Welcome to another edition of…
The Funny Side of HR: From the Desk of a Woman of a Certain Age
Thank you for coming back to check on me “A Woman of a Certain Age”. I hope that you are enjoying my view of the evolution of all things HR including a hint of humor. Please feel free to leave your comments. I welcome your thoughts and your remembrances.
Last month, I discussed the job search process of yesteryear. The process was what we today can call “manual”. Everything was done on paper or with paper. Tons and tons of paper. Job seekers searched via newspapers. Companies advertised via newspapers. The job search world was paper logged. Agencies held job seekers captive. They were the proverbial gatekeepers of many companies, holding the key to the door, that we felt potentially housed thousands of open jobs. It was critical, therefore, to develop good, productive relationships with the Agencies to successfully navigate yourself into even a piece of a job. We smiled and greeted the Agent with reverence (even after having been told to wait and wait and wait in their “waiting room”) We waited with frozen smiles because we did not want to do anything that would inhibit, limit, trim or slim our prospects in ingratiating ourselves to our Agent. Agencies were in control. The process reminded me of going to a club, where the guard at the door selected who could come in and who could not.
Most companies did have human resource or recruiting offices. The test, though, was if you could locate them, if you could gain access, if you could find the direct number and if a “human” answered the phone. If the stars and moon aligned and Jupiter was in its house, you were able to get in and fill out an application. However, since you had no idea what opportunities were available, it was usually just that, you filled out an application and unbeknownst to you at the time, it went into the company Black Hole of Applications, never to be dug out again. (Come on now, I can’t be the only person who has experienced this!)
Today, while some companies still use agencies, the tides have significantly turned. Agencies now NEED Candidates (the word “candidates” is capitalized to show the turn of power). Companies have online applications. Candidates now have a Santa Claus bag of options available for free. They do not need agencies at the same level as in years past. Technology has come to the rescue.
With that being said…let’s talk about the job search process of today…
- If you do not have a computer, you might as well say “game over”. You need to get one (desktop, laptop or even a tablet). It is okay to have a “do it all, world of tomorrow,” Android phone. However, you need a computer to produce the still required, still arduous, still annoying resume and cover letter and to make sure you can provide and retain up to date information. (A printer with scan capabilities is also necessary…but first things first…get a computer).
- Yesteryear, there were no such things as websites. For the most part, the only way a company could obtain information on a candidate was to “wait and see”. Today, we all have the worldwide web and candidates can use it to strengthen their professional acumen and advertise expertise and experience. As a candidate, make sure you only incorporate information that will present you as professionally current and worthy of the type of employment you are seeking. Remember, whatever you put on the web can and usually does, remain indefinitely. Therefore, think twice…okay…three times before you put anything on the web that you wouldn’t want published on tv for all of your friends and family to see.
- Networking from the sofa. In-person networking is still one way to go, but not the only way, especially if you are on a budget. You do not need to get off the couch, get dressed and attend some potentially boring, get-to-know you, lack luster, no guarantee event that you most often have to pay for and expend transportation dollars. From the convenience of your home, while drinking a cup of coffee, you can make connections and develop professional relationships through a number of websites, i.e., LinkedIn.
- Application Process. There is one aspect of the job search process that has gotten much more convoluted and tiresome. That is the online application process. Let’ say you have found a company or agency that “seems” to have a position available that meets your qualifications. Rarely are there phone numbers to call (just like yesteryear). Sometimes there may be a direct email address to which you can submit your resume. However, most often, you need to complete an online application. You click on the job. You are connected to another site and have to click again. You are connected to another part of the site. You see no application. So you search the site and after a while (can be anywhere from a minute to many minutes), you find the application. You click APPLY. What?!! Now you need to create an account! You enter the information requested and of course, decide on a password (that you quickly forget) and click GO. Now you are asked a thesis amount of information, several pages. I don’t know who developed these arduous, long, time draining pieces of technology. In any case, since you are interested in the job and the company, you trudge on. I recall completing one of these hour long thesis questionnaires and when I finally got to the last page and clicked SUBMIT, it would not go through! The screen went blank and my only recourse was to start over! Did I? Absolutely not! Even if you were able to seemingly successfully transmit your information (you never know for sure what happens at the other end), rarely is there a return piece of communication. Now…where did all that information go? Oh…yeah….the Bermuda Triangle of Computer Applications located near the Black Hole of Paper Applications (from yesteryear)
- Resumes and Cover Letters. Again…another arduous, time consuming task, but by all accounts in the world of job searching, required (unless of course, your uncle owns a company and hires you). If you are not fortunate enough to be an heir, heir-in-law or family friend/relative of a business owner, you need to get your resume together. Resumes and cover letters are still your calling cards, but now one more element is included…“key words”. Key words are words that hiring managers and agencies use to search their database for resumes. These individuals no longer review each and every resume…they filter out resumes based on key words. If your resume does not include the necessary words that relate to the job you are seeking, off your resume goes to the Black Hole of Resumes (closely associated with the Black Hole of Applications) .
- Dress for Success. I can not tell you how much money I spent back in the day ensuring that my dark skirt suit, white shirt and pearls were perfect for the interviews. Climbing the ladder dressed for success has turned into wallowing in costumes of “accept me as I am”. (Just my observations). First impressions are sometimes lasting impressions, but some job candidates today, want individuality and expect companies to detour professionalism for individualism. While I am all for a more casual working environment, I still believe that interviews are the opportunity to put your best foot forward and show respect for the business. However, how can candidates show respect for the business when the interviewers lack the same. Many companies have acquiesced into a much more casual environment…even during the interview. Business casual is fine, but in some instances, there appears to be no boundaries. In fact, I recently had an interview and did my best to “dress for success” (no pearls) and was astonished to see the mid level interviewer dressed in old jeans and sloppy shirt. It really changed my impression of the organization. However, when I left the interview, I saw another candidate dressed in jeans and a button down shirt. How times have changed!
All in all, technology has made it easier and more time-efficient for both the job seeker and the hiring company. No more going to the library to do company research. The web allows for job seekers to do research on various companies easily and with little effort. However, once a company of interest is identified, you will probably be lead to an online application. (Refer to the Application section above).
One problem, though (at least for me), is keeping up with the trends and the multitude of options available. Certainly, technology in this process, can be considered impersonal. However, how personal was it yesteryear when we had to wait and wait at an agency or travel to a company and be told that they are not taking applications. Not very personal.
One aspect of the job search process that has not changed one iota is the dreaded compensation question. “What are you seeking in compensation?”. What kind of question is that? My first thought is to respond with, “how much are you paying?” We could go back and forth until one of us raises the white flag of surrender and gives up a number! But, if the number is too low, you may be disqualified. If it is too high, you may be disqualified. It is like being a contestant on The Price Is Right.
Lastly, I do think, that we still need to be visually considerate of the business, both as job seekers and those who are involved in the interview process. We don’t have to dress like we were on Dynasty (Remember, I am a woman of a certain age), but I do think we should be mindful as to how we are presenting ourselves. You may be able to do the job or hold the position, but what first impression are you giving to others? What are you exhibiting that shows time, effort and thought to support employment entrée into the company? And…as hiring managers, recruiters, how are you representing the importance of your role and the company? We all need to step back and look in the employment mirror. Just something, I think we should consider.
Thank you for reading my article and stay tuned for the next installment of “The Funny Side of HR….from a Woman of a Certain Age”.
About the Author: Jacqueline Clay is a freelance HR business consultant working with small and midsize organizations to assist them in meeting the challenging responsibilities associated with the full realm of HR management. With over 20 years leadership experience in all aspects of the HR business, she has helped organizations in a myriad of areas, including on boarding, labor/employee relations, policy and procedure development, organizational effectiveness, coaching and training. She holds a BA in Psychology from Fordham University.