I’ve been in line at the DMV. I’ve made small talk about the weather. I’ve even made small talk about the passage of time (no, I can’t believe it’s almost noon!) but in terms of utter despair, all this pales in comparison with job searching.
The worst part of this soul-crushing process is the disingenuousness on both sides. As the applicant, your goal is to pretend, as convincingly as possible, to want the job. “Why yes, it has always been my dream to…collaborate with stakeholders to produce results!” You have to say that, because the honest version would be: “I’m not especially interested in your company, but I’d like to continue having electricity.”
As the employer, your goal is to turn down applicants in the most patronizing and tortuous way possible. You can’t just say “No” – you have to drown them in an ocean of euphemisms and false praise. I don’t think I’ve ever received a rejection shorter than three paragraphs. Here are some I’ve personally seen:
“We have carefully considered your application materials”
We used your resume to make a paper airplane but it didn’t go very far. Get it? Like your career!
“We can’t offer you an interview”
We really want to, but we just can’t. Our hands are tied. We are using unnecessarily strong language to convey regret because we think that will somehow make you feel better.
“Your qualifications are impressive”
We are stunned by how great you are! Couldn’t stop talking about it at the office. We were all “This is a man who’s going places!” Just not this place, because we don’t want to hire you.
“Based on your resume, we have no doubt of your future success”
Bet you’re relieved to hear how great you’ll be doing one day! Our forecast of the unknown probably means everything to you. Remember our confidence in our psychic abilities when you’re figuring out how many times you can afford to eat this week.
And let’s not even discuss cover letters. Not only must you feign interest in the position of Assistant Director of Directing Assistants, but you also have to write a love letter to the guy who won’t hire you anyway? Every cover letter says, in essence “I’m great, you’re great, I have no felony record.” What else would you even write about? “Hmm most people discussed their qualifications, but this guy did a whole analysis of how toothpaste gives you autism. That’s the kind of independent thinker we need around here!”
All I’m saying is, a little honesty on both sides would help. Employers: most people don’t actually want to work for you. Applicants: most companies don’t actually want to hire you. But, much like in the dating world, we all settle for each other because the alternative is scary and inconvenient. So let’s ditch the pretense and embrace that.