Who Wants The Job?

Over this last month, my wife and I searched for and hired a new nanny, as ours had decided to learn programming and move to The Bay.

We ended up with a wonderful woman we found through a personal recommendation on a local mailing list. Her previous employer posted saying, hire this woman, she’s fantastic, and this was indeed the case.

Before we realized we’d found her, various people encouraged us to post a job listing on a website, so we did so on Sittercity.

That went… less well.

We got over one hundred applications.

The majority of them had profiles that did not match the requirements of the job. About half were only available for a few months or for part time work. Many others wouldn’t work with multiple children, or had higher salary requirements than we listed.

The vast majority of them had major spelling and/or grammar errors in their profiles. Also in their messages to us.

From the remaining profiles, we reached out to a few dozen applicants.

The majority of them did not respond to us at all. 

Of those who did respond, several did not answer the phone for the initial interview and provided no explanation.

Of those who did answer, several were actively rude on the phone. 

Of those who were not rude on the phone, several did not engage with the questions being asked or show any interest in the job,

Of those who passed that screening and were asked to come for an in person interview, fully half of them failed to show up, most with no warning or cancellation. In all such cases, they didn’t contact us again. In other cases, they cancelled, but failed to make any real effort to reschedule.

As a result of all this, we only ended up doing two in person interviews. Because it turns out that getting people to show up, at all, is super hard. One of them seemed acceptable in a punch. The other we hired.

The vast majority of people who were on a job site, seeking a job, were not capable of tasks like: Write a profile page in English without major mistakes. Respond promptly when an employer contacts you to respond to your application. Talk politely on the phone and sound like you are listening and care about the job. Show up to your interview.

Yes. Standards are that low. 

You are much more employable than you think.

If you’re wondering why employers say it’s so hard to hire people despite getting a hundred applications for every position? That’s why.

If you’re wondering why many people can’t find work? I can’t help but wonder if it’s because they can’t do the very basic things even at high leverage points like the interview process. Things like showing up and responding to emails. Being on time. Being polite. Making sure the profile you show the world doesn’t have major errors and matches the jobs you’re applying to. Acting like you actually want the job.

Those are standards that 98% or so of applications we got failed to live up to. Presumably the same people, failing to live up to them, apply again and again, failing those standards again and again, wondering why they can’t get hired.



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27 Responses to Who Wants The Job?

  1. Pingback: Rational Feed – deluks917

  2. Jugemu says:

    Nanny is a relatively low paying and insecure form of employment that’s attractive to unskilled and/or illegal immigrants. The labour pool is likely to be quite different from the jobs your underemployed friends want.

    • TheZvi says:

      No argument about that, standards won’t be *this* low, but the post I considered writing instead and might write soon is simply called “Standards are Low.” And impostor syndrome seems pervasive.

  3. joshuatfox says:

    This famous article explains why 99% of candidates are so bad.


    It’s because the good ones have a job. The bad ones are circling around the job market over and over.
    In your case, I suspect that a lot of the profiles are not serious. Someone put a profile online because it is free and because who knows, maybe some excellent offer will come in. High-skill professionals do the same thing with LinkedIn.

    • TheZvi says:

      Yeah, I likely should have been more explicit about the whole ‘the ones who are any good already got hired’ thing. Which has the same implication, of course – that if you can simply display what we’d instinctively think of as ordinary competence, you’ll get hired reasonably quickly once you start putting in effort. Which matches my experience on both sides.

  4. sohois says:

    Quick Question:
    How detailed was the job description you posted? Would all 100 applicants have been fully aware of the salary on offer, the hours of work, general conditions, etc., or was it only revealed after they applied?

    • TheZvi says:

      When I say these things did not fit, I refer only to things we explicitly mentioned in the job post.

      • sohois says:

        I only ask because it is plausible that the few dozen applicants that gave no response did so because of applying to a vague job advert, and subsequently decided they weren’t interested once more details were revealed.

  5. harland0 says:

    This is why we need immigrants. The American people are weak and lazy and don’t deserve to live here. We need to get more people in who will be happy to work and appreciate what they have. Deport the deplorables.

  6. Scott says:

    This is also the result of mass job postings and the ease of response. See something vaguely like a third-tier backup job in case you don’t hear back from the two hundred applications you sent out last week? Hit the “apply” button. How does it make sense to spend lots of time tailoring an application for a job that isn’t very good? It makes sense to apply as long as the time cost isn’t considerable.

    Another point, too, is that employers don’t feel the need to respond to all applications, so this dusregard cuts both ways. As a job seekers on the internet you’re just throwing your information into the ether. Job searching doesn’t work well that way for anybody, as evidenced by the fact that after a hundred applications you ended up with someone you already knew secondhand. Why should they respect your time if they have no guarantee of reciprocity from you or any other employer? Prospective employees are just treating employers the same way employers have been treating them for quite a while- as a big cattle call audition. That makes sense in any near-minimum wage case. The only surprise here is that anyone expects the applicants to personalize an impersonal process.

    • rrhersh says:

      “Another point, too, is that employers don’t feel the need to respond to all applications…”
      This is certainly my experience in my (blessedly not recent) job-hunting ordeals. I have applied for jobs for which I was well qualified, only to hear nothing back. I think you are right about the ease of posting jobs and responding to said posts.

      • TheZvi says:

        We certainly didn’t respond to all applications. It would be better if there was a norm that you would reply “Sorry, not interested” to anyone you had ruled out, but (for legal reasons?) the convention is actually the opposite. So if we knew we weren’t interested from the get go, we just didn’t respond.

  7. pseu·don·y·mous says:

    My wife works in a brain injury rehab clinic where she oversees a team of therapists with graduate degrees who do high-skill things like planning treatment and providing therapy, and treatment techs who do low-skill things like assisting with eating/toileting and grading work against a rubric. And she often laments that the techs she hires seem incapable of understanding the basic concept of a rubric or applying it to what is essentially middle-school-level coursework. To the point that she complains that it seems no one in the labor pool possesses even a bare minimum of intelligence, intellectual curiosity, or initiative.

    At which point I remind her that the majority of employees in her own clinic, (including herself), possess the intelligence, intellectual curiosity, and initiative to successfully grade middle-school-level coursework, it’s just that they are highly-trained therapists who are too busy doing highly-trained therapist things. What she’s really lamenting is the lack of people with intelligence, curiosity, and initiative who are willing to engage in the mindless drudgery of endlessly grading busywork for $10 an hour at a job that also requires you to sometimes help grown adults successfully, (or even unsuccessfully), use the bathroom.

    Really, it doesn’t reflect poorly on society that she finds it difficult to fill these positions. It would reflect far more poorly on society if she didn’t.

    • herculesorion says:

      “What she’s really lamenting is the lack of people with intelligence, curiosity, and initiative who are willing to engage in the mindless drudgery of endlessly grading busywork for $10 an hour at a job that also requires you to sometimes help grown adults successfully, (or even unsuccessfully), use the bathroom.”

      dingdingdingdingding we have a winner

      I understand the blogger’s frustration but I’m also reminded of all those articles about how places have dozens, simply *dozens* of *well-paying* jobs for *skilled professionals* that are going *begging*, and it turns out these jobs are for second-shift assistant welder on a gas-drilling rig in North Dakota, paying the bottom end of the market salary range, and there’s no relocation assistance.

  8. Miss Pelling says:

    I’m surprised you care about spelling and grammar mistakes at all. For a tech writing job, sure, but for a nanny? Why is it a criterion at all?

    Would you be willing to give example of rudeness on the phone, or lack of engagement? I suspect they might be a matter of culture clash.

    • TheZvi says:

      If you can’t even get that right, it does not bode well for the rest of what you can do, or what and how you can teach our kids. Seems like a very reasonable first filter to me.

      My wife is the one who spoke to them on the phone, but it was clear it wasn’t (entirely) a culture clash.

      • bob says:

        Pretty sure you have a spelling error in this short article, just saying! (Albeit a minor typo, punch/pinch)

      • Joe says:

        I would suspect that this trend is especially magnified in industries in which spelling/grammar are not part of the job or relevant day to day tasks. I’ve met at least one really good salesman who can’t even get that basic writing stuff down right yet was a really good salesmen.

        I also suspect that nanny jobs are usually found through personal connections/references to the point that people who cold call are self selected to be a bit bad at the job offer thing and or unenthusiastic, and or have old profiles.

        Where did you post your job? That may have also contributed, if it was a bad service.

  9. Jokah Macpherson says:

    I graduated from a kudzu league school in the mid-2000’s with a master’s degree in accounting and it took me quite a while to get even one job offer. I got rejected by all the Big 4 accounting firms, several regional and local ones, and accounting departments from several other companies, in many cases without even getting an interview. The most frustrating part was no one could explain why. I was a run-of-the-mill student; not top of my class but respectable grades, I crushed the CPA exam easily on the first try, and I was fairly normal/well-groomed/well-dressed…but all of my classmates had job offers galore and I had nothing.

    When I finally did get a job, it was from applying cold, and I admittedly never forgave my alma mater for it. I didn’t understand why I was shelling out $20,000 (would be at least $40,000 today) a year for their career services office to provide no help beyond what I was able to do on my own.

    So I get the point you are making – that the odds are better than 1 in 100 if you possess even basic competence and social skills – but competent people still fall through the cracks sometimes.

    • Joe says:

      My guess is the case is totally different with accounting jobs, more masters in accounting guys can do basic grammar than nannies, at least on average.

  10. Chris Parsons says:

    You’re an elitist jerk.

    • Quixote says:

      This post would be more helpful if you mentioned exactly who you think is the elitist jerk. A lot of people have said various things in the comment section and your post doesn’t seem to be beneath any particular one; so the “you’re” is an underspecified pronoun. For example a comment like “@Zed you’re an elitist jerk” would have been more helpful than the one posted.

  11. thomasthethinkengine says:

    The assumption seems to be that if they apply for the specific job they must want the job, but are doing poorly at getting it.
    It is plausible the application process is not about wanting the job but maximising some other goal, e.g. being able to say to someone (employment counsellor, spouse, parents, friends, self) “I applied for 100 jobs this week.” or, I did what you recommended and just applied for everything.

  12. Ddjhdudug says:

    Pay more money get better people. Get shitty applicants? That’s your fault, pay more money. This entire post is delusional.

    Fuck you, pay me.

  13. Some of the blame may fall on the website administrators. If lots of people didn’t respond to your initial contact, that could be because the site has a lot of ghost profiles – people who maybe signed up three years ago, when they lived in the area, when they were looking for pick-up work, when that used to be their contact info. The site has no motivation to spend resources checking and purging its profiles, and showing only a realistic level of supply. It’s like apartment rental listings in NYC – so much noise to signal, and no one refereeing.

  14. LAB says:

    Wow – I see commenters making a lot of assumptions about many things. I will say we were offering significantly above minimum wage. I also can’t comment on the nanny’s tax situation, but depending on what she chooses to do, she might be making more than I am as a resident after I pay my taxes. This is not a nothing job and it doesn’t pay nothing. It is solidly middle class.

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