It is definitely not the 1980’s anymore. The work environment today has experienced a monumental shift. It is as profound as that of the Industrial Revolution, but much more subtle and, in many ways, invisible. Prior to emails and websites, human resources department were exactly that, human.

Over the last decade, more and more large corporations have opted to use algorithms in order to filter those applying for work at their company. In many box store settings, you can no longer drop off your job application at individual retail locations or even speak to the manager about possible openings. Everything is centralized and monitored by computers.

Case in point. In 2009, I was interviewed “live” during an unscheduled phone call, while I was walking through a busy commuter train station in Montreal. This happened after I had tested the hiring system of a particular company, which refused to allow access to its human resources department in the traditional method circa Post Year 2000.  You could not reach any person, because absolutely no contact information was made available to the public. Since I was curious, I applied using the form provided on the website, where I could only answer their specific questions and offer very little personalized individual information. I pressed send and off it went into the virtual world. I had no name to follow up with, not even an email address.

Fast forward two weeks and I am trying to deal, unprepared, for a guerrilla style “interview” with a person who barely introduced themselves and simply stated that if I answered the following questions, I may or may not be contacted for a second interview. There was no clarification about what would follow after the second interview, if I even made it past this “guardian of the employment gate”. So, I answered to the best of my ability, while barely hearing the questions over the cacophony of sounds, which included the station’s intercom announcing the arrival of the various trains. As suddenly as the call arrived, it was terminated. Again, no information was given to me as to how to follow up. Very much a Hollywood version of, ” Don’t call us, we’ll call you”.

The reason I am writing about this topic, in this week’s column, is the following. On October 12th, I had the pleasure of participating in the local Job Fair at the Filberg Centre. It was such a refreshing experience compared to the very impersonal ones given by large cities like Ottawa and Montreal. Is it still a complicated combination of hoops that one must jump through as a job seeker? It depends on the company and the job sector. In some cases, employers were doing interviews on the spot, while others were asking candidates to submit their resumé electronically. It was well attended and the employers were from a varied cross section of the community. Both the organizers and the representatives staffing the trade show booths were helpful and engaged. Apart from an occasional laptop and video screen, it was all about human resources.

We must always keep in mind that it is one thing to be replaced by a machine, but it is a completely different reality when the machine decides whether you will be employed by a company. A subtle difference with a profound impact on the next generation of job seekers.

 

Catherine Hedrich

Editor in Chief, Tidechange.ca