The art of applying for a job

When my brother was applying to British Columbia school districts after completing his Education degree at UBC in 1991 one of them required applicants to submit a handwritten letter introducing themselves. This allowed them to analyze the handwriting in order to identify the child molesters and other social misfits. Interesting….

Twenty one years later I somehow doubt this is still a regular practice in that school district. I’d be surprised if most potential employers would want to see anything at all handwritten from a prospective employee. In fact, many large companies prefer to let software systems do the picking and choosing of prospective employees for them based entirely on searching cover letters and resumés for keywords. This practice usually starts with the job seeker taking their well-designed resumé, copying it out of its pleasing format and pasting it into a format-less text box in an online form. For me this is quite honestly one of the most soul-destroying exercises I have ever experienced, not just because I’m a designer and I’ve taken some effort to craft my resumé thoughtfully, but because I know there’s a good chance human eyes will never glimpse my application.

Unless I’ve crafted a document that contains the precise words that someone has typed into the software program’s search function – words that deem me their ideal candidate – it doesn’t matter how expertly I craft my sentences or how well I’ve conveyed my resonance with the company’s message, product or service. In other words, painstakingly writing and editing an application in an attempt to connect on a shared human level is no longer the mindset to have when it comes to finding work or embarking on a career. Interesting, that. We’ve gone from having our handwriting analyzed for potential sociopathic behaviours to trusting computers to choose the top five applicants for a job. Is that supposed to be progress?!

I miss the days of dressing up, walking around town and dropping off a resumé in person. If that was still the norm today, I bet companies would receive far fewer resumés than they do electronically, and a quick first impression would tell them whose resumé to follow up on and whose to deep six.