Cheryl Hughes: My Career As a Woman
Testy: When I moved back from Texas in 2008, I assumed I would be able to jump back into the job market in Kentucky with no problem. I had a college education, after all, as well as tons of experience. Boy was I wrong!
The first big hit to my unrealistic set of expectations was the now-infamous recession. The second was the on-line application with accompanying aptitude test. I was familiar with on-line applications and up-loading my résumé. I had to do that many times when job-searching in Texas. What I was not prepared for was the battery of tests I was forced to take with every application.
My personal favorite was the Walmart department manager test. It was comprised of questions that check to see if you have a moral compass—those were easy enough—as well as questions that measure how well you work with others and what kinds of leadership skills you have. Let me say in my own defense, my husband and I have been in business for quite a few years, and I have worked retail, both under managers and as a manager myself. With that said, yes, I failed the Walmart department manager test.
I immediately called my friend, Corrina, who is a Walmart department manager in Plano, Texas. “Corrina,” I bemoaned, “I failed the Walmart department manager test. How is that possible?”
“Miss Cheryl, did you answer the questions truthfully?” she asked.
“Of course I did,” I said.
“Well, that was your first mistake,” she said, “I bet you also answered some of the questions with a sometimes agree or somewhat agree.”
“Yes,” I said, “I thought that would show my flexibility.”
“That was your second mistake,” she said, “They want completely agree or completely disagree responses.”
“So let me get this straight,” I said, “They want department managers who are untruthful and inflexible?”
“Yeah, pretty much,” she said.
“That explains a lot,” I said. I thanked her and went back on-line to re-take the test only to discover that once you fail the test, you have to wait six months before you can re-take it. I wasn’t trying to get clearance for the CIA, I just wanted to stack cereal boxes and hide from customers like I’d seen other Walmart employees do.
The second most memorable on-line test was for the position of assistant manager of PETCO. Having consulted with Corrina before taking this test, I made sure I answered every question with completely agree or completely disagree. I was determined to be completely inflexible.
Part 2 of the test was a math skills segment. Okay, so they wanted to see if I could make change. That was understandable. Mid-way through the second page of this segment, the questions became reading problems. You are mixing paint, the problem started. Maybe, I would be expected to paint dog houses, I reasoned. You have 3 colors of paint: green, yellow and white, the problem continued. I glazed over when I got to the part about figuring the ratios of green to white and white to yellow. I figured the next question would involve three trains leaving the station, thirty minutes apart, carrying three buckets of paint, labeled X, Y, and Pi, and I would have to solve for the circumference of the caboose on train one, so I hit exit.
I called my friend who had recently started back to school and was, herself, looking for a part-time job. I was a bit discouraged about my own job prospects. “I’m still searching, and school is a lot harder than I remember,” she confided, “We had a PE test today that was unbelievable. They were all common sense questions. It was a nightmare!” she finished.
“You ever considered Walmart or PETCO?” I asked.
(Disclaimer: Some, but not all, Walmart employees hide from customers. You know who you are.)