I saw this in the Tuesday Open Thread – a reader on Andrew Sullivan’s blog comments, and for those of us earnestly seeking jobs while wondering how long our unemployment benefits are going to last before Congress critters decide to monkey with them again, I thought it deserved front page status.

The View From Your Recession

07 Jun 2010 03:22 pm

A reader writes:

After reading some very fascinating contributions to “The View From Your Recession” and “The View From A Career Counselor,” I’ve come to the conclusion that, when all is said and done, there are no hard and fast rules whatsoever in seeking employment in today’s difficult job market. Some hiring managers will be turned off if you contact them directly; some of them will be annoyed when you do. Some hiring managers want qualifications that match the job description exactly, and will ignore anything on your resume that doesn’t; others want a broad range of experience and will send your rez to the bottom of the pile if you don’t have it. It’s a total crap shoot, and that was one of the most frustrating aspects of my search (which, incidentally, went on for 10 months and only just ended a few weeks ago).

The most frustrating aspect, though, was how easy it seemed for people to ignore me.

I’m a writer/editor by trade and had worked for a major public university for seven years before getting laid off last July; I applied for more than a hundred jobs at universities, corporations, media outlets, government agencies, and even sports franchises. Of all the jobs for which I applied, only half the time did I get any kind of response back. The other half, I got nothing. At all.

At one school, I applied for a job that almost exactly matched what I’d been doing for the past seven years, and got an auto-e-mail the same evening informing me that my application had been rejected because I didn’t possess the proper qualifications. I called their HR department the next day to ask why I’d been bounced so quickly, and was told they had some kind of computerized system that searches resumes and cover letters for specific keywords and rejects the ones that don’t have them. I added the proper keywords and the woman I talked to said she’d send it back through the system again; I never heard anything after that. A few weeks later, I submitted my revised resume to the same school for a similar-sounding job … and after receiving yet another auto-e-mail within hours of applying, I decided that institution wasn’t worth the hassle anymore.

I know that with so many people desperate for work these days, HR departments have got to be inundated with applications, but seriously, is it that difficult to send someone a form e-mail acknowledging receipt of their application and giving them some idea of what’s going to happen next (even if it’s just “don’t call us, we’ll call you”)? If I’ve left three voice-mail messages at your office asking about the status of my application for a position it turns out you don’t even have the funding to fill, wouldn’t it be worth two minutes of your time to fire off an e-mail letting me know the position’s not available after all, if only to get me off your back? It’s hard enough just to be suddenly unemployed in the first place; when you put yourself out there day after day after day, only to be summarily ignored by hiring managers from coast to coast, you start to wonder if the world would even notice if you one day ceased to exist.

Incidentally, the company where I finally started work last week is a Fortune 130 company that consistently makes it onto that magazine’s “Best Places to Work” list year after year; I’ve got a decent salary, fun co-workers, and great benefits, praise the Lord. I couldn’t tell you how I landed the job other than luck — my recruiter in the HR department was the daughter-in-law of a family friend, and I just happened to be interviewed by a couple of hiring managers who were wowed by my specific experience and skill sets. But they were all great people who went out of their way to make me feel like I was being paid attention to and carefully considered.

I wish I had better advice to offer desperate job-seekers other than “get lucky somehow,” but … well, sometimes that’s what it takes. I do have some advice for hiring managers, though: Treat us like people, dammit. Maybe all you’ve got on your desk is a CV and an applicant number, but those things might represent a guy who’s on the brink of depression after nearly a year of fruitless job-hunting, or a single mom who has to figure out how she’s going to feed her two kids and is looking for a reason to hope. I’m not suggesting you hire any of us out of pity, but is not ignoring us too much to ask?


CPL, here.
I’ve been on the job hunt close to a year.  Fighting through bed-ridden depression and ALL.  But, you’d think as a 20-year former Federal Employee with reinstatement privilages, I shouldn’t still be on the slag heap, looking for a job, but I am. 
And I have to say the Federal Government, the Office of Personnel Management, to be precise, is just like those HR people the reader comments about on Sully’s blog.  The OPM sets the standards for job selections in all the Federal Agencies – yet the Agencies themselves find ways to manuever around those requirements without actually breaking them.  There ARE code words that will get your resume looked at, or get it tossed in the trashcan – but what I find when I’m bounced from consideration for a job that I USED TO DO ten years ago, and I call the HR unit to ask “why?”  I find that the person evaluating my OF-612 (Fed Application) and resume, is usually an individual who has no CLUE as to the Knowledge, Skills and Abilities they are evaluating – they’re required to assign a score to the top three individuals and refer those individuals to the hiring manager for an interview.  When I tell them that I used to have that very job 10 years before and still have fresh skills, all I get it mumbling and asked to leave a voicemail from the hiring manager, who puts my resume back in the pile to avoid a possible complaint.  However, most of the time, they’ve kicked in the “rule of three”, as explained above.  If you’re number 4 on the list, you’re SOL.
If the hiring manager has an internal hire he/she wants, you won’t know about it, unless you see how long the period is for the vacancy to be advertised.  The normal time of advertising on USAJOBS.gov or AVUE Central (Federal Government Job Sites) is usually 14-30 days or longer.  If you see an vacancy advertised for less time than that (say one week), that is a clear indication that the hiring manager is going through the motions required by the Office of Personnel Management, and has already made an internal selection that can’t be announced until the formal advertisement period has expired.
I say this to say that no doubt other organizations or corporations have similar techniques for weeding out the thousands of resumes they receive to fill a limited number of jobs in such a tight job market.  While the Federal Government is actually streamlining their hiring process (eliminating the use of the “rule of three” for example, and considering everyone who applies that meet the qualifications) – their new processes won’t go into effect UNTIL NOVEMBER of this YEAR.  Why can’t their processes be implemented right NOW, and set the example for other organizations in terms of job creation?  I know some processes take time – but if you’re trying to get the economy back up and running, how about giving up all those jobs USAJOB.gov keeps saying they have vacant and put people back to work?
With the economy the way it is, and knowing the best way to stimulate the economy is to create jobs, one has to ask Bill Clintion what the hell was he thinking about when he managed to get NAFTA passed?  I conclude that all Clinton thought about was how to protect his own ass, and outsmart Orrin Hatch and Tom DeLay.  All that legislation did was break unions and ship jobs overseas, while facilitating more third world living on Mexico and ripping them off in the process.   All that legislation did was facilitate a lot of “McJobs” that pay minimum wage that STILL keeps a family of four below the poverty line. When I began with the Federal Government in high school, it was through a work-student program called CETA.  That program was started under President Jimmy Carter, and his rationale was if the nation was going to put kids to work, the Federal Government needed to set the example.  I began my career as a Student Aide in the Navy Department at Military Sealift Command, Pacific, out in Oakland, California.  Carter kept his word – we got at least three to four salary increases a year: Cost of Living allowance (COLA), Within-Grade Increases, and promotions for “fully successful” job performance.  If you were a star employee, your boss could nominate you for a cash award of anywhere from $250 to $1000.  Of course, Reagan thought Federal Employees were paid TOO MUCH and cut all those bennies OUT when he got in office. Through Carter, Reagan, Bush, Sr., and Clinton, I got promoted all the way to a GS-12 position and enjoyed a 20 year career until Bill Clinton decided to “flatten” the government the way Orrin Hatch and other ReThugs wanted.
People of Color watched their income increase during those times, and the Federal Government job was the job everyone wanted because after you got through your first three years, unless you got caught stealing or selling secrets to the enemy like they did at the FBI or the CIA, you pretty much had a job until you retired.
I watched Clinton defang the Justice Department in Civil Rights enforcement, and continue the steep and slippery slope towards deregulation; I know Reagan ushered in the era, but Clinton didn’t have to continue it – that’s where many, like myself, either had their jobs eliminated, or the veterans retired and the Civil Rights/EEO, or other regulatory enforcenment positions weren’t back filled.  Clinton single handedly opened the door to the recession we experience now.  What baffles me more is how hard we defended this guy against any and everything the ReThugs threw at him, which, in essence, was a ten-year witchhunt to “get Bill Clinton” while he basically insured that his actions were going to come back and bite this country in the ass.
And the thanks we got….is the VIEW FROM YOUR RECESSION.
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