The sort of fuckery you encounter when you try to get a job

This is terrible mistake of a listicle, which details the sort egregiously inhumane idiocy that HR departments are capable of.

The life of an unemployed graduate is not pleasant. After a lifetime of doing things extra well and getting told how clever he is, the unemployed graduate discovers that he is truly unemployable and a scourge on society. Though capable of doing many things quite well, he is apparently incapable  of communicating his relative aptitude in interviews and application forms.

The world of work, as some primary school informational leaflet once called it, has it’s own language. It’s a language coined by business school grads, self-branded entrepreneurs and other evil beings who’ve never watched a film without explosions in it. To our unemployed graduate, their clichés: ‘team player’, ‘communicator’ and ‘attention to detail’ are empty terms, stripped of almost all meaning and even then inapplicable only to a sociopath in a vegetative state, who would probably still find the energy at least to lie.

What crowns the sorry state of mass fuckery is the resolute and persistent belief amongst the in-crowd — those safely embedded in their jobs — that prospective employees are a commodity, like carrots or tulips. After a lot of examination and handling, they pluck one or two of the most perfectly-formed and send the rest to be mashed into a tin of soup.

By way of clarification, since my hideous metaphor has probably muddied the waters, here are some examples arranged in a shit listicle.

1. Experience

Position: Entry-Level Graduate Widget Wrangler
Salary: £18,500
Experience: Minimum seven years experience in a related widget-wrangling position.

Presumably, somewhere in Surrey, aspirational and preened yuppy parents are forcing their twelve year olds to get corporate jobs. It’s probably obvious to them that dogs eat dogs in this world, and that a strong CV paired with a limited conception of the arts, history or social justice is the only combination that guarantees a new BMW outside the mock Tudor two-door garage every year.

2. Degree Discrimination

Position: Entry-Level Graduate Widget Wrangler
Salary: £18,500
Requirements: Minimum 2:1 degree in any subject so long as it isn’t history.

We’re all Warwick people here, so I can say what we’re all thinking.

Picture the scene: you’re stepping off a bus with your uni sweetheart, locked in some distracting conversation when a sixteen-year-old on a moped squeezes up the cycle lane at 40 mph and thwacks your companion three meters into the air. There’s blood everywhere and she clearly needs a doctor, which is handy because a doctor has just stopped his car and run over with that reassuring line from TV scripts everywhere, ‘don’t worry, I’m a doctor’.

The doctor prods and pokes your sweetheart, straightens out and reports that she’s not breathing. A scruffy itinerant, who had been watching from a doorway, schmoozes over and offers to perform CPR — which he apparently learned on a course — until an ambulance arrives. The doctor signals his approval, and explains that an emergency tracheotomy may be necessary.

As he looks in his black leather bag for a handy scalpel to slice your sweetheart’s neck open with you strike up an awkward conversation, probably because of the shock. He has your confidence and, crazily, you’re starting to relax. The itinerant, it transpires, graduated from Warwick, your alma mater, with a degree in art history. The doctor, more troublingly, learned his trade at Coventry University.

Now, the question: armed with the knowledge that this doctor, your sweetheart’s saviour, attended a thoroughly sub-standard school of medicine, are you quite so prepared to allow him to slash at your beloved’s face and neck with a blade? Would it be preferable to hand the scalpel to your worldly and multi-skilled, though admittedly homeless, Warwick chum?

This is an appalling example and I thank you for reading it. I seem to have brought a very large and unwieldy gun to a relatively amicable knife-fight. We’re brought up to believe that our smarmy humanities degrees from nice universities like Warwick or Oxford are worth something, and that stout, practical degrees like ‘Business Information Systems’ from hell-holes like De Montfort are worth slightly less. The corporate world is trying to take that away from us.

3. Desirable Knowledge

Motivation Question 17: Discuss your personal experience of an obscure widget wrangling issue that is closely related to our business, and that is impossible to know about in detail without actually working for us.
(4000 words)

Our friendly unemployed graduate got up this morning with a plan to submit at least five more job application forms. It’s now nine pm, he’s finally nearing the end of the first, and he’s reached the impassable question. He’s given detailed accounts of occasions on which he communicated, juggled deadlines, ate, slept and shat, but now his prospective wants to see if he’s motivated enough to be allowed a job.

They gauge his motivation not in person, or by the very fact that he’s trying to work for them, but by setting a series of torturous and practically unanswerable questions. These are the most demotivating thing anyone has ever done on a computer.

4. Automated rejection

Due to the volume of applications we receive, we are unable to offer feedback at this time.

Filling out the application form and rattling through the online testing for one job took our friendly graduate five hours. In a friendlier world, our graduate might hope to be paid for doing five hours work. In a friendlier world still, the gods of recruitment might work out that asking people to write about their personalities and then do simple maths in timed conditions is not a very good way to choose a new employee.

In perhaps the most ridiculous hypothetical friendly world, recipients of long and carefully filled out application forms bother to thank and apologise to applicants. They might type a single word — ‘Thanks xx’ — before binning the form and dashing our graduate’s hopes.

They don’t do any of that though. And if you reply to the ‘we are unable to offer feedback’ email, as I do every single time, no one responds.


The trouble is, you see, the more times an introspective little graduate bares all in the hope of a small job with a professional titan and is brushed aside, the more he starts to believe that he belongs aside, somewhere out of the way.

In years gone by, he might have grown into a scary and delusional old man who lives in a small house with two obese terriers, lonely but apparently happy. Unfortunately, it’s 2018 and the world is fucked. Societal outcasts don’t get terraced houses and rusty Renault Clios any more, they get homelessness and abnormally high suicide rates.

Those slick Surrey parents were right — it’s an unfriendly cut-throat world and the only way to make it work is to buy a shiny suit, watch Love Island and start using phrases like ‘going forward’.

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