Job Hunting

About this time last year I was finishing up my first-ever job in retail. I was looking to pick up a few holiday dollars, the libraries weren’t hiring, and, as retail goes, a bookstore is the place to be. It was, however, a learning experience for a librarian with a degree in art history. I am firmly convinced that everyone in America should have to work retail at least once in their life. Community service is good too, but you learn things on the other side of the register that you won’t learn anywhere else.

So here’s a letter I sent out to some friends while I was still trying to get hired.


Yesterday I applied for some part-time/temporary/seasonal hours (could it be any more provisional?) at the local bookstore. I gave them a copy of my resume at the store, but the application itself was filled out online. Such an application! After all the usual stuff about work experience and “Are you a convicted felon?” and “When are you available?” there was a 37 page personality test. Five questions per page. By the end of it, I was really wondering.

There were the usual kinds of “I work best as part of a team.” (Strongly agree/agree/disagree/strongly disagree) and the “I feel confident about my ability to learn new skills” (Strongly agree/agree/disagree/strongly disagree) questions—asked repeatedly in slightly different forms to check for consistency and strength of feeling. But then there were some strange questions–

“It is wrong to fake being polite.”      (Strongly agree/agree/disagree/strongly disagree)

Now, how can you fake being polite? You are or you aren’t. You either say the words or you don’t. What you feel while you say them is irrelevant. If I am polite to a customer who disgusts me, my disgust doesn’t diminish my politeness or make it inauthentic. WHO THOUGHT UP THIS QUESTION?! Do they even know what polite means? What did they think they were asking?

And what about “I always finish my work no matter what.” Have these people ever had a real life? What if they’re locking the front door and closing the store? What if someone falls down and cuts their head open and there’s blood gushing? What if terrorists come in the front door with uzis? Should I finish stocking the displays before I put my hands in the air? What is this “no matter what” talk?

And then, right in the middle of a bunch of innocuous job behavior questions they come out with

“It is so annoying when judges let guilty criminals go free.” (Strongly agree/agree/disagree/strongly disagree)

I just answered the questions and clicked on submit. I hope they think my high school grade average was sufficient.

I’ll keep you posted.

4 thoughts on “Job Hunting

  1. I worked for a small pharmacy for two years as a cashier and doing a little bit of work in the pharmacy. Dealing with people who need medications and insurance problems is definitely an interesting experience.
    Since it was a small store my interview pretty much consisted of “when can you start?”, they really needed people.
    I am wary of these personality tests, but who am I to question their hiring process? The last question did make me laugh a little “It is so annoying when…” gosh like totally!

  2. Seemss like questionaires are designed for the people who write them rather than the people who answer them. when I get one I ask myself, “What does this person really want for an answer since the question never quite fits my thinking.

  3. I’ve worked my share of retail, the most recent time in a bookstore…

    Have you read Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickled and Dimed? This questionnaire strikes me as an exhibit that could be there… It seems to me it is less about finding the right candidate than testing for submission, not to mention to communicate to prospective employees that their status will be something less than entirely human.

  4. I’ve read this a few times; too funny! In my college psych classes, we studied about the MMPI, basically, “how to find out if the applicant has a personality disorder.” At one of my jobs, the whole staff had to take the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, which reveals one’s preferences. Great for self-revelation and siginficiant relationships, but at work, it seemed to be used more as a weapon (it’s because she’s THAT way).

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