July 29, 2014 | Graham

40 job applications no big deal

When I worked as a finance consultant I was supposed to make 10 approaches a day, and attend at least two appointments. I’d keep notes of conversations and follow-up with potential clients at regular intervals if they had nothing for me now, but might have in the future.

I didn’t always make my quota, but that would be because I’d landed a job and was too busily employed.

Not surprisingly I’m underwhelmed by the government’s decision that the unemployed should make at least 40 job applications a month. There is little difference between prospecting, particularly for sales of high end items like finance, and job applications. If you’re only making two applications a day you’re not working at it very hard at all.

Of course, representatives of the compassion industry are out in force claiming that even this very modest amount of effort would be beyond any unemployed person.

David Thompson, the chief executive of Jobs Australia, which represents non-profit employment service providers, said he could not see how some young job seekers would be able to survive under the regime.

This is risible.

As an employer, every time I advertise for staff I am besieged, for the most part by shoddy emails, sometimes without a CV, generated without much thought, through an electronic matching service called Seek.

Many job seekers put less effort into applying for a job than they do making their status updates on Facebook, and much less effort than they use composing their photos for Instagram.

To suggest that they can’t spend a fraction of that time combing Seek (actually you don’t have to comb it, you can set filters to send the jobs to you) and doing two “status” updates a day, shows how badly conflicted their representatives are.

Then there is the flip-side argument, that employers will not be able to deal with the “deluge” of applications.

I can tell these experts this will be a relatively trivial exercise too. Most job applicants rule themselves out immediately because they haven’t put enough effort into the exercise, can’t spell, or are an obvious mismatch.

It doesn’t take a lot of time to eliminate most applicants, and then the helpful people at Seek give you tools to automatically email them back saying “Thanks, but no thanks.”

The main problem in the system is that most job seekers I see for low grade jobs aren’t really serious.

This isn’t an argument for making them do less prospecting, but an argument for making them do more. At very low cost to everyone it will help to make them realise that this is serious.

Work for the dole has the same function, again something which these same “experts” deride.

There was a time when I would have agreed with them – back in the 70s when mass unemployment first became an issue. Then it was a cost argument – work for the dole schemes cost the government money to administer and wouldn’t produce any more jobs.

Now I would accept that it won’t create any more jobs (hence the studies showing it doesn’t improve the time it takes to find one), but by setting-up a mutual obligation it undermines the idea that the dole is a right without a responsibility. The benefit is moral and psychological, not economic, and indeed comes at a cost to the government.

The work of Professor Jeff Borland is being used to support the proposition that work for the dole schemes don’t work, but if you actually read what he says, he believes they can work.

For the other 5% of the time, I would argue that it is worth government persisting with programs for the unemployed. What needs to change, however, is the design of the programs. There needs to be much more attention to building in the lessons we now have about “what works”. 

He does want to see some tweaks, and I’d be surprised if he and the government didn’t have some common ground here.

Posted by Graham at 7:47 am | Comments (2) |
Filed under: Economics


  1. Have to agree with this Graham.
    At the one time in my life, I couldn’t find work inside my specialty; I took a job operating a dredge.
    And I’ve heard of College Professors, piloting taxi cabs etc!
    Dredging was one of those low paid jobs few wanted, and involved a serious very early morning commute, and work that included 14 hours a day, seven days a week!
    With a cyclical building downturn and rapidly reducing sand sales, my hours were cut and cut, until all that remained was a forty hour week!
    And dole payments $5.00 a week better than my base pay.
    So I quit, and restarted to seek work inside my specialty.
    And not as forty applications a month, but more like forty applications a day, onshore and offshore.
    I was repeatedly told I was too qualified, a euphemism for being a little too old. [I’d just turned forty.]
    Or an indigenous applicant was preferred etc/etc.
    After around a year of diligent search, and doing what part-time work as was available, [mowing grass, packing and posting;] and endless, time wasting time consuming interviews, with those whose job it was to help me find work?
    I lost count of the number of times I was KNOWINGLY sent to jobs already filled!
    And including fares, stamps and or fuel costs, it was easy to spend at least $10.00 [ nearly nearly 20% of my then dole payment,] a day chasing work/attending interviews!
    No success was my only outcome.
    When a hostile and demanding consultant, claimed I wasn’t really trying to find work, I showed him a veritable library of application declined replies.
    And that was just the tiny percentage that still had the courtesy to do so!
    There was nothing wrong with my very professionally prepared CV, or the glowing references I’d actually earned and deserved.
    I finally landed a job, inside my skill base, with a Power Authority, earning a very nice salary.
    Even so, I was required to relocate and invest in a new home. I liked my job and the investigations I was required to complete.
    Only to become permanently disabled just 18 months into the job, and no longer able to work.
    But that’s another story.

    I think today’s unemployed generation just have never had to do it tough, and consider welfare a right, rather than the taxpayer funded privilege, it really is!
    Few would be harmed by a period of earn and learn or else, military service, which often stands them in good stead as a preferred job applicant, down the line; even as some jobs and skills are made redundant by technology, as indeed, occurred in my former profession.
    Earn or learn, or mutual obligation is a good idea, given many simply cannot find work, due to a lack of job ready skills!
    And this is the area that most affects unemployed young people?
    But particularly under 30’s, many of who still live at home, bludging on far too tolerant, excuse making parents.
    On the other hand, I live in a small town, where we would be lucky to have 40 odd employers!
    We used to have a butter factory and a sawmill, and would have been another rural ghost town, but for the construction of a nearby power station and a coal mine.
    This very ghost town possibility, in so many other small to modest communities; making the learn side of the equation even more compelling, along with a readiness to relocate, leaving family and friends behind.
    Others had to!

    On the other hand, there are plenty of reports, where so called employment agencies, discriminate against older workers, who are harder to place, and therefore, harm the bottom line!
    The worst day’s work was when we privatized employment agencies, creating a new class of patently parasitic multimillionaires in the process?
    [And there seems to be an appetite for CHEAPER, imported workers, for a plethora of positions, work ready Aussies could fill?]
    Not that that seems to be happening in our small town where the proprietor, of the one small specialist employment agency, was frequently seen standing in his doorway, looking around for his next victim, oops, customer.
    His once almost permanently empty office, are now part of a tradies premises?
    I just hope, that the learn part of the equation are also compulsorily linked to real jobs, rather than the hugely unrealistic expectations of daydreaming youngsters!
    We can’t all be IT experts, or programmers, working on new computer games, what have you; and, all the video libraries have gone, the way of the DODO!
    Conversely, there is a rural shortage of Doctors, Nurses, Dentists, Dental Technicians, Podiatrists, Physiologists and Vets?
    But we have a huge surplus of “self employed” Bowen, reki remedial masseuses, car retailers/, nail technicians, hair benders and pet therapists etc?
    Alan B. Goulding.

    Comment by Alan B. Goulding — July 29, 2014 @ 1:27 pm

  2. While I’m not settled on this issue I do know that to work for the dole 25 hours a week and find, research, and submit at least 2 job applications a day would have stretched me in my youth and I had some pretty dire jobs back then. Switching from a physical days work to thinking about kicking an application into shape when all you wanted to do was to rest would not have been easy.

    What the whole exercise appears to smack of is further Abbott government punitiveness. Charging a Medicare co-payment to send a price signal is the most obvious example. This really isn’t about getting people into work as much as getting them off unemployment benefits. It is ideologically driven and nasty.

    As a side note I have employed people in retail, manufacturing, building, and wholesale. It did not matter how many applications I got I would always do them the courtesy of a reply. Seeing employers post ‘Only those who receive an invitation to interview will be contacted.’ drives me nuts.

    Comment by Steele Redux — July 30, 2014 @ 2:24 pm

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