Unemployment Nine: Applying for jobs is getting completely out of hand

As I battle through month No. 18 and counting of being unemployed, those rare moments when I find a job listing worth pursuing have begun to turn more and more irritating.

Homework SUCKS

I’ve blogged in the past about how requirements on job listings have become more and more specific, to the point where it seems like employers are trying to find the ultimate, perfect candidate on paper and ruling out candidates who could be great fits for the advertised positions but might not comply with all of the stringent requirements.

The latest trend I’ve noticed is potential employers trying to get applicants to do something I personally haven’t done since my senior year of college in 1990: homework.

Don’t get me wrong: I have absolutely no problem taking copy editing tests, providing writing samples, or performing other tasks to demonstrate and prove my abilities once my résumé has emerged from the first wave and it’s obvious that there is some interest in my candidacy. Companies should do whatever they feel is necessary to reduce the height of their résumé piles.

But more and more companies are asking for long, time-consuming tasks to be performed as part of the initial application process. I may be out of work, but that doesn’t mean I have absolutely nothing to do. If you haven’t shown at least some interest in me, expecting me to spend one hour on what amounts to a glorified homework assignment, with no guarantee that it will ever be looked at, seriously borders on abuse of power.

One company that runs a Website that combines social networking and lists expected applicants to join their site, compile several different top-10 lists (10 favorite books, 10 favorite movies, etc.), then basically write an essay explaining your choices. This is getting worse than applying to colleges. What’s next: What I did on my summer vacation?

Another company wanted you to go through all of their video content, pick out your favorite video, and tell them what you would do to improve it, among other tasks they requested. So, let me get this straight: You want to pick my brain on how to improve your Website, without the slightest promise that you’ll even consider me for an interview? Sorry, but my days of working for no pay ended with my last internship many years ago, while I was still in college.

I’m not trying to sound like a lazy, unmotivated person. All I ask of whoever is making the hiring decisions: Look at my résumé first and determine if I have a fighting chance at the position. I’ve been out of work for 18 months, and I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. If you express some interest in me, I will do whatever it takes to convince you that I’m the right person for the position. But I will not do one hour, or even one minute, of extra work when there’s no guarantee that anyone will even look at it. I may have been born at night, but I wasn’t born last night. Stop taking advantage of desperate, unemployed people.

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3 comments on “Unemployment Nine: Applying for jobs is getting completely out of hand

  1. Deb says:

    If you do wind up answering any of these questions, leave them with just enough to come back to you for more.

    If they want more, they’ll have to pay you. And that’s that :).

  2. Lynne says:

    Unfortunately, this shitstorm of an economy has not only yielded unprecendented levels of unemployment, but also abuse of power like you described. Companies are also abusing their current employees, feeling that they have nowhere to go.

  3. Chris says:

    I’ve also noticed more companies doing just that. In some cases, what they’re asking of you is near-impossible without in-depth knowledge of the company (like, “plan the strategic direction of the company for the next 5 years” — really? You want *me* to do that, when I know nothing about your company besides what you provide on your website)?

    I don’t mind – as much – when there’s homework after the interview (as in, for the finalists) if they really can’t make up their mind — I’ve almost always had a writing test as part of the interview process for any job I’ve gotten. But, when I see ‘homework’ like you’re mentioning above, I almost always pass on even applying for the job.

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