i dream of being possible

in which i rant about conflicting job hunting advice

Yesterday I read a fairly decent post about how managers could make the hiring process a gentler, kinder affair. Today I read the followup that discusses common applicant mistakes. Now. I’m confused because one post is about pointing out certain institutional problems with the hiring process and suggesting some ways to improve. The other is about reinforcing those same institutional biases by wagging a finger at applicants.

Now. I’ve railed in the past about how frustrating it is to read job search stuff because of how contradictory it tends to be. This is a prime example. On the first hand, we are recognizing that there are serious institutional issues with the hiring process. On the other hand, we are trying to groom applicants to play into this same unfair process. So which is it? Do job applicants need to stop making ‘dumbass’ mistakes or does the unjust hiring process need to be reformed?

To some extent, both cannot happen at the same time. What is the point of learning the nuanced rules of job searching if the managers are going to make an earnest attempt to reduce disparities and bias?

The main problem with managers doling out advice about applicant mistakes is that they’ll never be consistent. Because each and everyone of them is generally more than happy to pretend like their personal biases are somehow generalizable to advice for all applicants applying at any given job. More importantly pointing out mistakes that individuals make within an unjust system is to simply blame us for failing within that same system.

Take the initial ‘knock it off with automatic eliminators like typos’ from the first post. This? Is something that needs to change immediately because its bullshit. But in the followup we see things like: ‘Many reviewers put small tests into job postings to see how well you can follow instructions’. How, exactly, are these two things actually compatible?

Sure, the explanation given is that the latter isn’t an auto-eliminator and it points towards an applicants ability to follow instructions but… I’ll be honest. If I had to pick one of those to count I’d pick grammar and all that. At least the rules of English (or most other languages) are usually transparent and have an external standard to which you can appeal. Creating little traps and tests within your application is, well, a good way to ensure that people with certain kinds of cognitive or learning disabilities never actually get hired (this is just one group I can think of that’d be unfairly disadvantaged by this practice).

See. If people truly cared about making the hiring process as equitable as possible, it needs to also be as accessible as possible. When I look over the ‘dumbass mistakes’ that applicants make so many of the points privilege able bodied people and/or neurotypical people. And, again, I’m simply pointing out one area of potential bias. I could also talk about class, race, gender, size or any number of factors that bias hiring.

Anyway. These posts are just a good way to highlight exactly why the hiring process is bullshit and most advice is just victim-blaming garbage. Even when the person claims to be trying to make substantive changes. In the end, the fault always lies with the candidates and even if some of the reforms are made, it just means the unwritten rules and goal posts will shift.

If outright laws against discrimination aren’t enough to discourage people from biased hiring, I’m not sure what would actually get them to change things. All the laws did is make a lot of the biases in hiring covert rather than overt. Telling managers to try and make the hiring process kinder while mobilizing ableism (‘dumbass’1) to shame applicants for failing to meet these unwritten and arbitrary standards… well. Not sure why he bothered.

  1. Now, I don’t necessarily think all instances of ‘dumbass’ are abliest, but it definitely is in this context. I’ve made many of these mistakes….. because I’m autistic and a lot of them never occurred to me (see unwritten rules) but also some I’m simply not capable of actually doing (like the ‘learn the admin assistant’s name’… I get why this is nice and all but. My brain just can’t remember people like that. I can’t remember the names of half the people I’ve worked with for the past 3 years. Not because I don’t care but bc I have actual cognitive limitations when it comes to this sort of thing.). I’m also somewhat bemused that the ‘its ok to be a little nervous’ sure but what if you’re like me and interviews send you into a full-blown panic attack? While I have simply said ‘i’m a little nervous’ and tried to move on, it would actually be better if I could say ‘interviews give me panic attacks, can I have five minutes to calm down so that I can actually think during the interview?’. But then I remember that you aren’t supposed to mention accommodations unless you have a job offer. So yay?