Table of Contents
Job Application IELTS Reading General Training Passage with Answers
Reading Passage 2
Not only has the method of job application changed recently, with over 75% of vacancies in developed countries advertised online, but the style of application has undergone metamorphosis as well. Many companies and organisations now use a rigorous selection process which is criterion-based. Carla Mhando explores this phenomenon.
My first job was waitressing at weekends in an Italian restaurant. I’d seen an advert stuck on the window, walked in – in my school uniform – and got the job on the spot. Three years later, I became a cadet journalist for a regional newspaper. The traineeship was arranged by my uncle, who knew the editor.
I stayed with the paper for twelve years. In the late 90s, when journalism was in decline, I decided on a career change – working in administration. To my dismay, the application process seemed like a job in itself. Not only was I asked for a detailed CV, but I was also required ‘to address selection criteria’. These were a set of behavioural competencies which were meant to prove that I could do the job.
I was unfamiliar with the word ‘competency’, but I read through all the material my prospective employer had supplied. This came in the form of a ‘competency dictionary’ – a lengthy document outlining what is expected of employees at each level since competencies exist at entry, post-entry, supervisory, and senior managerial levels. ielts – reading.com
In alphabetical order, these were the following competencies: Achievement; Analytical Thinking; Customer Service Orientation; Entrepreneurship; Flexibility; Holding People Accountable; Intercultural Competence; Leading and Developing Others; Self-awareness; Team Working; and, Working Strategically. I felt dizzy just reading the contents page.
Typically, three or four competencies or criteria had to be addressed in any application. As a new employee for an entry-level position, mine were: Customer Service Orientation, Flexibility, and Team Working. For Customer Service Orientation, this meant I needed to demonstrate the ‘ability to deliver a service’.
For Flexibility, I had to display an ‘ability to change ideas or perceptions based on new information or contrary evidence’, and show ‘willingness to listen to other people’s points of view’. While for Team Working, I needed to be ‘co-operative; unafraid to seek advice; and, keen to put in extra effort to assist others’. Once again, the amount of stuff to absorb made me worry I could ever do the job, which was a humble receptionist.
For my application I had to write 600 words on the competencies. To my way of thinking, a receptionist needs a tidy appearance, a welcoming smile, a pleasant phone manner, and a degree of skill with a switchboard – all of which I had. Six hundred words about abstractions hardly seemed necessary. Needless to say, although I wrote what I considered to be excellent and pertinent prose, I wasn’t even interviewed for the job.
A week later, I tried my luck with a Level Two position – a job as a Press Officer. For Customer Service Orientation, I now needed to show I could ‘add value; make decisions with the customer in mind; take pride in delivering a high-quality service; investigate service delivery problems, and provide solutions for them.’ I couldn’t see how this related to what a Press Officer actually does on a day-to-day basis. Desperate for demystification, I rang an acquaintance who worked in HR*.
The first thing Taylor Lexington asked me was, ‘Are you using star, Carla?’ ‘Star?’ I queried. ‘Yes, STAR,’ she said. ‘ “S” for your “specific situation”; “T” for your “target”; “A” for the “action” you took; and, “R” for the “result”? If you don’t use STAR,’ Taylor admonished, ‘you can’t address a criterion effectively.’ ‘Thanks,’ I said, adding under my breath, ‘Beam me up.’ ielts-reading.com
Through word of mouth, I found a job as a registrar in a language school. In 2010, I decided to apply for a managerial position at the school next door. When I discovered that the application included addressing four criteria at Level Three, I went into panic mode. Flexibility now meant I had to ‘identify a pragmatic approach in order to get a job done quickly and effectively’; ‘be aware of the bigger picture when interpreting and implementing policy’; and, ‘be comfortable with ambiguity’. ielts-reading.com
Although I’d just spent three months as a manager, covering for someone on leave, and I’d successfully introduced a new database and registration process, I was completely at a loss as to how I should reframe all this as Flexibility. Once again, I did not get the job.
Complete the summary using the list of words, A-O, below:
Write the correct letter, A-O, in boxes 15-21 on your answer sheet.
Carla Mhando decided to write about criterion-based selection when she was looking to change 15_________ herself. Prior to the late 1990s, she had found jobs easily, and the application process had been uncomplicated. In the new job-seeking environment, she was forced to submit lengthy applications that address criteria or 16_________ . These exist at different levels, according to how much 17_________ an employee has. For Customer Service Orientation, Level One, Carla had to prove she could deliver a service, change ideas based on new data, and willingly listen to other perspectives.
At Level Two, it was necessary to add value and 18_________ to service delivery problems. Taylor Lexington advised Carla to use the STAR system in her applications. The ‘R’ in STAR stands for 19_________ When Carla applied to be a manager of a language school, she knew she could do the job well because she had sufficient 20_________. However, she was unsuccessful with her application probably because she did not 21_________ her achievements under the criterion of Flexibility.
O. spell out
Read the text below and answer Questions 22–27.
Carla Mhando continues her exploration of criterion-based applications.
When I ran into Taylor Lexington a week later, she was with two friends: Adrienne Fuamana, who hires and fires for the civil service; and, James Godden, who screens volunteers for an aid agency. ielts-reading.com
Over lunch, I quizzed the experts on the value of this new application process. They all agreed competencies and levels are favoured by employers as generic questions make it easy to mix and match to suit any job. Taylor Lexington added that the process of writing a competency dictionary helps a company or organisation focus on its core business. Adrienne Fuamana noted that since the writing process takes time and effort, it weeds out people who are not committed to hard work or to the principles of the employer.
James Godden, however, was more circumspect. ‘I’ve been in this business since 1987 and have seen it all. There was a time when personality tests were touted as the surest way to find ideal employees, and there was a fashion for left-of-field interview questions to see who reacted best to stress.’ He continued, ‘I think writing 200 words for a competency encourages people to embellish their work history in order to meet the criterion. Or, even worse, to fabricate events altogether. In an aid organisation where it’s imperative to have moral boundaries, that’s a grave concern.”
Adrienne Fuamana took up his argument, ‘There are also people who don’t like to blow their own trumpet – they’re reluctant to recount their actions explicitly. Or, they interpret the competencies in a way a recruiter with a rigid mind-set can’t fathom. These applicants write answers which are considered off-topic. A company or organisation therefore rejects people who may be extremely capable.’
Taylor Lexington interrupted, ‘But at interview, it’s a much fairer process – sticking to a set of questions for each competency.’ She went on, ‘In the old days, an employer could ask about anything – if you were married, which church you went to. Criterion-based interviews have narrowed questions down to what’s relevant to the job.’
Here’s Godden again: ‘I have qualms about the restricted nature of questions. With competencies like Intercultural Competence, Self-awareness, or Analytical Thinking, these concepts are about a sensibility rather than specific actions people took to meet targets and get results. In my experience, people who are really self-aware are beyond the stage of self-reflection. Furthermore, genuine analytical thinkers are so rare that almost nobody meets that criterion!’
Paying for my bill, and observing how well the schoolgirl waitress performed her Customer Service Orientation (Level One), I hoped, like James Godden, that criterion-based job applications were a passing fancy. After all, why is there never a criterion called ‘Loving one’s job’ or ‘Just getting through each day’?
Look at the following statements and the list of people below.
Match each statement with the correct person: A, B, C, or D.
Write the correct letter, A, B, C, or D, in boxes 22-27 on your answer sheet.
22. recruits people to work for the government.
23. thinks a long written application discourages those who are less serious applicants.
24. has reservations about the lies people may tell when forced to write at length about their work experiences.
25. notes that companies or organisations using criterion-based selection may miss out on excellent candidates whose answers are modest or just a little different.
26. believes personal questions at interview are more discriminatory than criterion-based ones.
27. wonders why there is no criterion about whether a person is passionate about his or her work. ielts-reading.com
List of people
A. Carla Mhando
B. Taylor Lexington
C. Adrienne Fuamana
D. James Godden
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