Call me old fashioned, but I miss the days of opening the fat Sunday classifieds, circling ten jobs, composing ten letters, and going to the copy shop to get ten copies of my resume.  Always careful to get 100% cotton bond paper with a watermark, the letters and resumes would feel thick and satisfying as I carefully folded them accordion-style so that the top of the letter opened first, and sealed them in the envelopes that matched the pristine white paper.  Then would come the walk to the post office, the buying of stamps, the placing of stamps, and, sometimes, the light brush of lips across the envelop for luck before surrendering it to the post office box or clerk.  It was a ritual followed by millions of job seekers nation-wide.

Equally satisfying would be the polite letters from employers, even the rejections.  The courtesy extended both ways: employer letters would also be on thick paper, the raised letterhead, sometimes italicized, satisfying in that way that let me know my carefully crafted cover letter and resume had been taken seriously.  More significantly, the letter and resume also represented something very important to me:  my jump in class status.  Dishwashers and janitors filled out applications.  Having earned a college degree now meant that the laborious process of the application, the faintly humiliating squares and lines, the directions to print and not use cursive, was a thing of the past.  I had arrived.

But all—the simplicity, the sensuality, the status—is lost to Internet job applications.  First, the faint humiliation of ridiculous and repetitive directions has returned.  Each employer now requires a user name and password, and infuriatingly enough, the conflicting requirements for the passwords makes it impossible to use the same user name and password for that job application.  Then, I am told to fill in this line with this many characters, type the date in this format and not that format, use this particular way of referring to dates and not that.  On some applications, forgetting to include my middle initial creates a problem.  On others, writing out the month causes the page to crash.

Then, even if the application allows me to attach a resume, I have to fill out work experience, box by box, even though I am usually just cutting and pasting from my resume.  So now, the application that I left behind with dishwashing jobs has returned.  But all the artistry of my resume is lost as the computer program mangles symbols, deletes tabs, removes spacing, and destroys formatting.  My resume is carefully designed for particular reasons:  I like having my job title underlined and bolded and the name of the company merely bolded; I want to empathize my work, not the name of the company.   But all that is lost.

Then, I can usually attach a cover letter – and my cover letters are works of art too, both in content and design.  But how can the reader appreciate the texture, the experience, the carefulness of choosing exactly the correct paper and envelop when they only receive either a word file, a pdf, or, worse yet, a character counted text box?  And how much of the content is lost by the employer reading the cover letter on the screen instead of in a two dimensional form?

Then, usually during the process of going through the six or seven pages, which included things like race and gender and statements about the fact I am not a felon, now employers want a salary range (and the page will not move in with a simple N/A).  And they sometimes want permission for a credit check—a total invasion of privacy.  And they want reference letters or phone numbers immediately, which means I must notify my references far, far, too often that they may or may not be getting a phone call.  (Previously, salary negotiations and reference numbers came at the end of the process, when both of us were in the last steps of courting one another for the position)  In other words, all the bargaining chips have been stripped away.

What can I say?  I loathe computer job applications.  I suspect I am doing at least part of the work for the human resources department.  Just like self-service used to be an option and we are now all pumping our own gas, now we are applying for jobs and doing all the data collection in advance just in case we get the job for these companies.

Internet job applications lack efficiency.  They lack style.  And finally, they lack dignity.