An Open Letter to Big Employers in this Crap Economy

Dear Large Company and/or Corporate Giant,

My name is Zoe. I am not currently looking for work (thank the Lord Jesus) but I am writing to express my grievance about a particular concept that has infuriated me and countless others since its inception. I am sure that when it was proposed at the Important Management Conference in [fill in outrageously ritzy location of your choice] some number of years ago, that it astounded, awed, and the person behind it got a really colossal bonus. Or at least a standing ovation.

I am talking about the decision to construct an online employment application process through your own particular company’s website, one in which each person who is interested in applying must create a User Name that can not be one’s email address and a unique password consisting of at least ten characters, with one uppercase, lowercase, symbol, and Alt code included. You know, something “easy to remember.”

Another stellar quality of this idea is giving the potential employee the option of importing his or her résumé through your special “X Company Résumé Importer!” function. The person who writes your codes/algorithms must also be sure to omit something or add something extraneous that will make the user want to take a mallet to his or her computer – because of course the uploader will not work. Conversely, if it does work, it must import all of the information incorrectly so that one must manually go through and take more time to correct the errors than if one had retyped the résumé from memory into your convenient boxes. (As we all know, résumés all look the same because no one is an individual. If a person opts to use bullet points in his/her résumé, anything next to one will either show up in the Title area or be omitted altogether.)

(I liken the online employment form to Hell Week at a sorority or fraternity. You’ll do a lot of things you would never do in any other situation and you’ll proclaim that you enjoy it. It’s some BS rite of passage.)

Some brainiac also suggested not letting a person have any symbols in the text of one’s résumé (especially a / mark), uploading a cover letter is a joke, or it’s left as Optional. (Note to anyone who doesn’t exercise this option: it’s a test. ALWAYS upload or write in a cover letter!) If you get one of those boxes where it asks you to simply type or paste in your cover letter from an actual word processor like MS Word, the formatting will be so messed up that it completely erases a person’s chances of ever getting a call back. It’s physically painful.

By the time we get to the end of this nightmare, the relief is palpable. But then, you sneaky bastards, you have one more trick up your sleeve. Two options are before us job seekers: take a completely obvious, mandatory personality test survey or ask “interview questions” that are incredibly strange and limit a person’s response to 250 characters. Please – I beg of you – if you have to force us to do these things, at least spring it on us when we’re called in for an interview. It gives us some sliver of hope that this “system” works and we didn’t waste an entire afternoon spend all that time on your employment site for nothing. Spending an additional 30-45 minutes at home on a personality test with questions like this makes me grind my teeth into dust. (Who actually says Strongly Agree to “I can be cold and aloof.” ? Does anybody fall for this?)

I understand that you may be testing people’s basic grasp of following instructions and “computer skills,” but there are better ways of gleaning this information from your candidates. Also, please don’t resort to this tactic: don’t insert an easily overlooked instruction such as, “YOU MUST PUT Code 4UX937P in the reference area to be considered!” somewhere in the fine print of the description of the position. Throwing away someone’s application that took him or her two hours to complete because of an easy mistake like that is flat out asinine. You look like a jerk before you even get someone to apply. Wait until the third interview or the first day to reveal that you’re not that great of a place to work, in fact.

This is an employer’s market. Do you get that? You, the Big Corporation, can be choosey! You don’t have to put us through these ridiculous hoops! Please take the time to make it appear as if you give a single crap about the type of person you are going to hire. I don’t know about other people, but I avoid even applying for positions with companies that use these methods strictly on principle. I immediately put you on that list of Top 100 Douchebag Places to Work Every Single Year Running.

It is only under times of desperation that I have submitted to this process because I trick myself into thinking that it must work. Surely someone is attaining a job in this manner. However! I can’t actually attest to this because despite my being a very qualified person with more than reasonable articulation, not once have I ever gotten a call or an email back from one of these places. It always makes me wonder who is on the other end of these things. Is it some poor sap whose sole job is to sort through the barrage of poorly copied/pasted résumés and personality tests? Is someone reading these things line by line and highlighting those who put down Strongly Disagree that s/he can be cold and aloof?

Under normal circumstances, I am not this cynical. But let’s be honest: this market sucks whale junk and it’ll be years before it dramatically improves. We know you employers are going to be inundated with umpteen more applications per available job than you would have received five years ago. But one thing you can do is make it a teensy bit easier on those who desperately need work and are applying to as many positions per day as they can find: if you are not going to use a staffing firm or headhunter to scale down the applicants for you, simply set up an email address where people can easily attach a cover letter, résumé or CV. Not having the ability to read attachments is ridiculous. It’s 2011. And if nothing else, if you are unable to designate an email address at your company, e.g., jobs@bigcompany, make it a Gmail address. Sending in a résumé to Hotmail screams, “Please e-rape me.” Seriously.

I implore you to heed this advice from an experienced job seeker. Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.

Happily, gratefully employed,


  1. Kevin Schneider says:

    This is terrifyingly hilariously accurate. As someone who has been through the job application process too many times, it can be harrowing to spend 3 hours on each application when your response/callback rate hovers around 0.5% in an economy like this one. Seriously. I got a response (including rejections) from about 1 in 200 applications. When it’s so easy to find people, they don’t even care.

  2. This is VERY well put and I am going to send it to my boss. When I was responding to an ad with the Company, while unemployed in 2009, I had to go through the hoops you so carefully document. 🙂 Thanks for sharing…

  3. Thanks, Ramona! I’d be interested to hear what your boss thinks, actually!

  4. What made you post this at this particular time? I’m thankful, as you are, that I don’t have to deal with this. I’ve been at my company so long that a lot of this wasn’t even available when I was applying there. But I have helped numerous people on, etc. as well as direct websites to a company. It’s AWFUL! Don’t even get me started on the return rate either, Kev. I’ve written to my HR president. Not once, but TWICE! I received a formal response, hand signed by him, but of course that has changed nothing since. To this day, it amazes me at how many positions are available at my job, yet how hard it is to get someone recognized for the position…even when you PERSONALLY know the hiring group.

    • Scott,

      Somehow I missed this comment from you. I wrote this because a friend of mine has been job hunting for several months (she is still at her current job) and she and I talk about the difficulties of finding other opportunities. It reminded me of my own search when I moved out of NYC and I decided to write a venting piece; partly because I’m grateful I don’t have to go through that and partly to empathize with all of those who continue to apply to anything and everything.

      Your perspective of working in a large place as you do and witnessing this process amazes me. I can’t describe the helplessness one feels. The online employment forms just make a person feel utterly desperate.

  5. A truly excellent post. My neck hurts from nodding all the way thru it. You have surely spoken for untold ga-zillions! You’ve got a nice fluid writing style, I also enjoyed those macro photos you took in the park. Keep up the great work!

    • Mark, thank you so much for enjoying the post and leaving your feedback. I have been surprised at how much of a response I have gotten from this – usually my rants fly under the radar.

      And your compliment on the photos is also very kind. Thanks!

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