In the job market, for those of us seeking full-time permanent employment, it feels almost like a perpetual buyers’ market. Unless you have certain key skills and a long history in a particular field, job seekers tend to find significant competition for every position. I focus my search in publishing, usually, and that seems especially tight.
Because of this, employers can pretty much do whatever they want to job applicants. They can conduct a job search any way they like. They generally will not acknowledge your resume (although sometimes you’ll get a computer-generated acknowledgment).
If you do get an interview, even a call back to a second interview, they no longer feel it necessary to call you with a polite rejection if you haven’t made the cut. I’ve waited the standard length of time before bothering a hiring manager, and in some cases still never got a call back or a definite answer. (After more time passed I just assumed it was “no.”)
Companies are not allowed to discriminate because of age—but it’s not illegal to ask someone’s age. I try to avoid the question; for instance, I don’t list the year I graduated college on my resume. But if you apply for a job online and have to fill out an electronic application, you usually hit a dead end if you don’t fill in this field. (I wonder if I write something ridiculous like “1902” if a employer would see it as my attempt to “opt out,” or if it would simply be considered lying on a resume and thereby grounds for dismissal.) I tow the line and write the actual year, knowing I could be screwing myself if a supervisor wants someone younger and/or wants to pay less. At the suggestion of a counselor at unemployment last year, I no longer put on my resume that I have 25 years of experience. Now it’s “more than 10.”
I dislike electronic applications in general. I’ve completed some that took an hour to complete. The resume software that some of the firms use is of minimal help. It grabs key parts of your resume and fills in certain fields on the form automatically—but it’s never perfect. You always have to go over each entry and make sure the job title is in the right place and the job description is where it should be.
The other day I uploaded my resume to one site and saw that two words were running together. I went back to the original document to check. It was fine; there was a space between the two words. I moved the words together and separated them again just to make sure. I didn’t want two spaces in between the words—that would look bad. When I uploaded the resume again the words were still running together. I tried three times and finally just did a “shift-return” and forced the word to move to the next line. I didn’t like the way that made the page look, but it was better than looking like I didn’t notice that two words were stuck together.
The worst of these electronic applications force you to do it all by hand—each job you’ve had for the last ten years needs to be filled in. Of course I cut and paste from my resume, but this is still fairly time-consuming.
In the old days you had 40 copies of your resume and a matching cover letter sheet that you tailored to each job, and that was it. Now you have to change your resume for each job, insert “key words” so that some software program can read them and hopefully place you in the “yes” pile. Hire me! I know how to cut and paste sentences from a help wanted ad onto my resume! See? I’m a perfect fit!
The last recruiter I spoke to wanted to change the title of my last full-time job. I was applying for a temporary editorial assistant’s position in the medical field. But in my last permanent job I was a senior editor. She was worried that it would look like I had too much experience (and maybe want to get paid more for that experience). She asked if she could change it to “editorial assistant.” I remained calm and said, “No, because that wouldn’t be anything close to what I did there, and wouldn’t be accurate.”
She agreed, but you know, if she had insisted, I would have revamped my resume. It was a job that paid less than I used to make, but it was at a decent company with potential for advancement. Will I get in the door for an interview? I won’t hold my breath.