How naive I was. Since I applied for my first graduate job nearly seven years ago, the recruitment process for white collar jobs seems to have become twenty times more complicated.
First, it now seems to be passé to send anything as simple as a CV and cover letter. Applications fall into two camps, the “case studies”, designed to identify who can write the best 500 words about a time they managed to meet a deadline, or, even more baffling “managed a quality service”. The prospective employers helpfully provide endless documents designed to explain what on earth “a quality service” might be, but if my experience is anything to go by, these tend to leave the applicant even more confused than when she started.
Second, there are the ads designed to hire someone who meets a ludicrously prescriptive “person specification”. I read one of these recently, for an innocuous job in arts administration which listed an eye-watering 22 qualities and skills – in the most forbidding corporate jargon imaginable. No fewer than three years’ experience managing the budgets of publications schedules, and so on and so forth.
In an absolute worst-case scenario, you’ll be required to complete something like the “work-style questionnaire” prescribed by the Civil Service Fast Stream: I like to work as part of a team, please choose a response on a scale between strongly agree to strongly disagree. My application ended with an email informing me that although my aptitude tests were perfectly satisfactory, I just wasn’t the right sort of person for the Civil Service way of working.
We need to update Dick the Butcher’s advice, obviously.
As Robert Townsend pointed out in Up The Organisation – one of the only three management books that are required reading, all others being contra-indicated – hiring should be done by the bloke, or assistant, personnel being there to fill out the forms afterwards.
This has macroeconomic implications as well. Today’s level of frictional unemployment – that amount that we’re going to have whatever because it takes time to get hired – is higher than what used to be thought of as a disastrous level of total unemployment.
Hire someone who looks vaguely right, observe and train them for a bit, if it doesn’t work, Oh Well, start again. Shorter and cheaper in the end…..