Adventures in Job Hunting: Tests and Questionnaires

When looking for a job—whether it’s full-time, part-time or temporary—be prepared to encounter varying degrees of tedium because you will inevitably come across companies that love to make applicants jump through hoops before they are considered for an interview. As someone who spent two years as an underemployed university graduate, I am very familiar with job hunting and I’d like to share some of my more noteworthy experiences.

Many organizations are not satisfied with a simple resumé-and-cover-letter combo. Instead, they put together online application forms that range from slightly irritating to maddeningly terrible in their design. One of the more annoying applications I’ve come across was an online questionnaire utilized by a certain large-chain bookstore (I’ll refrain from naming it). It was decidedly overlong—it took over an hour to complete, which doesn’t include the time I spent on the rest of the online application form. The application’s multiple choice questions often left me scratching my head trying to figure out which of the slightly varied answers I was supposed to choose.

After completing the questionnaire, which felt almost like an exam, I wasn’t given any type of feedback whatsoever. I was simply left hanging in suspense until I received an email two months later informing me that I was not selected for the job. Oh well—you can’t win them all, and I wasn’t exactly enthralled by the prospect of working for a company that puts people through such silly trials as part of their hiring process.

More recently, I completed an even more dispiriting questionnaire which was (surprisingly) not conducted over the Internet. Upon showing up to what I thought was going to be a standard job interview, I was led to a poorly-lit back room and asked to complete a “test” on a computer that looked to be about 20 years old. This questionnaire didn’t take me quite as long to complete as the one I mentioned earlier, but it was far stranger in its content.

Some of the more puzzling questions included “At the age of 13, how many hours a week did you spend doing chores around your house?” and “How many times during your childhood were you punished for taking something that didn’t belong to you?” Well, it would be an understatement to say I felt uncomfortable answering such questions. I’m sure there were times in my childhood when I was punished for some form of dishonesty, but I can’t remember any specific instances. So, was I supposed to admit to being occasionally punished as a child (therefore incriminating myself) or claim that I was a perfect little angel who never once took a cookie from the cookie jar (which is a bit hard to swallow). What a dilemma… And what a waste of my time! Wouldn’t a simple face-to-face interview have given them a far better idea of what kind of person I am?

After months of on-again off-again job hunting (my freelance work also kept me busy), I was finally selected for a legitimate job interview. There was no tedious application or pointless questionnaire involved; I simply walked in and handed a copy of my resumé to the store manager, who then faxed it to the company’s HR department. The only hoop I had to jump through was a rather lengthy trek to Scarborough for the interview, but it was well worth the trip. The district manager who interviewed me was a down-to-earth guy who asked only practical questions that were directly related to the job (I wasn’t asked a single glib question like “Where do you see yourself in five years?”), and I ended up landing the job!

In my opinion, a resumé-based selection followed by a face-to-face interview is the best hiring process for everybody involved. Online tests are only a good idea if the company is testing concrete skills like data entry, and vague questionnaires are just a waste of everybody’s time. For those in the midst of a job hunt, I wish you luck and I sincerely hope you don’t have to endure too many of these tortuous exercises in tedium.


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