William Thien

Having Trouble Finding Work? Maybe It’s Because Often Employers Are Really Just Harvesting Your Data. Care for Cookie?

Posted on: August 21, 2014

Someone I know and respect asked me to write something about the difficulty of finding a job these days on behalf of one of their loved ones and so here it is. This could very easily be about myself, though, or you.

Could it be that one of the reasons it is so difficult to get a job these days is because those who have the jobs make it so difficult to get the jobs in the first place? Or do they really have that many jobs to begin with? Are all of these numbers the government is always throwing around and employers are touting for real? Do they really have that many jobs or is there something else going on?

The reason I ask is that when I was younger, often getting a job meant asking someone, “Hey, I’m looking for work. Do you have anything right now?” If they had work and thought you could do it, they would put you right to work.

If you were still there at the end of the day, they would have you fill out an application which consisted of your name and address and where you’d worked previously and some contact information for those employers. You completed a tax statement regarding withholding from your check and that was it. Sometimes it was a little more complicated than that, sometimes less. But you were paid for that day’s work and hired if they asked you to come back. Not these days.

Today when you apply, many corporations make you complete an online application that frequently takes several hours of your time and requires that a rather intrusive, personal questionnaire to be answered. Many companies make you enact the actual job you will be doing by using role-playing software online that requires you to role play in the job of the potential employee. By the time you are finished with the application, often you have spent three or four hours, sometimes more of your time and still don’t have any response from the employer. You are working and not getting paid. I’m talking about the larger corporate employers of course, but many if not most have something similar involved nowadays. Is there a need for all of this pre-screening? To be sure, it has value, value in more ways than one of course as well shall see.

The reasoning behind it all is that employers believe they can acquire employees that are more suitable for the particular position and protect themselves from potential liability at the same time. And those are good reasons! But just as often employers are merely acquiring data on the person who wants to work there because the applicant also patronizes the place of business. People are known to apply to work at places they like to visit. In other words employers are telling applicants they have a job but instead what they are doing is testing the applicant in a marketing sense and acquiring extremely valuable data about your likes, interests, and financial position, in order to be more competitive.

To acquire that data by collecting it in another fashion, legitimately that is, they would have to pay an agency a lot of money. By having you answer some questions during the application process, they can essentially force you to provide the data to them for free. Employers are known to take a resume that you have sent to them in an email, populate it into a database, and then send you targeted advertisements based on the information, such as your hobbies and travel interests that you list in your resume, when you simply thought you were applying for a job. Employers are also known to accumulate information from all of the resumes they receive and create a picture of the potential customer by melding and merging information from all of the resumes. Not a bad idea in a business sense really, just a little bit unscrupulous, that’s all.

What’s really frightening is that the entire process dramatically increases your vulnerability to identity theft as your information is traded from one interested party to another. Your file is enlarged as more information is added along the way. Soon, someone, a corporation or a political party perhaps, is bound to have everything about you that they need to do whatever they want to you when all you were doing at the onset was looking for a job.

Let me add that I am a conservative and believe business needs to be able to function in the most unrestricted manner possible.

Yet I think the type of behavior I describe here should be regulated. At a time when many Americans are desperately looking for a “decent” job, many employers are taking advantage of the circumstances and doing just what I describe. I know others who have had to endure the same process over and over again never to hear from the potential employer once they jump through all the hoops. Kind of tells you something, doesn’t it?

That is why I believe the application process should be limited to merely asking the necessary questions to determine if the person is eligible to work in the particular environment in question and then a process should take effect whereby the applicant is promised reciprocal progress from the potential employer in some regard. In other words, there should be steps involved that require the employer to first check for potential employability for that particular position and then the employer requests that the potential employee carry on with the application process with certain promises involved.

Instead, what is happening is that many, many employers are doing what in the statistics business is called “Harvesting Data,” and they are abusing a population desperately in need of decent employment by testing them, poking and prodding them as they apply for work with no real ability or intent to employ each and every one who completes the surveys, questionnaires, the intrusive psychological batteries of questions that so many people looking for work must complete.

But it doesn’t stop there. Oh no! Once you complete all of that, many employers will make you take a drug screen, too, a drug screen often merely to earn minimum wage, after all of that other rigmarole.

They want to know about your driving record, have you ever been arrested, can they check your credit score, do you Facebook, do you have any debts, single, married, military service, education level, and the list goes on and on today. They don’t want to know if you can do the job and do it well, they want primarily to know “ABOUT” you. Employers buy and sell the information they receive from massive numbers of resumes after the information has been put in to databases. Yes! They do. It’s a source of profit.

They are not looking for a reason to hire you anymore; the entire process is backwards. They instead are looking for a reason NOT to hire you these days. It’s called screening. It’s always been done of course but now it is has become an intrusive, predatory, profitable practice. You could be the most competent, the most capable candidate for the job but perhaps your credit score is a little low. Maybe there is a picture of you on a web site at a party living it up. Maybe they hired some firm to check you out. You are out of contention! But you know what, they still have all of your information, don’t they? Yes, they do. And they will use it. You can bet on that. They don’t purge it.

How could they make any money off of your information if they purged it? In statistics you are now what is called a “case.” You have an electronic file at that corporation. When you were filling out that app, you know what they did? They left a “cookie” on your hard drive. If you didn’t remove it, now they know where you surf the internet. Now your file grows and grows. They know all about you. They may even find something interesting about you in your resume and begin searching for information about you on the internet and build that file so they can test you. Oh, yes. They do that. Make no mistake. You have to be careful when you apply at a corporation these days. Ever look at a corporation when you are driving by and ask you yourself, “I wonder what they make there?” Maybe they are making YOU! Why don’t you send them your resume?

So, no wonder it is so difficult to get a job. The actual process of getting a job is often working against you and it is in fact designed to work against you.

It wasn’t like that when I was younger. I can’t believe that somehow all Americans have become monsters that would destroy a corporation in a way that the application process indicates they all are. Maybe it is the other way around. Maybe the reason people are having trouble getting jobs these days is because employers are making the task of getting a job simply too difficult and instead profiting from the process at the same time in what some might say is a predatory fashion. Yes, maybe that’s what is happening. Or maybe there is no “maybe” about it. By the time you complete the entire process, some “holier than thou” person you never meet has found some selection you have made online in the application process they didn’t like or you don’t match “the profile,” when instead all they really are doing is “harvesting data” only to use it against you in a sales pitch perhaps to profit from your need to work.

You might ask, well if the unemployed aren’t working, they don’t have any money, why would they want to market to them in the first place? Quite the opposite. Marketers focus intently on the unemployed because many of the unemployed are receiving weekly benefits and not working. They have leisure time, time to spend their benefit money. Marketers also focus on single women having children out-of-wedlock who receive government benefits. Last year over forty percent of children were born to single mothers, nearly half. It’s a huge market. HUGE! It’s a science.

You often hear employers clamoring that they can’t get enough trained people in the US and they want to hire from outside the US. They want the State Department to increase US work visas for foreign nationals. Why? They claim that there are not enough US applicants. Why? Because the system of hiring has screened any potential US citizens out! The US produces more thoroughly trained applicants than any other place in the world and does it well. It’s just that the hiring process precludes many of them from working in The US. And the employers want a tax break for hiring foreign nationals, too! Go figure.

Some might say, “Bill, stop it. You are killing us. We are trying to do business here.” My response, “It’s a flawed business model. You don’t treat your customers that way. That’s not how you treat the American public.”

It’s time to regulate the job application process.

Copyright © William Thien 2014

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