Complaining About Online Applications

This week and last, I’ve been instructing 8 people on the very basics of using a computer. We started at proper terminology and how to turn it on, and now we’ve transitioned to making a resume, creating emails, sending documents and applying for jobs. After all, making a resume and going through the job application process is a great way to both learn the computer and possibly get work at the same time.

Every day, there are breakthrough moments for different people when what was difficult to do just the day before becomes mastered, and I’ve seen more than one person throw up their hands and say, “I did it! Yeah for me!” I love that reminder of childhood innocence when accomplishing something without the help of someone else was a major victory. There are fewer opportunities to do that for some people so good for them!

So yesterday was the second day we managed to get to the online application process. At one point in the afternoon I gave the group 1 1/2 hours to find a job, edit their resume to match the new job requirements and apply for the job either by email or using the online application process; whatever the job called for. This activity gives those in the group a good indication to themselves if they can in fact independently use their new-found computer skills to accomplish a major task.

Staying in the room and observing, I watched them browse one of 5 websites I shared with them and find a job. Then I saw them print the posting, highlight the skills required, open their resumes, make some adjustments, save the document under a new name and then send it out. For some it was easier than others. The ones who succeeded were pretty happy with themselves, and it reinforced their confidence.

One fellow however had a different experience. The job he found required him to apply online. As it turns out, he was first required to create an individual profile with the company, (which he did successfully) and then complete a rather lengthy list of questions as part of the application process. It was this part that he rebelled against. “Why do I have to give them all this information? Why can’t I just give them my resume and they hire me because I’ve got the skills to do the job?”

Knowing nothing else, take a shot at guessing his age. Go on. Did you guess between 18 and 30? I bet you didn’t. I’m going to suggest you guessed an older person, perhaps 45 or older. He is in fact in his late 40’s. Now this doesn’t mean that everyone in their late 40’s or older rebels against these application processes, nor that younger people embrace them. But it does fit with a broadly observed pattern of the older generation longing for the good old days when you could just walk in, take the sign out of the window that said, “Help Wanted”, and tell the person working there that you’re their man. Bread used to be 25 cents too. Neither are likely to happen anymore.

Now as it happens, the class had been told once you go through the process, they could be on their way home. Do it quicker, you leave earlier. Take longer, you leave closer to our regular departure time. Everyone else completed their assigned work and headed out with their thanks for the day and stepped out into the sunshine. He and I however sat there talking. The conversation is one I’ve had many times before, but it was a first with this fellow on the topic of online applications.

What I was trying to ascertain was the real problem. So was it his reluctance to complete the process or his inability to use his technical skills? Both perhaps? As it turns out, he had been able to create his unique username and password for the site, and was paused at the screen that said, “Please allow 30 – 35 minutes to complete the application questionnaire. You can save your progress and re-continue at anytime.” So it was his frustration as a job seeker having to give this company information here instead of at an interview. “Why can’t I just give them my resume, they look at it and see I’ve got the skills, and they give me the job?” he asked.

Online applications that have a lengthy number of questions do weed out applicants who can’t be bothered to go through the entire application process. On the one hand, if I was competing for the job with this fellow, I’d love the length if it was going to keep him from applying; he might be better qualified for the job than me, but I’ll sit there and complete the entire application and he won’t. Of course this logic is the very logic he feels proves his point – and I don’t entirely disagree.

Yet most jobs do require some amount of computer knowledge and basic computer skills these days. Inventory in warehouses is computerized, so even the process of putting paint cans on a showroom floor requires that initially, you have to access the computerized inventory directory to find out if you have the right brand and colour of paint to fill the voids on the shelves and where it is located. You can’t count on someone else to help you go find it on the computer all the time.

He left eventually but plans on doing the entire application this morning. I bet he does just fine.