Good luck the next time you’re looking for work — the complexity of merely applying for a job has grown rapidly in recent years. When Gen Xers were growing up, it was common knowledge that earning a college degree would land you a good job. But now even colleges are saying that a degree is not enough. Here’s how County College of Morris puts it, “A degree does not guarantee you a job, it qualifies you to apply.”
The more competitive market is due to a number of factors, including high turnover rates, the ubiquity of technology, and a better-educated population. All of this has led employers to create more complicated application schemes to separate out candidates who really want the job from those who might pack up and leave six months later. And those complicated applications are the worst recruitment strategies.
1. Online job applications
You’ve created yet another username and password for something that you’ll only use once. You’ve dutifully uploaded your resume, cover letter, and references into some cumbersome system that looks like Windows 95. Then the next page tells you to cut and paste your resume, cover letter, and references and drop them into little boxes — and those boxes gleefully scramble every document you put in, making you look like you have the communication skills of a third grader.
Why?! Has no one from this company ever bothered to glance at the application page? But if you want the job, you’d be better be OK with wasting your time.
2. Interview after interview
Congratulations! You got an interview. You’re halfway there, right? You can finally end this excruciating process?
Not quite. With high turnover rates, companies are scared of hiring someone who will quit soon thereafter. As our Employee Engagement Report found, 25% of all workers would leave their job for a small pay bump. So once the company has whittled their list down to a few candidates, they’ll interview those candidates repeatedly until they’re absolutely sure they’ve found the right one. That means you better be willing to live in your most formal clothes for a while and have prepared answers for literally any question they could throw at you.
3. Levels of education
An easy way for companies to limit their candidate pool is to only consider people with a certain level of education. And that level seems to be regularly increasing.
For example, one big-box retailer requires assistant managers to have a college degree. Apparently tertiary education is essential for you to be able to tell that an extra cashier is needed during the weekend rush. Or take academia — while a PhD use to be a slam dunk for a tenured professor position, now it’s hardly a guarantee for a part-time teaching assistantship.
4. Applying for a job while doing your current job
Although it’s better than applying for a job while you’re unemployed, who wants to look for work right after they get home from work? You could be binge-watching episodes of your favorite show or catching up on sleep, but instead you’re scanning the postings on Indeed.com or polishing your resume for the 100th time.
Of course, if you want to test your window minimizing skills, you could try sneaking in applying for other jobs while you’re at work.
5. The Internet
Oh, Internet, you know me better than I know myself. I completely forgot that one time in 10th grade when I downed seven wine coolers then had the time of my life at Wig Hut.
But you remember.
In fact, you remember so well that a photo of me with vomit running down my shirt and Billy Idol’s ’do on my head is the very first thing that pops up when you Google my name. A shout out to my "friend" who posted that on his MySpace page. (And 80% of employeers will look you up before they hire you, according to The Huffington Post.)
Maybe one day the pendulum will swing back and job applications will be sane again. But for now, prepare for the worst and be pleasantly surprised when anything in the job hunt goes your way.