Thursday, September 23, 2010

Supplemental questions: Why bother with the interview?

Day 115 with no job
Someone pointed out the other day that my blog wasn’t really clear in regard to what my  profession was when I became a budget-cut casualty or what kind of work I am looking for. So, I’ll briefly summarize here. Other than being a trainer for a consulting firm for just under a year, my resume is jam packed with 14 years of experience in the Social Services field. Child Protective Services Social Worker, Social Worker Supervisor and Child Protective Services Manager – actually we call it Child Welfare Services now. So, my job hunt has been primarily in Government, Management, and Social Services, mainly because that’s the area in which I have experience. I’ve had other types of jobs, but who wants to go back more than 14 years in a resume? Not me.
In April it occurred to me that, with my training job winding down, it was time to start the job hunt again. I took the advice of some work colleagues and signed up for a couple of those websites where you upload your resume and they match you with jobs that fit your skill set. All I got out of that experience was an offer to rewrite my resume for $300 and a lot of other emails trying to sell me tools to find a job. Call me skeptical, but I think they just wanted my money.
I dumped the websites and continued my job hunt by looking for more county job opportunities. Not satisfied with being rejected by two counties (three if you count the one that laid me off in the first place) I decided to branch into three more and try again at one of the counties that rejected me earlier in the year. Yeah, I know, I’m a glutton for punishment, or maybe I just don’t know how to take “no” for an answer. I interviewed for Social Worker positions in two counties, Staff Development Officer in another, and Deputy Director in still another. I actually made it to the final interview for the Deputy Director position, but no dice.
During this whole process I made an observation: Answering supplemental questions sucks! And, they have become as many and as detailed as the interview questions themselves. In fact, during a couple of the interviews I was asked several of the questions that I had already answered when I submitted my application and answers to the supplemental questions. What I am wondering is why they even  bother having the interview? Were they testing me to see if the answers matched? I actually interviewed for one job where the panel admitted to never having seen my supplemental question answers!! (This was one of the ones where they were asking questions I'd already answered).
Don’t get me wrong; having been a manager, I believe that supplemental questions have their place in the hiring process. In hiring Social Workers, we would have a couple of basic questions to make sure they could actually write in a somewhat intelligent manner. I think that like cover letters, they are merely tools used by employers to wean out applicants and thus make the interview pool manageable. In this economy, where there are 100 people applying for one position, it only makes sense to trim the fat. Just the existence of supplemental questions, weeds out some individuals (I’ve passed over applying for a position or two because I just couldn’t pull anything together). But, PLEASE, if you are going to have supplemental questions as part of the application process, read the answers and don’t ask the same questions in the face to face interview.

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