Jul 08, 2013 0 Share

Gaining Experience


Blue-tinted job application next to keyboard.
iStockphoto

As promised, I took Cameron job hunting last week. My, how things have changed! I naively thought that applying for work at fast food restaurants was much the same as it was for me when I was in high school. Back then, applicants filled out applications and were often given an interview and a job offer on the spot. Thus, I took Cameron door to door and prompted him to request an application. Each request was countered with a website address. I was left slapping my forehead. Of course everything is online! Why didn’t I think of that? I realized one could apply online, but I didn’t realize it was the only way to apply. Instead of filling out applications, Cameron left copies of his resume, and the search moved to cyberspace.

Even the information gathered via the application process is different than in my day. In addition to the typical job and education history, there is a personality assessment test that must be completed. Cameron was applying at four locations, so the process was done four times. The first application we completed together. The assessment test consisted of approximately 80 questions, many of which were very similar. For this application, I read the questions to Cameron and marked his responses as he made them. He quickly became frustrated, as many of the questions are very similar. I made a few suggestions when I felt the answer didn’t reflect Cameron’s personality, but for the most part, I stuck with Cameron’s initial answers. The first application took almost an hour to complete. And there were three more to go! For each application, there was a website registration process, the personal history data entry, and the assessment test. It was tedious, to say the least.

As I went through the next three applications, I stopped asking for Cameron’s involvement. It was all I could do to get him to sit through the first application. Now mind you, I really, really try to get Cameron to do things himself and would’ve loved to have had him complete the applications on his own. I felt somewhat guilty and a bit like an overprotective mother hen to be the one answering the questions on Cameron’s behalf. But had Cameron been left to his own devices to complete the process, I doubt he would’ve been able to complete one application, much less four.

This process has further opened my eyes to difficulties workers with disabilities face when seeking employment. For someone with learning disabilities, completing a personality assessment may end in results that are no reflection of the individual whatsoever. Among the many skills needed to complete an application one needs reading skills, comprehension skills, concentration, and stamina to just make it to the end of the personality assessment. And the job the individual is applying for may require none of the above! I became totally frustrated by this online application process. I felt that somewhere, in some cyber cloud, some data analytic software would automatically weed Cameron and others like him out of the candidate pool. On the other hand, if the hiring manager were to meet Cameron in person, he or she would be able to assess Cameron’s enthusiastic approach to work and get a sense for him in a way that no computer program could replicate.

Cameron’s four applications have resulted in one interview so far. Cameron went to the interview on his own, and came out pleased with himself. I phoned the manager afterwards, and explained my willingness to support Cameron in any way needed, and offered to be first point of contact if any issues arise. I stressed how much Cameron loves to work and how reliable and punctual he is. Maybe this was a step too far on my part, but I want to support Cameron and his employer and help them have a successful relationship. Cameron may not get job experience this summer, but he’s getting job search experience. Experience is good, regardless of its nature. It’s all about learning, and it’s all good.