What is a professional job hunter I hear you ask? It’s me and countless other people who find themselves without work during this pandemic, sat at the computer after downing three cups of coffee scrolling through yet another job site. Some would call this unemployed, I myself prefer to say professional job hunter. I think it has a better ring to it, as it somewhat disguises the demoralising effect that constant searching with no progress has on one’s mentality.
As we all know, there has been a lot in the news recently about youth unemployment and the damaging effects that both the pandemic and Brexit will continue to have on the younger generations for years to come. The news paints an exceptionally bleak picture, made bleaker by the continued disappearance of temporary jobs as bars, restaurants, cinemas and theatres all fall foul to Covid-19. So, with all that in mind it is pretty safe to say that being unemployed right now is exceptionally difficult. I know personally as I have been unemployed now since the heady days of March and early lockdown vibes. But what is it actually like trying to get a job during this pandemic?
It’s like waiting for Godot, minus the successful playwright/play part.
Now applying for jobs has always been difficult, you have always had to jump through hoop after hoop, answering question after question designed to test your suitability for the role. As frustrating as this process was, it seemed to have a purpose pre-pandemic. However now I have found that these questions have got increasingly more inane and ridiculous, especially given the current circumstances. One form in particular stood above the rest for sheer ridiculousness as I got asked:
“What makes you smile?”
I wish I was joking, but sadly I am not and I couldn’t quite believe what I was reading. I felt like typing “getting this job after eight months of no work would make me smile” but of course, sarcasm is apparently the ultimate crime when applying for jobs. Biting back my frustration I instead typed something that I thought was a sure winner. I said “seeing customers happy” is what makes me smile – a cracking answer right?! Wrong. That answer is just as problematic as the question as I just sound like someone who needs to get out more and get hobbies that actually make me smile and don’t involve blankly staring at customers analysing their personal happiness chart.
What was done was done however and putting the cringe to one side I looked at the next question: “name a time where you have helped someone achieve their best through your positive mental attitude and resilience.” Again, I was rather taken aback, especially because the job I was applying for was a waitress job that would pay £8 an hour. It wasn’t like I was filling in a form for KPMG or PWC or some big firm where you kind of let these annoying questions slide. Annoyed, I flicked through the form after this question and realised there were 3 more questions:
1. “Name a time you have made someone smile” (turned that one on its head didn’t they!)
2. “What is your favourite meal and why?” (I WISH I was joking on this one I really do).
3. “Name a time you have gone above and beyond for a customer and how did this make you feel?”
5 questions, all demanding 500 words which is a word count akin to one of my undergraduate essays about Alexander the Great. And for what? £8 an hour. But I need that £8 and I want that £8 so I diligently filled in the form only to be told two weeks later: “Dear Miss Whitehead, your application has been unsuccessful at this time.” An email that I am used to receiving but it still stung nonetheless. I wasted over an hour and a half on that one application alone and that was the first of 5 more I filled out that day, all of which included stupid questions.
Later that day, whilst plodding through yet another form, an aptly timed headline came up on my news app that said “under 25’s give up on dream job” and I couldn’t help but agree. My first thought was “what is a dream job?!” because now the ‘dream job’ that so many people strive for is any job. But even getting any job has entered the realm of fantasy worthy of Tolkien as after diligently filling in form after inane form hours later you are informed that ‘your application was not successful at this time’ or worse, you get ghosted by the potential employer you have just so praised in the hyperbole that was your covering letter.
But how are we meant to showcase our skills, experience and capability for a job with questions and application forms that are designed to prohibit you from displaying any of these? Why are you even asking me what my favourite meal is? My answer won’t tell you anything about my skills and experience so why ask questions that are so unrelated to the job advertised? What is more, why are these application forms so long for what is a temporary/part time job? Why are you asking me to write 2,500 words for a job that will only pay me £8 an hour? Not to mention the longer applications for graduate jobs which take eons to fill out and even they aren’t exempt from the wheel of misfortune that is inane questions. Where is the logic in these forms? They say there are more questions than answers though and so far I am still asking these questions, eight months into my unemployment.
But whereas at the beginning of the pandemic I blamed myself for being unemployed, I now blame the frankly inane and outdated application process that we have in this country. It is a never-ending carousel of stupidity that does not help people who are unemployed in the slightest and in my opinion, targets them. These forms aren’t tailored to people who have been out of work for a long time, I don’t even know who they are tailored to but it’s certainly not us or we would be employed right?
But not only are we targeted by stupid questions, we are targeted by the most mindless question of them all “why have you been unemployed for so long.” Apparently Covid-19, a recession and countless job losses isn’t a good enough excuse. So, what are we meant to put? Isn’t it obvious why so many people are unemployed? Or have people had their heads in the sand for the whole of 2020? What do you think I’ve been doing if not job hunting?! I can say I haven’t been sat on a beach in Bora Bora reaping the rewards of my unemployment, that’s for sure. So I now I break the rules of etiquette and put ‘professional job hunter’ down on the forms in the hope someone has a sense of humour.
In all seriousness though, it is getting to the point now where I don’t want to fill in the forms. I don’t want to write pointless answers to pointless questions that employers should know better than to ask. I still have a vain hope that one day, employers will change their application process and not ask the inane but the pertinent because frankly, the question “what makes you smile” is a question more suited to a dating app than a job application.
Ask me what I can bring to your company, not what makes me smile because if it’s the latter, I will just say ‘a job’ and I don’t think I’m the only one.