Being loud and bolshie and opinionated should, if the world were fair, be a source of income. The world is not fair and I’m broke. I need a (new) job. I have qualifications. I have experience. I am outspoken and fabulous. It should be possible to find something. Indeed, looking at my favoured website, I see that there are myriad jobs I could apply for. Oh joy, oh bliss; an end to my impecuniosity may be in sight! So why, you might wonder if you could see me, am I pulling my hair out, sighing loudly, muttering imprecations, and otherwise wishing for the world to end?
It’s because of these application forms. Every job vacancy comes with a description, a person specification, an equal opportunities monitoring form, a request for a covering letter — and an application form. Now, I have a CV. I think it’s a good CV. It tells you who I am, which exams I’ve passed, what I’ve achieved professionally, and some other stuff about hobbies and interests and the like. It is nicely laid out and appealing to the eye. But does anyone want to see it? No. They all want me to cut & paste all the info that’s on my lovely CV into their (frequently) ill-designed application forms.
That in itself would be bearable; but every single form is just the teensiest bit different. This one wants dates (dd/mm/yyyy) in the first column and that one wants dates (mm/yy) in the second. This wants start date in the same box as finish date; that one wants them separately. This needs a reason for leaving; that doesn’t care so long as you tell it how much you were earning when you left. And none of them seems very keen on the idea that you’ve been freelance/had your own business — especially not a business abroad — for the best part of a decade. But OK, I can work round that if I absolutely must. I shall grit my teeth and c&p with all the malevolent gusto of a slighted and now deranged lover sending her ex’s passionate messages to his missus. Heavens, but this is dull. I’d never have been any good as a bunny boiling harpy.
Oh, now what? Experience? In there? Really? I have had a lot of experience doing a lot of things (and they’re just the ones I’m prepared to admit to). It is not possible to get it all into that little box, especially when I’m supposed also to include ‘principal duties and responsibilities.’ Come on, this is an online application — no rain forests will be threatened if you give me a bigger box to write in. But OK, we’ll say you intend printing out fifty copies so that everyone in your organization can have a shufty at their future workmate, or maybe it’s an exercise in précis-writing, or micro-calligraphy, or something… I can go along with that. But wait! Lo! What’s this I see before me? A whole page to tell you about ‘official bodies and organizations’ to which I might belong? Umm… nope… can’t think of a single one worth mentioning or that is in any way relevant to this job I’m hoping to get. And if I leave a whole page blank, won’t it look bad that I don’t belong to at least thirty seven such entities?
But, wait, hang on… This is a word document. That means I can adjust it a bit… make the ‘experience’ box a bit bigger and the ‘official bodies’ one smaller… and I can add extra space to ‘qualifications’ if I pinch a bit off ‘vocational training courses’… There now, that looks much better and it’s got it all in. And it still bears a remarkable similarity, albeit only upon the most cursory inspection, to the original form you sent me. Hey, it has at least got the same number of pages. What more do you want?
Oh, referees now? One of whom must be my ‘current or most recent employer’? Which bit of ‘freelance’ did you fail to comprehend? I haven’t had a boss since the millennium was but a babe in arms — well, other than myself, and if you’d like me to write a reference telling you how utterly fab I am in all respects (witty, brainy, hard-working, insightful, amenable, oh, and a complete babe to boot), then I’m happy to do so. Otherwise… how about a boss I haven’t seen in a decade, who hardly knew me when she was my boss, and may, for all I know, have keeled over dead in the middle of Sainsbury’s five years ago? Well, OK, if you insist… But wouldn’t you rather have someone who actually knows me instead? What’s that? If I have no conveniently available ex-boss to vouch for me, you’ll accept a pillar of the local community. Waaahhh! I don’t know anybody in the local community, pillar-esque or otherwise; I’ve been away. I know lots of pillars of other communities and they’d vouch for me and say how perfectly lovable I am (well, most of the time; oh, all right, some of the time; no? a bit of the time? when I’ve had enough sleep and consumed enough coffee?), but they’re in a different country and don’t speak English. Yes, sure, I could translate their words for you, oh prospective employer… but… well, I could lie… I could say I’m sweet natured and fluffy on two hours’ sleep, never need coffee, and am even the antithesis of curmudgeonly when faced with application form after application form, all wanting the same mind-numbingly boring pieces of information in just a slightly different format. Grr.
‘Please note that CVs will not be accepted as substitutes for completed application forms’ you boast. Well, whoopee-effin’-do! Why not? Why not say ‘Please make sure your CV is no more than [x] pages long and contains the following sections: (i) personal information; (ii) education and qualifications; (iii) relevant work experience; (iv) other work experience’ and anything else you’d like to know about. Or couldn’t someone come up with a standardized mail-mergy type application form that I could keep on my computer and just alter the job title, date, and anything I felt needed to be different when applying for each job? Why this Sisyphean torment? Why? I imagine you’d say it’s so that all candidates are judged according to the same criteria, the main one of which must be the uniformity of their application forms. Oh yes, that’d be it… except… no… surely I can’t be the only one who tweaks the size of the text boxes and otherwise manipulates word documents to accommodate my own requirements…? Can I?
But enough… I have my rock to push and pillars of the community to schmooze. Wish me luck…
[PLEASE NOTE: The woman in the picture is not me; I don’t know who she is. I found her on Flickr, in the portfolio of the very talented Tanya Little (http://www.flickr.com/photos/tanya_little/).]