When I was growing up there was a completely different type of work force out there. Employers interviewed you with a list of questions they established themselves that suited their business and their requirements for bringing someone on board. Of course you dressed for the part putting on your most suited clothing so the prospective employer could envision you doing the job he was interviewing you for. You would show up a wee bit early, you spoke with clarity, you shook hands, and you’d say things like “please” and “thank you”, and you’d follow up with a letter to the prospective employer assuring them that their time with you was well spent and very appreciated.
Lately, I have tailored my resume and covering letter to apply for jobs in three different retail stores where I love to shop, and where I could see myself working. I think one thing I forgot was to look at these establishments from “inside the box”, because my attempts at applying for a job discouraged me to no end, and having visited these stores after the fact as a customer, I realized how much had changed from “my day” when having a job was something you appreciated, respected, and “gave your all” to, because that is what was expected of you by your employer and your customers, and if you didn’t do your job, you were hauled into a manager’s office and told to shape up or ship the hell out.
There used to be dress codes or uniforms for employees to wear, and things like chewing gum on the job, wearing excessive jewellery, and accepting or making personal calls wasn’t just taboo, you wouldn’t even think of doing it because you were on your employer’s time, not your own.
So, I take my professional looking resume and covering letter to Costco, knowing that they pay well and are staffed appropriately for their volume of customers telling me that service is something they take seriously. The girl receiving my resume looks at the envelope and information with shock and says “what a great looking envelope and resume!” to which I reply “why thank you, I would give you anything less”. And we smile. Then, she breaks the news to me about how many applications they receive every day, and how their hiring for this year won’t take place until April. She goes on to tell me that the people they hire in April are hired for the season, and depending on their performance, they “may” be lucky enough to be brought on as permanent staff if there are openings. I don’t understand this one hiring per year policy, nor do I understand why it is that my “great looking envelope and resume” is not capable of alerting anyone to the fact that I might be worth looking into as a potential employee. Interview me now, and say “Come April, yes you have a job with us”, or “Thank you for your time, we’ll be in touch” (which I know translates to “don’t let the door hit you on the way out”.
A couple of days later I’m in Costco as a customer looking at the insides of this megabucks operation and what do I see? I see employees wearing torn jeans, and girls with their bellies showing and untucked shirts, unkept hair and piercings galore. I hear two employees griping about another who hasn’t returned from her break, so they are stuck on cash and “it isn’t fair”. I see a food court area with filthy tables covered in napkins and bits of wasted French fries. There’s mustard and relish all over the place and spilled pop on the floor. There’s a long line up to get out of the store of course because someone has to cross check your purchases with your receipt in 1.25 seconds and swipe a black marker down the paper to indicate that you actually paid for your items and that you aren’t a thief. But they’re not hiring until April, and then I have to prove myself worthy to be brought on as a permanent employee? Right.
Oh well I think, Let’s drive to stop number two on my list. Surely they will be hiring with the upcoming spring and summer season I think, so it’s off to Home Depot I go where I see they now have a greeter to hand out the flyer of the week (the same flyer I get in that 5.5 pound “Peterborough This Week” package that fills my mailbox). “No thanks sir, but can you tell me where I should go to apply for a job?” I ask. He politely points me to the customer service counter. As the next person in line, I see two employees working the counter, one busy with a customer, the other not being at all busy, unless standing there looking pretty is part of her job description. Finally, she notices me standing there, and calls me to the counter and I explain that I would like to submit my application for a job. The look on her face clearly says “oh brother another one”, but she cheerily goes through the routine and asks if I’ve filled out an application yet. “No I haven’t I say”, so she hands me the glossy printed form along with a business card pointing out the Home Depot website and says, they like you to submit your resume online as well. She directs me to a chair so I can fill out the application, and I begin the process.
Now, we all know that every question on any application is offered on the resume, that is just the way it works, but I know that this is their way of ascertaining if I can follow directions, so I begin to copy the information from one to the other. Two questions on the application bother me. The first is “what position are you applying for?” and the other is “What is your expected wage?” First off, I don’t know of any available positions, so I write “sales” thinking that should be a clear indicator of where I see myself being positioned if hired (that and the fact that my resume and covering letter clearly establish that). I leave the expected wage section blank because I assume that any retail establishment would generally have a non-negotiable wage structure in place, and I figured that by putting down $25 per hour would result in my application being put in the trash immediately.
I take the application back to the cheery lady at the service counter and I explain why I’ve left the wage question blank, and she says, not to worry because “everyone gets hired at minimum wage anyway”. And she again tells me to be sure and submit my resume online when I get home. I ask her what format do they wish the resume to be in, wondering if they want a Word file, or if a PDF one is acceptable. She looks at me like I’m purple. Actually, she looks at me like I’m purple with yellow stripes. “Oh I’m not sure about that, I just don’t understand all this high tech stuff. It’s all I can do to work these things” as she points to the computer transaction system.
I thank her for her time, and head out the way I came in, and the gentleman greeter asks how I fared. “Fine, thank you” I reply, and he asked me what I put down under “position applied for”. I tell him “sales” and he says “you won’t get hired”. He adds "They like to see a specific department or two in there”, and he goes on to explain that the applications are filed under the desired department and when an opening comes up in that department they access the applications submitted specifically for that service. I return to the counter and tell the lady what I was just told, and she says, “yes, that’s right”, so she retrieves the application from her manager’s office, and comes out giggling. Something was said in there, and I felt the complete fool as she came up to me with my application. I added “Décor, and Kitchens” to the paperwork, and again thanked her, thanked the gentleman once again for his help, and got the hell out to my car.
Believe it or not, I was completely exhausted and disenchanted by these experiences, and I decide not to visit Canadian Tire (stop number three) because I just can’t take any more “stupid”.
At home I go to the Home Depot website to submit my resume. I don’t know if anyone reading this has ever applied for a job online, but the fact is that it’s not an easy process, nor are there any answers to the questions you may have during the process. I am faced with a questionnaire that asks for which position I am applying, and then it spits out where that position is available at Home Depot stores across Canada. Of course Peterborough isn’t on the list, so I cannot proceed to submit my resume. I try another position… nope. Then, as I’m getting frustrated about this whole online application bullshit I think I’ve found a way to submit my resume “generically”, but I think to myself… “It’s a fucking minimum wage job in a clearly understaffed store and they think I’m going to jump through all these hoops?” I close my browser window, open a beer and wish I’d never ventured out at all that day.
You see, these stores are filled with employees that are useless when it comes to customer service. They can barely dress themselves, and they give the impression that everyone in the world owes them something. There is no pride in themselves or the workplace, and customer service and respect has gone the way of the dodo. That is why there are no jobs out there for people who present themselves like a professional, are willing to work hard, and believe that good old fashioned values make for a good employee.
That is why I believe that there are no jobs for me, and that is why I have to re-think what the hell I’m going to do. My mother and father raised me with these values. They put their love and energy into moulding who and what I am, and I’ll be damned if I’ll sacrifice any of it to work in a Costco, a Home Depot, Canadian Tire or any other business that couldn’t care less about those who pay their salaries – the customer.