Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Screening for Non-Conformists

My first step was certainly straightforward enough: get hired. However, I was well aware of what I was up against. An excellent article about WAL-MART in The Nation a while back explained how:
“the company screens out potential union supporters through its hiring process: in addition to excluding those with union histories, the company also administers personality tests to weed out those likely to be sympathetic to unions, and offers managers tips on how to spot such people.”
With this in mind, my goal going in was to be as honest as possible without lying, not because I owe that to them but because I didn’t want to give them an easy excuse for firing me later on. I would tell them I graduated from college but play down my more suspicious activities such as volunteering for a year of community service, my activism against the war, and certainly my working on a gubernatorial campaign.

All applications had to be filed on an in-store computer, which was greuling and surprisingly difficult, taking a full 50 minutes to complete. As I awaited their phone call I began to fear that I was too honest in providing background information, revealing my political science major and saying that the least I would work for was $8 per hour. Overall, I did well, navigating the tricky and repetitive 67 questions that focused largely on drug use and stealing from employers. (My favorites ones were: Is someone who steals $5 a year from an employer a thief? Is there room in every company for a non-conformist?) Five days later I received the message I was looking for: my interview would be the next day at 1:30 pm.

On my arrival the “Training Associate” took me out back and proceeded to lay out a great deal of paperwork for me to fill out concerning contracts (or lack thereof). The woman then asked me a series of disarmingly difficult questions about my last job, which I stumbled through, again being just a little too candid. Soon I hit my stride, throwing in all the right buzzwords and even stooped so low as to say that I wanted to work at WAL-MART because it seemed like such a friendly place to work. This was the right tact; there is no such thing as too big of a suck-up at WAL-MART. Case in point was when a member of management eventually showed up to take over for the Training Associate and conduct a second interview. After regurgitating the same questions that had just been asked in greater depth we moved on to some concerns that the computer has “flagged” on my questionnaire… not wrong answers, mind you! Questions in need of further discussion was my slight agreement that managers deserve more perks than employees and that employees should criticize an employer if they believe it to be wrong. Apparently anything less than “strongly agree” on these matters warned them that I might be one of those non-conformists, which of course there is no room for in this corporation. I backtracked on all of these questions and my request for $8 per hour, spinelessly settling for $7.40 per hour as a temporary hire part-time cashier. Due to the upcoming holiday shopping season the store was only hiring employees on a temporary basis, that is, for a three-month period where they can work you as much or as little as they want without paying you any benefits. The young female manager kindly assured me that they would be in touch and that I should be in good shape, pending my background check, or course.

Five days later the good news came. Show up at 9 am on Wednesday for part one of the two-day orientation. Bring two forms of ID and please don’t wear jeans.


Anonymous said...

As a brand new WalMart Associate, I found these posts extremely interesting and unerringly accurate. I am a rather high IQ college grad who just wanted a little low stress parttime job. I found the training a farce, and am learning that I am not nearly as smart as I thought I was. We are basically told and shown one time how to conduct the many, many transactions, and expected to keep them all straight. There are so many discreepancies between the CBL philosophy and what actually takes place up front. When I questioned these discrepancies, it became crystal clear that my inquiring mind was not welcome here. I am fortunate in that I work in an area of the country where the customers are nearly all nice, friendly people. Also, I am in a position to tell management what they can do with my job at any time. I would hate to be a single mom or anyone in a position to be forced to accept employment on their terms in order to provide for my family!!

Anonymous said...

Im commenting on the person above, unfortunately most people who work for walmart ARE indeed single mothers just trying to get by. And to think that you wouldnt be replaced if you left is nonsense. They fired me, I was a deli/bakery closer, and later that same day they fired the OTHER deli/bakery closer! Now who in their right mind is gonna fire the only 2 people who know how to close down a kitchen properly?? The department that I was in was all about favortism, if you werent the "teachers pet" then you were always getting written up for such idiocricies its pitiful! In the original post it is true, if you go against what is happening in the department that IS NOT being done by the CBL they want you out! I told them repeatedly the right way to clean the ovens, how you CANNOT make sandwiches the night before and put the shelf life label on them the next day, and finally you CANNOT soak floor drains in the same sink that you do dishes in!!!! But I found out after leaving that sure enough the Dept manager was soaking the drains in the sink, disgusting!!