Job Applications Suck

We've all been there: need work, go around asking if any place is hiring, and they give you this form to fill out. It's (unfortunately) become pretty standard practice among most businesses today. And my God does it suck.

The idea of a standardized form isn't too bad. Fill out some information on one sheet, make a ton of copies, hand it out. Quick and simple. Oh, wait, we already have that. It's called a resumé.

But no, for so many places now, a resumé isn't good enough. You've got to fill out this form with all the exact same information as is on your resumé, and then hand that in - with a resumé. Maybe this makes sense if you're applying at the Department of Redundancy Department.

Let's look at some of the ridiculous things they ask on these forms.

Right from the beginning, we have fairly standard information - name, address, phone number. I'm not sure why you need to know my address to consider hiring me, but OK, whatever. Then most of them ask things like "Are you legally entitled to work in $country". That sounds a little silly, but I guess they'd be in trouble if they didn't ask and hired an illegal immigrant. OK, nothing bad so far.

A lot of them also want my email address. Hold on. All the spam I get already, and you want me to just hand my email over to your corporation? For what? I've had exactly one job email me, ever - and they provided an account for the purpose. The video store, hardware store, grocery store, etc are never going to email me - except maybe some advertisements.

What's next. My social insurance number? Seriously? This is supposed to be highly confidential personal information, and you're asking me to just hand it over on a sheet of paper to whomever happens to be at the counter that day? Maybe I can assume this is an idiot test and not fill it in, but it's still a pretty ridiculous thing to ask, and seems like the kind of thing people get in trouble for. Oh hey, throw in some credit card numbers while you're at it, will ya?

Expected Salary. Oh, this is one of my favourites. How much do you expect us to pay you? Let's see, I can guess too high and be rejected or I can guess too low and screw myself. Brilliant fucking question there. Any time I see this question I have to seriously question the hiring process - can you say "lowest bidder"?

"Do you have reliable transportation?" My legs are pretty damn reliable. Does a bicycle count? Public transit? Kinda ambiguous question there.

"If you have applied to $business before, state when, where, and for what position." Yeah, I keep copies of every single application form I ever hand out. Totally.

"Positions applied for" and "what type of work are you interested in?" Let's see, "anything that pays?" Seriously, what am I supposed to put here? Do I just choose a job and hope they're hiring for that position? (Not every place - in my experience, few places - offers lists.) I doubt there are many jobs in your average store I can't do.

Education. They need to know all your school history. Sometimes as far back as sixth grade.
You might think this is a good thing to put on an application form. Haha no. This field right here is one of the big things that's wrong with society. The belief that there is a direct correlation between education history and intelligence or skill.

To put it simply, before I started school, when I was a young child, I was reading and writing at a college level. If I'd had a computer of any sort then, no doubt I'd have been doing insane things with them too. I've been hacking since first grade. I've been a better coder than most college graduates or even professionals I've seen since high school. Ask any of my former teachers, they'll tell you how brilliant I was. Ask my report cards, they'll tell another story. Simply put, Ontario's school system is a complete and utter failure. So is there really a relation between grades and skill or intelligence?

(Yes, smart guy, I've been starting sentences with prepositions and doing all these other grammar no-nos. I know better, I just don't care. This is a blag, not an essay.)

Just to make it more fun, a lot of them also have a field for "diploma received" and/or "year graduated". Since I'm still in college, I have nothing to put here. There's no way to differentiate "I'm on summer break from a multi-year program" from "I dropped out/failed/etc."

Then we get into the employment history. This part is annoying because it's probably 70% of the writing you need to do, filling out all the exact same information over and over again. What was that I said about a standard form? A resumé?

They'll ask some fairly standard questions, and then they get nosey again. Starting and ending salary? What business is this of yours? So many of them also ask "describe your duties" and then give you a liiiiiiitle tiny box to write it in. Get the microscope.

There's always the "may we contact this employer?" Except sometimes, it's "May we contact your past employers?" and a little checkbox. OK, so suppose the answer is "yes" for some and "no" for others? What then? Design fail.

"Reason for leaving". I guess "it sucked" isn't a valid response here. Ultimately, you only have enough space for one word anyway - enough to state what happened, not why. Unless the reason is something like "moved away" or "went out of business" (which are still multiple words), context can be pretty important here.

Finally, references. Ah, references. The better social life you have, the better chance you have of getting a job. Nevermind your ability, qualifications, or availability; it's all about connections.

Some just ask for a name and phone number. Others get right stupid. Relationship? Irrelevant. Address? Yeah, because I totally have the addresses of all my friends, coworkers, and former employers.

Then you have some businesses - coffee shops in particular - that throw in their own questions. In most cases, these questions are completely ambiguous, worthless, and unanswerable. There is only one correct answer, which you must guess.

My three favourite bands? Let's see. First I have to think of which of my favourite songs even have bands. Most of them are written and/or remixed by one person. I suppose "Hamasaki Ayumi (remixed by DJ Random Guy #37)" won't fit here. Oh who am I kidding, nobody in this town has ever even heard of Ayumi herself. I may as well make up random Japanese words.

My favourite type of coffee? To work in a coffee shop I not only have to drink coffee, but already be familiar with all the different kinds? Isn't that what training is for? Or even just a goddamn ingredient list?

"This job may involve a lot of cleaning; are you OK with that?" Clearly there is only one valid answer here. My choices may as well be "absolutely" and "toss this paper in a fire right now". You may as well have asked if I have a head. Am I really expected to believe anyone is ever going to say "no" and get hired?

So finally, once you've spent an hour filling out the same information 47 times and your hand is cramped from writing, you can go out and hand out these forms - with copies of the nice resumé you made up that present all that same information - so they can proceed to toss them out without reading them because you didn't guess the correct answer to that one completely meaningless question on page 3.

Some day I'll have to get a bunch of these forms, fill them out with a lot of "you don't need to know", "does not apply", "question is meaningless" etc and hand them in. For now, if you're the one responsible for hiring somewhere, here's what I recommend for an application form:

You'll notice it's blank. Grab a sheet of blank paper from your printer. Hand it to the applicant, ask for their resumé, and read it. If they're not a total moron, all the information you need to consider them will be right there. Otherwise, well, there's your idiot test. You can ask for addresses and SIN numbers and whether they're legally able to work in your country during the actual hiring process. Thanks.

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