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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Worker shortage? Make it easier for seniors to apply

Feb 25, 2022 11:21AM ● By Arthur Vidro

Help wanted signs have sprouted up all over. Without enough workers, businesses can’t stay open.

On Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving when all chain stores start clamoring for everyone’s gift-buying dough, I stopped at the nearest dollar store for some paper towels. The store was closed…on consumerism’s biggest day of the year! 

Why? The sign on the door vaguely cited staffing shortages. 

When I went back later that week, the supervisor explained that a lot of workers had been out sick. Wanting to understand the hiring process nowadays, I asked for a job application to take home. I was refused.

“You do that online,” I was told dismissively.

So there you have it. Even in stores that are practically begging for help, the supervisors won’t let you apply for a job unless you apply electronically, which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Not everyone has a home computer. Not everyone has a telephone with an Internet connection. Still, I’m willing to wager that a lot of people would fill out job applications if they could do so on paper.

To their credit, some of the stores that require you to apply online have set aside a computer inside the store to make it easier for the applicant. But most haven’t.

Job seekers vs. computers

Job applications vary from user-friendly to impossible.

If you want to work for the post office, you have to apply online. The website warns you the process will likely take several hours, so don’t begin until you have time to complete it.

No wonder they’re not getting enough applications! One recently retired postal worker confided, “If I had to apply by computer today, I wouldn’t. It’s too difficult.”

Many applications ask for way too much information. One local supermarket requires all applicants to go online, where the application requires a Social Security number. If you leave that line blank, you can’t apply.

I advise not divulging your Social Security number on an application that might eventually be hacked. If you want my Social Security number, first make me a job offer. 

One local bank I applied to using a computer on site required not just the name of my college and graduation year, but the school’s address and phone number. After more than 35 years, I don’t remember the school’s phone number! Without that, the application stalled, and I wasn’t going to put down a false answer.

If the application were on paper, I would have written, “I’ll find out for you by the time you interview me.” But that’s not how things are done in the computer age. Too often, I’ve been rejected simply because I don’t have all the information that computer demands from me. 

I’m also stumped by applications that ask for phone numbers of all my former supervisors. Most of my former supervisors are probably long since retired or deceased. But the computers don’t care.

Would these prospective employers even have telephoned my school or former supervisors if I provided the numbers? I doubt it. 

How to attract long-term workers

Some businesses are raising wages to attract workers. But look carefully. The local fast food joint may have a sign out front trumpeting they are hiring for $16 an hour, but you have to sidle up close to read the “up to” section. 

Hey, all you stores that are short-staffed, we customers and workers have some compassion. If you want to attract or retain workers for the long term, try something bold—like offering health insurance. If that’s too rich for your budget, then at least allow for paper applications.

Job hunting? 
Polish up your resume with these tips from AARP

Whether you’re beginning the hunt for work, or were fortunate to get through the job application process and land an interview, consider these tips for polishing up your resume.  

Stick to one or two pages, max

• “It doesn’t dilute your experience,” said Katie Birkelo, senior vice president at staffing firm Randstad US. “It just keeps it relevant.”

• Use an 11- or 12-point simple font like Arial, Calibri or Verdana. Avoid serif fonts like Times New Roman.

Include only your recent, relevant work

• Focus on experience from the past 10-15 years, and include keywords from the job listing so your resume makes it past screenings by computerized systems. Look at the company’s website as well.

Remove elements that age your resume

• You don’t need to include your address, graduation dates and outdated software. But if you completed a degree, make that clear.

Are you searching for a job? Read these tips for senior job searchers.

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