Monday, April 23, 2012

Form Here to Eternity

I'd love to meet the geniuses who design online forms for job applications. 

I understand that their task is a difficult one: Assemble a methodology to collect the most amount of information from the widest audience of candidates and package it so that:

  1. Some internal program can, in an automated and oh-so-efficient manner, scan the text for keywords that match the criteria for the opening, and
  2. A hiring manager or HR rep can then save time and effort by reviewing only the paperwork that represents the most likely fit.

But understanding the reasoning doesn't lessen the pain of interacting with these systems.

Step One usually presents the opportunity to upload an existing resume. Well isn't that a convenience! Most job hunters have a soft-copy resume at hand (does anyone snail-mail resumes anymore? I didn't think so), so the technology to conveniently upload it for assessment is a great first step.

*Click.* Browse. Open. Attach. Zoom.

Up in seconds. We're moving now!

But that's just Step One. We are nowhere near the promised land of Submit just yet. It's not even on the horizon.

The uploaded resume is quickly scanned, and Step Two comprises the tasks associated with verifying the results of Step One.

Initially, this is a simple matter of confirming, for example, that your first and last name have been accurately picked up. Address is good. City/state. Phone. Email. Yup. We're batting a thousand here.

Step Three is where things begin to get complex. Somewhere around Step Three, you're being asked to create a username and password.

In general, your email makes a terrific username:

  • It's readily at hand (but hey, wasn't my email recognized by Step One? So why can't it be prefilled here so that... oh never mind!)
  • You're not apt to forget it
  • It saves you the embarrassment of registering for a site using something like Desperate_and_Going_Steadily_Broke. Unless, of course, your email address is In which case, you probably want a more professionally sounding email address.

And that darned password. Must be between 8 and 30 characters. Must have a symbol. And an uppercase/lowercase distinction. Oh, and we'd like it in Sanskrit, please. But please translate it into Pig Latin first, then submit in Sanskrit.

All of this registration is to enable you to check on the status of your application and perhaps return to the site and apply for other jobs with lickety-split ease. Except that nobody really returns to corporate websites to see how it's going with that six-figure c-suite job they're angling for. If you didn't get a call, it's a pretty safe bet you've not been short-listed.

And as far as re-applying, by the time you investigate additional opportunities at the same organization (out of desperation, because we're heading further and further into that Steadily Going Broke phase), you've completely forgotten your original username and password.

So, on first visits, password validity is usually just a matter of conforming to the seemingly arbitrary rules of password-setting. 8-30 characters. One upper-case character. One symbol. Pig Latin. Then Sanskrit. Got it!

For returnees, the login process can easily become a guessing game. Okay, let's go with the email addy as a username. Bingo! We're in. Almost.

Password. Password. Hmmm. MonKeyBrain666? No, that's my work password. Studly#G1U1Y? No, that's the one to fishFINZ&&? Wrong again!

And now you're locked out.

But fear not, intrepid job applicant. We can send your password to your handy-dandy email address. Provided you can supply us with the answer to our Secret Question: How many hair follicles were on your uncle's cousin's neighbor in 1952?

The truly frustrating part of all this is twofold:

  1. The employer has you basically over a barrel. You need the job; therefore, you're willing -- eager even -- to jump all these hoops if necessary. Multiple times, in fact, if you fall victim to the dreaded session timeout demon.
  2. Things being what they are, even if you wend your way though this online labyrinth, get a phone-call interview, pass that hurdle, and get authorized for a 1:1 meeting with your prospective employer... chances are one of the first things you'll get upon arrival is a blank application -- paper version -- requesting the exact same info.
Ah technology. How it transforms our daily lives!

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