Saturday, January 16, 2010

I’m TRYING to Be a Good Little Job-Hunter, But…

Once I finally left my tangle of covers yesterday—and had my coffee and ate my breakfast and finished reading Michael Ondaatje’s Divisadero and pilled the pooch and took her for a walk and tried to get her to eat some breakfast—after I was finally ready to face the day, I got down to the business at hand. Namely, to finish my application for a particular job.

I thought I’d applied for the job on Monday. I saw the job opening last week. I’d researched the community this job is in and shared my excitement with my husband. I’d sent my résumé and carefully worded cover letter to the e-mail address listed in the ad. It had been a stunningly simple and hopeful process, and maybe a little too easy.

Then the e-mail came through saying I also had to apply online on the university’s hiring system.

Ugh. Another step, but no big deal. Yet I’d done enough of these to know I needed a chunk of time to complete the online application.

So on Wednesday, just as I pressed the button that said I promised I hadn’t lied about anything, just as I was feeling self-satisfied about finishing the application just in time to go to a writers’ meeting I really wanted to attend, they popped up.

THEY were 8 questions, 6 of them requiring essay answers.


I was nowhere near done! And I couldn’t sit through a meeting with this on my mind.

So I skipped the meeting and outlined what I wanted to say. On Thursday I wrote; on Friday, I wrote some more. I did the final editing today, including a paragraph regarding the typo in one of the questions.

Now if I wanted a job as sous chef or scenic designer or manicurist, the typo would have been a nonissue. But when you’re applying for an editorial position, it’s a hateful little Pandora’s box. Was it intentional? What do they prefer I do? Here’s what I wrote on the subject (and didn’t submit):
[Regarding the last word of this “question”: Is the spelling intentional? Are you monitoring which candidates bring up the extra i? Which candidates make snarky comments and which ones try to be tactful? Do you assume that candidates who don’t mention it don’t notice it? I confess I’m conflicted about how to respond in these situations. But if by not mentioning it you perceive me to be a bad editor, I thought it best to note it.]

Now to the reason I didn’t submit it.

After I copied and pasted each of my spectacular answers and reworked them to look good on-screen in the too-tiny boxes (that didn’t expand for easier viewing) with the too-tiny type, after I agreed to background checks and other snooping, and after I hit SUBMIT with relish, red instructions spilled over my window. The red said my application had serious errors in it that I needed to correct.

What had I done wrong? I had exceeded the 1,200-character answer limit.

They couldn’t have told me that UPFRONT?!

I would have followed a character count if I’d been given one. Now I had to hack away at my prose. And that’s about all I’ve been doing today. I used the Word Count function in Word to monitor my success, adhering to the character count WITH word spaces. My comments about the typo were the first to go. And finally, I was ready to hit SUBMIT again.

And guess what? According to this application system, Word doesn’t know jack about counting characters. Now I had to keep cutting and submitting and cutting and submitting until my answers got accepted.

THEN it was time to attach my cover letter and résumé and optional attachments. There were all sorts of rules about how my documents were to be formatted—rules about fonts, columns, software programs. It was at this point that I decided they would have to take what I had for them. I wasn’t about to reformat anything after already spending days on their application. I thought I’d address the typo in one of those “optional attachments,” but the system skipped over that part.

C’est la Vizsla. Time to move on. Life’s too short.

(And I dare just one of you blaggards out there who think the jobless are lazy parasites to comment on this. Go ahead; test my wrath.)

[See “Rage Against the Machine” for my previous rant against HR and their choices of technology. Art courtesy of Frida Kahlo.]

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