I’ve seen a surprising amount of things in my professional life. I consider that surprising because of how short and unimpressive my professional life has been. One of the most interesting things I ever had to do was hire summer interns at my last “real” (see also: boring, terrible) job, before I became a full time dick joke writer.
The formal process of hiring a person is an illuminating one, though that illumination tends to be pretty depressing. Once you start receiving résumés and cover letters, let alone start interviewing applicants, you notice things. You notice other people doing the same type of stuff you might have once done when applying for a job, and now, being on the other side of the job application process, you realize how stupid/annoying/lazy/off-putting all of that crap was, at which point an unhealthy amount of self-loathing sets in.
Also depressing is the realization that you (or maybe it’s just me) end up hiring people for the wrong reasons. In my hiring experience, I found that the best person for the job tends not to get it. Then again, my experiences trying to get hired for various positions, and all the fruitless outcomes that came of them, would seem to refute my belief, as I was either unqualified or transparently disinterested in almost every job I applied for. I hadn’t even really wanted the marketing job I was hiring interns for. Maybe that office was just terrible at hiring people in general? Maybe I’m just an asshole? The latter seems like a safer bet.
It doesn’t matter how useless or random the decision is, most people in the professional world would much rather decide to turn left twenty times in a row and ignore the fact that they’re going in a circle than stand idle. Never mind that in both instances you’re getting nothing done
Still, I can’t help but think that there are many, many other assholes just like me out in the professional world. Ignoring my own gaping void where ethics should have resided (I would have been as equally stumped as Eric from Billy Madison were I asked to speak on business ethics), even my partner in the marketing department was no better than me in the hiring process, and she was good at her job, a real pro. She took the position seriously, and presumably the intern hiring process as well, and regardless of that, our decisions were totally asinine.
For example, we decided that we should hire one guy and one girl. Why? There was absolutely no reason. It was completely arbitrary and wildly unfair to a qualified candidate of either gender who was excluded from the position solely because we had already hired someone else with the same set of genitalia. I’m not exaggerating when I say this was a random, arbitrary decision. It was probably a decision made simply to make a decision, because making decisions means progress! It doesn’t matter how useless or random the decision is, most people in the professional world would much rather decide to turn left twenty times in a row and ignore the fact that they’re going in a circle than stand idle. Never mind that in both instances you’re getting nothing done, the important thing is that you at least look productive.
So we pulled the guy/girl decision right out of our asses. Of course, the deeper you get into the professional world, especially in a field like marketing, the more you realize it’s just a bunch of people talking and pulling shit out of their asses, so I really don’t feel too bad about that. I was just turning left like they wanted.
In total, we received about 80 applications for the two positions, of which about ten were actually worth interviewing. That’s what you get when you put a want ad out on Craigslist. We ended up hiring one of my younger fraternity brothers (I had sent an email about the position to the fraternity president so he could pass it along) and some hot girl who went to Arizona State and ran a cheerleading camp. In fairness to the interns, they both turned out to be excellent employees. My fraternity brother knew Photoshop and was infinitely useful, and the girl was an intelligent, instinctive worker who always got her stuff done competently and on time. Also, she was hot.
Out of all the things I learned during the hiring process though, perhaps the most stark, and definitely the most depressing, was just how many people weren’t nearly qualified for the jobs they were applying for. Applying doesn’t even really convey how badly the woefully unqualified wanted this job. “Desperately lobbying” better captures their hopeless attempt at reaching upwards in the job market. That might sound mean or heartless, maybe even a little classist, but it’s not any of those things; it’s just the truth. The vast majority of people who applied for these two internships had NONE of the skills or education we plainly stated we were looking for. Yes, the people we hired were not chosen for the best reasons, but our favoritism only came into effect after we narrowed the field down to qualified candidates (I actually flatly denied another fraternity brother I knew to be completely useless). Only then did we throw all those qualifications out the window and make a mockery of the process. That’s totally better.
The reason I say that many of the unqualified applicants were “desperately lobbying” and “hopelessly reaching” is because their cover letters were depressing as shit, and reeked of desperation. The common themes were “what I lack in experience and training I make up for in heart and hard work” or “I know if I’m given a chance I can succeed” and “I plan on doing whatever it takes to make my dreams come true.” All of those cover letters were discarded, and that pile seemed like a graveyard for those dreams.
Clearly whichever résumé building class these people attended at their community center had well versed them in application clichés, and little else. You know what’s funny about writing that you’re a hard worker in a cover letter? If it’s there, I’ll notice it and roll my eyes. If it isn’t there, I absolutely will not notice it’s missing, nor wonder, “Hmm, why didn’t they say they’re a hard worker? Are they NOT a hard worker? I ONLY WANT SOMEONE WHO WILL GRIND ALL DAY! NEXT!”
What is there to say to those people other than, “Your determination is impressive, and frankly, touching, but the fact that you likely sent this email from a library computer leads me to believe that you probably don’t know much about the Adobe Creative Suite or social media, so we’re going to have to pass.” Holy crap that’s mean, but again, it’s true. I wasn’t hiring interns to help dreams take flight; I was hiring interns to do my shittiest jobs for me.
The faux eloquence attempted in the cover letters resulted in messy, awkward sentences that read as if someone had highlighted every word and punched the right mouse key until they found a synonym with at least three syllables
So many of the cover letters that accompanied the barren, horrifically formatted résumés of the unqualified also included sentimental backstories of hardship and whatnot. Those were the worst. Pretty much everyone will agree that you do not want your cover letter to be bland or boring, you want it to stand out and be representative of your personality. That said, you should try to keep things light. A touch of sentimentality is fine, but a sob story that makes me want to jump off the roof is not. I don’t care how crazy or hard what you had to go through was, if you spend more than fifty words on your plight then you’ll sound like a bummer. Guess what, Debbie Downer? Work is already miserable enough, so I don’t want to face the possibility of water cooler chats so depressing they make me want to go back to my desk and slit my wrists with a letter opener. I blame that movie The Pursuit of Happyness for all those sad cover letters. That movie sucks.
Aside from not possessing any of the skills we required of our interns, the unqualified candidates also almost universally were less than competent at using a thesaurus, though they certainly did use one. The faux eloquence attempted in the cover letters resulted in messy, awkward sentences that read as if someone had highlighted every word and punched the right mouse key until they found a synonym with at least three syllables, sentences such as, “My possession of devotion towards all my endeavors that I pursue is my utmost attribute.” Thank you for delivering the “hard worker” cliché like you’re a drunk, early 19th Century nobleman, now excuse me while I go down to the alley, light a dumpster on fire, and throw everything you sent me into it. Those types of sentences were abundant, and made me want to slam my head against my desk (though generally I would just give up and take a nap under it instead).
Almost all the cover letters I discarded bummed me out in one way or another. I wished those people the best, I really did, but holy crap I hope they weren’t feeding this useless bullshit to every job they were applying for, because all those dreams were probably going to stay dead. Meanwhile, to this day, the people at Grandex have still never read my cover letter or résumé. That’s probably why I got the job.