Messy, Problematic Online Application Profiles


I sat down alongside an unemployed woman who is looking for employment as a Housekeeper just yesterday. Our objective is setting aside this time to work together was to both find suitable jobs to apply to and to then target a resume for one of those jobs. In this sense, mission accomplished. What happened next was – you guessed it – our mutual decision to tackle the online application.

Now if you’ve never applied for a job online and you’re looking for work, you had best read on for some illumination. If you’ve applied online already for employment, you’ll commiserate I’m sure with what occurred.

So, there we were on the website of an organization that provides residential care for the elderly. To the right of the job description and list of responsibilities, there it was in all it’s glory, the tantalizingly bright, “Apply here” button in all it’s beauty. As I hovered over the button, I suspected one of two outcomes; a quick application wanting her name, email and resume attachment or the longer, ‘complete your profile’ option. Sadly for us, it was option number two.

Okay, now I’m proficient on the keyboard, and as we were working in my office, I entered the information, checking with her all the while on things I didn’t know but needed to provide the employer with. It started out oddly and ominously. After asking for her first name, it asked what her preferred first name was. Huh? Then again after the surname, it asked what her preferred last name was. I suppose this is meant for those that were born “Smith” or “Miller” but always wanted to be a “Lennon” or “Gates”.

I was relieved when the option to upload a resume quickly appeared because not only do the best applications receive this information, they often extract and pre-populate many of the fields that need completing on the online application. While this was the case, I found something excruciatingly frustrating about the way the form was designed. For each job the applicant had on their resume – and she had six – you had to select the Country, Province and City. Now for most applicants, the country in which they are applying is in fact the country they were born in. However, I know many hotels employ people in their housekeeping positions who originated in foreign lands and came to Canada. I get that of course. It would have been nice however had the application defaulted to Canada after the first job and pre-populate the rest.

In short, (and I wish the online profile we were creating was) it took us 45 minutes to complete the profile. This is 45 minutes in addition to the hour and 15 minutes it took us to find the right job and tailor the resume to it for best results.

Here’s the kicker though. When we hit the ‘send’ button, it indicated that the email address we were employing (pun intended) was already registered with the organization. “Have you ever applied before on this website?” I asked. “Oh yeah I have” she replied. Oh no. You guessed it. In order to log in, we had to leave the page we were on; the one that had our 45 minutes worth of work on it. Did it open up a new page thereby saving all the information on a previous one? No it didn’t. You’re smart; you figured that was the situation I bet.

So not knowing we were going to apply for this position with this organization when she left home for our meeting, she didn’t have the password associated with this profile with her. It was at home. As the advice we always get and give is to create a unique password and username for each website we visit, she couldn’t guess what this one was. The end result? No application completed at that moment and she is left to return home, retrieve the password, revisit the site and start the profile on her own from scratch.

There’s a certain irony in how these online application profiles are created. For starters they will often intimidate and eliminate many people who start but don’t complete them. That’s good on the one hand if it eliminates some of your competition. However, some of the people with the most time to complete them are the very people an employer would NOT want to hire.

I understand too that as the ad called for English language basic skills, the profile might weed out those who don’t have those skills sufficient to even understand the questions being asked of them. That could be their rationale but who knows? Who designs these profiles and why do they really ask the things they do?

On the upside, having gone through it together, she has a really good understanding of what it will take to complete it on her own now. She saw how I was patient, diligent and determined to complete it and that rubbed off on her.

As for you my friend, when you are faced with the online application profile, grab yourself a soothing tea and maybe a raisin tea biscuit to go with it. Sink into your chair and make sure you’ve got a comfortable one as you’ll be there awhile. Keep track of your usernames and passwords on all the various sites you apply to and if you can, put these on your mobile phone if you carry it with you.

Most of all; good luck!

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