Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Application forms are killing me

It’s all a game, this applying for work and filling in application forms! The object is to fill the gap using as many of the key words listed in the person specification as possible. Take for instance my recent application to the Home office where I said:

“I was able to use the dedicated website monitoring tools to analyse activity and feedback in relation to specific symposia and website traffic in relation to posted comments. This allowed me to breakdown the statistics to show where I had been successful in promoting the website and encouraging feedback and where either more work or a different approach was needed.”

WTF does that mean? It makes sense in context with the application form which shows only that the application form is otherworldly. I know they have to try to make some sort of judgement on whom they should interview, but seriously, the most an application can show is how creative you can be in stretching the truth to meet the impossible categories set out by the employer:

“Delegates fairly while retaining overall responsibility.”

Or they might as well ask for, ‘parts the oceans without destroying the fragile eco-structure’.

Then they’ll list in the job specification:

“Actively engages others in equal opportunities and diversity issues”.

I’m tearing my hair out. What does this even mean?! ‘I always actively engage in equal opportunities and diversity issues by neither performing lynching nor burning down any churches, within the last five years’. Do I have to join the anti-Nazi league in order to prove I’m not a Nazi? No, of course not, that would be stupid. So how can I actively engage others in not distinguishing someone’s ethnicity as an issue? And why should they believe me? What right thinking person, Nazi or otherwise, is going to say in a job application form that actually they have a number of eugenics issues they feel still need to be addressed?

Filling in an application form is a skill, and all it highlights is that you are good at filling in application forms. It’s a travesty. I think any application form should be open ended with two main questions:

“Who are you, and, are you competent?” Then you should have five hundred words to demonstrate a sufficient answer.

I guess it all comes down to corporate culture. By knowing how to fill in an application form you are demonstrating that you are happy and competent to play the corporate game, to use the right words without having to demonstrate anything more than the briefest of actual thought – you may recognise this person as your boss. Which is why people who employ different ways of thinking about how to run a company are so sought after – just don’t put it in an application form.

And then there’s the question of why anyone would want to work there. Take the British Airways application form which asks you to say in 250 words, why you are attracted to the role. ‘Because it pays good money. That’s right. What do you want me to say – because I’m dying to be a part of a demonised industry that continues to pollute the planet. That I love peanuts and other airplane snacks, or just because I have always wanted to be a part of a faceless corporate giant with no real commitment to ‘colleagues’ who are expendable when times get tough. I have always wanted to be at risk of being sourced out or downsized or it’s just that I’m desperate to be the one to tell people they are being sacked. I just live for that look on their face when they realise they have a mortgage and school fees to pay.’

Filling in these application forms is killing me. It’s as if they are the shattered hole in the matrix that exposes the fragility of the world economic system – not that we haven’t been given enough clues of late. Can I really apply for a job that asks me to: Anticipate, build, respect, manage, promote, enforce; be pre-emptive, proactive, reactive, calm, resilient, concise, accurate, impartial, creative, efficient, probing, analytic, constructive, respectful, credible, collaborative and a leader – without lying?!

But I wanted to end on a positive note, and that is this – once you have jumped through all the hoops set out in employment law by HR professionals who might not have a job if the application procedure was any easier, and once you have passed the psychometric pseudo-science interview tests, and presented a presentation, and been grilled by three people and landed the job, well then you might just find you’re working with a lot of people just like you and nothing like the people who were required by the application form. Unfortunately many of these people may also be incompetent and make your life a misery. No. That can never happen, because the application form would have weeded them out! No?

No comments:

Post a Comment