The Joy of Being Screened Out

Vic Napier

June 2012

I laughed the other day when I saw a job announcement demanding that applicants not just fill out a lengthy online application and resume, but also include three letters of reference, a statement of philosophy, cover letter, and copies of all college transcripts. Who would go through all that – especially the part about soliciting friends go to write recommendations – simply to enter the first rung of consideration for an interview? Job postings are supposed to attract applicants, not turn them way.

Requirements like this reveal more about the employer than the employer realizes, and probably results in most people doing what I did – laughing – and moving onto the next job posting. There must be a few people who go through the process of supplying all this information, otherwise these kinds of announcements would never get posted. I suspect that is part of the selection process and I wonder if it is intentional. People who see this process as ludicrous and excessive are screened out. They see it as a foolish waste of time and maybe disrespectful and intrusive. The people who actually go through the process don’t see it that way at all. If that is what the employer wants, that is what they do. They are compliant, have respect for authority and are obedient.

Imagine working at a place that screens for compliant, obedient employees, who, before they even get an interview, have to demonstrate their ability to do whatever is asked, without hesitation or question, no matter how disrespectful, intrusive or absurd. I cannot imagine working at a place like that, so it is a good thing that I find the job announcement preposterous and laughable.

I do not want to work for this employer as much as they do not want me working for them. That is a good thing.

I am not the only one who thinks this way. The recruitment process has become more automated and impersonal. Applicants cut and paste key words and phrases from job descriptions into their resumes and press a button sending them to HR computers where they are scanned electronically searching for those same key words and phrases. Automated confirmation that resumes have been received is common, but notification of where a candidate stands in the hiring process is becoming increasingly rare. Job seekers have no idea why they are not hired or invited for interview, and the process seems more like a lottery than a rational selection process.

Even recruiters and HR professionals are unwittingly being seduced into this point of view. I sometimes call HR offices as part of my research for these articles. I am not looking for a job, but sometimes I am asked to send a resume or fill out an application. Recently I declined an invitation to submit an application and the woman I was speaking to responded with, “Why not? Your chances are as good any anyone else’s.” Really? The only way for all the candidates to have an equal chance is to make hiring decisions based on randomly choosing a resume, like a lottery. That would be the only way for everyone’s chances to be the same. Well, no, she told me, but everyone has such good qualifications that sometimes it is hard to make a decision.

So maybe getting a job is like a lottery. If that is the case, the United States labor market is moving away from being a meritocracy, where people make achievements based on merits. It is turning into a system where there are a few jobs, many very well qualified job seekers and not enough opportunity to go around.

The answer seems obvious. Abandon the traditional job market, traditional jobs and traditional employers. Take stock of your natural traits and abilities and create your own living.

Vic Napier