Jobs are scarce at present. The competition is tough. A job seekers future is reliant on his ability to promote himself through the outdated process of covering letters and CVs. If finding a job comes down to how we advertise ourselves, what are we prepared to do to get noticed?
I was seventeen when I first wrote a CV. I knew nothing and had no experience. I optimistically sent out ten CVs and waited for the job offers to roll in. When none appeared, I sought advice from friends. They suggested: ‘juice the CV up a bit’.
‘Everyone lies on their CV’, I was told. Ignoring the anxiety of being caught out on my fibs, I fabricated some work experience, upgraded my exam results and sent off the revised version. It worked – I got a job.
Two degrees and numerous internships later, I’m job-hunting again. This time, I have work experience. I have spent twenty-five thousand pounds on an education. I am officially a qualified adult. Yet the pattern continues: forty applications sent out – one rejection letter and one interview (followed by a rejection letter) in response.
I am faced with a dilemma: should I re-write the truth again?
In a book about interview skills, I found a chapter called Answering the Predictable Questions. These are the questions we are expected to prepare for, as they crop up in most interviews. My least favourite of these is ‘what are your strengths and weaknesses?’ If I were to answer this question spontaneously, I would say ‘I’m super friendly but consistently 15 minutes late’. Obviously, this would not get me the job. I must craft a careful response where my apparent weakness turns into an advantage. The problem is – why should I have to lie?
This difficulty applies equally to CVs, when ‘have once used Excel to make a shopping list’ turns into ‘strong skills with Microsoft Office’. If I know that omitting the bad and exaggerating the good is standard practice – surely the employers do too? Doesn’t this turn the application process into a game of ‘who can lie and not get caught out’?
I propose we scrap the whole system and think of a more meaningful way of evaluating prospective employees. A system where employers can make decisions based on honest answers, and employees do not loose their sense of self worth through repeating an exaggerated version of them self.
Firstly, lets agree that being good at writing CVs and answering interview questions does not prove you are good at anything – except writing CVs and answering interview questions. These are skills, which are developed through practice, and those who have rehearsed most are those who have been unemployed longest, and have therefore practiced the job they are applying for least.
Next, we must discard the predictable interview questions. Let us acknowledge that employers should not ask us to reveal our failings if they expect a truthful response. I do not wish to talk about my character defects to a stranger, I rarely do so with my nearest and dearest.
Lastly, instead of describing our abilities, it would be more practical to be allowed to demonstrate them. If I am applying for a job as a waitress: let me make you a cup of coffee; if I am applying for an internship in a business firm: let me talk you through a proposal. Equally, if I am not applying for a job in advertising, why must I sell myself to the boss?
Hania Agnieszka, of Sound-Art-Text.tumblr.com