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Old 10-28-2010, 06:44 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Location: Greater Harrisburg Area
A Word of Caution for Job Seekers: A New Way Employers may be Weeding You Out.

Like so may other folks, I found myself out of work through no fault of my own. I've had a series 3 of jobs where I have received brilliant performance reviews and then 1-3 months later end up laid off 'due to business conditions'. In my desperation I took a position with a temp agency, which I had not done since college. My experience then could be insufficiently described as unpleasant and I was very unhappy to have to go that route again.

Fortunately, it worked out the way it was supposed to. The company previewed my ability as an employee and offered me a full time position after a formal evaluation process. I was told to come in at least one half hour early the next day to take an aptitude test prior to beginning the application process. I was curious about the need to take the aptitude test before the application, but far be it from me to question the ways of my not-yet employer. Upon arrival I was taken to a brightly lit room with several computer terminals where I was directed to their web page and asked to complete the same application available to everyone else visiting their site.

At this point, I became a bit distraught, probably visibly. I was told that I would not be filling out any kind of application (I asked quite explicitly) and had not brought along a copy of my resume or my cheat sheet containing the necessary information to answer every application question I have ever come across. The last thing I wanted to do in starting my new job was look like a dunce in front of the head of the human resources department. I gathered my nerve and calmly explained that I had either misunderstood or been misinformed, but whatever the case I did not have the required information with me.

I apologized and explained that I would happy to complete the application at home as soon as my shift ended. Much to my relief, she said there was no problem. I was the first person to use the web based application and they honestly hadn't expected it to work well enough for me to complete it anyway. I could return the following day to complete the application, but there would be a fellow temp in the room with me doing it as well. I was told, quite clearly, to not complete the application at home.

The following day I returned, sheets in hand, prepared to fill out the application and the other temp who had arrived before me was in exactly same position I was in yesterday. In the midst of my eavesdropping she said 'The area manager must have misunderstood, the application IS the aptitude test. And why not? This would not be the first dual purpose application I had completed. Another employer, a factory, had you fill out an entire application after you turned in your resume just so they could examine your handwriting. The process there had become so automated that much of what was left to do was record keeping and due to the dusty conditions those records had to be kept by hand.

I was, in that moment (as I had been previously when informed of my hideous handwriting) dumbstruck. My mind began racing with the possibilities; a weak password, session time-out or even hitting the backspace key could be a strike against you. They can add unusual instructions, such as requiring a capital A in your password, just to see if you read them carefully, or even deliberately give you a password mismatch error and clear some random fields (this actually happened with my social security number not that I'm sure they matched perfectly) to check your attention to detail. The list could go on and on, but it suffices to say that an application is no longer just an application.

So a word of caution for you job hunters out there. There are so many possibilities for these ever more tech savvy companies to find the very cream of the crop and things are not always what they seem. We all know that sometimes a company gives you a task just to throw you off, or to see how you'll react. They can also evaluate you in ways never before possible, everything you do can be a test and used to compare you to your competition. Think about that the next time you decide to go with 1234 for your easy to remember employment login.

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Last edited by Hektore; 10-28-2010 at 06:59 PM..
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Old 10-29-2010, 01:03 AM   #2 (permalink)
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One thing I've been doing recently is mystery shopping and they want some attention to detail. Very close detail. So when applying for each shop, I have to answer a battery of questions. I cannot tell you how many times I've mistook something for something else and invalidated myself from that shop and future shops like it. It's basic reading comprehension that's spoiling it for me. Nothing more, nothing less.

I recently found myself having to hire some new folks as temps here in NYC. It's very specialized and I need to see if people can read contracts and understand the information they are reading. So I tested them on it. It was a simple test, but I was surprised at the results.

I can say though, this isn't really all that new. Back in the day when I was a teen, we had some personality tests and comprehension tests to see aptitude and ability as part of the application process. Some of the questions I remember were as simple as explaining how to count back change for a $20 on a transaction and the different amounts of change you'd be making for different sales.
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Old 10-29-2010, 04:46 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I use to be a job counselor for people 55 and over. One of the things I cautioned them about was attention to detail on their application process because it was often used as a screening tool. Never ever leave blanks. Put N/A so they knew you didnt just miss the question or chose not to answer it. Check the side of the paper and make sure they didnt ask for a signature there. Get the right date. Perfect addresses with complete zip codes.

IF its a paper app and you are handing it to a clerk, you can leave the SS# request blank with a note at the bottom stating "will provide upon interview". With todays identity theft rate, this was understandable.
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Old 10-29-2010, 04:51 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Interesting. I'm going to be interviewing people again soon (as a "second pair of eyes" for some other team leaders), and I almost always spend interviews trying to convince the applicant not to take the job. I'll go on 10 minute diatribes about the hours, having to kiss everyone's ass, the required attention to detail, etc. just to see the reaction at the end. Probably 50% of the folks that hear that immediately let me know (either through body language or verbally) that they're no longer interested in the job. Which is good - my industry isn't for everyone and it requires a lot of sacrifice.

In a lot of ways, this seems like a more automated process for what I do. I can see how it would be a good tool.
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Old 10-29-2010, 06:14 AM   #5 (permalink)
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It absolutely can be a good tool but it can also be abused and weed out potentially good candidates. In the past, if you had a less than perfect paper application, it was at least possible that many of your good traits would shine through before that part of the application was reached. The sorting now can be done by computer algorithm and your application will be presorted out before any actual person gets to look at it. A single bad trait, like a gap in your employment history, can sort you out without giving you a chance to address it.
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Old 10-29-2010, 09:16 AM   #6 (permalink)
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I worked with an electronics technician from Hong Kong who could not fill out the application and had some trouble with English. This was in Silicon Valley in 1979.
He was almost dismissed from the interview but then drew on paper the complete schematic of a few ICs. He was hired and did a great job for the company. Everybody liked him.
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