Monday, May 05, 2008

Online Job Applications

A new report released by ALA titled Internet Connectivity in U.S. Public Libraries points to a study which states that "77 percent of Fortune 500 companies do not give job seekers the option of responding offline to job positions posted to corporate careers Web sites".

Many people do not have access to a computer except at a public library. And many people do not have the basic computer skills necessary to fill out an application. So what can we do to assist these customers with the limited time that we have?

  • Does the customer have an email address? Filling out applications online almost always requires an email address. Customers without an email address should register for any free web-based email first. If a customer is interested in taking an Email class, feel free to give them the information on our free public computer classes. Keep in mind that this will not satisfy their immediate need.
  • Does the customer know how to use a mouse? Some people can pick it up quickly while others cannot. If the customer is having difficulty with the basic skill of using a mouse, then the customer may need to ask someone that they know for assistance. You may refer them to our Computer Basics class. This class explains how to use a mouse, but it does not satisfy their immediate need.
  • Does the customer know some basic keyboarding skills? I have assisted customers that did not know how to create a capital letter, how to add a space between words, or how to use the backspace key. A quick demonstration of these three key skills may be necessary. Our Computer Basics and Word Basics class can assist these customers, but it does not satisfy their immediate need.
  • Does the customer know how to work with text boxes, drop-down menus, buttons, scroll bars and other graphic-based interface tools? If someone is familiar with a mouse, but not familiar with some of the common interface tools, then a quick demonstration may be beneficial. For example, "To enter text into a text box, just click on the box and type. To enter text into another text box, click on it and type." Our Computer Basics class can assist these customers, but it does not satisfy their immediate need.
It just so happens that filling out an online job application requires someone to possess just about EVERY basic computer skill in existence. Customers with no experience will have many hurdles with every step. That is why it sometimes seems that the customer wants us to do it all, because every thing they have to do requires a new skill that they do not have.

The online job application can be seen as a great divider between the "have"s and "have not"s of the digital divide. And as you see above, our computer classes do not fulfill their immediate need of filling out that job application. Unfortunately, the online job application just exposes a larger problem that needs to be addressed. The customer needs basic computer skills.

In reality, the employer probably moved to online job applications to screen out those without basic computer skills. And while many jobs will not require daily computer use, employers would probably rather have someone with basic computer skills than someone without basic computer skills, no matter the position.

And to gain those basic computer skills almost takes a change in lifestyle, much like dieting. Your mindset has to change. Your daily routine has to change. Your time commitment has to change. You have to want to change. And addressing only the immediate needs while ignoring the larger picture will catch up to you eventually.

1 comment:

Robert said...

Kevin,

I've noticed an increasing number of patrons who want to fill out an online job application, but their computer skills are often minimal at best. I'm wondering if we could offer a computer class at Central once a month that would help people with the online job application process?