Back when I was job-hunting in 2009, I signed up for all sorts of services that would give me tips on openings — CareerBuilder.com, BusinessWorkforce.com, AmericaJob.com, TheLadders, and various others.
And I continue to get email alerts from all of them. They are sometimes a source of amusement — although I wouldn’t think it was funny if I were still unemployed.
Today, I’m told of 25 hot prospects, a list supposedly tailored just for me. CareerBuilder assures me that “These recommendations are based on the content of your resume.”
My favorite from today’s list is “Okra Strut Administrator:”
REQUEST FOR QUALIFICATIONS Description: Okra Strut Administrator Location: Irmo, SC Pre-Requisite: References that validate past festival coordination / management & certified by the South Carolina Festival Events Assoc. Overview: The Town of Irmo is seeking qualifications for a Festival Administrator. Interested parties should have a background in festival planning, coordinating & management. Scope of Work: Involves planning / managing of parade, street dance, amusements, craft show, food vending, safety & security along with grounds maintenance. Prepares recommendations & provides interpretations for the Okra Strut Commission & manages / coordinates financials with the Town Staff. Meets with the Town Council & other civic organizations as needed…
Yeah, that’s right up my alley. After all, I’m quite fond of okra. Unlike most people, I even like it stewed and slimy. The puzzle for me is that I don’t recall having mentioned my love of okra in my resume or any other materials that I’ve ever submitted for a prospective job.
There are one or two jobs on the list that someone who was really reaching to establish a connection to my background might see as suitable, if they sort of squinted and didn’t think about it too carefully. For instance, amazingly enough, The State is hiring a sports copyeditor. Yep, that’s a job I could easily do, although sports is probably the last department you’d want me for. It’s the sort of job that I might have done when I was 22 years old and right out of college, and would have been fully qualified for then (I covered prep sports part-time for a while for the now-defunct Memphis Press-Scimitar at about that stage of my career). But if you drew a huge square that described the universe of logical jobs based on my abilities and experience, and put this one in the bottom right-hand corner, the jobs that would be a good match for me would be in the upper left-hand corner.
In the last couple of years, on the rare occasions that I’ve actually looked at these emails, I’ve seen one job that was sort of almost kind of a good match, although it would mean moving back to news from the opinion side: The Tennessean in Nashville needed a new executive editor. That would have been something, being a successor to the legendary John Siegenthaler. It might even have provided me with a challenge, since I had not served in news at that level. But no, I didn’t apply, not least because I had no interest in moving the Nashville.
Not that jobs have to be a good match to my resume at all, since the way forward for me involves reinvention, and getting way, way out of my beaten path. From the moment I left the paper, I was more or less determined that I wasn’t looking back, but moving on. But the thing is, these tips are supposedly based on that resume. Here are some of the others I received today:
- Executive Director of Instructional Technology
- Loss Prevention Manager for Kmart
- Junior Systems Performance Engineer for Windows and UNIX
- Insurace Sales Agent
- Occupational Therapist
- Dentist — DDS/DMD
All of this pointless mismatching would be pretty harmless except for one thing: I discovered during my sojourn among the unemployed that an awful lot of the hiring process these days is done by algorithms rather than people — at least in the initial stages. You submit your information electronically, and if the software doesn’t see in your resume what it wants, you don’t get to the stage of talking to humans.
This is unbelievably frustrating, because I found that these software applications have tapioca for brains. There was this one job with a major corporation that was by no means a perfect match, but any human looking at my background and qualifications would at least have been intrigued and wanted to have an exploratory chat.
I submitted my stuff electronically, and the next day received an email (the “do not reply” kind) congratulating me and saying that I looked like a very good match for what they needed, and I would be hearing from a human soon. This was on my birthday, and I was very encouraged.
Two days later I got another disembodied email telling me that the first one was wrong, and that I wasn’t a good match, so goodbye and thanks for applying.
This infuriated me to the point that I determined that I would talk to a human whatever it took. I started with NO contact information — no email for a human, no phone numbers. I just started talking to people I know who knew people who might know people who would know. My thought at the time was that the job called for someone who would do just what I was doing. A person who would take a brush-off from a machine wasn’t qualified for the job.
In the end, I had coffee with the person who was vacating the position, who told me the applications were closed at that point, although she would see if she could get them to reopen the process. This went nowhere, but I was satisfied. I had not accepted “no” from the stupid machine.