Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Be the Unicorn

So here's the problem described (and resolved) in the above-linked blog post. The (hypothetical) job for a social media promoter you've seen posted lists these requirements:
  • Must have a recent B.A. in English. (Check!)  
  • Must have work or volunteer experience editing for online publication. (Check!) 
  • Must be able to work flexible schedule. (Check!)
  • Must type 1000 words per minute. (Whaaaaaa...?)
Surely, you think, that can't be serious! It's a typo, or somebody's idea of a bad joke. But you go online to the ATS (applicant tracking system--that computerized gatekeeper from Franz Kafka's hell--remember reading The Trial in Dr. Carr's class?), and one of the first questions you get asked:
  • Can you type 1000 words per minute? ___Yes   ___No
If you say "no"--the computer crumples up your application and tosses it in the virtual trash can. If you say "yes"--you've lied. If you get past initial screening, even if you get the job, you could be fired for lying on your application. (Imagine getting fired a decade later, when you've been promoted to Vice President in Charge of Widgets--fired for saying something nobody should have asked in the first place.)

A growing problem from the recruiters' and human resource managers' side of the desk seems to be that there are "no qualified applicants out there." But the tide is starting to turn. Those who look closer realize that the employer has written a job description which only a unicorn could fill. They're using computers to look for a totally mythical, impossible applicant. If a real human being saw the resume of a person who met all the criterion, that human being would reject the candidate--"wouldn't be willing to work for the pay we offer."

If this were medicine, they'd be saying "the operation was a success, but the patient died."

So what's a well-qualified applicant to do? How can you be that unicorn?

One answer is to engage your network. Don't apply online; rather find a human connection capable of overriding the machine. Explain (don't whine). Pitch (don't pester).

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