Tales of a Disgruntled Graduate: A View from the Front Lines of the Post-College Job Hunt

Job Non-Descriptions: Deciphering the Hiring Code

If employers really want to expedite the application process (and it’s entirely possible they don’t), they should improve the information they provide applicants about their company and the position they are advertising.  If you think about it, the application process starts long before an employer even reviews your materials.  It starts with the job description.

Apparently there are no rules for putting these things together.  I have read a good handful of ads which fail to mention where the job is, who it’s for, or what, specifically, the job entails.  I have tried to answer them; it is not easy.  To maintain secrecy, the reply-to addresses are listed either as ad numbers for the newspaper or website that carried the ad, or as an e-mail address with no revealing business information.

It’s as if the name of the company is private information until you are hired, at which point they will either explain everything or have you work from home, paying you in cash.  If the latter, you will still be unable to describe your position, responding to friends’ inquiries with a mysterious, “I can’t say…”

With such nondescript descriptions, how are you to write a proper cover letter?  There is nothing more difficult than trying to sound competent and excited about a position you know nothing about.  The ad may read something like, “Office Assistant: Provide general office support, help with special projects as needed.  Excellent communication, computer skills a must.”  From this, you’re expected to produce a well-written, modest yet self-assured letter explaining why these people should hire you over anyone else.  (“From your ad,” you want to write, “I understand you could use someone with attention to detail.”)  With such limited information to go on, your cover letter is doomed from the start.

It makes you wonder if the company is intentionally challenging its applicants to overcome these difficulties and succeed in spite of all obstacles—that’s just the type of creative self-starter they’re looking for.  Or perhaps the employer is putting its own employees to the test, making the HR department work harder: They must discern a qualified match without obtaining any of the necessary information, thereby sharpening their intuition in such matters.


In reality, what I wonder is this: Why is the company intentionally screwing me over?  Frankly, I don’t want to work for anyone who treats potential employees with so little courtesy.  Just imagine what it’d be like as a paid employee.  Be prepared to sharpen that intuition.

The problem is, you could never ask what it’s like working there.  Even if you could get a hold of someone, he couldn’t say…

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