It’s 2am and you’re still scrolling job sites looking for something attractive. It’s become a daily chore – a ritualistic purging of any vacancy too far from your skills or location. This is where aspiration goes to die.

Applying for jobs in 2021 is miles apart from the process previous generations contended with. You can’t simply “Get on your bike” handing CVs out, no matter how well you dress or how eager you appear. And yet, here we are receiving the same tired advice unemployed people have been receiving for decades. 

The job application process is scarring us. Constant experiences of rejection, ghosting and discrimination by employers leaves a lasting impression on our worth in the economy. Long-term unemployed, young, and disabled people are especially affected by a system which doesn’t care about supporting applicants – only its revolving door of staff and profits.

The physical features of today’s job application process are not universal. You could apply to a wide range of jobs, all with different requirements and only one returns with feedback. Research from the REC suggests that only one in five people receives even the most basic level of feedback – ie. a quick, corporate email ‘regretfully’ informing us that we’re not good enough.

Even more alarmingly, over half of failed applications receive no response at all. No email, no phone call – left in the lurch for a job application you put your heart into. Employers are failing to support potential workers, leaving many dejected through their silence or generic, automated courtesy.

The REC also found that employers look at CVs for an average of five seconds. We’re told by careers advisors that this means our application has to stand out – is this the model of employment we should be accepting? One where talent and personality is rejected because of an employer’s biases?

According to YouGov, four out of five people in the UK think it is difficult to find a job. It’s a task we can’t escape, a fact of life. Yet it causes so much strain on our confidence, mental health and social security that policymakers can’t ignore its effects any longer.

Aspirations and prospective career paths are made victims by this process – one which needs desperate reform. Making structural changes to the way we apply for jobs, such as standardising online applications,  is a sure step in rebuilding confidence in both the economy and our futures.

One of the biggest groups hit by this unequal system is young people. With less experience and less references, those five seconds spent by employers skimming a CV are even more tenuous for outcomes. Young workers were hit especially by the impact of lockdown, as the ONS found in March that nearly two thirds of lost jobs were held by the under-25s.

But like everyone looking for a job, young people will work through an application process that doesn’t support them – leading to desperate situations without attention.

At all levels applications should be standardised. Going from one employer demanding seven rounds of admin and interviews, to the other only wanting a CV and a fifteen minute chat,  makes for an inconsistent, frustrating experience. 

Applicants will have multiple CVs and cover letters for every occasion – applying for a bulk of different jobs all with different time-guided processes doesn’t support an applicant’s wellbeing. It also makes it hard for applicants to know which of their skills and experiences to promote best, when in reality an employer could simply ignore all of it.

But with a standardised and regulated process, that 2am scrollfest through jobs websites becomes an easier task to complete. LinkedIn and Indeed both have ‘quick apply’ functions where a saved CV can be sent to employers with ease. If job vacancies are now all online, isn’t it time to streamline this process and improve access?

An employer failing to respond to an application can be disheartening. The government should legislate so employers are legally obligated to provide any application with a firm, helpful response. Nobody likes to be rejected. If an employer tells an applicant exactly why they rejected the application, it would build confidence for the future and signpost towards improving a person’s prospects. 

This should also apply to the interview process. As part of these reforms, making candidate personal data anonymous to discourage bias and discrimination would give us assurance that we are judged on our abilities, not our identities. Standardising the application process should include these ‘blind’ CVs as an integral part of recruitment.

The changes needed to reform our entrance into work are small, structural issues. Making a more transparent system would build both confidence in the economy and in the ability to find a job too. Instead of going to bed in the early hours, exasperated by the job websites that plague your email inbox, applications would be easier to send and to receive genuine advice.

Progressives believe in a society of equals where opportunity isn’t just a slogan attached to political campaigns. Reforming the core of how people function is a matter of social justice, a moral necessity to improve our lives. Applying for a job shouldn’t be hard work – it should work for us.