separate file in Microsoft Word (or converting them to Adobe), or printing out the page, filling in the details by hand and scanning it.  Either way makes for a lovely way to spend a pleasant evening.

Then there’s the “education” section of the application.  Providing the names, locations and dates of graduation from each college you’ve attended is fairly standard (although I object to this because it then becomes a simple matter to determine the applicant’s age and discriminate accordingly).  But you will hear me let out an audible groan when a form requires that the applicant list not only major subject studied, but also grade point average and class standing.  This is no small feat when you consider that I have attended six different institutions of higher education.  I had to order transcripts from each school (I mean, get real, who remembers this stuff?), which is not free of charge.  Finally, I got tired of consulting six transcripts and just made up a little grid from which to copy.

Well, I thought I had the “education” section all locked up.  Until last night, that is.  I completed an online application for employment that required applicants to list the number of credits completed in each subject studied.  So there I went pawing through the transcripts again, using a calculator to add up credits for sociology, psychology, political science, law, mathematics, English, business, economics and a bunch of other stuff.  I was extremely grateful that I was not asked to list the fact that I received passing grades in both badminton and tennis in my freshman year of college and that I successfully participated in both the choir and woodwinds.

Then you come to what is always my favorite part, the essays.  Some employers require applicants for management positions to write as many as a dozen of them, detailing such things as philosophy of management, experience with conflict resolution, knowledge of production statistics, contract negotiation skills, experience in writing white papers and delivering persuasive speeches, and projects worked on that required assembling a multidisciplinary team and achieving consensus.  Better block out a few hours for writing these.

Well, I’d better go now.  You see, I have an application essay awaiting me.  It may only run to a maximum of two pages in an 11 point font with one-inch margins.  In the space allowed, I am to describe the details of how it is that I meet each of the dozen qualities required in the candidate selected for this position, including “sense of humor.”

Yeah, right.


Job Hunting Goes to the Dogs


Job hunting has never been one of my favorite activities.

Not just because the whole process is one giant pain in the patoot (which it most assuredly is).  No, I don’t like job hunting because of how it makes me feel.

I know, I’m being too dramatic.  Applying for a job is supposed to be a neutral transaction, not one fraught with emotion.  Kind of like going to the supermarket to buy a jar of peanut butter.

The problem, however, is that employers have all the power and I have none.  I am seriously at their mercy.  This does not make me happy.

Every time I fill out one of these dumb, dumb applications, I feel like one of my nephew’s dogs when I’m trying to eat my dinner.  The fact that they’ve already been fed is irrelevant.  As is what I happen to be eating.  It can be tofu and broccoli, for crying out loud, but all they see is that I have food and they want some of it.  In other words, they are beggars.

And that’s what job hunting has turned me into:  A beggar.  In perfect canine style, they have something that I want and it’s up to me to figure out a way to get it.

Taking a cue from Mia, Chris and Flower, it looks as if I have several tactics from which to choose:

  • Sit at the human’s feet and stare him down.  This is the dog’s way of saying “I’m entitled to some of that, buster, and I’m not going anywhere until I get some.”  I once cadged a job in Connecticut this way.  I phoned the manager once a week for a month, received every kind of excuse, refused to go away, and finally was granted an interview just so I’d quit calling and leave her alone.  I worked for that company for two years.
  • Lie down at the foot of the table and wait patiently.  This is the dog’s way of saying “See what a good pet I am?  Surely I deserve to share in your bounty.”  So I show off what I’ve learned in obedience school to demonstrate what a good dog, er, applicant I really am.  I fill out all the little boxes completely.  When there’s not enough room to type, I write in the info by hand.  When there’s still not enough room, I attach additional pages.  I make sure that I include the equal opportunity statement, a list of references and two writing samples.  I make sure that my name and phone number is at the top of each essay and that the pages are numbered.  See how shiny my halo is.  Now may I please have some of your tofu and broccoli?
  • Whine.  This is the dog’s way of saying “Hey, mister, I’ve been waiting here patiently for ten whole minutes and you have not been paying attention to me.  What the heck is wrong with you?”  Whining is definitely the tactic to use when two weeks, then three weeks, then a month have gone by and all I’ve heard back from the employer is a stony silence.  That’s when I call HR and politely ask about the status of my application.  This will be embarrassing for the poor secretary who answers the phone, who will likely stammer, make up some excuse about excessive workload or extending the application deadline or the boss being on vacation, after which I will be offered a sugar-coated version of “don’t call us, we’ll call you.”  I am supposed to gratefully accept this as if it were a dog treat.
  • Jump up on the table, grab the food and tear out the door with it.  When applying for jobs, this tactic is only to be used as a last resort.  Try it if you don’t believe me.  Employers have a nasty habit of kicking you out the door and calling the cops.  What’s a poor dog to do?
  • Call the SPCA and report your owner as abusive.  Instead of the animal shelter, job applicants have the EEOC, the state human rights commission and the Department of Labor.  Perhaps if I complain loudly enough about how mistreated I am, the dog catcher will take me away, lock me in a cage and euthanize me after 28 days.

I’m telling you, it’s a dog’s life, this job hunting stuff.

But that’s okay.  If I get sick and tired of it all, I’ll just lift my leg and leave them all a present.


NaBloPoMo November 2013