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.”