“Supplicant Applicant,” by J. Thompson

Aug 3rd, 2011 | By | Category: Fake Nonfiction, Prose

We have heard that you are looking for a job, which doesn’t surprise us since you haven’t been setting the world on fire lately.  If you follow the simple guidance entailed in this form then you too can join an exciting community of obedient uniform wearers.  If you don’t want to join our team you are wasting only your own time because we have automated the process to better screen the hoards of applicants the failing economy sends our way.  Dutiful robots and almost equally cheap citizens of Bangalore winnow this pool to ensure that only the best and brightest will stock the shelves of your community and return carts to corrals. 

That was enough introduction for you, time enough will be wasted on the application itself.  This application is conducted on a computer and there is a very good reason for this.  Most people unable to follow a computer exam would disgrace any major retailer who somehow hired them.  They would steal anything small enough to wrap their hideous hands around and leave unsightly puddles of drool on the floor.  The test begins with some innocuous biographical details which we desire to have should we find it useful to reconstruct you into a flesh and blood human from pixels and an IP address.

Radical organizations such as careerbuilder.com and the U.S. Department of Labor will advise you not to tell us your social security number.  You will soon notice that if you do not provide this information you cannot proceed with the application.  We would have no choice but to consider your unwillingness to provide this information to be a preemptive confession of disloyalty that hurts the collective feelings of ourselves and our parent corporation.  Most other companies will demand at least this much of you and we would be no more irresponsible with it than anyone else.  Isn’t a possible job worth telling us something we probably already know?  You must have used a computer before, haven’t you? 

The next part of this little interrogation concerns your job history.  You must fill this out because at some point we will need to judge which of our potential teammates has the skills to stock shelves and work a cash register without extensive training.  That pool of geniuses will be selected by our personality test and their human appendages who live in India or some other hot, muggy place. 

This test is important enough that we can almost ignore everything else we ask you to write.  Just because some of these details are unimportant does not mean that we are not proud of them.  Our two favorites, separated from the mundane but necessary questions, ask how much do you expect to make and what position you wish to be hired for.  First of all, you are almost certainly applying to a fixed position.  Even the brilliant men who designed our questionnaire are on a pretty tight leash and a gated community is between them and the men holding the other end.  What do you think that says about you?  If you have the nerve to request your own salary, it seems to us that you are executive material.  You should draw up an application for that, mail it to us and see what happens.  

We would like to know about your educational background, but this should not trouble you.  If you did not graduate from high school it is quite likely that you live on the bad side of the digital divide and are not now reading this.  Most likely you graduated from high school whether you wanted to or not.  Many of us have fraudulent degrees in something like business, so we will not be impressed by any fancy displays of learning that you spill onto the page.  Our people need to be moldable and too much inconvenient humanity prevents true belief in the temple of retail.  

The law requires us to tell you that admitting to a felony does not disqualify you from employment.  Where exactly you will be employed is a mystery to us but we assure you that you will find plenty of work looking for a decent employer willing to overlook a criminal conviction.  There may not be any money involved but we assure you that you’ve got a big task to do before your probable return to a life of crime. 

There are a few other legally mandated hoops to jump through.  If you are so inclined we would like to know your age, race and gender.  Don’t worry about us using this against you.  It is simply to assure the government that our corporate offices are not full of racists.  Luckily this is actually the case.  We are, however, anti-human but nobody has thought to test for that.

To this point you have answered the questions you probably thought you would field.  This is about to change because you are about to be treated to the disorienting funhouse that is our personality test.  We state up front that the average person takes between 10 and 45 minutes to complete this exercise.  Unlike a regular test it is better to be fast and to not think too hard about what you are actually answering.  Otherwise you might try to out-smart us and game the test.  You would be no more capable of getting away with this than any of us would be able to successfully embezzle company money to our mistresses.  Let us see some dummy questions. 

I’ve made my share of mistakes 

Strongly agree (SA)
Agree (A)
Disagree (D)
Strongly disagree (SD)

At some point in this test it may occur to you to answer moderately.  You may not have strong opinions on issues such as absolutely everything.  If  so, we congratulate you on your opportunity to find a job that you will enjoy more that the ones we have to offer.  “Agree” and “Disagree” are always going to be wrong.  We do not cotton to your wishy-washy, cowardly ways in our company.  Whatever opinions you hold must be strong and unquestioned.  They also must be exactly the same as our beliefs. 

I was rarely absent from school


I always finish everything I start 


Some people consider me a “troublemaker” 


Those questions are pretty straight forward, even to the point of being mere “singlethink.”  All we are trying to do is trick you into confessing that you will steal our merchandise before we actually have to fire you.  If you admit to causing trouble in the past, we know you’ll do it in the future.  We get far too many applications to consider your application within any but the laziest pop-psychology framework.  Your answers are jumbled into a giant stew of stereotypes and math and the results emerge as green (we can hire you), yellow (we can hire you if every “green” applicant on earth dies or turns down the job) or red.  Please stop reading this if you know you are red.  Corporate policy prohibits us from contacting you. 

Time for some more questions! 

It is OK to steal if you are not being paid fairly 

SA (you monster!)
A (wrong!)
D (wrong!)
SD (bright lad!) 

I know someone who has stolen 

SA (I am friends with thieves and I myself will steal)
A (I may be thinking about this question too hard (and I am wrong))
D (see above)
SD (My friends are all saintly people, or I am gaming the test (WHICH NOBODY DOES!!!)) 

Interestingly, especially given that these questions are not actually the same, both of the questions about are asking you the same thing.  And, if you’re answers are inconsistent, we must unhappily inform you that you are a liar who must seek work in the deception industry.  

Consider these questions to be like a first date in which we find out if we are compatible with you.  If so, we can eventually go all the way and consummate our relationship with a first paycheck.  We don’t want you to love us only for our money.  We want you to love us for the demands we make on your time and freedom.  Love between a human and an incorporeal legal entity can be a beautiful thing.  

I like a lot of changes in my daily routine 

SA (our managers can schedule you a day in advance, using a roulette wheel)
A (yuck!)
D (eww!)
SD (you will sue us when we schedule you on a weekend) 

When people anger me, I let them know it 

SA (we anticipate lots of wave making and boat rocking)
A (I am indecisive)
D (I am feckless (and we’d have too many people getting through a true/false exam)
SD (my tongue is sore from bootlicking and my back is covered in tread marks) 

In general, we and your thousands of future teammates are looking for somebody who can always be happy, will come and go at our beck and call and be independent in the same sense that a sheepdog or one of those robots that cleans rooms.  You should look forward to a lifetime of glib, transient friendships that always somehow culminate in the exchange of money.  Introverts are not likely to be happy here and by rejecting them we give them, the opportunity to follow their perverted muses into lucrative fields such as reviewing jazz records or writing obituaries.  Our grocery stores accept food stamps. 

Remember 10 to 45 minutes?  Those who power through in 10 minutes are more likely to join our team.  The quick ones, given that we assume that nobody can look up the answers we want, are more likely to be made of the right stuff.  We are not building a generation of liars.  We are building a giant team of eager team-players and if enough people believe something it is as good as true. 

We have a few final things for you to sign before we send you the form message about how diligently we are scrutinizing your qualifications.   We don’t advise you to read the fine print on account of the eyestrain it would cause and the fact that you don’t actually have a choice of whether or not to sign off on this stuff.   You can’t finish the application if you don’t allow us to test you for drugs or spy on your credit history.  We do not understand the objections that anarchist-types have with this.   We executives have set a fine example of financial solvency so this is plainly not a “do as a say, not as I do” sort of thing.  

We respond to allegations of “group think” by insisting that a wide range of lifestyles and attitudes thrive between our walls.  While we encourage an emphasis on one type of lifestyle, we support many different varieties of it and at wide range of income levels.  We love our right to compete in a free market and will fight to the death (or its financial equivalent) to do so but we are mentally flexible enough to base our internal corporate structure on the Soviet politburo. 

This brings us to the end.  I am sure that if you have read this far, you agree with our reasoning and ride our train of thought.  If you are a right-thinking extrovert who loves both people and working for minimum wage then we love you back.  If we were a person and not a legal entity we would give you a hug.  Long live commerce.  

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J. Thompson is a native of upstate New York who failed at a graduate program in forestry at Auburn University.  He is currently working fast food and will remain in the state of Alabama at least until he has access to a car.  This may or may not qualify him as a “southern writer.” Writing and competitive trivia is how he tries to keep his sanity. 

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