My Fourth Recession

A Great Recession Diary

The Many Ways Companies Eliminate Job Applicants June 12, 2011

Filed under: Great Recession,job strategies — myfourthrecession @ 11:03 pm
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It’s getting to the point where the only people who get jobs are people who (a) already have a job; and (b) already have a nicely bubbling career on the fire.

I say this because I read and/or hear of more and more reasons – no, sorry, these are excuses – companies are using to reduce the flood of applications coming through their doors.

These HR “experts” don’t have time to really look at each application, but they don’t want to miss a good candidate, either – supposedly.

So rather than toss out four out of every five applications randomly – toss, toss, toss, toss, keep; toss, toss, toss, toss, keep – they come up with notions that give them the illusion that they are actually analyzing before they toss.

But in reality, they’re just tossing under a different – and much more discriminatory – form of randomness. They are using these notions to justify the fact that they simply want to make their own jobs easier. And they don’t particularly care if they miss out on some really good candidates. They just change the definition of “really good candidates” to fit their new tossing criteria.

How do they justify tossing out an application? Let me count the ways.

No college degree. For several decades now, a college degree has been a requirement for lots of jobs that never required it before. Administrative assistants – who used to be called secretaries – are a case in point. Please don’t tell me the job requires college-level skills; it doesn’t. An admin assistant is still a secretary; it’s just been redefined and renamed to fit the new restriction. And that new restriction eliminates 72 percent of the adult population in this country. Toss!

Salary too high. Asking for a salary history, salaries in your online application, or salary range you would accept have long been ways for some companies to screen out applicants and/or pay them less than they’re worth. Salary history higher than the company wants to pay? You won’t have a chance to say you’ll accept less – you’re already tossed!

But with the advent of online applications, there are so many more possibilities! Why, automated “bots” could screen out – toss! – lots of bothersome paperwork.

Application does not have the right buzzwords. The reason every single job-search workshop tells you to adapt your resume to each job posting is so your resume will include many of the same buzzwords listed in the job requirements. An automated bot could do a quick search for matches. Not enough keywords? Toss!

Too many jobs in the last five years. You can craft the perfect resume and cover letter highlighting your skills and minimizing recent job hopping, but when you fire up the online applications, guess what: they want dates. What do they do with those dates? I got a clue on one unusual online application, where I was actually asked how many jobs I’ve had in the last five years. We can all guess which the answers they’re looking for – and which answers will get you tossed!

Too few jobs in the last five years. Whether you just graduated from high school or college, or you’ve been out of the workforce for a year or more, you’re in trouble with the automated and human screeners. Toss!

Put automated systems together with five applicants for every job opening, and you have counts of up to 1,000 applications per opening, and ever more creative criteria for tossing them.

No job with the same/similar title. You can forget about that “do what you love” career change advocated in What Color Is Your Parachute. If you haven’t done the job recently, you’re out. Toss!

Too old. The Great Recession has hit older workers hardest, and though it’s against the law to discriminate based on age, the practice is entrenched. So, if your employment history goes back too far – those darn dates again – ding, you’re tossed!

No “social media” skills. See “Too old,” above. Better be on LinkedIn. Better post a young-looking photo on LinkedIn. Better show those darn dates in your LinkedIn profile. Oh, you don’t? Tossed!

Bad credit. Some companies are running credit reports along with background checks on applicants. Got some black marks on your credit record? Toss!

And now, the newest, most egregious tosser of all:

Unemployed. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently issued a press release about the growing trend of legal (so far) discrimination, as exemplified by an Atlanta recruiter for Sony, which openly advertised for “employed applicants only.” This one doesn’t even pretend to have reasoning behind it: there is no reason, except to reduce that load of applications the HR staff has go through. It’s a no-brainer. With 10 percent unemployment rates, that’s an easy 10 percent reduction of your workload. Toss! Toss! Toss! Toss! Toss! Toss! Toss! Toss! Toss! Toss!

Even if you make it past all these screenings – or find a way around them – you can find yourself nailed by them in an interview. A colleague lost out when the CEO discovered, during the final interview, that she wasn’t currently working. (Unemployed? Toss!). And, in a new twist, several people I know have been questioned about their stated willingness to commute – which in one case was a distance well within the metro area’s current commute zone.

I’d love to find some HR association slip up and put this stuff online, on a public page, rather than hiding it behind a membership login. More likely, what they say are “best practices” are not what they do in practice.

Then again, sometimes it seems like they’re making it up as they go along – at our expense.


Defend Wisconsin: Also Fighting Back June 5, 2011

Filed under: democracy,people power — myfourthrecession @ 1:12 am
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Wisconsin activists have launched a tent city they call “Walkerville” – a reference to the Hooverville’s of the Great Depression – to protest the deep budget cuts the Republican-dominated legislature and Republican Governor Scott Walker have proposed. Walkerville is scheduled to remain in place at least until the budget process is over.

Stay tuned via the Defend Wisconsin feed in the right column.


We Greens Are Getting Hammered

Filed under: job strategies — myfourthrecession @ 12:54 am
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True Colors assessmentMy personality is Green.

That, according to the True Colors assessment, means I am versatile, inventive, and competent, as opposed to active (orange), traditional (yellow), or harmonious (blue). I took the assessment along with 25 other participants in my 16-week job workshop.

These results are generalized, of course; results can be close and even overlap, and they can change over time.

But here’s what really got my attention. The True Colors facilitator said that, in every one of the five or six workshops where she’s done these assessments, the dominant color by far was Green. In our workshop, we made up more than half the class; yet Greens make up only 12.5 percent of the general population.

I’ve also noticed, as I’ve learned the stories of colleagues in this workshop and in my job networking group, that many of us lost our jobs as a result of (often ugly) politics – myself included, more than once. (Most of us, I might add, happen to be good, honest people.)

And I wonder if the two are connected; if the “principled” quality of Greens puts us squarely in conflict with the “competitive” nature of the Oranges, or the “loyal” and “traditional” aspects of the Yellows when they clash on the job.

Because my guess is that managers are more often Oranges or Yellows than Greens or Blues. And if my hunch is right, then we Greens are getting hammered in this Great Recession just by being ourselves.

Survival of the fittest? How about survival of the nastiest?

Put that together with the very real stigma of being jobless – and we’re not even adding in age and race discrimination – and we find ourselves in a vicious circle. We’re the first to get dumped, and the last to get hired – all through no fault of our own.

That sucks, doesn’t it?


“Age Is an Issue if You Make It an Issue.” Right. June 3, 2011

Filed under: job strategies — myfourthrecession @ 9:53 pm
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And if I hear one more career coach make this smart remark, I might just smack them. Why is everything always on us, the job seeker? What about the prejudiced employer who won’t give us the time of day?

Age is an issue. Period. Get used to it. Fighting Back

Filed under: democracy,people power — myfourthrecession @ 9:50 pm

It looks like it’s brand new, with not much activity yet: One It also looks good, and it encourages community, with an email list, a Join page, and a Share page so you can tell your friends and family.

But most of all, it’s fighting back. The title on the home page says it all: “Why are Pittsburgh’s working families still losing out in this economy?” Why, indeed?

And this is shown on every page:

_____ logo


One Pittsburgh is a coalition of neighbors, community organizations, faith groups and labor. Together we can do what we cannot do alone.

We’re standing up to win:
• Good Jobs
• Stronger Communities
• Corporate Accountability


I wish you every success, One Pittsburgh, so we can replicate your program throughout the country.

“Together we can do what we cannot do alone.” Yes, indeed.


A Bit of a Rant

Filed under: community,job strategies — myfourthrecession @ 9:32 pm

OK, I belong to two job groups now. Well, one job group, and one 16-week job workshop – where many participants are in my job group.

Anyway, this week was pretty hairy in both groups. The job group’s president, it was revealed, seems intent on turning the group into her own personal fiefdom, with her being the fief, of course. She took steps this week to “fire” a fellow executive committee member, the chair of the interview committee, who, while sometimes annoying and irksome, doesn’t deserve such an extreme measure, and probably will have no idea this is coming.

Second, this same self-appointed fief also took steps to enforce the membership rules. Suddenly, unilaterally, and without announcement, warning, discussion, vote, grace period, or anything similar, dozens of members unable to come to weekly meetings will be blocked from the Web site, from email lists, from everything. In an all-volunteer, membership, supposedly democratic organization, this is heresy.

It looked and felt like corporate America these days: ugly and bad.

In the job workshop group, “ugly” came from outside. The only person who had been called to interview last week had a horrendous experience at a temp agency: five hours of interviews, a background check, and a skills test – all at different locations, and all for a 16-hour-a-month job. That’s right: 16 hours a month.

Still, that was better than the other 25 people, who had no interview at all.

Or was it?


Chuck’s Blog May 30, 2011

Filed under: community — myfourthrecession @ 12:43 am
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I think I’ll start a new links category called Our Blogs, and the first link on it will be Chuck’s blog, Surviving Unemployment. It’s actually much more than a blog, with a forum, job postings (from, unemployment news, and polls. Plus, if you register, you can be a blogger there too.

But mainly I like Chuck’s realistic approach (“Unemployed and Depressed? It’s Normal”) and his good intentions, because this site exists to help each other. Yes, Chuck accepts paid ads, which sometimes look like he’s put them there, but hey, he’s unemployed, right? And besides, who doesn’t? Even WordPress puts ads on its free blogs (like this one).

So, let me set up that new links category now. Thanks, Chuck. I just signed up.