Looking for employment is probably one of the most stressful and humbling experiences in life. Unless you are one of the coveted in a particular area of expertise, job searching is a time-consuming, exhausting, and emotional journey.
Unfortunately, I think companies sometimes forget that.
Before I get into the details, my first plea to companies is that if you already know who you are going to hire, please don’t waste everyone’s time posting the position. I know sometimes there are company policies that require such, but each time a job is posted, it is reviewed by perhaps thousands of applicants. If the matter is settled in advance — and I don’t fault companies for hiring or promoting someone they might already know and trust — please be respectful of the time and effort of those who might consider applying for the position.
Many companies require that, in addition to submitting a resume and cover letter, applicants must also apply for the job online. The applications can be lengthy and often ask you to repeat much of what is on your resume. And in some cases, online applications include lengthy tests for candidates. I applied for one job while going to law school and I could not believe the amount of time it required: 10 years of college wasn’t enough, I still had to multitask through some silly email tests and many others. Cover letters are bad enough, more annoying than anything else when you are in a hurry, but the online applications and tests can eat up a good part of your day.
If you’re fortunate enough to get through the application process, you must deal with the interviews. I’ve experienced a number of different interview methods—including one-on-one, group, rotating and multiple interviews. I’ve also encountered more tests and even had to make presentations. What does it say about the quality of colleges and the integrity of applicants that companies feel the need to make applicants take basic tests?
The most worthless of the interview methods are the structured interviews. The pretense is to be objective in the process and give each candidate the same canned questions and evaluate their ability to give canned responses. It’s usually the favorite of those terrified of the legal consequences of favoring one candidate over another (which happens anyway).When I’ve interviewed candidates, I’ve wanted to get to know them. I want to ask them about their values, their experiences, why they would be a good fit for our company. To me, it goes way past the same boring questions. For me, it is the follow-up questions where you get the most information. Some structured interviews only involve people reading questions from a piece of paper and recording the answer. There is no interaction, no getting to know that person. All that is being tested is whether the applicant is versed enough in interviews to give the answer he or she is supposed to give.
It’s actually interesting the weight put on interviews in any capacity. As the American Psychological Association asserts, “For over 50 years, psychologists criticized employment interviews on the grounds that they were subjective, subject to bias, and most important, poor predictors of future job performance. Hundreds of studies of the employment interview had led most industrial psychologists to conclude that they were nearly worthless and that interviews often did more harm than good.”
In fact, they are probably as worthless as contacting references. I would think that a candidate’s resume would be incredibly more valuable than a one hour interview, often in which the candidate is nervous, anxious, and programmed.
Other pursuits of employers now often include a background check, credit check, and review of social media. A background check is vital, and I have no complaint there. Credit checks can be revealing, for sure, but any decision made using credit checks is supposed to be conveyed to the employee, which probably never happens.
Social media is a new component to the employment process, one on which I disagreed with the assessment of Human Resource professionals at a recent conference. I think it is both an easily accessible resource for employers and one that not only allows insight into the applicant, but also subjects them to biases. How easy would it be for an employer to use his or her own social values in making an employment decision? If I were a career coach, I would probably recommend deleting social media accounts until a job is secured.
In an economy in which employers still hold most of the cards, prospective employees are subject, more than ever, to a time-consuming and intensive, even intrusive, hiring process. Employers certainly have a duty to hire the best person for their company, as turnover is a significant cost. However, they also need to be respectful of the stressful, perhaps desperate, situation of job seekers. Some, especially those who are unemployed, may have their entire life — family, house, self-esteem — at stake.
Rob Swindell is a lifelong Lorain County resident offering his opinions on politics, science, and social issues. He can be reached at email@example.com.