Questions for Google

Dear Google,

Why?Screen shot of guy from Hyundai "Glasses" commercial

Why do you spend money and countless hours working on frivolous projects like driverless cars and glasses to talk to (a.k.a. things no one on our planet, or any other, has need for, or will ever use), and torturing marketers by playing games with your algorithm, when you could spend a fraction of that money and effort and develop something truly useful?

Something like, oh, I don’t know . . . maybe a universal online job application? 

I understand you guys may not be familiar with the whole job-search process (being geniuses and all), so I’ll give you the quick version:

  1. Lose your job (it sucks—you’ll just have to take my word for it)
  2. Scour the Internet daily, looking for job postings (also not a picnic, because—no thanks to search algorithms—it’s not easy to find listings for which you’re a match, so you end up having to read postings that sound really great for about three paragraphs, until you get to the end and see that, oops—you can’t apply for this one after all, because you don’t have the requisite 10 years’ experience raising chinchillas, which is apparently now a requirement for <insert your job title here>)
  3. Eventually, find a match (WOO-HOO—it’s the little victories, at this point)
  4. Upload your resume

Let’s stop here, because this is where the process shoots off the rails.

The resume upload step is usually prompted by some very innocent-sounding instructional copy along the lines of, “Upload your resume to have our system fill out the application for you.” Hey, that sounds nice. I just click, and I’m done!

(I filled out one application recently with messaging that read, “Now just upload your resume and fill out our five-minute job application.” Ninety+ minutes and one system glitch later, I shut down my computer and gave up.)

Anyone who’s ever filled out an online job application knows what happens next. There’s no way in hell your information is getting close to populating the right fields in the online application. Not even if you create a special version of your resume with the exact same field names in the exact same order as the online form. I know. I got desperate enough to try it.

Instead, the software drops job titles into company-name fields, and cleverly pulls phrases from your job descriptions to create positions that don’t exist, with companies that don’t exist.

Next is the cleanup phase, where, in addition to fixing all the errors I just described, you are also required to key in additional information no adult ever includes on a resume. Details like the phone number and street address of each employer (usually with the street address, city, state, and ZIP Code in separate fields, just to make it extra inconvenient), as well as the title, phone number, and email address of every supervisor you’ve ever had.

The last thing any job hunter needs is to waste 90 minutes or more typing irrelevant information into a hideous online form that hasn’t been redesigned since 1998, only to have it all wiped out at 11:53 p.m. by a system error.

Want to know something else no one needs? DRIVERLESS CARS.

Photo of a car accident caused by a parking-assist feature.

Actual accident caused by a car’s parking-assist feature.

Humans can’t reliably manufacture a car guaranteed not to explode, shoot off a tire, or self-accelerate with a driver at the wheel. So I think it’s safe to say that we aren’t capable of manufacturing a driverless vehicle that will work any better.

And even if we could, we don’t need it. It’s not a life necessity. Anyone who cannot drive themselves somewhere figured out a way around that problem a long time ago, and it didn’t involve inventing a new vehicle.

If I get the urge to sit in the back seat of my car and play with my phone instead of driving, I can call a taxi. (Not Uber. My parents taught me not to hitchhike, so no thanks, psycho killer. You may be closer to me than the nearest taxi, but I’ll wait.)

But back to the application. Let’s be glass-half-full people for a moment, and pretend the completed application goes through perfectly. What happens when the HR person attempts to call those supervisors, many of whom no longer work for those companies? And what about the companies that don’t exist anymore?

Time wasted by the applicant and HR. That’s some real product development genius at work.

Photo of a life-sized remote-controlled vehicleSo, Google, while you bogart all the brain power in Silicon Valley to play with giant killer toys, we lowly, non-Google workers are stuck out here on our own to deal with an antiquated, frustrating system of applying for jobs. This is a real problem—a real pain, requiring a real solution. A solution your people probably have the ability to provide.

But it’s not a sexy enough project for you, is it? Streamlining the job-search process for millions of people just lacks any kind of RoboCop flash.

You’ve probably got your own version of Pokemon Go to worry about anyway.

I’ve picked on Google enough. Applicant tracking software is bad, and they likely have the power to improve it. So do the makers of all said crapware.

I’m sure some control is in the hands of employers, though. From what I understand, ATS typically offers the user the ability to select which fields will be required, and which will be optional. Knowing this, I have to ask employers, why must you have the phone number of the shoe store I worked at right out of college (which closed some time during the late ’90s)? What crucial insight into my work ethic or knowledge of marketing or communications is that bit of information going to give you?

I, and probably most other potential employees, have taken the time to craft a thoughtfully designed resume. But why? Employers don’t seem to be interested in what that care, effort, and attention to detail could equate to within their organizations. They’d rather I upload a sloppy, one-size-fits-all, text-only file to their 15-year-old Taleo app, then spend anywhere from one to two hours typing that entire file into the online application by hand, character by character, because Taleo’s crapware can’t distinguish between an employer name and a job description.

A company’s desire to put its applicants through this pointless exercise speaks volumes about how it regards its employees, and how little respect its management has for anyone’s time other than their own. Requiring an experienced professional to fill out the equivalent of a part-time-fast-food job application is an insult.

Even worse is when you go to the effort of including instructions like “Do not write ‘See resume’ in your answers” at the top of each position entry. That says you know you’re frustrating people. They’ve tried to tell you, and you don’t care.

“Show ’em who’s boss” seems to be your philosophy. Wow — great mission statement. If you hire me, will that be printed on the back of my business card?

I spend a lot of time carefully re-crafting and redesigning my resume each time I add a new position to it. That document is my presentation of me. When you force me to ditch that resume, you’re telling me you don’t care about what makes me different from other applicants. You just want me to fit inside your boxes. If what I have to say doesn’t fit into the box, you’re not interested. And if I can’t jump through your hoops, no matter how lame or pointless, I’m not worthy of your consideration. You might as well just insert a photo of your entire company giving us the number-one sign.

Your company might be very successful. But if I’ve described your online application process, that unpleasant experience is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a lot of work to be done within your organization. If you were to take it on, you could be even more successful, and make even more money.

But good enough is good enough, isn’t it? That seems to be the American work ethic now. And, hey—as long as you have your own giant remote-control toy to ride around in when you get home, what else matters?

Image of a luxury yacht made to look like a tropical paradise