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21 February 2010

Job Searching: The Silence of the App

Follow-up seems to be a one-way street when job hunting.  Job hunters are advised at every turn to follow up on every lead. Give yourself name recognition, establish a professional presence on the Web, clean up your personal image on the Web, check on job status, send thank you notes.

Headhunters provide feedback.  Apply for a position and they'll let you know you're not qualified.  They'll even check back with you because you are the raw material for their product -- employees marketed to employers.

Faceless institutions, however, represent black holes.  Your app goes in, and nothing comes out; not even the gravitational waves caused by the bits of your resume' printout hitting the bottom of their shredder bin.  In the days before application via web-based databases, large employers received so many applications that the bottom line may not have provided labor hours to send out individual responses to job applicants.  With the automation that databases can perform, however, I see no excuse for not performing the courtesy of notifying job seekers when reqs close.

Granted, the flood of applications has grown even worse.  Web-based applications make positions far easier to find.  Some employers have even created mechanisms to screen out people who submit resume' spam.  That's right: Some people submit resume's for jobs not even close to those for which they qualify; and if you have the money, you can hire a business to submit your resume' for hundreds, even thousands of positions for you.  (According to What Color Is Your Parachute? 2000, (Richard N. Bolles, Ten Speed Press), that technique never works.)  If you have enough discernment to read this, you obviously would never get yourself blocked as a resume' spammer.

So, with the tsunami of job seekers, it's not surprising that you'll find little departmental information, let alone contact information, in the online career sites.  Some don't even identify the city.  The sites put up a shield of anonymity for their Human Resources departments and their hiring managers.

This quiet zone for managers creates two major problems for job seekers:  First, it destroys a job seeker's ability to prove creativity, persistence, and people skills during the application process.  Second, it cuts off any source of information that the web site fails to provide.

Several weeks ago, I wanted to apply for a low-level management position with a defense-related division of a conglomerate.  The company's career page on listed two positions, Manager I, and Manager IV.  The job descriptions were identical.  No clue was given about which reported to the other.  In some companies, a Manager I would be entry level and a Manager IV would be a department director; but in other companies, a Manager IV would be entry level the way a Second Lieutenant looks up to a First Lieutenant.

Trying to avoid becoming a blocked resume' spammer, I found some contacts in the company and called them with my simple question.  I left a voice message for all but the one who answered.  The one who answered transferred me to HR, where I had to leave yet another message.  Nobody ever returned my call.

Then I found a local facility.  Surely they would talk to me to answer such a simple question.  Wrong.  The company operator who answered would not forward me to HR unless I had a contact's name.  Instead, the operator told me to fax my question to a number reserved for faxing job applications.  The operator did not respond when I asked how many job seekers have access to a fax machine.  I just can't bring myself to investing an hour to drive all the way downtown to a Kinko's and then pay Kinko's the cost of a fax, just to get one little question answered.  I have since replaced my broken $50 scanner/printer with a $69 clearance-priced copier/scanner/printer/fax, but I doubt I would ever have received a response to my question.

I guess this leads to pet peeves about employers' career sites:  First, the wall of anonymity limits job applicants and their evaluation.  Second, not enough information is available about the structure of job titles.  Third, few provide any feedback after you submit your application.  (They usually send an automated e-mail to acknowledge the first application you submit each day.)  The only way to status your application is to go into their database.  If they track the positions to which you apply, some will give a one-word status if the job req is still open.  Otherwise, the job req simply disappears from their database.  In other words, the page for the job req no longer exists and the database forgets that you ever applied for the job.  But sometimes, even those two indicators conflict.

Before I conclude, I want to honor Eaton Corporation, GE, and Raytheon Corporation.  Their job application databases have informed me that jobs for which I applied have closed.

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