Friday, 27 November 2009

The plight of the unemployed


Becoming one of the 4.5 million UK unemployed has been frankly my most humiliating experience to date. And no, not because you can be spotted popping to the corner shop at midday in your pyjamas to buy a pint of milk for those endless cuppas, but because of the wholly embarrassing process of dealing with recruitment agents.

If you are a lucky enough – and it is pure luck – to get a call from one of these heinous monsters, they will chatter incomprehensibly down the phone to you before asking you to attend a meeting in approximately 15 minutes, on the other side of London.

You arrive in your suit, either because you have been outright told to, or because it is assumed you will, to find some run-down rabbit’s warren of an office on the fourth floor of a crumbling old building, usually in a swanky part of town. They greet you in practically their slippers and a dressing gown and from the word go you feel overdressed, out of place, and a total pillock.

They will ask you to complete a form which tediously contains identical information to that of the CV you have just emailed to them, but is apparently much more useful in your own illegible hand. I can only assume at this stage they are trying to weed out the candidates who eat the clipboard and stick the pen up their nose.

Then the real humiliation begins ... They plonk you in front of an antiquated computer and subject you to mind-numbingly banal or ludicrously impossible tests, and often a combination of the two. 15 minutes copy typing the six rules of good communication and they have the audacity to ask if you maintained full concentration throughout!

Then the outrageously obscure commands on Excel and Word which you are expected to perform instantly. Amazing that I have survived to the ripe old age of 24 without ever having created my own digital certificate for self-signing a macro before! Or my personal favourite: “Are the numbers 114286 and 114236 a) the same or b) different?” I only wish I were joking.

So you endure this torture, often receiving diddly-squat feedback, which really hammers home how utterly pointless the exercise has been, before the consultant sits you down and patronises you by telling you how perfect you are for this role, or for a role which may or may not appear on their desk in the next 12 months.

“You may well be rejected for a job you could do
with your eyes closed, hopping on one leg
eating a Curly Wurly, with a hangover.”

Now, I may have been sucked into this approach if whilst I had been taking my moron and/or computer nerd test the recruitment agent had not given precisely the same spiel to two other candidates who walked into the office to apply for exactly the same job! These creatures are notoriously two-faced, but telling three people they will definitely get the same job in the space of 15 minutes in front of each other takes them to a whole new level of despicability.

And if you do eventually secure a couple of measly interviews from all your draining persistence then you will endure the further degradation of having to reinvent yourself to suit the firm’s poxy values and ultimately abandoning all that you hold dear. You will lie and hear yourself do it and wonder how you will sleep at night. You will politely reel off facts and figures from the website when they are self-righteous enough to ask you “What have you managed to find out about our company?” And you will inevitably emerge feeling dirty and used.

To add insult to injury you may well then be rejected for a job that you know you could do with your eyes closed, hopping on one leg eating a Curly Wurly, with a hangover. “Another candidate’s skill-set matched our needs more exactly” – which essentially means they have a two-month GNVQ in photocopying rather than a cripplingly expensive degree from a prestigious university.

And you know what? They’re right. I certainly know which of those two candidates is the brightest.

Better dash; I have to complete an online hula-hooping test for an audio typing role based in Bromley. Read more by Cat.