O, trap of grease
How you both fill and fulfill me
Thine stench and texture
Both excite me and envelope me with desire
Of course it was all very amusing, but it got me to thinking about how vile the process really is and hence, this post was born. As an ode to the odious process of job seeking, I have compiled a list of the four worst things about job seeking and unemployment.
Sending a job application is like throwing a paper aeroplane into the void of space and hoping it will crash land on an inhabited planet. You know when you write one that the chances of anybody reading it are vanishingly small, yet you still must spend hours hatefully crafting your work experience into action oriented sentences liberally peppered with offensively bland key words. You hope your flimsy creation will navigate itself through the minefield that is the key word seeking software. This software is like a rapacious, mindless beast, happily rooting for the truffles that are your words. Of course, everyone else's resumes are likewise splattered with these meaningless pieces of jargon so the truffles are more like undergraduate degrees, too common to be interesting to, or even acknowledged by most HR professionals. Which leads to depressing fact the first; It has been estimated that 75% of applications will not be acknowledged in anyway.
Which brings us neatly to the second depressing reality about job seeking and unemployment. Long term unemployment is extremely bad for your psychological and physical well being. There are numerous studies showing that long term unemployment is associated with increased incidence of major depressive disorder, anxiety, psychosomatic symptoms, low subjective well-being and poor self-esteem (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0001879109000037, http://www.academia.edu/1213745/Associations_between_unemployment_and_major_depressive_disorder_evidence_from_an_international_prospective_study_the_predict_cohort_). They are also six times more likely to commit suicide ((Bartley et al, 2005) and one author has estimated that the effect of being long term unemployed is equivalent to smoking ten packs of cigarettes a day (Ross 1995). Stop and let that one sink in for a while. Unsuccessful job seeking is actually toxic. Of course, the correlation runs the other way too, with the unemployed more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviours (Waddell and Burton 2006). As Mansel Aylward, director of the Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research at Cardiff University so elegantly said "“Sickness and disability are among the main threats to a full and happy life; work incapacity has the most significant impact on individual, the family, economy and society."
The final depression reality about the job seeking process is probably the most depressing one on this page. The system of resumes and cover letters can be as effective in picking the correct candidate as picking at random. That’s correct; depending on how you conduct the process, you are as likely to pick a good employee by flipping a coin or throwing a dart at a bunch of resumes stuck to the wall, as using the cumbersome HR machine. This finding comes from a meta-analysis examining the efficacy of a number of inputs into the selection process (Schmidt, F. L. & Hunter, J. E . (1998). The validity and utility of selection methods in personnel psychology: Practical and theoretical implications of 85 years of research findings. Psychological Bulletin, pp. 262-274. As an aside, a meta-analysis is a sophisticated statistical technique that uses studies as individual points of data instead of individual people as a standard experimental study would. They are an extremely powerful technique that can give a good estimate of the real size of an effect in the general population.