Oy vey, this job hunting is depressing

I remember now what it was that knocked the stuffing out of me last year and the year before and the year before that, trying to find a job. I’m getting absolutely nowhere. Scratch-off lottery tickets have proven a more productive use of my time and limited resources over the last four weeks. Texas Workforce Commission. i.e., unemployment, requires the unemployed to keep a log of how many apps we’ve submitted, I’ve put in just shy of 50 now in less than a month of logging. That’s almost 50 job applications for stuff I’m eminently qualified for. These jobs are not a reach, the highest paying one was $20/hr, most are more like 15 bucks, a few paid barely over minimum wage. Seriously, these firms would be lucky to get someone like me for that price. But here’s how it actually goes down.

I scan the job listings several times a day and have alerts set up on those that allow it to notify me the moment a new one shows up. These kinds of jobs are not singles, they’re always hiring several people, often dozens of people. I don’t just meet every listed requirement, I meet every plus or preferred or close to it. The posting says high school diploma or GED, I have degrees in hard science. The jobs says one year of experience in customer service or technical support a must, I have well over a decade. They often ask for excellent written skills, I’m an active, published author. The firm warns applicants they have to stay cool under pressure, I’ve been a stockbroker and commodities trader, had callers sobbing, threaten to kill me or kill themselves while on the line, claim they’re going to bomb the building or burn my house down, without it rattling me one bit.

Do they want someone who can explain complex topics to a wide range of customers? I can walk an eighty-year old retired housewife who barely speaks English through generating and emailing me an MSINFO and read it through it while she’s still on the phone. Your jobs requires some upselling? How often do you suppose someone who has sold over a quarter billion dollars, yes Billion with a “B,” worth of stuff on the phone comes into your contact center willing to work for ten bucks an hour on a 60 day temp assignment with no overtime, production bonuses, or benefits? You insist on a strong work ethic? I wasn’t just the top producer out of hundreds in my last job, it’s on the company’s website to be independently verified by any prospective employer. Not that anyone ever asks, I never get that far.

There’s a skills test to weed out the braggers? Most of them tell you what you made at the end. The lowest I’ve scored is an 80, and that was on a real hard test where other applicants I spoke with scoredh lower, on several I’ve correctly answered 100% of the questions. Maybe some age discrimination is afoot: I really do think some of that may be going on. But these days I can pass for my mid-thirties, I look better, slimmer and trimmer, a 28 inch waist and a head full of non gray hair, better shape than I’ve been in for at least 10 years. My resumes are carefully written to give little away in that department, plus they’ve been tested to snuggle right into any software or template used by the company to detect keywords and other categories. Could my references be fragging me behind my back? Doubtful, I’ve actually had friends call them up posing as a prospective employer and everything is on the up and up.

It’s not just me of course. One of my sisters is an HR rockstar. She has every certification anyone could want, hell, she has a degree in it with a 3.9 GPA and twenty years of experience. Everything from entry level to Director of HR at a firm with over a thousand employees, she’s put in over a 100 apps in the last six months, been on a dozen interviews, and she’s getting absolutely no where too. The most frustrating thing about it for both of us is we usually never hear anything back. Outside of a confirmation email that the app has been received, or in the rare case of a brief phone or in person interview, they don’t even do us the courtesy of telling us we didn’t get it. In way too many cases the ad either stays up or reappears within a few weeks for the same job with the same company, and still, applications or queries as to the status go unanswered. Not a peep.

How to explain that other than the company, for some reason I’d pay good money to know, has specifically determined they do NOT want applicants like us working for them? This has happened even in job openings where I had a friend in good standing on the inside, used the employee referral tabs, and been given the promise my application would be seen and fairly reviewed (There have also been more than a couple of cases where a friend told me that, then somehow managed to never be available via phone or email to discuss it in detail and follow through). Which makes me insatiably curious to know what it is the Job Creators do want.

The only “offer” I’ve had was a scam. It was a disreputable outfit posing as a job when what they really did was try to sell you a CD-seminar course and sales “kit,” you would then supposedly use to independently sell their product virtually door-to-door.

This is life for millions of us at the bottom of the economy, where it feels like there is no way up, no way forward, and no way out.


  1. minxatlarge says

    I finally used a professional resume writer. The first thing she said was ‘we have to dumb this down’. Which would explain the look of terror on some of the faces of the people with whom I’ve interviewed. My impression is that many employers are looking for someone young, dumb and cheap, someone who could never threaten them in any way. It’s not about meeting the qualifications in those cases.

    But even with the fluffy, harmless and cheerfully competent resume and carefully polished LinkedIn profile, getting more interviews, but jobs going to internal candidates. 400+ applications at this point, sigh.

    It’s not just you, it’s everyone at the bottom 80%.

  2. says

    At first I was elated when I checked the listings this go round, there are noticeably more jobs listed now than a year or two ago. But it doesn’t matter much when the result is always the same — no response at all. Yeah I’ve had my stuff edited by a pro and now have several res’s that can be tweaked to specificity quickly. I agree with you: the people I see getting hired are almost always in their thirties or younger. The people doing the hiring are almost always in their thirties or younger. I don’t know how else to explain it. When the posting stays up or reappears, when they’re still actively interviewing and hiring a dozen people ate a shot, and when you have every qualification they ask for and them some, how could it be anything other than some kind of bias that you are not even contacted?

    I was trying to explain to my dad the other day how much hiring has changed just over the last few years. He’s under the impression you can still physically show up at the company with res in hand and ask for an interview. I had to show him online what the postings actually look like nowadays, that it’s not uncommon for them not to even list the company’s name, let alone a physical address, and it is common practice to have a notice up saying not to call or show up, all handled online.

    Good luck man.

  3. eoleen says

    I whole heartedly agree with minxatlarge – you are way over qualified. They think one – or more – of several things.

    The first being that you are out and out lying – that nobody could be looking for work with your level of expertise.

    The second being that you would take the job and find it so boring that you would quit immediately.

    The third being that you are a serious threat: that if you were hired you’d be seen by your manager’s manager as a much better person for the management job and would replace the person who hired you.

    Fourth being that they are out and out scared of someone with your level of qualification: that they wouldn’t be able to brow-beat you, that you would show them up for the poorly qualified or out-and-out frauds that they are.

    Or possibly the offer is a fake because they are trying to establish a “market price” for the job, so as to reduce what they would have to offer applicants when the job(s) is/are really open. I’ve been suckered by that one. There was a company in Texas that posted ads for various openings, specifying wide ranges of requirements simply to manipulate BLS statistics. Just guess who was behind the manipulation.

    There is also the possibility that the job offer is a complete and total fake: that the “job” is going to be “outsourced” to the far East “because we can’t find any qualified applicants”…

    I’m sure there are some other arcane reasons for not jumping at the chance to hire you – none of them in the least bit savory.

    Good luck with your job hunt. I know how frustrating it can be. I was forced to “retire” when my occupation was transferred to India. I was (and still am) a main-frame computer programmer – an independent consultant: i..e., a hired gun who came in to pick up a heavy load, or do something special, or what ever. I would do my job, get very well paid, and, the job over, go on to the next.

    My competition was several consulting firms who brought over people from India who were, for the most part, unintelligible to those who spoke American English. These people would be paid as “independent contractors” – the same as I was paid – but they didn’t stay here long enough to file income tax returns. Every December the old batch would leave, and be replaced every January with a new set.

    Of course the IRS caught wind of this and my client base got scared and I was out of work. Simultaneously the Big Bad Boys started doing the work in India, which was not a good thing at all.

    But enough of my problems. Have you thought of writing a book about your problems? It just might have a market.

  4. says

    I’m looking forward to when the recession really is over, they all end sooner or later. And we come flooding into the market, and suddenly these thirty-year old self entitled fakers who strut around like they invented the Internet have to go toe-to-toe with adults who do know what they’re doing and who can run rings around them before they even wake up. I for one will show them no mercy, none at all. :)

  5. says

    I am 58 have been looking for work for three years. I have lost count of the jobs I have applied for – around 500 or so by now I think. I have a PhD, computing degree and a slew of experience, I have been a manager, a public spokesperson and a bunch of other things.

    Not. One. Interview.

    The only thing I can conclude is that once you are past your mid-forties, you are no longer wanted by companies and universities. I have a hypothesis:

    Applications are screened by HR before they get to the manager concerned. Nearly every HR person I have met is young, in their mid thirties at the oldest, apart from those in management (who would not be involved in candidate choice). Most are female. It appears that they suffer from extreme age bias against older candidates, and so the chances of an older person getting considered by the relevant manager is slim.

    I doubt I will ever have a job again.

  6. says

    I feel you, man. Taco Bell won’t even call me for an interview, Been riding this train for five years now. The only income in our household is my husband’s monthly disability check. It’s dire. Hope it gets better for you.

  7. says

    I agree with Eoleen – for the pay rate you are looking at for a tech job (sounds like tier 1 product support) you appear to be over qualified for what they are probably looking for (and I would not doubt an element of age discrimination is also in play). I suggest you take a look at Glassdoor.com and see what they are paying for someone with your qualifications and experience in the tech field. Then take a look at what the average they are paying people for similar jobs you are applying for.

    Have you looked at a software test/QA position (and it’s not that far a stretch for someone with product support experience)? As long as you can do some basic scripting and can think of ways to break apps and webpages and have an attention to detail (and for the entry to mid level positions, you don’t even have fix much of anything…just provide ), I have observed a demand for these positions (if you have several of years of ANY tech experience) and they (at least what I observed coming into my inbox) pay between $20 to $35\hr on W-2.

    I wish you luck.

  8. says

    Would you consider moving to the St. Louis area?

    I know Southern Illinois Healthcare Foundation/Touchette Regional Hospital is having trouble finding people. The work is in East St. Louis, and they have really overworked their IT staff for the last three years, and the pay is not great. However, I think it beats long-term unemployment, and the health benefits are top-notch if you use their providers.

  9. says

    Hey Stephen, who do you use for resume analysis? I’m looking for someone right now.

    I’m in similar straits but with a mental twist.

    In 2008 right when the economy went south I was diagnosed with ADHD and Tourette’s Syndrome while I was a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin. I had gotten the diagnosis because I had a bunch of general issues while in graduate school and I decided to get a mental work-up. There was no way I could figure out what that stuff meant while trying a post-doc so I decided to accept a masters degree and work while trying to figure the mental stuff out (the mental consequences of the two on my life have been rather significant as it turns out).

    That was the plan anyway. During a 5 month stretch in 2009 I applied for 40-50 jobs and got one interview and a tour of a section of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, staffed by people all younger than me (I was 33). In desperation I thought I would try to retrain to High School science teacher and spent until the start of this last summer working as a substitute teacher while going through a state approved alternate certification program that I paid little for because of how good I looked on paper. The wall I hit there was something akin to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and an utter disgust at what education is really like. There is no way I can function in what passes for public education in Austin Texas.

    Now I’m trying two things at once. On one hand I’m applying for jobs that someone with a Masters in Molecular Biology, Bachelor’s degrees in Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology, and Microbiology, and over a decade of experience in academic science laboratories should be qualified for (I have some nice publications). On the other hand I’m studying a textbook for Pharmacy Technician and effectively tossing all that old effort onto the rubbish heap for something in demand, predictable and routine.
    I’m still getting nowhere with the applications and now I’m 36 and about to turn 37. Fuck this country.

  10. says

    Brony I have two friends that are now head hunters with prior experience in HR using standard CRMs who helped me. But bear in mind, my resumes for these kinds of jobs — $10-20/hr csr and tech support — are not challenging. One page cover letter, two grafs, and one to two page res in standard font and format with past jobs keyword/skills.

    BTW guys, again, WordPress is fucked up. I can comment but I can’t approve comments waiting in queue and I can’t edit or post. It looks like a standard dns/zone transfer issue and those usually resolve themselves without any effort on my part, just a matter of time.

    I spent the morning running around being screwed by my apartment complex. There’s no way to drop rent off if the office is closed, they got rid of the drop box claiming someone broke into it years ago. My rent is supposed to be $590, that’s why I stay in this roach infested efficiency, it’s cheap. I called and emailed the complex asking if Monday or Tues would be the best time to come in, pay Feb rent, and look over a new lease as the current one will expire this month, they chose Tuesday morning. I showed five mins after they opened today as advised and was promptly hit with late fees for being one day late totaling almost 200 extra dollars. Plus it had to be a money order, not a check or cashiers check, so I had to go one bank, take out the cash, then go to their bank and get a money order which cost and another ten dollars.

    Yeah, fuck this country, we’re being screwed and squeezed into homelessness and death.

  11. magistramarla says

    I still think that you ought to consider applying to USAA and relocating to SA if they hire you.
    Daughter #2 works there and from what she has told us, you sound as though you would fit in there in any number of positions. I can’t be sure, but I don’t think that they are bad about the agism thing.
    She keeps telling her Dad to apply there after he retires from his DOD job.
    That’s not happening, since we intend to leave Texas.

  12. says

    I might Magi. I’ve checked the site. Al I really have to do is get in front of a few hiring managers anywhere and sooner or later, I’m in. The other day at a job interview I managed to bend the conversation to age and experience. “Ahh recent college grads” I said. “So much fun, so enthusiastic, such balls of energy; absolutely convinced they can adapt to new technologies better than anyone else because they’re just out of college and they’ve never had to actually prove it.” The lady cracked up laughing and practically hi-fi’ed me. Another zinger is “When was the last time you got on an airplane worried to death the pilot might be over qualified?”

    On the overqualified thing, I’m told by people who work in hiring that that just doesn’t happen as nearly often as friends and family will speculate — friends and family say that to make you feel better, as in “You’re too good for that company”. To underscore this, I’m a pro at this stuff: if a job says minimum three years experience in XYZ, my resume will be tweaked before it’s sent in to say I have over three years of experience in XYZ. If it says must type at least 30 wpm, my resume will say I type over 30 wpm. But let’s say instead I put in five years experience or that I type over 40 wpm in those cases, the CRM used by HR to screen apps or search their database doesn’t penalize you for going over. Now, they can enter search words and phrases, and if they’re too literal, it might not pick up 40 wpm when they’re searching the phrase 30 wpm, but out side of that it isn’t set up or intended to knock someone out for typing more wpm than the minimum. That’s what over qualified would mean, literally.

    If by over qualified someone means too old, perhaps that does happen to me in some cases along the way, just not in the filter process. But if the job says must have a GED or high school diploma some college preferred, and you have that under edu as well as a two year or four year degree, they’re not going to purposely filter candidates out for exceeding the edu minimum.


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