How a Good Idea Devalued us All

Written by Tim King

A friend of mine is a legal secretary. Sounds like a pretty good gig, eh? Experience and education, and all in a discipline that you see ads for all the time. It took her most of a year and hundreds of resumes. In the end she got placed by an agency rather than doing it on her own. The mighty CoN Editor in Chief himself has some laughing (because it's all so absurd) experiences in this as well. I've been smarting over my own failure to upgrade my job, and after hearing about these experiences I started wondering just where the job market is going nowadays.

On the one hand you've got the government crowing about how unemployment is at an all time low. On the other, the oh-so-many jobs that are out there all appear to be low end, retail jobs. Ever tried to pay a thousand bucks along with a month in rent on retail clerk pay? What's available doesn't pay you enough to rent in the GTA, let alone buy a home.

Right out of high school at the end of the eighties I found myself a well paying, union job that would have allowed me to buy a home and live a moderate, middle class lifestyle. The union in that place was broken in the early nineties and all of the career types I knew there scattered as the wages were slashed by eight to ten bucks an hour. The gormless fools who took their places had little if any education and most couldn't speak English. We tried to explain to them what happened but they seemed derisive. I hope they enjoy the strenuous physical labour that doesn't pay them enough to live here. I wonder how many good jobs are left out there in the arid wasteland of Canada's economy.

Anyone reading this has probably done the rounds on Workopolis, Monster or any of the other thousands of online job search databases. I can remember when these websites started up. They touted themselves as the new means by which people will find the job they want. Monster's slogan is still "Never Settle" and Workopolis likes to show you examples of all the people who made it thanks to them. Oh, so empowering, but only on the surface. There are over 31,000 jobs posted on Workopolis right now and 27 success stories. In four out of the first ten stories I read, the person involved was unable to find work in their field for over a year before they were successful.

I have a theory that the internet has made trawling for employees so easy that it has greatly devalued them in the eyes of the employer. With barely any effort an employer can get a raft of resumes and treat the applicants like shit because the effort involved is negligible. In days of yore when it took a real effort to collect together a bunch of applicants, they were treated like human beings because the company examining them had to put hours of work into finding them. Monster & Workopolis like to play the "doing you a favour" card in their advertising, but what they've really done is made us all a dime a dozen. In case you were wondering, I'm sitting here trying to figure out where all my damn resumes are going. Giant, electronic piles of resumes that don't even cost money to print exist in human resources email servers across the land. They are treated like the cheap information that they are. Deleted at will, ignored at no cost; we are made meaningless by the very ease by which we offer ourselves.

In the nasty little company I work for, my own manager has told me that she likes to post a position and collect a score of resumes and then remove the job offering. The people who applied assume that the job has been filled and forget about it. A few weeks later she posts the job again and offers twenty percent less than she did the first time. She sorts the incoming resumes into already applied and new applicants and tosses out the new applicants. Now she's got a list of dedicated, desperate people who she knows she can lowball when it comes to working out salary.

What the online job factories do is sell your volunteered data to people who can abuse it for their own profit. As I drive in to work and see Workopolis banners on the side of the road or I'm watching primetime television and a Monster ad that supposedly empowers us to "Never Settle!" comes on, I wonder where they found their wealth, and now I know; they took it from all of the job seekers, and they did it with a smile and a promise of empowerment.

Do you want to see job seekers treated with something other than rude, arrogant disregard? The answer is easy: take your online resume off-line and be selective about what you apply for. If the flood suddenly dried up, those hirers would value the glass of water you bring, rather than swimming in the excess they enjoy now.