Key words and phrases

In my blog; [#205] “No end in sight” I referenced the importance of a “new” condition for on line job applications. Specifically one condition imposed by employers is a hidden trigger for rejection called “key words or phrases” that automatically ends the interview on line if the applicant says the “wrong” thing. That’s right an applicant’s application can be terminated if these key words or phrases are used. One of my readers asked the logical question; what are these key words and there in lies the rub. These code words are designed to fit the individual company or recruiting organizations goals and objectives. They are also frequently designed to detect attitudinal trends in the applicants thinking process. This may seem like a reasonable condition at first glance but as my friends in New Jersey say “not so fast.” Applying for a job should not require the applicant to reveal social or political points of view; what does that have to do with how you perform your work?

Invasion of privacy aside here are examples of code words that can cost you, your friends or relatives the opportunity to even be considered for a job let alone actually getting one.

I must say some code words make sense and generally are not hidden. For example if you are applying for a job at the Post Office and a question is asked like; do you have a dog at home and you say you hate dogs, the interview might be over however that’s not what I’m talking about.

In one application it is required to answer the typical math question; if a train leaves Chicago at sixty miles an hour and another train leaves LA at forty five miles an hour when will they meet in Kansas City? If the applicant fails to answer this question he or she might be immediately eliminated from consideration and in most cases notified on line that he or she is no longer a candidate for that job. You might say what’s wrong with that and I would point out the job was for a shipping clerk in a warehouse that does not require any math. Why then would the recruiter/employer put this question in and the answer is that there may be other answers on the application that the employers didn’t like. Questions that might put the applicant in an undesirable category like; too old, past medical problems, political affiliations, social problems in high school or the military. These “other” issues might not be legal issues for rejection but still a concern to potential employers.

A white-collar application might contain a phrase like; as a manager you are required to settle a dispute between two lieutenants regarding a racial issue that erupted within their respective staffs. Who would you support under these circumstances? If the applicant answers that he or she would support whomever was correct or not take sides or be inclined to support a minority manager the applicant would be shutdown but probably not notified via the computer application. By the way the correct answer would be to turn it over to your personnel department.

The application is for a fund raising job and a phrase is used; do you use and are you familiar with spread sheets? If the applicant says they are “familiar” with but don’t use spread sheets on a regular basis you could be eliminated and the job application could be terminated immediately. Mind you fund raising is a “personality” driven profession not an accounting driven role but failure of this question coupled with possible issues I outlined like age, medical history, etc might be reason for rejection.

In an application the statement is; you must be fluent in Outlook and if you say you are familiar with many computer applications and can make yourself fluent in Outlook it is a reason to reject your application.
Because the available jobs are low in number and demand is high there is no reason for companies to have to allow a learning curve with candidates for a job. Another computer related question is social media and if the applicant is not familiar with tweeter, facebook, Reedit, Pinterest, Care2, Cluster Flunk, Delicious and the list goes on they could be rejected. Failure to know all of these leading social network services could eliminate candidates from a job like media planning and buying in the advertising world.

I must point out that the recruitment agencies and companies paying for these employee applications keep these coded words and phrases very secret and they do change the words or phrases on a regular basis to avoid hackers attempting to beat the system. It should also be noted that some companies and recruiting agencies readily admit they use code words for acceptance or rejections but many others deny they use such tools. The facts are they are being used and they in many cases are totally unfair and cost you, your family or close friends job opportunities.

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