the fo­rum

The Weekend Australian - Review - - INSIDE - Lex Hall

It’s a per­verse irony that as the labour mar­ket tight­ens, hu­man re­sources de­part­ments seem con­tin­u­ously to swell. As a cruel con­se­quence, the job ap­pli­ca­tion process seems to be get­ting more and more tor­tu­ous. In the old days, land­ing a job was easy. You spot­ted a post you liked and con­tacted the com­pany to flag your in­ter­est. They rang you back. Then fol­lowed a nice face-to-face chat, a quick pe­rusal of your re­sume and — if you were lucky — a stand-up, wel­come-aboard, see-you-on-Mon­day hand­shake.

How things have changed. To­day re­cruit­ment is a law unto it­self, a shad­owy di­vi­sion staffed by evil ge­niuses ca­pa­ble of de­vis­ing in­creas­ingly es­o­teric ob­sta­cle cour­ses for the un­wit­ting job­seeker.

A re­cent and strik­ing ex­am­ple has been dreamed up by big four ac­count­ing firm KPMG. The ab­bre­vi­ated name of the firm alone tells you there’ll be the usual bat­tery of psy­cho­me­t­ric tests be­fore your CV even reaches HR.

But as part of its lat­est hir­ing drive, KPMG has added an­other painstak­ing layer to the process. Some cun­ning devil in the re­cruit­ment depart­ment, per­haps a dis­grun­tled for­mer ac­coun­tant, has con­ceived an in­ge­nious way to stream­line things.

Gone is the te­dious “tell us a bit about your­self” com­po­nent of the job in­ter­view. In­stead, po­ten­tial re­cruits are asked to kindly sub­mit a four-minute “selfie” video.

The aim, as KPMG puts it, is to iden­tify a prospec­tive em­ployee’s “per­sonal im­pact”. They don’t sim­ply want ac­coun­tants; they want peo­ple who pos­sess “busi­ness crit­i­cal com­pe­ten­cies that are rel­e­vant to our evolv­ing busi­ness, with its em­pha­sis on in­no­va­tion and ag­ile work­ing”.

Per­sonal im­pact, busi­ness crit­i­cal com­pe­ten­cies, ag­ile work­ing: per­sua­sive stuff, isn’t it? But I rather think that what they’re re­ally try­ing to say is, “Look, we haven’t got time to see you all. Just talk to your­self for a bit, and we’ll have a squiz to see if you’ve got a pulse.”

The term per­sonal im­pact, aside from the creepy echo of the term vic­tim im­pact state­ment, throws up all sorts of am­bi­gu­i­ties. Where you hear “in­ter­per­sonal skills and pre­sen­ta­tion” some­one else is po­ten­tially con­stru­ing the term to mean any­thing from an em­ployee’s body odour to their po­ten­tial to com­mit as­sault.

Even if you pos­sess the req­ui­site per­sonal im­pact, there’s still the nag­ging busi­ness of the cur­ricu­lum vi­tae. Once a quaint lit­tle chronol­ogy of your school­ing and work ex­pe­ri­ence, the hum­ble re­sume has been el­e­vated to what the re­cruit­ing cognoscenti call a “mar­ket­ing doc­u­ment”. You’re no longer a job­seeker. You’re a brand in tran­si­tion, re­mem­ber? But therein lies a prob­lem. When you reach a cer­tain age, it may take a cou­ple of pages, at least, to list your ed­u­ca­tion and ex­pe­ri­ence. For­get that. Th­ese days, the re­cruiter takes an av­er­age seven sec­onds to eval­u­ate your life’s work. Get it down in one piece of A4 be­cause that’s all they’re ex­pect­ing.

Hence the rise of for­mer model and FBI re­cruit Joanna Wei­den­miller, chief ex­ec­u­tive of 1Page, which re­cently listed on the Aus­tralian Se­cu­ri­ties Ex­change. The name speaks for it­self: you’ve got only a page to sell your­self. And when they say sell your­self, they mean it. The key, as JFK might have said, is to ask not what your prospec­tive em­ployer can do for you but what you can do for your em­ployer.

Even if you do land an in­ter­view, it’s no longer a sim­ple mat­ter of think­ing up some in­ter­est­ing re­sponses to wow your panel of in­quisi­tors; you must come armed with your own set of in­ci­sive re­torts. Hence the plethora of ar­ti­cles in­vari­ably ti­tled “the (in­sert ran­dom num­ber here) ques­tions you must ask in a job in­ter­view”.

Per­haps this con­vo­luted and daunt­ing op­er­a­tion is a back­lash to all the flak the hum­ble ac­coun­tant has had to cop through the years. For as Bri­tish priest and PR guru Ge­orge Pitcher once ob­served, “ac­tu­ar­ies are about as in­ter­est­ing as a foot­note on a pen­sion plan”.

The best ad­vice is prob­a­bly what your mother once gave you: just re­mem­ber to smile and be your­self. And if they ask about your per­sonal im­pact, do as Amer­i­can hu­morist Jack Handey does: ask if they ever press charges.

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