Thursday, September 10, 2015

It Applies

Ah, the joys of online job applications, said no one, ever.

All right, that little bit of snarkiness is old. It does, however, fill me with a certain comfortable degree of smugness.

Last night, while my exercise clothes were in the washing machine (thereby precluding a potential crime against humanity, judging from the odor of my socks), I took it upon myself to fill out an application for a low wage, part time job. In my day, one went to the place of business, requested a paper application (back before trees were on the endangered species list, apparently), sat in the parking lot while the radio belched out "Knight Fever", and quickly devised smooth ways of explaining exactly why you left your previous job. "Building accurate-scale models of the Eiffel Tower with forks during work hours" might explain how you came to be unemployed, but it doesn't allow much room for "upon further reflection, I feel that I've grown since that incident, for which I take full responsibility".

Online applications have certain advantages that paper ones lack. For example, making an error on the paper application leads one, inevitably, to an "uh-oh" moment. Oft-times I've had to perform surgery on a misspelled word, my Bic ballpoint pen being the scalpel of choice. Turning an N into a G is possible IF one minored in linguistics. I did. Online applications, of course, preclude the applicant from having to perform consonant surgery without a license. In fact, the backspace and delete buttons have saved more botched words than I care to recall, and have certainly saved me from anti-grammar lawsuits filed by Edwin Newman. Another favored word-surgery implement I cherish -cut and paste- has guaranteed that I wouldn't have to return to the business, quietly approach a different employee than the one I met the first time I requested an application, and ask for a second, all the while doing my best to appear competent despite evidence to the contrary.

On the other hand, submitting applications online has rather cheapened the job-seeking process in that one never can quite follow up to determine whether or not the job is still available, and to impart that NO one ever stocked green beans quite as well as I can.

Another issue regarding online applications pertains to an entirely misplaced screening process which I encountered the other night. Having completed the application process for kitchen work, I was directed to some unholy conglomerate of psychological testing to determine both my intelligence and my character. Excuse me. I'm not the smartest person around, but I'm familiar with the administrative scales of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory II when I see them. The items I encountered, repeatedly, were set in place to test for consistency of responses, in addition to temperament, honesty, and emotional stability. I believe I was answering "sometimes it's okay to steal a little bit since everyone does it a little. Please choose true or false" while my now-clean socks were twerking about in the dryer. Somehow, it seemed more congruent to answer "false"; after all, how can one agree to that's okay to be dishonest when one has clean socks?

I'm still shaking my head. I'm pretty sure that a kitchen job shouldn't require a psychological background check rivaling that of a CIA applicant. Who cares that Jason has "had very peculiar and strange experiences" (item 33, MMPI II) as long as the dishwashing machine hasn't run out of soap? On the other hand, if he answered true to item 39, "At times I feel like smashing things", I'd feel more confident about the conglomerate's content validity. In any event, such testing is a bit high-falutin' for a minimum wage job, much like cloth napkins at McDonald's.

Seeking work is a fascinating, if sometimes aggravating, experience. I've learned a lot about how businesses sometimes respond to a sluggish economy by directing job seekers to take poorly-constructed psychometric tests which, hopefully, at least make Human Resources feel productive and weed out as many Jasons as possible. More to the point, I've learned not to give up. That goes for life in general.

It applies.


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