Today, I'm full of thoughts on many issues. Some even include knitting....but mostly they're about advertising/marketing and the job market.
Once upon a time, it seemed that advertising involved providing information to a potential customers or others who might want what you're advertising to show that the thing advertised filled a need the customer had. Then, it seemed that ads switched to creating desire for items, by providing some information about the commodity (or job). Now it seems that advertising is designed to create desire by providing as little information as possible, and sometimes, providing misinformation. (I'm going to bypass my opinions on advertising prescription medicine, despite their obvious relationship to the theme of creating desire without providing information, or we'll be here all day).
Until recently, I hadn't noticed this advertising trend in the Help Wanted ads, but as I embark on the project of replacing my former job, I'm discovering all sorts of things about employers. To be fair, I have noticed an improvement in the communication process. In years past, I'd carefully craft my cover letters, and carefully adapt my resume to highlight the ways in which my experience and skills meet the needs defined in the want ad. I'd send my cover letter and resume off to the appointed person within the appointed deadline, and hear nothing whatsoever in return. It is incredibly disheartening to toil over cover letters and resumes, adapting them appropriately for the position for which you're applying, only to send them into what seems like a communication vacuum. For the first time in YEARS it seems that applying for the jobs I find actually nets some response. I am pleased about this.
However, I've found a new wrinkle in the employers' approach to hiring. Several ads to which I responded turned out to be prime examples of advertising while providing minimal if not misleading information. I've responded to at least two ads that appear to be invitations to apply for jobs with companies who do not, in fact, intend to be hiring employees.... they are seeking Independent Contractors. An independent contractor is not an employee; he or she is actually self employed! Thus, he or she is not entitled to any benefits, and is required to pay not only his/her own social security tax, but the employer's portion of the social security tax as well.
I wonder at these companies who advertise seeking people to "fill positions" when what they're really doing is looking to hire "independent contractors". These want ads generaly succeed in creating desire or expectation about an opportunity by describing a job (one even mentioned benefits), and describing the company for which you'd be doing the job, all the while knowing that you would not actually be an employee if they hired you. Legally, it's a big difference. First there are the benefits an independent contractor doesn't get, and the bonus taxes an independent contractor has to pay (being, as they are, self employed). But there are also other rights an independent contractor doesn't have: An independent contractor can't get worker's compensation payments if injured on the job. And an independent contractor can't sue for any number of things that the EEOC prohibits (sexual harassment, discrimination, etc.). Perhaps that is why the ads do their best to disguise the nature of the relationship that the person hiring is trying to create. Of course, one wonders... do I really want to get into a relationship that was initiated through deception, no matter how minor?
I responded to one ad in the paper seeking to hire a "Staff Attorney" to work for a university; it turns out that the University is not actually hiring an employee, but is seeking an independent contractor. The very word "staff" implies "employee" to me. There are others, not quite as misleading, but still full of all the stuff that leads you to believe that you will be employed by a company, not merely contracted to work for them. To be fair, the Staff Attorney folks immediately followed up with an email explaining the whole independent contractor thing, and asking whether I was still interested in pursuing the position. I didn't learn that about one other position until I'd appeared for the first round of interviews.
This deception thing bugs me. These employers would fire you in a heartbeat for putting something misleading on your resume (the thing you use to get them to talk to you about the job), but they seem to be okay with putting something misleading in their ads (the thing they use to get you to talk to them about the job.) It might bug me less if it weren't true that health insurance is a benefit that is important to me. Or if I didn't WANT a 401(k) option. But it still seems misleading to appear to be seeking an employee when you don't actually want one. And that bugs me.
Of course, this may just be the new wave of employment practices. After all, independent contractors cost the employer less (until we all demand more money to compensate for the fact that we get no benefits and have to pay more of our 'salary' in taxes).
Then, of course, there are the ads that don't tell you what the employer wants you to be doing. This is the epitome of creating desire without providing any information. Looking for a job? we have one! It may be the opportunity you're seeking... just send in your stuff and we'll tell you later what we want you to do. Usually, I bypass these, assuming that they're commission sales with a low base to push an odious product. (I could be missing out, but I'm risk averse and don't like pigs in pokes).
Here's one that I am going to investigate though: They want someone "good with words" who is organized (they all want organized folks), detail oriented (ditto), and proficient with MS Word to handle multiple projects on deadlines working with authors and publishers. That's it. That's all you get to know. Well, that and there's some test involved, which they'll tell you about after they get your cover letter and resume.
Let's assume for the moment that I apply for and get this job. What will I be doing? I can't tell whether I will be reading manuscripts, typing them up, editing them, advertising them or.. doing something that doesn't involve manuscripts at all. Thus, as I sit down to draft a cover letter (which I will mail to a P.O. box with no company name), I don't know what to say. Do I focus on my communication skills in general? my experience in editing professionally? my experience in writing? my ability to generate spreadsheets and databases to keep track of all my yarn? my insane tendency to catalog not only books but magazines? the fact that I do really good phone? or that I can use project management software? or perhaps my understanding of just what is involved in making a book tour work (having diligently followed the Harlot's experiences and learned from them)? Ah well, it does say "benefits" and that just might mean that they're hiring an actual employee......
I guess I'll start with the fact that I do love words. After all, the first thing the ad asks is whether I'm good with words. I like to think I'm good with them. At the least I never abuse them by applying them in grammatically awful sentences, for example, and I try not to over use any given word when it has lots of useful synonyms.
Meanwhile, perhaps I'll work on a pamphlet that translates what these want ads are really saying.