did this application process go overboard?

A reader writes:

I’m a senior level director with 25+ years of experience and two degrees. A colleague suggested I apply for an open position at a very prestigious organization so I did. When I started the process, I was excited, but by the time I was done, I was frustrated and uninterested in the job.

I thought I was submitting a resume, work samples, and a cover letter, per the ad. No. Once I got in, the automated process required a lot more information than advertised: new account creation, three essay responses that answered questions on DEI (the job isn’t about DEI), an essay answer for each work sample that described my contribution, three references, another essay on why I wanted to work there, and then a summary essay of how my current job relates to the advertised job description. Oh and the system required me to enter all my resume information individually in their system even though they had my resume. They wanted information on every job I’ve ever had, including phone numbers, supervisor contact info, mailing addresses, company websites, an explanation every time I check “do not contact my supervisor,” etc. (I’ve had six jobs, and I don’t know how many internships in my career. Almost all of my supervisors from decades ago aren’t around.)

Here’s what I ended up doing. I uploaded my cover letter, resume, and work samples. My work samples all had my name on them as the sole author so that was my explanation. (And I did do them all myself.) I only manually entered in job information for my current role. I declined to give three references at that time. For all the essay questions, I gave 1-2 sentence responses. For the essay on how my current job relates to the advertisement, I copied a bullet from my resume.

Had I known that system required all of this information, I never would have started the process. I’ve hired so many times before, and I know for a fact the hiring manager doesn’t have time to review 15+ pages of information from every applicant.

I understand I sound like a grumpy old person. In my younger days, I used to jump through ridiculous hoops because I didn’t have as much information to enter and I could set aside an hour or more to fill out applications and write essays. After a few years, I learned that’s a lot of work for minimal chances of getting interviewed, especially when I’d get rejected after a few minutes of applying. Plus the jobs I did get never required excessive information. I’m senior enough now that I don’t have to do that nonsense anymore. I can afford to decline cumbersome application processes when I couldn’t 20 years ago. I’m not desperate to leave my current job or buy food.

What say you? Was I a bit of a snob?


This was excessive by any measure.

Initial application requirements should be, at maximum, a resume and cover letter. Maybe a very short (like one paragraph) answer to a question about something truly essential to the first screening (and even that’s not normally needed). That’s it.

Expecting candidates to write essays for a job they haven’t even passed an initial screening for yet is hugely disrespectful of applicants’ time. Statistically speaking, most of those applicants won’t even advance to an interview, so requiring them to invest time in essay-writing screams “we have zero care for your time at this stage and have given no real thought to what we actually need to initially narrow down the candidate pool.”

And that’s before we even get into their onerous electronic system (although unfortunately your experience there is pretty typical).

You were right to nope out of unreasonably burdensome requirements. I would have advised not bothering to apply at all, but it’ll be interesting to see if you get a response to the streamlined application you submitted instead. Not playing along might just get you instantly disqualified, but if you’re a strong candidate they might realize they want to talk to you anyway and don’t care that you declined to participate with the intensity they requested.

But it’s not grumpy, snobby, or entitled to want nothing to do with hiring processes that assume candidates should pour hours of time and effort into applications that they might never even hear back about.

{ 373 comments… read them below }

  1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    “…an essay about why I wanted to work there”

    Oh barf. This place is run by narcissists.

    1. AMB*

      And also – you don’t know if you want to work there yet? Maybe you’ve heard cool things but during the interview process you hear some alarming red flags that make you *don’t* want to work there? Totally agree – very stupid and narcissistic question.

      Slightly less appalling – I remember when I was applying for my first job having a field that asked “tell us why you want to be X” where the role was a very basic assistant payroll processing job. What was the right answer here? Was I supposed to state that I was looking for an entry level HR role and hoped to move up eventually? Does anyone *want* these intro jobs because the work sounds fun?

      1. Frickityfrack*

        Eh, sometimes? When I went back to school a few years ago, I applied for a job as a passport acceptance agent because A) I was specifically looking for something PT that I could stay at until I graduated, and B) the work seemed interesting and enjoyable. I ended up getting the job and it turns out it was fun and I’m just now transitioning from that job (though FT now) to a new one.

        But otherwise? Not really. And employers should expect that the answer may be, “I think it’s a good stepping stone to where I eventually want to be” and not penalize applicants for it.

      2. LCH*

        i wonder how this would go over in the essay. “i don’t know yet that i want to work there. the job description is intriguing because _____. but i like to use the interview step to evaluate the workplace.” or something.

    2. dulcinea47*

      isn’t this kind of what a cover letter already is? Maybe more of an essay about how my skills match with their needs, but still, doesn’t need to be a separate essay.

    3. Clisby*

      I once worked at a newspaper where I was part of a hiring panel for a reporter (I was an assistant city editor).

      The managing editor asked the candidate “Why do you want to work here?”

      She replied (entirely truthfully), “I don’t know that yet. YOU called ME to interview.” (As in, she hadn’t applied – they had just gotten her information from their network and invited her to interview, and she probably thought, well, why not talk to them?)

      I was secretly applauding her.

      This went nowhere, and after the interview one of the hiring panel commented on how “arrogant” she was. I said, “But we DID ask her to interview.”

      This was way before LinkedIn was a thing. They had cold-called her, and asked her to interview, so she came to see if she was interested. I can tell you, she dodged a bullet.

      1. Chili Heeler*

        I was approached by a company to interview and was asked the same. Luckily, I had an obvious response that it was in the area that I’m getting a grad degree in but did mention wanting to see if we were the right fit for each other. They offered and I accepted.

      2. loose seal*

        I’ve had something similar happen in that industry. After my publication’s entire staff was laid off, a nearby publication contacted me about coming in “to meet some people and see what I thought.” Most people were normal but one guy started asking me why I wanted to work there and how I would go about doing this job … when they hadn’t told me I was interviewing for a specific role at all. I told him I hadn’t seen a job description and would like to know more about it. He seemed unimpressed. I spent the whole day meeting and talking to people, and they took me out to lunch, but then I never heard back. Weird.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      “I want to destroy your company* and need mid-level access to your computer systems to do this in the most spectacular, head-turning way.”

      *See attached 139 page manifesto.

      1. Ashley*

        I work at one of those, thankfully we’ve recognized the absurdity and now just ask for CV and candidate statement/cover letter. Nobody ever read the “statement on teaching philosophy” or “statement on research philosophy” any of the other stuff anyway. Everyone does research for the same reasons no matter what the research is… Cause they find it interesting and we need answers to questions x, y, Z.

        I go straight to the cv and then the cover letter for context is plenty. If you aren’t smart enough to talk a little bit about your teaching, research, or extension experience in your cover letter….

            1. Overnight Oats*

              I am a faculty member in engineering in the US and have been on multiple search committees over 25 years. We at least skim the research and teaching statements of probably 80% of applicants. (About 20% are eliminated for not actually having a relevant degree.) Based on the quick read, we typically select about half of the 80% to read thoroughly because they look like they will fit into our department’s or college’s areas of planned growth. A good statement of research interests is critical to a successful engineering faculty application, and a poor statement of teaching interests will result in an otherwise good application being discarded. In short, these are not pointless keystrokes in all fields.

              1. Froggy*

                in ecology and been on many, many searches. totally agree. they are critically important and read

              2. GammaGirl1908*

                You’re proving the point, though. You only read 40% closely. Based on just a skim of their CV, 60% of your applicants did not need to send in more than the basics. Everyone could have sent the basics, and then you could’ve asked the 40% to do a second round.

                1. Elitist Semicolon*

                  Same thing with letters of rec – they could be a second- or third-round thing. Yet somehow the faculty who insist that no, they absolutely HAVE to have them at the outset (instead of asking for them from their shortlisted candidates) are the same people complaining that they don’t have time to write them for their own students on the market.

                2. NotBatman*

                  Agreed! The fact that you have to write all these essays, and then tailor them to every job, is exhausting. And a big factor in many profs I know being forced to stay in jobs they hate — it can take 100+ hours’ work just to get an interview somewhere else.

          1. Exile from Academia*

            I get why it seems silly, but pedagogy and teaching philosophy do matter. There are plenty of academics out there who are tremendously knowledgeable but can’t explain things or set reasonable learning goals to save their lives, and if you’re hiring them for a teaching position, that’s a real problem!

            1. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

              Is this info you need at the application stage or would it be more reasonable or a more efficient to ask at the interview stage?

              1. NotBatman*

                It’s not needed at the application stage, no, but it is expected that you’ll provide all that info and more at that stage for academic jobs. The hiring process in academia is horrible — these kinds of essay prompts are common, as are illegal questions (e.g. SSN) and 8-month delays between an interview and an offer.

        1. an academic*

          The thing is, for professor jobs, every candidate has a research statement and a teaching statement anyway for every other professor job they’re applying to, so it’s not a huge burden on the candidate to ask for these things.

          If you only look at CV and cover letter for professor jobs, you are screening for how prominent their postdoc advisor is, not how rigorous or novel the candidate’s own research is.

          At our institution, the research statement gets read 2nd, after ascertaining whether they have the relevant degree and enough publications. I mean, how else are you going to figure out how well they think about research?

          My friend works in a teaching-heavy position at a sister institution. For jobs like hers, they read the teaching statements first.

        2. amoeba*

          I’m in science and I’d say the research statement is probably *the* most important part of any academic application! I mean, it’s literally the description of what work they are planning to do if they’re hired. I’d be very confused by an application process for any kind of *independent research position* where that’s not a requirement. And honestly, something on their approach to teaching, including stuff like DEI, is also quite crucial.

          However – these are still standard documents that are part of your portfolio if you’re applying for academic positions. You probably want to fine-tune them to the institution, but you’re not required to write multiple new essays for every position you’re applying to. This letter sounds much worse that any academic application I’ve ever heard of.

      2. Beth*

        This reminded me of academic job applications too! I wonder if whoever created this application form has that kind of background.

        1. NotBatman*

          Or the company has a similar problem to academia’s total disregard for the whole concept of HR.

      3. But what to call me?*

        It reminded me of applying for jobs in k-12 education. Most of my jobs have been at or associated with public schools, all of which made applicants manually re-enter every part of their resume plus contact information for every previous employer and manager, asked several essay questions, and required references as part of the initial application, in addition to the resume and cover letter which almost seemed like an afterthought in the application system but were still required. Even applying for a $12 per hour job as a paraprofessional was a multi-hour process, plus an additional math/reading/reasoning test (can I please just submit my GRE scores if you’re that worried about whether I can read and multiply?).

        I was really surprised to learn from AAM that this isn’t the norm in other fields.

      4. Jennifer*

        My first thought was also “Ugh. That sounds like university hiring nonsense.”

        There are many, many reasons I decided not to go the faculty route after getting my Ph.D. but the needlessly complicated, time-consuming, and sometimes soul-destroying process was up near the top of the list.

        CV, cover letter, teaching statement, research statement, DEI statement, transcripts from multiple universities, and 3 letters of rec for an initial job application. Then, if you were one of 20 people chosen out of hundreds of applicants you’d get an initial interview in a hotel room (so, so weird). If you managed to survive that and be one of the top 3-5 candidates, you’d get to do a multi-day “campus visit” interview including a job talk, teaching demo, and having to be charming and scholarly during multiple meals with various people. After all that, the most likely outcome was that you’d be completely ghosted by the hiring committee.

        I’m not trying to make light of the letter writer’s experience. The whole process is ridiculous and exhausting and warps the hiring process for even non-faculty roles. If you’re “normal” process includes two days of interviews that run from 8am to 10pm, a bunch of small essays seems totally reasonable in comparison.

        1. an academic*

          The thing is, at many institutions, you are hiring a colleague for life. Every department I’ve been associated with tries very hard to get their junior faculty through tenure, and they almost always succeed. So you are trying to decide who will be the best colleague for the rest of your time at the institution and beyond, which could well be 50+ years. (Yes we just had an active faculty member celebrate his 50th year working at our institution; he still has an active, grant-funded lab and is publishing.) The stakes are much higher than for a conventional job.

          Lots of this information could come after the Zoom screen (our field doesn’t do the hotel room interview thing). But then again, all the jobs require more or less the same documents, so why not ask for all the docs up front? If a person applies here, they’re also going to apply elsewhere, and they can substantially reuse the same docs.

      5. Ancient Mariner*

        Ha, yes, I tried applying for a teaching position at a community college in my city once. In addition to CV, cover letter, three letters of recommendation, and a statement of teaching philosophy, they wanted a sample syllabus for a class I might want to teach, a sample lab assignment with a grading rubric, three long-answer exam questions (also with a grading rubric), a sample homework problem set (with, yep, a grading rubric), and an essay on how I planned to improve diversity at their school. The last one honestly defeated me. I was tempted to just write “I’m a middle-aged white lady hoping to teach environmental science; if your diversity situation is so bad that I could improve it, I don’t think I want to work for you.”

        I have a non-academic job in my field now and love it, so it all worked out for the best, but it does make me wonder how anyone ever get a first job in academia.

        1. an academic*

          Where I live, there is so much demand for community college teaching jobs that enough people will do it. It does sound like, though, that they were looking for someone who already has been an adjunct elsewhere and taught exactly this kind of course before. It is very, very hard to get a full-time community college job without being an adjunct lecturer previously. There’s a big “paying your dues” mindset.

    5. SansSerif*

      Why I want to work there?

      For money. I like to eat on a daily basis. Air conditioning and heat, those are good, too.

    6. Enai*

      There’s a gif of Homer Simpson with the caption “Money can be exchanged for goods and services” and I’d be sorely tempted to just submit that. Or an even more obnoxious “I don’t know, do I?”.

  2. Lacey*

    I know places that have horrible application processes can still be ok places to work, but a process this absurd would really make me wonder how they handle their day to day.

    1. B*

      It would make me worried their culture cannot possibly be any good if everyone who works there put up with this application process and still accepted a job there.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        There are lots of people who really need a job, so a clunky application process isn’t always a deterrent. I wouldn’t judge anyone by that!

        1. B*

          Oh I don’t judge anyone for needing a job, but I judge an organization for doing everything it can to ensure it only employs people desperate for jobs.

          1. ICodeForFood*

            Over the many years of my “career” (and I use the term in quote because it’s more like a series of jobs than a career) I’ve had interviews where I’ve been asked questions that are basically “How desperate are you? Can we mistreat you and you will put up with it?” Many, many questions that really boil down to that…

          2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            Thing is, it’s a very prestigious place. So it’s not people desperate for a job, it’s people who think having this place on their CV will work wonders in their career.

            I’ve applied for jobs at prestigious places and seen a lot of hoops to jump through and I’ve mostly given up because I don’t actually want to work there *that* much.

      2. Rainy*

        It’s also possible that they recruit heavily from fields where application processes are by default even worse (looking at you, academia), meaning that no one would go into that application thinking it would be any different.

        1. Ama*

          This actually kind of reminded me of the time I tried to apply to a small museum that clearly mostly used its electronic hiring system to hire college/high school students for internships. There were a lot of questions in the system that would have been normal for that level of worker and for an internship style job (GPA, I think something about coursework you’d taken that would be relevant to the job).

          What’s going on in the OP’s letter is more extreme but I wouldn’t be surprised if they put someone in charge of the system who has mostly only run grant applications or internships before.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            I mean, I think I still have an old resume floating around with my GPA on it, but those questions would probably throw me like an ornery horse! It’s been three decades and change since those items were at the top of my “hire me because” list.

          2. Lainey L. L-C*

            I had to send in my college TRANSCRIPTS for my job. You would not be considered unless you did this. Reader, it has been over two decades since I graduated!

        2. Relentlessly Socratic*

          Ugh, this reminds me I left an application for an academic job incomplete last week because I was too lazy to write a cover letter, then I remembered that the people who could best write a letter of recommendation for me (I am about to turn 55 BTW, how are these still a thing??) are either retired or dead.

          1. amoeba*

            Eh, in academia, they are indeed still very common, and for most positions, you just get one when you leave. I have the ones from my PhD and postdoc PIs as part of my standard application, and I’m not even in academia anymore. You generally don’t have to ask for them for each position you apply for, they’re more treated like… diplomas.

    2. Momma Bear*

      This. Are they more worried about paper pushing or getting things done? Or did they got sold on a system that offered them All The Things and they ran with it, not thinking about what a turnoff it was for applicants? (Which is still problematic.)

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yeah, that concerns me. Either they fell for a sales pitch or paid a consultant way too much to tell them they needed all this, which says “gullible/tone-deaf higher-ups” no matter how you slice it.

        1. Chauncy Gardener*

          I totally agree. Every time I have bumped into these types of application processes, I’ve noped out of the application immediately. It’s just such a bad sign, if only that their HR is utterly clueless and useless. But I think it speaks to tone-deaf higher-ups across the board.
          I mean, you can pay someone to write all that stuff for you (which I don’t recommend) or maybe you can do a good job yourself, but the rubber meets the road in the interview, not anywhere else.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I’m thinking someone, somewhere, earnestly believes that more information is always better.

        1. College Career Counselor*

          Well, because we *might* neeeed it, you see. And then we would have to go back and ask the person to provide it and slow things down. It’s much better to make everyone else give us everything up front, so we aren’t inconvenienced. The process is the most important thing about hiring, you know.

          1. Two Fish*

            I arrived at one initial interview for them to hand me a bunch of background check forms to complete first. Some of their clients were insurance companies, who required a background check on new hires.

            I didn’t mind the client requirement. But the potential employer should have either told the recruiter they’d want that information upfront, or waited to collect it only from the candidate they wanted to hire. Not collecting it from all interviewees before even initially talking to them.

    3. Anonymouse*

      The application process is the first red flag for working for the organization. Things do not get better.

    4. The Prettiest Curse*

      It’s possible that they only make more applicants for more senior positions do all the essay-writing nonsense, but it makes me wonder if their internal processes are so laborious that the entire place is just in stasis.

    5. I'm just here for the cats!*

      I would want to know how they spend their time if they have everyone do this. Even if they get 20 applicants that’s a huge amount of info that somoen would have to read over. They are just making more work for themselves.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        That’s a huge amount of info that someone would have to read over.
        Or burn in the middle of a dirt road at midnight under a new moon.

    6. C.*

      Not to mention the interview process, itself. These kind of initial expectations scream of “we want you to meet with 400 different people over the course of 3 months, prepare an entire business case presentation to our leadership, complete a few more trial projects within 2 days of assignment receipt, write even more essays, etc.” No thanks, hard pass.

    7. ICodeForFood*

      I really think the reason they make you enter your entire resume in their system is to get everything into a database that they can then query for things like “all the applicants that live in X or Y town,” or “all the applicants who went to these schools and have an MBA.” No one is going to read everything. They’re going to retrieve a subset of applicants based on some criteria that they are not telling you, and then only read those.

      1. Enai*

        Yes, and they make the applicants do their data entry work for them. Don’t need to pay people you don’t employ (yet)!


      2. JustaTech*

        Yup. I’ve applied at research institutions that are also hospitals and they have one application system for everyone, but it’s really geared towards the clinical staff (nurses, doctors, etc).
        So it’s “please re-type your resume, but nothing about what you actually did” and “submit all your certifications” and no room for “I am a scientist and here is my cover letter”.

    8. goddessoftransitory*

      This! What do they spend their time on? Just the hiring process sounds like a reading project taking months at a time!

    9. Tempest*

      You just made me realize that… I have no idea what the application process is like at my company. When I’m hiring, I’m involved from the point of interview on, the recruiter arranges everything prior to that point. I hope it’s not bad! (Off to find out)

  3. NameRequired*

    I don’t know if this is universal, but I also never got responses from companies with those ridiculous “re-input your resume in 50 different boxes” formats. All of my responses were from much more straightforward application processes

    1. Antilles*

      I’ve gotten responses from companies with those sorts of application systems where you attach your resume but then also have to re-input it. My current company in fact does that.
      But I’ll also tell you that being on the other side, I have literally never looked at that part of our hiring system when reviewing a candidate’s qualifications. Not once. IT has tried their hardest to make it user-friendly and convenient, but no matter how hard they try, it’s inevitably a much bigger pain in the neck than just printing one piece of paper and skimming the resume.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        My employer has it too, and when I screen applications I never, ever look at the application. The resume is all I want.

        1. NameRequired*

          That’s almost worse! Those are such a pain to fill out but I always assumed that somebody on the other end found them at least somewhat useful.

          It’s almost impressive to create a piece of software that is that annoying and useless for your two main audiences.

        2. Hannah Lee*

          When I came into my role, there was already an application process in place, which I quickly revamped because there were several illegal questions on it. But we’ve kept the “fill out this application” part, because it includes a signature section where the person confirms they’ve submitted factual information and understand if hired and something was false, they’ll be fired. But the completing the application is a step ONLY for people we’ve already decided to interview. Everyone else, we get more than enough information from a 1-2 resume and cover letter (if we even ask for one)

          Granted, we’re a small company so maintaining records that might be needed for EEO/DEI purposes, and onboarding people once hired is not a huge lift.

          But for most of the online systems which require ALL candidates to data enter ALL their information, even information that’s clearly in their resume and cover letter, I just assume it’s primarily done #1 as a front end data feed for their HRIS system (even though probably 25% of the time that feed is broken and the stuff still needs to get data entered again) and #2 as pre-screening step, so they can just auto-bounce based on whatever parameters are in the system.

          Neither of which does a thing to improve the applicant experience or even ensure the most qualified person for the job will get through to someone who actually can evaluate their candidacy against the needs of the position.

      2. Get that bread*

        My company does this as well. The only time it was useful is when I had to fill out all previously held jobs and dates for a background check for state licensure. I didn’t have access to my resume, but was able to access my original application and get all the information. Other than that, it is just an exercise in redundancy!

    2. Environmental Compliance*

      Anecdotally, I would agree. I either never get a response, get an immediate “no thanks” auto-email, or they contact me 2 years later to ask if I’m able to interview that afternoon.

  4. Sara*

    I once applied for a company that asked for a poem about why I wanted to work there at the end of the electronic application. The job was for finance.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      Roses are red, Violets are blue, this request is so ridiculous, I no longer want to work for you.

    2. Jessica*

      Your leadership’s clueless
      This request isn’t funny
      I don’t need poetry
      To understand money.

      1. wilma flintstone*

        There once was a job application
        That caused would-be hires much vexation
        “Write us a tome,
        Include also a poem!”
        “Hell, no! I’d rather leave for vacation!”

    3. Oryx*

      Was this a tech company in the Midwest? Either I applied to the same company or there are more than one out there asking for poetry.

    4. Not A Manager*

      Get away
      You get a good job with more pay and you’re okay
      It’s a gas
      Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash.

    5. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

      Red are the roses,
      Blue are carnations,
      With respect I withdraw
      My application.

      1. Pickwick Triplet*

        There once was a job at a place
        that likes launching rich dudes into space.
        I thought “oooh I would kill
        to acquire that skill!”
        So I’ll jump through your dumb hoops with grace.

    6. NotRealAnonForThis*

      There’d be seriously sarcastic iambic pentameter used.

      I’d probably have to look up what exactly that IS anymore, but I’d do it to be spiteful at that point.

  5. hardlycore*

    I would be genuinely interested to hear from someone who works in HR/recruiting for organizations with >3 rounds of interviews or assignments as to why they feel things like this are necessary or helpful in the hiring process. What is the rationale for this, especially given that most of your candidates presumably are busy with their current jobs already?

    1. rollyex*

      ” >3 rounds of interviews”

      This is appropriate for very senior positions.

      Not in general, so I’m largely agreeing with you.

    2. Snarkus Aurelius*

      It’s funny. I’ve seen AAM and commenters criticize these application systems so much, but I’ve never seen anyone in the comments defend them or admit to using them.

      I want to know the answer too.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        I’m picturing a Venn diagram of people who read AAM (interested in learning more about good workplace practices/dealing with difficult workplace situations/trying to improve their workplace processes/being exposed to experiences and perspectives outside their own) and people who choose to implement these cumbersome application systems and unnecessary application hurdles looks something like this:

        O (lots of space / no overlap) O

      1. rollyex*

        My HR does resume screens and phone screens and the person doing it has good judgement. Meets with me about what I’m interested in, then ranks the candidates. I still look at all resumes/cover letters myself, but there is enough overlap between our opinions that I know her judgement is good. Plus enough differences that her doing it in addition to me adds value. I’ve put someone back into my picks due to her comments.

        She also does phone screens with 10 or 12, with the aim of 3 or 4 moving on to full interviews with me. This is very helpful too.

        I understand this may not be common, but it happens.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Either we work for the same place or I have a pegasus to go with your unicorn. Our HR recruiters are very sharp and have a good process for working with hiring managers and candidates. If you have had a phone screen or an interview, you will hear back from us one way or another and, if the process gets drawn out, status updates.

          One of my peers in another department wanted to put some ridiculous hoops into their hiring process, and HR told them flat-out no. The most you can request for initial applications is a resume, optional cover letter, and optional writing sample (pre-existing, not written especially the application). Once finalists are selected, we can add limited additional screening, but you’ve got to get it approved based on time involved and value to assessment of qualifications. I think one team does a two-page proofreading exercise for those who do editing-type jobs, and there is a read-and-summarize project for a group that does fast-turn alerts on industry issues.

          1. stratospherica*

            I think the key thing here is that your company seems comfortable empowering HR/recruiters to work laterally with hiring managers with room for pushback, rather than making it a quasi client-vendor relationship, and also has hiring managers who don’t just see hiring as that annoying thing that gets in the way of their real job.

            Speaking from personal experience as a former recruiter, a lot of places aren’t as invested in empowering recruiters to take charge of their domain, and a lot of hiring managers tend to drag their heels and put in the minimum amount of effort for hiring, when a 30 minute conversation to hash out requirements in order of priority, etc. could streamline the process so much more. This, of course, makes the hiring process an absolute nightmare slog for everyone.

            1. stratospherica*

              Granted, the cumbersome ATS questionnaire, the several(!!!!) essay questions and all of the hoops that need to be jumped through for the LW’s experience leads me to believe that it’s either a nightmare HR department from hell, or a nightmare HR department from one lesser level of hell than the hiring manager, depending on how standard this kind of process is across the board at this company.

        2. ferrina*

          I’ve worked with 2 places that had this type of set up.

          HR worked with the hiring manager, and they would coordinate on who would screen resumes (if the hiring manager didn’t have time, HR would do it). HR would do the initial call, and if the person was vaguely competent (i.e., could schedule and show up for their interview and have a normal conversation- half of candidates were dropped when they failed to call back) they’d go to the next stage, which was a hiring manager interview.

          Both those places had 100-250 employees. Big enough to have a couple dedicated HR people, but small enough that HR knew all the employees by name.

      2. Jelly*

        I’ve know plenty of people in HR who are sharp as tacks where hiring is concerned.

        How unfortunate you’ve not had the same experience.

    3. No Tribble At All*

      My org does a phone screen by the hiring manager based on resumes, and then panel interviews. We’ve had to schedule people for second rounds of panel interviews when not everyone was available, but that was for a director-level position. Direct reports got a panel, then peers got a panel, then a final interview with c-suite. But each one of those was a gate — we didn’t schedule them all right away.

      (Of course, they ended up with an internal hire because no one was the magical unicorn candidate).

    4. Hiring Mgr*

      As someone who’s been a candidate for senior positions, I want to talk to more than just a couple of people at the company to get different perspectives. This is very normal and not a red flag.

      The application process in this letter. is definitely too burdensome however.

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        Completely agree.
        My company is entirely remote, so we do do a lot of interviews. But they are all very much two way since we want the candidate to understand what we’re like and that they fit in. We also do peer conversations so they can hopefully ask more frank questions. By the time (if) they’re at the offer letter stage, they’re basically onboarded!

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        Same. At minimum, I’d like to talk to at least my would-be boss, a peer, and a member or two of the team I’d be leading. It would be ideal if those interviews could be done consecutively on one day rather than multiple call backs, but I don’t mind 2-3 rounds if they can be flexible on remote v. in person for some.

      3. Hannah Lee*

        ^ This

        You want to get a sense of the existing management team, their priorities as well as potential peers, internal clients and at least 1-2 people you’ll be managing.

        But the flurry of data entry and content generation the company the OP describes is not just OTT, disrespectful of candidates’ time, it seems like it’s not going to provide much useful information so early in the process.

      4. iglwif*

        Came here to say more or less this.

        Several interviews / interviews with a variety of people: totally reasonable, they’re considering handing you a lot of money and power and you’re considering taking on a lot of responsibility, everyone should have as much info as possible!

        What’s so completely bananapants about this application process is expecting someone to do all of this stuff in order to get a first interview. You have to wonder whether the company (or at least their hiring process) is incredibly incompetent, or whether they are somehow using all this sample work, essays, etc. for some nefarious purpose.

    5. It's Marie - Not Maria*

      HR Director Here: You upload your resume and answer no more than 4 quick YES/NO screening questions. That’s all you do to apply for our Professional Level Positions. We do just a phone screen and an in-person interview for 99% of candidates. C Suite and above get an additional Panel Interview with the existing C Suite. No poems. No re write your entire resume in excruciating detail in our ATS.

      1. rollyex*

        ” C Suite and above”

        What’s above the C suite?

        And in general I don’t think it’s wise to have just one face-to-face touch point with someone you’re entering into a year-long (or more) relationship.

        We do more at my org, even for some junior positions. But this is about a big commitment, so seems appropriate.

        Quick phone screen – 15 minutes or less. This with 6 to 12 applicants.
        Main interview with hiring manager interview – up to an hour. This with three to four applicants.
        Sometimes a brief interview (scheduled for 30 minutes – has usually been less) with hiring manager’s boss, just to note any red flag (rare) and give applicant more of feel for the organization. This with one applicant.

        Sometimes if the person is going to supervising others, rather than or in addition to the interview with the manager’s boss the interview would be with their future reports.

        For the applicant it’s usually less then two hours, spread out in three or four touch points. We’re pretty flexible on scheduling since we take hiring seriously.

    6. kiki*

      I’ve seen two scenarios most often:
      – It’s a company that gets a lot of interest for every role so they can start the elimination process by only moving forward with folks who are devoted enough to spend a lot of time on their application from the jump. Sometime this is a positive (i.e. they only move forward with diehard candidates who are willing to work hard and jump through a lot of hoops) but it can also be a negative (i.e. they end up with a pool of desperate candidates).

      – A lot of organizations that have not been successful filling roles with qualified candidates jump to the conclusion that the issue was that they needed more information from the candidate. They don’t realize that the issue may have been of their own judgmentL being swayed by people who are big talkers, poor interview assessments, not asking references the right questions, etc.

      1. B*

        “They don’t realize that the issue may have been of their own judgmentL being swayed by people who are big talkers, poor interview assessments, not asking references the right questions, etc.”

        Or, say, inadvertently screening out good candidates by making them jump through silly hoops!

      2. Blue Horizon*

        Based on my experience with similar situations, this would filter out the best candidates (who have options, and no time for this shit) and leave you with mostly the career changers, recently trained and the like. The people who wouldn’t get a look in with a normal application process, but are willing to out-hustle everybody to secure an opportunity if that’s what it takes.

        They can still be decent candidates, but they often have a long learning curve and require lots of investment. They can sometimes be spectacularly bad if they’re good at covering for ignorance or inexperience. If you’re asking for a lot of extra material that nobody actually reads, you’re probably already an organization that values form or appearance over results. People like that will probably thrive in your work environment, while either not delivering much of value or actively making things worse.

        1. kiki*

          I agree that it ends up filtering out a lot of the best candidates. But some companies honestly seem to prefer the most devoted employees to the ones who could do the best job. They’d rather have the employee who brings out the trampoline when you ask them to jump than to have the employee who figures out an improvement to process that makes jumping unnecessary.

      3. ScruffyInternHerder*

        (Adding to the second point)
        Also, not asking their team members who may know the candidates their impression (There are a few in my industry who sorry not sorry, but no. They talk big, they fluff their resumes, and they’re positively useless.).

        There’s also pay. Long ago I recall the great grand boss musing about “how do we fill these positions? There are tons of great candidates, and they withdraw. Surely there’s an issue….” but not hearing “the pay is absolute $hit, and needs to be improved. Seriously we earn less than someone at Taco Bell, but you’re requiring at minimum a bachelor’s degree. Yes we have stellar benefits….which don’t put a roof over my head or groceries on my table. Did you know we all qualify for cellphone assistance subsidies?…..” The people who stayed there long term had a much higher earning spouse, to a one.

    7. Always Tired*

      I work in HR, previously in tech, currently construction. In tech it was “upload resume, answer these 3-4 specific questions (authorized to work/require sponsorship, how many years experience in X area and Y and Z coding languages, or the like). In construction it’s legit just the resume and upload some photos of your finish carpentry work if you want (no one has successfully attached those to an application, though). When I was last applying around, it seemed all the really massive reenter data and write answers were either government, because they need to track a lot of data, and any company using workday. I don’t know if it’s just how Workday works, or if these people have someone with no recruiting experience doing the job set up and going “oh, since we’ll ask this question anyways later, might as well ask now!” with no regard for the hiring manager who has to read through it, or the applicant who has to write it.

      There are some benefits (narrow, specific) to having a few questions so you can sort by answer rather than dig through every resume, but often they ask too many too detailed questions. Like back at tech job, we were making software for the highly regulated Alpaca Husbandry sector. So not only did I need someone familiar with a certain common programing language, but team leads would need to also have some experience with Alpaca Husbandry so they would understand why certain parts of the system were set up in what would seems like an onerous or strange way to do things in other sectors. So asking “how many years experience with Python?” and “how many years experience working with the Alpaca Husbandry industry?” were quick and easy ways to weed out highly unqualified candidates. Asking for an essay on a candidates thoughts on how DEI could improve the Alpaca Husbandry software industry is not helpful to anyone.

      Sorry if this rambled far enough to be considered off topic.

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        Odd thing: in Arch/Eng/Construction, I really haven’t seen HR involved in any step pre-hire. It’s typically only post-hire.

        I’m guessing its because HR is really a silo in this industry? Our HR department is fantastic at HR. But I know the head of the department wouldn’t even know what specific questions to ask a candidate to determine if they met the qualifications for most of our non-HR departments.

        1. Always Tired*

          I run into that very issue! I’ve been at construction company for a year and I’m still not good at spotting a “likely” resume like I was able to learn in tech. At this point I just screen out the egregiously bad fits and forward the rest to the hiring managers. I coach the HMs and give them a one pager on pay bands, the benefits, and instructions about things they are not allowed to ask (you know, don’t as about race, religion, age, pregnancy plans, pay history, criminal history, etc.)

          Some types of jobs the qualifications are easier to see on paper than others. However, I am still tasked with getting the postings up and doing a first pass on applicants. I think part of that is to ensure our postings have everything required. We had a whole back and forth about why I put the pay band in the posting until I reminded them that the pay transparency law went into effect in January.

      2. I Have RBF*

        Workday, Taleo, and one other that I can’t remember the name of, absolutely stink. I have been unemployed from layoff (occupational hazard in tech) so often that these ATS systems trigger in me a trauma response, the emotion being one of being so desperate for a job that I have to do hours of pointless data entry just to get a form letter rejection.

    8. Harried HR*

      Our process has multiple steps…

      1. Phone screen with HR to go over job and skills fit WFH hybrid schedule, salary range etc. If candidate is a good fit and still interested next step.
      2. Phone interview with Hiring Mgr.
      3. In person meeting with Hiring Mgr, Dept Head & potentially team members

      This process sounds cumbersome but in a creative environment compatibility and a cohesive team is nearly as important as hard skills

      1. Relentlessly Socratic*

        This is entirely reasonable and I have participated in the process outlined as a candidate and as a hiring manager. Step 1 is so crucial to ensure that it’s even worth everyone’s time to proceed. I don’t think it sounds cumbersome at all!

      2. iglwif*

        That sounds perfectly reasonable and not at all cumbersome — especially since a candidate who doesn’t pass the phone screen has put in very little interview time, so neither their time nor the interviewers’ time is being wasted.

        The rise of pre-interview phone screening is brilliant IMO.

      3. rollyex*

        This is good. This not cumbersome relative to the task – to start a relationship for a year or even many years. This is too much to pick a temp for a three-day stint or choose a movie to rent.

    9. fhqwhgads*

      We do more than 3 rounds of interviews usually, but nowhere near the hoops this letter describes. The process is generally:
      -application = send resume+cover letter to specific generic hiring address with the job ID in the subject, maybe 1-2 yes/no questions, checkboxes really
      -10 min phone screen
      -interview with hiring manager
      -skills assessment (less than 40 minutes, and by the time you get here the pool has been narrowed down A TON; this isn’t an interview; it’s an assignment; some roles might ask for samples instead of this, depending on what the role is)
      -panel interviews with peers, which is basically going over the result of the skills assessment
      -panel interview with other employees who don’t have the job you’re applying for (we call this a cultural fit interview but it’s purpose is essentially ‘make sure you’re not an asshole’. only the top 1 or 2 candidates do this one)

      This generally sums to 3-4 hours spread over the course of 4-6 weeks. I think it’s pretty normal? I’m not remotely defending the type of thing in the letter, but since your question’s threshold was 3, and we go over that, figured it was worth answering.

    10. My tea*

      My organization does about 7 rounds. Application, Phone screen, interview, technical interview, personality assessment (cringe), technical assessment, and interview with our consulting company.

      Interestingly, our best hires have been ones that management “just had a feeling about” and fast-tracked through the process. Most people at our company stay for a very long time and we have low turn over.

      My theory is that “fast-tracked” hires are outstanding performers or great cultural fits, and regular hires who are willing to go through that many rounds must feel like the job is a good fit or have a very patient, calm personality. Less interested candidates or candidates with big egos self select themselves out. I’m sure plenty of great candidates self-select out as well, though.

  6. Government Attorney*

    I work for a governmental agency that requires supplemental questions. We ask candidates to provide short responses to 2-4 questions key to the position. Those responses are often the deciding factor in who we interview. And we often choose not to interview people who look great on their resume if they blow off the questions.

    1. rollyex*

      “We ask candidates to provide short responses to 2-4 questions key to the position. ”

      This seems OK in lieu of a cover letter. If it’s not, you would do well to ask people to address those questions in a cover letter instead.

      I also hope there are ways for the applicant to see these questions before beginning the process and inputting data.

    2. Ssssssssssssssssssssss*

      The federal job application process in Canada has not 2-4 questions seeking clarification on if you meet the job requirements but 10-20 questions, anywhere from 100 to 500 words or less, explaining or justifying “how you know Word.” Or similar. Typing in “See resume” was not acceptable (they said so!).

      I had at one point saved answers in a Word doc so I copy-paste as needed. And you needed to save often or risk losing all your progress. It was absurd.

      I’m still convinced it’s a secret handshake, spoken code word and knowing someone on the inside that gets you a coveted federal job as I never landed one.

      1. mb*

        You are so right. When I applied for a job with CRA many years ago they made me write a customer service multiple choice test. They said I failed. I feel like maybe my answers showed smarts and a willingness to provide good customer service. Also, if some of the answers were “wrong”, it would have purely been because they violated some policy which I would not have any knowledge of, since I wasn’t yet employed by them.
        – Also – I know people who did get hired by the CRA who maybe shouldn’t have been. Plus all the news stories about the bad customer service CRA gave to Canadians – which included flat out wrong information for tax filing – tells me their hiring process sucked.

        1. Ssssssssssssssssssssss*

          Oh, yeah, they expect externals to somehow understand and know their internal jargon too. “Compensation.” Is that payroll? Why not call it payroll?

          And the fun part, once you fill in those 10-20 questions, if you pass that screening, there’s the cattle call testing that comes up a month or two later. At least you do the language tests only once.

          Then there’s proving you actually passed high school. My certificate was buried in a box in my BIL’s basement because we were between houses.

          1. Sunny*

            And after all those questions, one of the pools they put me in was for French language in a city I don’t live in. I also don’t speak French. All information provided in the screening. Go figure.

      2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        I’d be tempted to search-replace one of those tedious internet recipes.
        “Word has been important to my family for generations. One time before my mom started writing a contract cancellation letter, she looked me in the eyes and said ‘ABET, you probably don’t understand this now, but one day you’ll want to write one of these letters, so I want you to watch me do it.’ And you know what, she was right! Now whenever I launch Word, I think about my mom and those happy memories around the kitchen table with our IBM 386 XT. Which reminds me of a funny story about keyboard function keys…”

      3. Sunny*

        Holy h*ll yes!! I’ve been in the Cdn go’vt pool for a year. It’s the most awful, onerous process, and honestly, it makes me wonder about the quality of people they end up hiring. For one, who can wait this long to be hired, and for another, it emphasizes numbing bureaucracy to the point that I imagine many creative, intelligent, go-getter people are put off. I eventually ended up in a screening interview with someone who wouldn’t answer any of my clarifying questions (ie basic things like ‘I’m not sure if you’re referring to A or B in this question’), so I honestly may as well have interacted with a robot. It was awful and supremely off-putting. Just every cliched joke about gov’t bureacracies in a (months long) nutshell. (Also, I collected so much more EI while job-hunting, they would have saved a lot by just hiring me, LOL.)

    3. The New Wanderer*

      Yes, this didn’t sound too far off from the federal gov’t application process in terms of hours invested just in the application phase. Same with academia – I wrote out a full CV, multiple essays, and provided references all up front, and of course never heard back.

      But, it’s well known that federal and academic application processes are long and painful, so it’s not like springing it on someone who’s expecting a normal-for-their-industry process.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        With academic applications, everyone has a similar process, so you if refuse to submit a standard application package (cover letter, CV, research plan, teaching plan, DEI statement, lists of publications, awards and invited talks, two or three reference letters) you won’t be be getting a research position. At least the package is fairly standard, so you need to tweak your master copy to appeal to a particular institute, rather than starting from scratch.

        1. NotBatman*

          That said, OP’s description captures basically every academic application I’ve ever completed. Some were even more in-depth and onerous than what they went through. Academia has a massive lack-of-HR problems, and that’s one of the places it shows.

    4. OtterB*

      Most of the federal things I’ve seen on USAJOBS with supplemental questions provide a link to the list of questions so you know what they will be before you get into submitting a response online. My husband, an engineer, found those helpful since they clarified what the job really involved as opposed to generic job-description-speak that could have applied to any kind of engineering job. (“Apply knowledge of technology to problem solving.” Yeah.) But starting the online process without knowing in advance how much is going to be requested is a different animal.

    5. Snarkus Aurelius*

      It depends on what you mean by “short.” If applicants can do each in under 30 seconds, okay then. But if you want longer responses, I want to know why and how come you’re not using the interview process for it instead.

      All lengthy applications get you are people who have enough time to jump through hoops, and that behavior doesn’t translate to qualify candidates.

    6. NotAnotherManager!*

      If it is the US, then the federal government hiring process is pretty well-known to be onerous and lengthy. There are consultants who focus entirely on optimizing federal applications because the process can be absurdly long and complicated.

      My spouse got his job with the fed via a temp position that led to a term position that led to full-time employment. Had he had to do the song and dance required for a lot of full-time USAJOBS postings, I doubt he would have bothered.

    7. ferrina*

      I’ve sort of used those before. It was two short-answer questions (like 1 paragraph each).

      I was hiring for entry/early career, and I found that most applicants didn’t take it seriously. I’d been jaded enough with reviews that I didn’t judge the applicants- I knew for a fact that my boss and HR never read those things, even though they automatically included it. So I couldn’t use it to screen for anything, but it did make for interesting questions in the interview:
      “I see in your application that you think that you’d be a good zookeeper if you weren’t a data analyst. Can you expand on that?”
      “Um….I didn’t think anyone actually read those?”

    8. ecnaseener*

      Even with the essays affecting who you interview — why not screen out the resumes that are obviously not a fit first, *then* ask for essays of those still in the running and use the essays to choose who to interview?

    9. SG*

      Yeah, I worked for a county government, and the supplemental questions are very standard for government applications in the U.S. — state, county, federal, etc. From my experience, a cover letter is not requested, but the questions are quite involved and can be very time-consuming. But if the letter writer was not applying for a government position, it seems the requirements were extraordinarily excessive.
      The one nice thing about the supplemental questions, as one of the other commenters mentioned, is that they make it crystal clear what the hiring manager (or hiring agency) is looking for — there’s no guesswork.

  7. Young Business*

    LW is definitely not overreacting. I’m only about 10 years into my career and mercifully I’ve only encountered a couple of lengthy application processes like that which I immediately stopped filling out.

    It’s a shame to have to disregard an interesting opportunity, but it’s just so invasive to ask about previous supervisors and their contact information for every position you’ve held.

  8. Antilles*

    They wanted information on every job I’ve ever had, including phone numbers, supervisor contact info, mailing addresses, company websites, an explanation every time I check “do not contact my supervisor,” etc.
    I love the request for mailing addresses. What, are you gonna write my old boss a letter asking for his opinion? Show up at the front door?

    1. Ssssssssssssssssssssss*

      Plus, the longer you work, the most those earlier places may not exist anymore or have moved, and people retired.

      I once looked over my entire career (which I do not include in my current resume) and so many places were now gone – local pharmacy had become a chain pharmacy, the diner was demolished for a gas station, restaurant burned down. I’m far enough along in my career that these early jobs no longer matter but back in the day, that would have been challenging to provide addresses and phone numbers.

      1. Quill*

        Also, like… when I was an intern or contractor, what creep has their supervisor’s ADDRESS? Phone numbers and corporate emails are what you get.

      2. Bruce*

        Of my 6 post college employers:
        3 do not exist in any form
        3 have been acquired, 2 with no remaining staff from back then.

        Only my current job has any continuity in the staff, I’ve been working with some people for 23 years including 13 years post-acquisition

      3. Kyrielle*

        Yeah, 17 years of my work history are with a company that’s been bought and had their buyer bought since. Don’t know if they have any record of me still. As for my supervisors there…I believe one is retired, one may be but I’m out of contact, two are dead, and two are still alive and I’m in enough contact with them that I could ask for addresses and phone numbers (but I don’t have either, and I am not sure I’d expect to get the address). This would be…frustrating. I don’t mind in the least if any place I’m interviewing speaks with any of them, though I’d probably mark that for the two who are deceased with that as an explanation! Sheesh.

        1. Two Fish*

          Someone I know has been in the same career position for 20 years. On paper she’s had about six employers in that time, but it’s because each company was acquired by a larger one.

          Now her industry has shrunk to a handful of large players. Similar to how Quest Diagnostics has swallowed up a lot of smaller medical labs.

    2. king of the pond*

      Who the hell even has that information? I’m hoping the letter writer meant mailing addresses for the companies, which is standard but still weird. It’s always fun when you work for a massive entity and Google a random address to put just to satisfy the requirement.

      1. Willow*

        Not me! I don’t even remember every survival job I’ve ever had after 20 years, much less have contact information. Who designed that system?

    3. EC*

      And every job? Does that mean they would want me to find the address of my manager from my after school job when I was a teenager? Or the place I worked for a summer in college?

    4. I'm just here for the cats!*

      It also feels like a way to narrow down an applicant’s age. Like, if this person is in their 40s, and the system asks for every job ever, It’s going to show a much longer list than someone whos in their 20s. And by looking up those managers and businesses its going to be easy to tell if someone is older if the business ended in the 90s

    5. ferrina*

      The only time I’ve ever seen a reason to provide that was when I was working at a secure government facility. The type of place that did a bomb sweep of my car every time I entered. They wanted a full accounting of everywhere you’d been for at least the last 7 years.
      Luckily you could get a provisional permit while they waited for the background check to clear. You could still work with the provisional permit, but you weren’t allowed to go anywhere without someone who had full clearance.

      1. Working*

        This is different though.

        Security vetting is one thing. This is asking candidates for a ridiculous amount of information.

        The vendors of these systems argue that they guarantee that employers will get only good candidates, because poor candidates won’t be able to provide evidence of a continuous work history.

        It’s completely wrong headed.

        1. Your Mate in Oz*

          I struggled once just listing my residential addresses for the previous 10 years. Listing every job I’ve ever had… does the time I worked two days in exchange for a place to stay and a lift to the train station count? I’m pretty sure all the IT consulting gigs where I went in for a week to a month to help with panic situations count. I’ve probably done 50 of those in the last 20 years. I’d have to get my old tax returns out and grind through them to even list the company names. Often they overlap or I’m doing them as side gigs to my day job.

          But on average I’ve had at least one job at all times since I was 14 :)

    6. Emotional support capybara (he/him)*

      Yeah, I’ve now been at my current job for over 15 years. All but one of my previous employers have shut down since I worked there. TF am I supposed to do, hire a private eye to chase down my department manager from Circuit City?

  9. Carolyn*

    This is pretty excessive but I did want to add a caveat that for academic institutions and jobs in academia it’s pretty standard to have more than a resume/CV and cover letter. Many institutions require a DEI statement or teaching philosophy essay

    1. rural academic*

      Yes, the LW’s dismissal of the DEI questions didn’t sit super well with me. I think it is legitimate for organizations to place some emphasis on DEI efforts in hiring. I agree three responses might be excessive, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask about DEI in initial screenings.

      1. rollyex*

        I did an online application that asked for a short response to a DEI question. Seemed pretty cool to me – gave me a positive impression of the organization.

      2. Fluffy Fish*

        Agreed – DEI applies to everyone at a company and it is an appropriate screening tool for people you may not want working there. It won’t be fool proof but based on what I’ve heard people say in interviews, it’s fascinating what people will admit to.

        1. Antilles*

          Also, it’s in the overall context of “three essays for DEI, an essay for each question, an essay for each job I worked, an essay why I want to work here, and an essay describing my current job”.

          Anybody think they’re actually reading all those essays? I certainly don’t.

      3. I should really pick a name*

        I think any kind of essay on an initial application is excessive.
        They could make a short list of who they’d like to interview, and then send THEM the additional prep work.

      4. mb*

        I think they were dismissive of having to write three (THREE!) ESSAYS. A couple of short answer DEI questions are fine – but that level of DEI questioning for a job that has nothing to do with DEI is ridiculous. It would only make sense if you were applying for a job running a DEI program or similar.

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          Three essay questions about anything at the initial application stage is too many, no matter what the job is, but I disagree with the idea that any job has “nothing to do with DEI” – if you work with human beings at all, as coworkers or clients or both, then the job has something to do with DEI.

      5. Snarkus Aurelius*

        I agree but three essay responses for a job that doesn’t have anything to do with DEI is ridiculous.

        I’m not a DEI expert, but I know what it is. I would be annoyed if I had to do what that process asked me.

      6. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        But how creative am I supposed to get while writing an essay? I agree with the EEO laws, on both a moral and practical basis; I’ve set an example in my interactions with other people; I’ve disciplined any of my reports who have exhibited racist, sexist, or other exclusionary behavior; and I’ve supported colleagues who have made formal discrimination complaints if I had corroborating evidence. What else am I supposed to say – are they really looking for 5-paragraph philosophical discussion about *why* my ethics are the way they are? Because, boy howdy, does that leave the door wide open for religious discrimination.

      7. NotAnotherManager!*

        I didn’t get the impression it was the DEI questions but rather the requirement they write three separate essays on it when the position wasn’t DEI-related. (Three essays on top of everything else already required.) I think understanding a senior-level person’s thoughts on and approach to DEI is important, but I read OP’s dismissiveness to be at the sheer volume of total effort required to apply for the position.

      8. Bro George*

        I’d be careful not to conflate “cares about DEI” with “can write and is willing to write an essay on the subject in response to a first-round screener.” At that point, are you screening for candidates who genuinely value DEI, or are you screening for unemployed masochists who are good at bullshitting?

        1. MsM*

          In fact, one could probably make a solid argument that requiring that many essays filters out a lot of candidates with different strengths and perspectives.

    2. nnn*

      A single DEI question is different than 3 essay questions about it. And on top of everything else they’re already asking.

      1. Bruce*

        Yes, I’d like to think that their reaction to DEI is as part of the over all pile of unreasonable requests. I’d like to think that caring about diversity is not a turn-off to them the way that some people seem to take it. Fingers crossed…

        1. Anecdata*

          I think the key differentiator is – the place to ask about DEI items – and any other key hiring requirements you have – is in an interview, after you’ve decided to at least invest mutual time in interviewing that person. Not in an initial application, when the applicant doesn’t know if you actually filled the role last month, are about to make someone an offer, actually got 100 strong candidates from your first 1000 applicants and are just never going to read application #1001, etc

    3. Rock Prof*

      Yeah, many academic positions in the sciences will be cover letter, cv, teaching statement (and possibly dei statement), research statement, and references (sometimes full reference letters with the app, in fact). It’s very annoying and also pretty common, in my experience, for the hiring committee, in making the long list, to go through anything but the cv and maybe cover letter.

    4. tired*

      Well, yes, but it’s not exactly a sign of academia’s healthy work culture that we think it’s appropriate to ask the most junior people in the field to spend hours upon hours preparing application materials. It is perfectly possible to ask for many of those materials after the initial screening round. Academia could absolutely hire in ways that are more normative and less burdensome on applicants without compromising quality of hires.

      1. analyst*

        actually, as I’ve been trying to move out of academia, I miss the ease of academia’s application process- you had a set of docs you’d need and you knew what to expect. Teaching statements, research statements, and DEI statements need pretty fast edits/customization. CV never changes except updates. Just cover letter, which must be customized. No weird job description to incorporate into the cover letter, just change relevant parts to the institution. I had a highlighted template of my materials (areas needing customization highlighted). It was easy….sigh….

    5. analyst*

      right, but in academia you just have all of these and reuse them with small edits to fit the individual job (cover letter maybe more than minor changes). and they are standard docs you expect to have ready to go.

    6. Pierrot*

      I work at a nonprofit organization, and they ask DEI related questions during the interview process and the final stage is an interview with the Director of DEI and another director (this is a much less formal interview than the panel interview and is generally for the top one or two candidates). The application for positions at my level is a cover letter and a resume. They may ask for a writing sample down the line.
      I almost applied for another organization in the exact same field, but in lieu of a cover letter, they had a long list of detailed questions and they said that they did this for DEI purposes. You couldn’t save the answers as you went along either. I ended up giving up on it, not because I don’t value questions about diversity, but because this process was extremely onerous at a stage where applicants don’t even know if they’ll be contacted at all. I think that it would be more reasonable if they asked 3 questions with the expectation of a paragraph long answer for each, but this was at least 10 substantive questions that they could easily ask during a screening or panel interview.
      Anyways, I knew very little about the second org beyond what was on their website, but I found out from a colleague who previously worked there that they have some really problematic policies that are aimed at promoting diversity but end up doing the opposite. Apparently, the culture of the organization is notoriously pretty bad. The compensation is very poor, and the world load is really high. I prefer my organization’s approach, and I think it is actually more likely to attract a diverse pool of candidates.

  10. RunShaker*

    I wonder if leaving a negative Glassdoor review would help? Or at least if would help me feel better, lol. I’m sure the LW told his colleague about negative experience. And where do these types of companies get the idea and think it’s great to make job applicants do this???? Are their minds living on another planet?

  11. Twenk*

    also, asking for references — this is still a weirdly persistent thing asked for in academic job ads, I’ve seen. it’s weird, right??

    1. I should really pick a name*

      Are saying asking for references is weird, or asking for references this early is weird?

      1. Twenk*

        yes, I meant, I think it’s off-putting to ask candidates for references at the time of applying — there’s not even confirmation of mutual interest yet!

    2. Rock Prof*

      Yeah! For what it’s worth, when I applied for my current position I wrote in my cover letter that I’d apply references (they wanted to full letters) if I made the short list. They ended up doing just that and I was the top candidate anyway.

    3. LCH*

      asking for references up front is annoying. i’d rather they do it later so i know they are about to check them.

      some of my references have asked that i provide them the job announcement and my current resume ahead of time. so just having my references floating out there about to be contacted whenever isn’t great for me. it makes me look like i forgot to do the thing i agreed to do.

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      References or letters of recommendation? I think asking for references for finalist candidates is standard. Letters of recommendation are a weird academic job thing.

      1. Twenk*

        I am referring to job postings with application instructions that say: “To apply, submit a cover letter, resume and the names and contact info for three professional references.” I hate that so much that I’ve not bothered to apply for jobs that ask for those ref contacts, since I don’t want to have to bug my references by giving them a heads-up on jobs that I’m only lightly interested in.

  12. And the Skeletons Are ... Part of It*

    My company’s application software is kind of like this – requiring three to ten “tell us about a time when” question essays in order to apply to anything – except as an added kicker, the software glitches/refreshes every 12 minutes or so and loses all your writing. So you learn the hard way to write everything out in Word and then pastepastepaste as fast as you can.

    It also keeps your initial candidate profile, so if you apply to a new role internally after 4+years on the job, you’re still using a lot of the wording/info you submitted when you were a fresh outside candidate. I think you can go modify stuff but it’s cumbersome and you’re never sure it worked.

    Many people have flagged this up, but nothing gets done. :/

    1. Heather, who is queer herself*

      I’m sure you don’t want to share the name, but may I ask what industry your company is in? Is your company’s process the typical experience in that industry?

      1. And the Skeletons Are ... Part of It*

        I’d put it as “healthcare / nonprofit / large”. I haven’t seen similar asks from other places, though I’ve only applied to a few and worked at one other. I think it’s just a feature of the software they use. It’s also an extremely meeting-heavy organization so maybe their threshold for a normal amount of busywork is just higher than others lol

  13. NotARealManager*

    I see DEI statements or essays required for a lot of jobs I apply for these days and I also do not work in a DEI space! It seems excessive to me too, especially when the roles have been for something like a receptionist position. I understand you don’t want to hire racist jerks, but that usually comes out pretty quickly in the interview stage.

    1. rollyex*

      “but that usually comes out pretty quickly in the interview stage.”

      The idea, among others, is to save everyone’s time ahead of the interview.

      1. NotARealManager*

        Who’s going to write something other than what you want to hear in a DEI statement? Once you start talking to people with DEI questions in an interview, then their actual attitudes become much more apparent.

        1. NotARealManager*

          Wanted to add: I think a DEI statement would make sense for people that are in positions that can create or lead that kind of space: teaching, HR, executive leadership, department managers. But for many others, what meaningful response are you going to get from them at the application stage? I think it’s useful to screen for and discuss for all positions, just not useful for most positions at the application stage.

      2. ferrina*

        Theoretically, but in practice:
        1) HR/Hiring managers may or may not even read these things, and
        2) It’s not hard to fake the writing portion if you want to fake it
        3) Some people just aren’t great at communicating in such a stilted format, especially about philosophical content (including DEIJ)
        4) It’s generally not quicker than a screening call, where it’s amazing what you’ll find out

      3. Anecdata*

        The issue is that it doesn’t – asking for written answers before initial interviews saves the company’s time at the expense of the applicant’s

        1. Enai*

          I’d argue that it doesn’t even do that, unless there’s some kind of proof that people who talk a good patter about how they are all about fairness and inclusion and stuff actually are more tolerant and less racist than those who don’t.

    2. Monkey See*

      Ummm….everyone should be working in a DEI space. You are completely missing the point of these questions. And unfortunately, most interviews don’t necessarily expose racist jerks or a lot of other kinds of jerks.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        Of course, but you’re opening yourself up to a copy and paste job if you’re asking for an essay. There are pointed interview questions you can ask that the applicant can’t BS their way through.

      2. BubbleTea*

        Sure, but we are talking about three essays on the topic before even a phone interview. I’d be surprised by that for a job specifically around DEI and writing.

      3. I'm just here for the cats!*

        Also would like to add teh DEI might not just working in that department. It could be trying to say that they work with diverse populations and take DEI seriously.

      4. RussianInTexas*

        No, I get what the OP is getting at.
        They are not working in a position of any kind of leadership or power, so the most they can say is “I treat everyone equally”.
        I am in a low peon position as well. I have zero power about my company’s policies, efforts, or anything of the sort.
        If I see an application that requites a whole freaking essay about a DEI, I would bow out. I am not an essay writer (would probably Chat GTP it, honestly), and it would be an overkill for any position I would be applying.

        1. B*

          In fact, I’d argue an organization that asks the same DEI questions of everyone from the C-suite to the maintenance staff is not an organization that takes DEI seriously.

      5. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        I’m no DEI expert, but I suspect it’s not furthered by expecting unpaid writing labor for the chance to be considered for a chance to be interviewed for a job.

    3. No Tribble At All*

      Eh, essays are easier to BS through than interviews. Three essay questions before even a phone screen is a ludicrous requirement.

      1. NYNY*

        This. Anyone can use ChatGPT to generate DEI statements. I would wonder if employer is doing this to show their support for DEI and roll my eyes in private.

    4. Tesuji*

      It’s kind of weird to me that everyone is assuming that DEI questions are a sign that this is a good company that is asking them because it actually honestly 100% cares about DEI issues.

      My cynical side thinks that DEI questions are a great way to ask someone about their political beliefs without actually asking about their political beliefs.

      If you were to ask something like “If you have ever been a member of any organization that advocates for LGBTQ rights, racial justice or social justice, please list it below,” that would raise more than a few flags and probably get push back. I’ve known more than a few employers who would have *loved* to ask a question like that.

      Phrase it as “Tell us how you’ve shown a commitment to DEI,” however, and you’ll have people falling over themselves to spill their guts.

  14. DisneyChannelThis*

    I agree that job applications are out of control. But I think by skipping the DEI questions completely you are doing yourself a disservice. It’s really hard for workplaces to identify problematic candidates, having a question about DEI early on is them trying to nod to inclusivity at least. A bullet point type response there at the least would serve you well. I’ve seen job panel interviews adding women from other teams in just to gauge a candidates ability to not be a sexist jerk (engineering field, unfortunately common).

    1. mb*

      I don’t think they skipped the DEI questions – just that it’s not necessary to write THREE! ESSAYS about it.

    2. I'm just here for the cats!*

      Also would like to add teh DEI might not just working in that department. It could be trying to say that they work with diverse populations and take DEI seriously.

  15. Capt. Liam Shaw*

    I stop applying when I encounter any of the following asked about:
    DEI statements
    Salary history
    Supervisor Contact Info

      1. Capt. Liam Shaw*

        Absolutely in an application. Unless you type out exactly what the system wants, you are going to get auto rejected anyway. Why waste the time.

        1. Fluffy Fish*

          Where are you getting your information that is the case?

          Open ended questions at my employer are reviewed by humans. No one is auto-rejected.

          1. Capt. Liam Shaw*

            Then your employer is a good one. I assume every company who uses any of the applicant tracking systems to use keywords and phrases. One of the reasons why I always use the job description as a guide for tailoring my resume. But open ended questions, yeah I am hard pass on that.

            Also a hard pass on any personality assessments too. Forgot that one in my original list.

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              “I assume every company who uses any of the applicant tracking systems to use keywords and phrases.”

              This is a myth. Some, certainly, most places though someone is putting eyes on applications.

            2. I should really pick a name*

              You’d be surprised.
              Often they’re just used to get applicants into the database, not for filtering.

            3. Fluffy Fish*

              Alison has done some posts debunking the myths of applicant tracking systems including that people are routinely filtered out for not using specific words.

              1. Hlao-roo*

                Two good posts to start with are:

                “resume “tricks” that will backfire on you” from January 26, 2015


                “your job application was rejected by a human, not a computer” from October 13, 2020

                1. Capt. Liam Shaw*

                  So I looked at the link from 2015. Her points she made are really not relevant to my points.

                  The post from 2020 wasn’t actually written by her but was an article from someone in HR (who ironically was looking for a job at the time) that basically said the computer doesn’t reject the application instead the criteria in the computer ranks applicants instead. Which many of the commenters at the time and I agree with today, is really just semantics.

                  I would personally say that right now, 2023 the job market is tougher than it was in 2020 for a lot of people. So I would take that into account when reading old articles on this blog.

            4. NotAnotherManager!*

              Nope, we use the ATS for stats, tracking, and reporting. It would be too much to manage in a spreadsheet, and it’s not something we want spread across multiple people’s inboxes (or a separate mailbox). A human being does the actual screening (but we also do not use essay or short-answer questions in our application process). The only type of auto-rejection/screening we use is that certain positions require a specific degree or licensure, and, if you check “no” rather than “yes” or “pending”, you will be exited from the process immediately.

          2. Snarkus Aurelius*

            If you don’t use the exact words in the job description in your entire application, USA Jobs will reject you in about five minutes.

            Or they used to. Don’t know now.

            1. Fluffy Fish*

              I have applied for many USA Jobs over the past year and didn’t run in to this.

              They do require that your resume directly states your experience that is required for the role because they are not going to interpret anything. But it’s not quite exactly many word for word or be rejected at least in my experience.

              1. Mianaai*

                Yeah, I’m a fed and have helped a lot of friends and people in my extended network with USAJOBS’ special form of hell. I always recommend that people format their resume by including the word-for-word experience item followed by concrete examples. So, for something with a job duty of “llama handling and care”:

                2012-2014: Junior Llama Wrangler (Llamas Inc)
                – *Llama handling and care*: Processed llama intake paperwork and performed preliminary physical examinations, transported llamas from intake to grooming and from grooming to pens, and monitored llamas in pens to ensure they had sufficient fresh food, water, and bedding (average of 5 llamas per day)

                USAJOBS is absolutely awful at all of this though, particularly for more technical positions where the initial screener doesn’t have knowledge of the field. It’s one of my personal pet peeves and I consider it to be very anti-DEI in practice despite nominally being “skills-based hiring”. It’s not impossible to get a job as a fed without an insider walking you through USAJOBS, but it can be extremely difficult and people with a tendency to be more modest about their qualifications or skills are likely to be weeded out during initial screening in favor of those who are more brash – even if the brash applications are objectively worse when reviewed by someone with technical knowledge for the field.

      2. Procedure Publisher*

        I have strong negative feelings towards DEI statements. They are more fluff than action. I don’t see them as doing any good.

        1. justcommentary*

          This is fair, though I think a company that’s making material improvements around equity and accessibility, and a company that’s just decorating themselves as such are going to look very similar upon first appearances. I think, correctly, a company takes those issues seriously would want to flag them for potential applicants from the jump, but there’s no way to know that as an applicant until you start digging in deeper (through questions) or work there yourself.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I would be so tempted to answer them with something like this, especially if I decided I didn’t want the job:

      DEI statements
      I support house elf liberation and full rights for all non-human magical creatures.

      Salary history
      10,700 Galleons annually

      Supervisor Contact Info
      Harry Potter, Head Auror
      Kingsley Shacklebolt, Minister of Magic

      1. BubbleTea*

        If I were reviewing responses to DEI questions, I’d seriously side-eye any Harry Potter references (even if made seriously).

        1. Elsewise*

          Yeah, same. I’d probably toss that application out.

          There’s a lot to criticize about companies that put all DEI labor on employees/applicants and don’t take any steps themselves, but if someone sees “DEI” and immediately clicks away from the application, then I think the filtering is working.

    2. CommanderBanana*

      I feel like I should be the one asking the company about their DEI efforts, not the other way around.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        In an individual contributor role, yes I agree. In management or executive leadership I think it should generally be a two way conversation.

      2. Enai*

        Yes, the company culture makes the inclusivity of the environment for people of diverse backgrounds, much more than anyone’s stated good intentions, no matter how well formulated.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I feel like most of my hiring processes have generally taken more time and effort than my college applications did. Which feels right, considering college was applying for the privilege of forking over a ton of money.

  16. JTP*

    I thought the general advice to checking off “do not contact my supervisor” was, “only do it for your current job.” Even if your supervisor from the previous job isn’t there anymore, they can still contact the company. It might be seen as a red flag to tell them not to contact anyone at that job.

    1. AnonORama*

      Well, sometimes they’re still there and that’s why you don’t want the potential employer calling. I worked for a really nasty person who’s still in the role where she managed me, thriving and entrenched, like an evil spider in a web of gossip, gaslighting and favoritism. I honestly cannot imagine what she would say if someone asked about me — probably that I held satanic rites in the office and caused people’s heads to shrink down like Beetlejuice. So, while it might look weird to check the “don’t call” box, it’s still the best bet.

  17. Bruce*

    LW: Hello fellow grumpy old person :-) I am curious what sort of response you get. My reaction would have been very similar! To me they’ve dug themselves into a hole and would need some special magic to make the job attractive…

  18. AMB*

    I saw a posting for a job that seemed interesting and up my alley – uploaded my resume, filled out the stupid fill-ins that ask all the information that’s already on my resume… got to the next page where it asked for three separate *video* responses (1-2 mins) where I would state different my responses on similar type questions. Not going to lie I kind of agonized over that one for a bit because the job did seem like a really good fit… but I ended up just closing out of the application altogether. I figured if someone in the company thought requiring videos was a good idea, then maybe there were other not-so-great things floating around about them.

    1. ferrina*

      I applied to a place that did that! The video essays were a waste of time- I’m not a videographer, it was night and my light was crappy. I only had one take for each video, so if I missed a point, I couldn’t go back and clarify. And of course, I felt super awkward the whole time. I’m generally amazing at interviews, but this one threw me for a loop.

      I talked into the void, and the void gave me the silent treatment.

    2. DEIWindowDressing*

      hopefully they weren’t the same places trying to push DEI given how difficult video is for folks with certain disabilities…

    3. Pink Candyfloss*

      The switch from typed responses to video responses is an example of subconsciously leaning in to “pretty privilege” and no one will ever convince me this doesn’t introduce yet another implicit bias into the hiring process. “It’s to weed out bots” sureJan.gif

  19. Essentially Cheesy*

    This sounds excessive to me as a potential job applicant.

    So since I never am on the inside of the hiring process .. how much does this backfire if an applicant thinks a lot of it is BS and blows it off, even if they are qualified? It’s like a losing situation for both sides, right?

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      Not in HR but have been on hiring committees before. We don’t have a huge application process. Fill in some info, and upload resume and cover letter. IMO this is hurting the company more. Because people who have choices will not do through these hoops and therefore they are losing qualified people.

  20. Grumpus*

    I’m interested by Alison’s response that applications should consist of a cover letter and resume at maximum. I’ve often thought that cover letters are pretty surplus to requirements for many roles, especially ones that require specific experiences or knowledge. Either you have it or you don’t. With ChatGPT, I intend to never write a cover letter from scratch again.

    1. Khatul Madame*

      It is possible to glean which letters were helped by ChatGPT. If you haven’t done the work of tailoring the generic chat output, your cover letter will work against you as a candidate.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      Once you establish you have multiple applicants who have the specific experience and knowledge, don’t you need a way to choose between them?

        1. I should really pick a name*

          What if you have so many suitable applicants that it’s not practical to do phone screens for all of them?

          I’m not saying cover letters should be mandatory, but I’m pushing back on the idea that they’re superfluous. (And if you can get a good cover letter out of ChatGPT, I don’t see any issue with that).

          Once you’ve hit the point where you have several applicants who meet your technical requirements, you need info to figure out which of the ones from that group you want to talk to. A cover letter can be one way of getting that info.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      A lot of industries don’t care about cover letters – I’m not sure my husband has written one in well over a decade. Some of the other departments where I work don’t care about them. My department does a lot of formal writing and business communication, so I like cover letters to see how someone expresses themselves in writing to people they likely don’t know well because it’s similar to some requirements of the jobs.

  21. Notwithstanding the Foregoing*

    I was recently job searching and, according to my tracking spreadsheet, applied to over 100 jobs. Most required Workday or something similar and never parsed my resume correctly or the same way across systems.

    One company simply asked to email them a resume. They responded quickly and after two interviews hired me. Most of the complicated applicant systems applications are still waiting to be reviewed.

    I know large companies need tracking systems, but the complexity either makes candidates drop out or means a more nimble company offered a job to a strong candidate before they even completed a first review of the applicants.

    1. Bruce*

      I’ve hired people recently, I think the resumes I got were prescreened by the recruiter mainly using key-words, but as far as I know the only requirement was a resume and filling in some basic contact info online. I sorted through a lot of resumes and found for some jobs a lot of good candidates, for intern roles it really hurt that I only had 1 job and could have taken any one of more than 20 candidates. Bottom line the only thing I looked at to screen was the resume. This is for a large tech company. It did help to have the tracking system, but it was nothing like some of the atrocities described here…

  22. Blackbeard*

    About 25 years ago, in France, some people were recommending to write the motivation letter by hand so to show one’s own commitment and interest in the job.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      The French had (and probably some still do have) a weird obsessions with cursive writing. Never really affected my French coworkers in engineering or other technical fields, as far as I could tell. But maybe with large companies it’s still a thing.

    2. Relentlessly Socratic*

      I would never ever ever have been hired. My handwriting is worse than the average MD.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        I start out fine and about two sentences in it falls apart. It’s like I’ve got a time-delay demon taking over my handwriting.

    3. anonymous professor*

      Back in the mid-1990s, I was living in Spain with two French housemates. One of them was in the middle of a job search, trying to find a position back in France. I watched, baffled, as she painstakingly drafted and then handwrote her letters of application to each firm in her very best handwriting. I offered to let her use my laptop (a relative rarity in Europe at the time) to compose and print her letter, and it was her turn to be baffled. She was astonished when I explained that in the US, if you submitted a handwritten application letter, it would immediately go in the trash or at least be held against you as an indication that you did not know how to use necessary technology. I was astonished when she explained to me that in France (at the time), if you did not submit a handwritten application letter, your bid for the job would be rejected, since it was customary to use handwriting analysis on all job applicants to see if they were suitable for employment. This was one of many points of cultural confusion we encountered during the time we lived together (what is that French mania for closing every. single. door. in the house about, anyway?).

      1. Blackbeard*

        Ah yes. I remember that too. Many French firms wanted a handwritten letter from the candidate to analyze their personality and determine whether they were suitable.

        Complete connerie (bullshit), of course.

      2. French frog*

        French gal here. I don’t know if they do that anymore but 25 years ago we had to put our marital status and photo on our resume. How crazy is that? I’m working in the US now and gladly so.

      3. rollyex*

        “Since it was customary to use handwriting analysis on all job applicants to see if they were suitable for employment”W

        W T F.

    4. Meet Moot*

      My first full-time job required the standard typed CV and cover letter, but also sent me an extra page with some questions (50 word max responses) which they asked be printed and filled out by hand. When I eventually got the job they said the fact that I’d taken the time to write neatly (instead of scrawling, crossing out, rewriting on the page etc) was one of the reasons they hired me, as it showed I took the role seriously and cared about detail.

  23. HigherEd*

    My employer does this and I think it’s pretty common in Higher Education. The best part is that depending on the classification of the role, the hiring team NEVER sees ANY of it – not even the resumes. We’re not allowed to look at any of the paperwork they submitted to HR.

    1. Kendall^2*

      Huh. I was a departmental admin through two department faculty searches, and while I was the first line of defense in each (reviewing CVs for required elements, like where they got their PhD, what their dissertation was, how much teaching experience they had, contact info, legal to work in the US as is, etc etc etc, putting the info in a big spreadsheet), after that, the hiring committee did review applicants’ materials.

      1. HigherEd*

        We review materials for faculty and admin hiring – but for staff we don’t get to review any of their materials or review their qualifications. HR handles all it and often weed out candidates we encouraged to apply for “not meeting minimum qualifications”. They also have to do really dated computer-based tests on outdated office skills. My team reviewed the test for entry level positions in our department and some of the questions are flat out wrong – HR says it was reviewed by subject matter experts so there’s nothing we can do about it. I find it pretty scummy.

        But all candidates have to write a number of short essays explaining how they meet minimum qualifications and DEI statements.

    2. soontoberetired*

      I just found out my manager does not see any info related to references when he is doing hiring. He does not know why.

  24. CSRoadWarrior*

    OMG. I can’t imagine having to write multiple essays. This was completely overboard as Alison said. No job seeker, especially ones who are unemployed, have time for this. It is hard enough to be a job seeker and this just rubs salt on the wound.

    This also reminds me of a time when I went through a similar application. Instead of giving up or doing what OP did, I did something very out of line. I answered “F*** you” on every question. Including the essay portions. Obviously I didn’t get the job. But I didn’t even want that job given how the application was. I just got mad and wasn’t having it that day.

    1. Lusara*

      I was thinking along those lines but nicer for the essay questions. Something like: “This is an excessive request for an initial application.” or “Please review my resume and cover letter and let me know if you want to proceed further.”

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      Like, I don’t want to write multiple essays unless I’ve got a publishing contract, you know?

  25. It's Marie - Not Maria*

    I would have noped out too. If the Hiring Process is this involved and convoluted, what will their other company processes look like. They are giving you valuable insight into how they run their organization, good thing you were paying attention.

  26. TheE*

    Let me assure you this isn’t just a complaint by a grumpy old person. This type of excessive application is well known and thoroughly despised in Millenial/GenZ circles, and the subject of many, many memes. Between that, endless rounds of panel interviews that all ask the same questions, and the one way self recorded “video screens,” can you wonder why we feel so soured on the job search process?

    1. dackquiri*

      Yeah, I was gonna say I associate this kind of complaint with younger people because this application process is usually only applied to entry-level positions, where there’s more applicants to screen and the applicants don’t have anything else to fall back on. Usually they don’t use it for jobs that require experience because they know that most qualified candidates have learned to value their time and give it the eyeroll and/or j/o motion it deserves.

      LW, you’re very in your right to complain because while no one should have to put up with something so disrespectful of your time and effort, it’s bone-chilling to see someone with your level of experience subjected to this by a place you describe as prestigious! That’s not the direction I want the arc of this trend to be traveling!

  27. Smaller Potatoes*

    Only job where I’ve seen this level of hoop jumping make any sense was the astronaut application process! Giant first level form filling, then 2 rounds of online timed tests, and then they proceeded to in person testing. I made it through the form filling and online tests – only the final 100 got to speak with a real human.

  28. Miss Mary*

    I was thinking about applying for a library director’s position in a smallish (pop. 20,000) town. Skimming through the application, I saw that they wanted to know where I went to Elementary School and what my Course of Study was there. They also wanted to know what Specialized Skills I had and what Equipment I was trained to use: Terminal, PC/MAC, Typewriter (WPM), Spreadsheet, Word Processing, and Shorthand (WPM). I almost applied for the job just to tell them they needed to update their application.

        1. rollyex*

          My research focus in pre-school was on hugging and going potty by myself. Later, in kindergarten, I specialized in hugging and also learning my ABCs. Now won’t you sing along with me?

  29. Critical Failure*

    I don’t think you’re being too grumpy or snobby, that sounds like so much work! I’m job searching right now, and I’ve abandoned several applications just because the process was so ridiculous. I encountered one company that wanted me to do a one-way video interview – so just record myself answering their screening questions – and this was after a really long application process. And then another company wanted me to waive my rights to ever sue the company for anything, and stipulated that my application would not even be considered unless I waived those rights. I was like, how bad is this company that they want just the applicants to sign a waiver????

    However, I am currently in an interview process with an organization that is having me do several interviews (thankfully all remote), and while it takes a lot of energy, I appreciate that I’m getting to talk with several people who are very familiar with the job and learn about their expectations and what it’s actually like to work for this organization. I don’t mind investing that kind of time because at least I am getting a chance to determine if the job is right for me. But to demand that kind of time and energy up front without anything in return – not for me.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      You had to waive your rights to sue them??? Just to apply? I’m with you–I’d be scared to apply there!

  30. LCH*

    i’ve had places ask me to complete the official application form *after* sending me the offer letter and me accepting. as some kind of formality/record for HR. i preferred that to doing it up front.

  31. Sprigatito*

    I saw a job listing a few months ago that required the applicant upload their last three performance reviews. And another one that required a letter of recommendation from their current manager. I completely noped away from both of those listings, because that company clearly has no basis in reality.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      A performance review from another company is not going to make much sense. And depending on the company it could maybe have sensitive information. (such as if the performance eval had goals related to specific projects.

    2. kalli*

      Well, that rules me out, Pip. 3 years at my current job and not a single performance review.

      I get a letter about minimum wage increase but that has nothing to do with performance. I just know I’m doing well when the boss emails me to add to my regular task list (instead of it coming through my supervisor).

      Actually I don’t think I’ve had a single performance review, let alone anything in writing about my performance, in 20 years.

  32. Wilbur*

    I’ve started to appreciate the places that don’t let you create an account, make up a password that meets their arbitrary rules, security questions, etc. Instead they just email you a code. Honestly, I’m not going to remember my password by the time I come back to check your system so why not cut out the extra nonsense?

  33. 1-800-BrownCow*

    Ugh, I don’t when they did away with it but when I applied to my current employer 10+ years ago, I received 2 pages of questions that I had to give 3-4 sentence answers to so those interviewing me could asses my abilities and personality. I received the questionnaire via email while I was at work and I worked on it some that evening between taking care of my, at-the-time, 2 and 5 year old children, while my husband was at work. The following morning, I received a follow-up email from HR asking if I was done with the questionnaire yet as they hadn’t seen anything come through and wanted to make sure it wasn’t missed. I replied back that I had started working on it the evening before, but wasn’t done yet and would get it finished that evening and email it back. I received a response reminding me how important it was to get it back from me if I wanted to move forward with the interview process. So, I worked on it some at work and then finished it up that evening and emailed it back.

    At the time, I had been job hunting for a bit and this company was someplace I really wanted to work, so I was willing to jump through all the hoops to get the job. I’m still there 10 years later and am fairly content. Thankfully I didn’t do all that work to end up somewhere terrible. I’m now a manager and have interviewed people for open positions on my team. Thankfully we no longer do the annoying questionnaire, so whomever decided it was a waste, I’m glad they did!

  34. Garblesnark*

    I don’t mind if an initial application also includes up to 3 very simple questions with radio button answers about things highly pertinent to the role, like “do you have security clearance” or “do you have an x license” or “do you have experience with q.”

  35. Dorothy Zpornak*

    Extensive applications are pretty common in higher ed. They often want a work sample, DEI statement, and/or responses to essay questions. If an academic job, also a teaching statement and a research statement, plus a writing sample and a summary of teaching evaluations. You wouldn’t find many jobs to apply to if you were only willing to look at those that require only a resume and cover letter. I don’t know if that’s exclusive to education or if it’s just a general *insanely tight job market so we can require whatever we want because you’re desperate and we’ll still get 1k applicants for every position* thing, and would work for any position that’s really competitive.

  36. nnn*

    I’m thinking even if the application process fell within general norms but OP felt that it wasn’t worth the work, then that would be a sign that OP shouldn’t apply. You don’t have to apply for an opportunity just because it exists

  37. Selina Luna*

    It might be an “education is weird” thing, but I’ve never had a job that didn’t require at least one essay. I had literally no idea this wasn’t normal, and I just have essays ready on the most common topics, which I update with more recent or relevant jargon every couple of years, even though I’m not actively job searching.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Maybe I’m getting hung up on terminology. Are these essays supposed to be things that express a personal opinion, argue a position, and attempt to convince the reader? Because the two most common long-form things you might write in an academic career are a research paper or a course syllabus – and neither of those are really supposed to be opinionated documents (or at least the opinion has to be supported by lots of data, and therefore be more or less self-evident).

      I had to provide a writing sample to my first job out of college, because they did a lot of proposal work to the federal government and needed to know that the engineers they were hiring could write concisely and convincingly. And I guess since a proposal is an extended advertisement, part of the job is to convince the feds that we could provide a better product than the other guys. But I mostly was writing the dry technical stuff – the argumentative, bring-it-home stuff was written by marketers.

      Then if you look at a job like accounts payable, the most they are ever going to write in prose English that’s even remotely essay-like is a letter or email asking for clarification or correction on an invoice. And there’s not really any room in there for personal expression.

      1. RussianInTexas*

        Once in a while I have to write to a customer about an issue, and how sorry I am we are having issues, and could you please accommodate our issues, etc. Or a question about a contract issue.
        Once in a while I also have to send out letters about say, new tariffs, price index, etc. But I have basic templates for these things.
        I never have to wrote anything even remotely-essay like.

      2. Selina Luna*

        I’m a regular ol’ high school teacher. The essays are more like 500-word explanations of beliefs and explanations of how I deal with common situations. One of the more recent ones was how I address diversity in my classroom.

    2. RussianInTexas*

      I am in my 30s and I haven’t written an essay since early college. My jobs have never required ant kind of writing outside of the standard business correspondence like e-mails.
      So YMMV.

  38. BW*

    Since you’re not all that interested in the job at this point, I wonder what would happen if you just entered a couple of sentences and then filled in all the rest with “ipsum lorem” faux text. Then finish with a couple real sentences. Would anyone just scanning all that text even catch that you hadn’t even written something?

  39. Six Degrees of Separation*

    I would like an update on this one. I’ve sorely been tempted to do the same, but I always wonder if providing the bare minimum would work against me…

  40. Six Degrees for Now*

    I would like an update on this one. I’ve sorely been tempted to do the same, but I always wonder if providing the bare minimum would work against me…

  41. Silicon Valley Girl*

    I feel sorry for folks earlier in their careers & others who are in more critical need of a job right now, who don’t have the luxury of skipping these horrible application processes.

  42. Tesuji*

    Maybe I’m just a cynic, but man, do those DEI essays feel like a minefield to me.

    That feels like a really obvious way to get people to give personal information about themselves that you otherwise couldn’t legally ask for, as well as screening out people who are *too* passionate about it, if the company isn’t.

    Personally, I’d be anxious AF trying to craft the perfect essay that gives away nothing about myself, while simultaneously making sure I come across as just the precisely correct amount of being committed to DEI.

    Honestly, diversity statements feel to me like the grown-up equivalent of a college application essay. In the same way that high school students who maybe might legitimately have had life experience that fits into a compelling narrative framework get buried under the mountains of kids who are forced to make it sound like they do, job applicants who are actually committed to diversity will get buried in the crowd of everyone trying to contort their job experience into the right framework. I’ll be happy when this fad fades.

  43. RVA Cat*

    Hypocrisy is asking for essays about DEI while also asking for every job a candidate’s ever had so you can commit age discrimination.

  44. cactus lady*

    I feel like this kind of thing is more common at “Very Prestigious Organizations”. They use it to weed people out so they don’t get TOO many applicants… but they also weed good applicants out when they go overboard. At my org we ask simple questions that are directly relevant to the job that the applicant has to select an answer for, like “What’s the highest level of education you’ve completed?” and “how many years of directly relevant experience do you have”, because it weeds out bots and people who just apply EVERYWHERE.

  45. HarvardStaff*

    I’m 75% sure this is my employer or one in the same field and level, and if I’m right, I felt the exact same way and almost didn’t apply because of it. it’s insane.

  46. bamcheeks*

    This amount of detail would be pretty normal in most UK public sector applications (assuming by “essay responses” you mean 3 paragraphs / 2-300 words, not 1000 words.) However, we don’t do initial screenings and multi-stage interview processes: you can often speak to the hiring manager informally before applying, then you apply, then there is one interview and a decision.

    1. Rebeck*

      Also incredibly common in education and government in Australia – my application for my current place of work had eleven Key Selection Criteria but a single interview.

  47. Wes*

    It’s not snobby to hate their system, but the comments around “I’m a senior level director so I don’t have time for this anymore” is.

    Nobody has time for this BS, not even poor people who need the job and can’t afford food!

  48. 15 Pieces of Flair*

    In 2019 I was an underemployed freelancer looking for a fully remote role in tech, which were much rarer and exponentially more competitive pre-pandemic. The worst hiring process I encountered involved 7(!) separate skills tests before ever speaking to a live person.

    Of course, the employer didn’t disclose the number of assignments up front, so each time I submitted one I thought that surely this was the final test. By the time I realized that their process was ridiculously long, I’d already invested a lot of time and was reluctant to abandon the opportunity (sunk costs fallacy).

    Two months and countless frustrating hours later, I finally received an offer. This startup felt that 40k base + 35k target bonus was sufficient for a technical customer success manager. I fortunately turned them down for the same fully remote role at another startup for 75k base + 30k target bonus with a standard 3 interview hiring process.

    1. Blackbeard*

      That’s the problem — sometimes you invest hours of your time for something really bad.

      Until I know everything about the job (salary, title, job description, location, holidays, WFH, benefits, etc.) the maximum of effort I am now willing to do when applying is to send my CV.

  49. Safely Retired*

    To me it sounds like the organization is using a third party to do the front end work, and that entity is more interested in harvesting everyone’s data than they are in filling the position. Detailed data on someone as high level as the OP can be worth $$$.

  50. Defective Jedi*

    I bailed on a non-academia job application today that asked what my GPA was for my undergraduate degree. Which I earned 30 years ago. And it was a required field. There’s no world where that matters, and the job sounded interesting but not interesting enough to try and track down that information.

  51. DivergentStitches*

    I used to work in recruiting. Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are expensive and very difficult to change. Some, like Taleo, are old-fashioned and out of touch (requiring people to put their resume info in different fields, etc.)

    Also there’s all these companies that promise better hiring results if you buy their software that gets to know the candidate really well, etc. Basically sold a bag of goods.

  52. Ex-prof*

    I bet “very prestigious” is the problem here. Places like that do tend to assume you’ll jump through endless hoops, and like it, to be considered by them.

    Many years ago I applied for a job with National Geographic. The application process was ridiculous. I fled.

  53. Shrimp Emplaced*

    Totally excessive application process for the OP.

    But I will say one of my favorite application processes for a senior position I really wanted involved several short essay questions (minis the tedious online interface) in lieu of a cover letter. It allowed me to explain how my experiences in very different fields could translate to the new field and position, as well as my passion for the work. (There was also a DEI question, as it was a social impact job.) It felt like an opportunity to shine right out of the gate. (Made it to the in-person rounds as one of the final two, fwiw.)

    1. kalli*

      Yeah – short answer questions instead of a cover letter are great because you can hammer down on what they want to know rather than going through and making sure you address ‘excellent verbal communication skills’ in your cover letter when really that should be implied at interview. Even with hard character limits – those just give you an idea of how long your response needs to be!

      I will say that those systems work better when you can preview the form and prepare your docs and answers before getting in, as that makes it less likely you’ll time out (if their system has that).

  54. Job Seeking*

    I just went through a crazy process like this. after a 45 minute “screening call,” there was a FIVE HOUR, UNPAID task. I said right away that this not equitable and they provided a long email describing how this task replaces three of the five additional interviews they used to have and they think it’s more equitable because it accommodates people who don’t do well in interviews.

    I did the task without putting my full effort in it and added that I should get valuable feedback for completing it. Of course I did make it through, but I asked for feedback in writing and on the phone so I could ask questions – and they provided it! I learned that (1) I did the task well but others did better (2) I would have done what they suggested for improvement if I had more time (3) my instinct was right that the job was not worth it (4) I am qualified for this higher-level role.

    All this was for a director-level role at a small nonprofit for much lower pay than my previous lower-level job. My last employer (a national nonprofit) had fewer hoops for the executive director they hired!

    I will never apply for a job with this organization again (or a job with such a crazy task), but I am proud of the work I did and having the nerve to speak my mind. Even after I got feedback on the task, I reiterated what is wrong with their process before saying goodbye.

  55. Peter*

    I am not defending this company at all. But is the idea that they are basically gathering the equivalent of 2-3 job interviews’ worth of material in a written format which is very easy to skim-read, to Ctrl-F through and so on? I have seen similarly laborious application processes full of questions like this and my guess was they didn’t have time to interview lots of candidates but they did just about have time to skim read their written answers then go through them all on their screens and call 1 or 2 people back for a real interview. Stupid process, but that is my *guess* about what they hope to achieve. It’s obviously not a good idea, though.

  56. Inkognyto*

    I was unemployed and had a recruiter contact me about a position that sounded good. I did some digging it was one I saw before but I know I had not applied. I asked them (internal recruiter for the company) how long they had been searching. Over a year. This is the Information Security… (so red flag but let’s see how picky they are).

    I asked if I could email her the resume and a cover letter and was told it needed to be filled out online, but you attached those two at the end.
    I checked out the online form. Light bulb moment on why I had passed it by before. (I was tracking these, but I wasn’t when I started job searching originally)

    This application for was one of those I want everything, for all positions you have held. I’ve been working for 30 years. They wanted all of that information on all of the jobs/contacts, why did you leave, what did you like and dislike about each and every job, a non manager contact they can call at the company etc. Interview style questions all over the place. I have no idea how long it was because some of the field requirements I never did get to the end.

    I went back to the recruiter and said I didn’t have information going back over 20 years on contact information and some of it no longer existed in name. I asked the recruiter was all of this information crucial to getting the job, and if I didn’t fill in some field what happened. “Yes, if fields are not filled out properly it doesn’t to an interview. The manager is excited for you to apply. (Oh you bet because I’d probably be the first person)

    I replied “Then you need a better application process because I’m not applying. There would be gaps in things that are not even needed but required, and also the system for inputting the resume is text limited and doesn’t allow copy and pasting, it’s archaic, and probably why the position is unfilled. Good Luck.”

    I hung up to silence, I figured someone had to tell them their application process sucked. Most of these poorly designed websites take that data and shove it into a simple PDF that comes out a mess.

    1. Blackbeard*

      Well done. If more applicants did the same, companies would probably stop with these ridiculous things.

  57. Melbourne Musings*

    In the Australian not for profit health and community sectors this is completely standard. It’s extremely rare to find any job requiring just a resume and cover letter. Most jobs require on average 8 x 200+ word answers to questions plus a resume and cover letter, even at the most entry level roles. My last job application required 18 answers plus tailored resume and cover letter. Exhausting and frankly demoralising.

  58. Pink Candyfloss*

    “I know for a fact the hiring manager doesn’t have time to review 15+ pages of information from every applicant” Ah, but AI does, and algorithmic screening & summarization of applications is becoming more and more of a thing. Don’t count out an AI program for scanning your application and pulling out both green and red flagged items, summarizing that for the hiring managers, from which they then review more closely to take their initial candidate pool.

  59. Anon in Canada*

    This got mentioned in a discussion over another post a few days ago. It’s a Topgrading application.

    Requiring that the applicant put job details in those little boxes (despite a resume being submitted) is 100% normal for all ATSs, but it’s stupid that it ever got that way.

    Requiring essays for an initial application is ridiculous.

    Requiring that you list every single job you ever had, no matter how old you are and no matter how many jobs you had, is bananas. Everyone pretty much agrees that a resume does not need to go back more than 10 to 15 years at most. Someone suggested – and I think they were right – that this requirement to list every single job you ever had is a way to discriminate against candidates for being “too old”, because they force you to give your approximate age.

  60. An*

    This makes me think of Captain Awkward’s idea that “The purpose of a first date is to decide if you want a second date with this person.”
    An initial job application should not contain all the information to decide “Should we hire this person?” It can’t. It just needs to be enough to decide “Should we move this person to the next step of the process?”

  61. Library Worker*

    I work for a public library that is also part of the municipal government. The government applications require account creation (with two factor, which is awful when helping new immigrants that want shelver positions), a resume and cover letter upload, and multiple other steps. Every other government position I applied to was the same. This is so much for the job applicants I’m helping in the library, and I see it in so many applications. I don’t think many organizations that are hiring for folks with little technical experience (certain trades, retail, etc) even consider that the people that are attempting to apply aren’t always computer literate (you might say that weeds out some folks, but what about jobs that don’t need a computer?). OP, I’m sorry.

  62. Aspiring Great Manager*

    Alas, if you apply to the Federal Government in Canada, it will be something like this: you have to input all CV info AND upload the CV, answer questions with paragraphs but the questions are normally asking you to explain how you meet each of the essential criteria. These are paragraphs, not full-on essays (The LW sounds like he was really frustrated with this, so I’m reading ‘essay’ as a couple paragraphs, because I really think an ‘essay’ is really unlikely. )

  63. SofiaDeo*

    In the past (admittedly before there was extensive online applications) I occasionally had paper application forms that asked numerous questions. I used to write “please see resume” when my resume did in fact already answer the question that was being asked. I do not think it affected my ability to get an interview, or a job. So perhaps that may help on occasion, where warranted. I’ll mention I generally worked in high demand places, so that may have been a factor when a place was desperate for warm bodies. If they had numerous apllicants, who knows if I would have gotten an interview.

  64. Mothman*

    I once had an application take, I kid you not, four hours. Just the application.

    What can I say? I was desperate.

    The job I got asked for an emailed resume and a couple of examples of work. That’s it.

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