As I get closer to finishing off my library science degree, I’m searching for jobs in that field. Because I’m tired of the stress of law practice, trying to round up clients, explain to them why they’re paying me what they do (on those increasingly rare occasions when they actually do pay), and trying to explain why not all lawyers are scumbags, I’m “transitioning” from practicing law.
So the other day I was poking around, looking for librarian gigs and found one in Erie County (New York, where Buffalo is). Nothing about that job stood out, it was pretty standard fare; the listing gave the requirements (experience, degree), preferred requirements, tasks, and on like that. Again, it was nothing really outstanding that would give me much reason to hesitate or that would stand out in any way.
Nothing, save one thing. One thing I’ve never seen before. They charge applicants to apply for the job. I looked at Onondaga County (where Syracuse is located) and found they charge applicants too. It appears that all counties in New York charge applicants, it’s part of the civil service application process. The fees are either $15 or $20, and those depend on whether it’s a “continuous” recruitment or one for a specific time, with an end date (in other words, the job isn’t open till filled). It looks like you don’t pay a fee if you’re going for a management job, though. But everyone else does.
This seems truly odd to me. Years ago, private employment agencies would charge people to find them jobs, something on the order of 10% of the annual pay. Those were rightly considered predatory scams, because people who are unemployed really don’t have the money to pay for a job. It was also a scam because employers pay agencies to find employees, so these firms were double dipping.
I’ve not heard of any other government entity charging job applicants. I’ve looked at counties in California, Pennsylvania, Kansas, and Florida (trying to get a representative sample from different regions of the United States). In none of those states does it appear an application fee is required.
This isn’t specifically about New York, it’s about having to pay to simply put your name on a list to have qualifications reviewed. Isn’t that what Human Resource (HR) folks get paid to do, look at job applications and decide of the person is qualified? I know they have other responsibilities, like dealing with benefits questions and issues, attendance issues, disciplinary problems, and so on. But one of the big reasons HR departments exist is to screen job applicants. Asking someone to pay for that privilege, particularly those people who live in the county already and are paying taxes that go to support the HR department, is beyond the pale.
Yes, having people pay might make individuals look more closely at the job requirements and prevent frivolous applications. John Doe shouldn’t apply for a job as a physician with the county if he’s a high school dropout and never went back to finish off high school. But not every job “requirement” is met by each applicant, so some leeway is given. For example, some jobs require a college degree but those in their last college semester can apply. Similarly, if someone has 8 months experience and the job calls for a year, that often won’t disqualify the applicant. So I’m not sure that using the application fee as a screening method is an appropriate way to get people to look more closely at the job specs.
Am I out of touch or is this something that should be done away with? Do we really want to encourage anyone to charge for applying for a job? It makes no sense to me and I hope this isn’t a trend or idea that catches on.