Working under golden arches now only for lucky few
Being a McDonald's employee was once derided as a job of last resort -- but that was then, as Marcus Spray finds out
IAM now a member of one of the largest growing groups in Ireland -- McDonald's rejectees. We are an eclectic bunch, ranging from secondary school students to qualified accountants.
This summer, job hunting has accompanied me like a drone in my ear. While I have valiantly tried, constantly sending off CVs with personalised cover letters, almost everything has ended in failure. Application after application is sent, but no response is forthcoming.
I'd liken it to being trapped in a maze, where every path you take ends up leading you back to where you started. Unsurprisingly, many people just give in. Luckily, I still have a bit of fight in me as I desperately have to fund an exchange to the US. So, one day, I was made aware of two openings for crew members at McDonald's in the Dublin suburbs of Artane and Clondalkin.
This was by no means my idea of an ideal job, but after a month of cold rejection I was quite prepared to do anything, and any stigma attached to working in McDonald's would not put off this broke student. I also thought applying would be a useful source of motivation -- once accepted, I would be forced to make a considerable effort to find some other job preferable to one spent deep-frying curly cut-potato slices.
In a sense, the job was a last resort, a fall-back in case any of my more favoured applications didn't work out. So you can imagine my dismay when I received an email, only one day after applying, essentially saying thanks but no thanks.
Naively, I didn't think it possible that this affable Trinity College student with three years' kitchen experience could be rejected. My arrogance was based on an entirely outdated notion that getting work at McDonald's was a cinch; a job for failures. How wrong I was.
In fact, McDonald's is seen as one of the best places to work in Ireland -- for six years in a row, it has finished in the top 50 and last year it was placed a very impressive fifth for companies who employ more than 250 workers.
Its success must be partly due to its favourable wages and promotion prospects. McDonald's offers a competitive €9.31 for entry level -- much more than I've received for any other kitchen work I've done -- and also an opportunity to rise up the ranks.
According to communication manager Ray Farrelly, whatever the background of candidates, those with the "right attitude and ability to work in a team environment will succeed within the organisation".
This, along with extremely limited employment opportunities in Ireland, has led to a huge rise in demand to work for McDonald's. Last year, when a new golden arches was opened in Ennis, the store was inundated with more than 500 CVs -- many applicants overqualified, including architects and accountants -- all on the basis of one 'Now Hiring' banner placed at the site.
And Ray Farrelly says that this is not limited to Clare. All over the country, they have a noticed a huge increase in applicants with diverse academic backgrounds.
So just how do you become a McDonald's employee?
Well, I had to complete a stringent online application process. After entering all my personal data and work history, I had to enter exactly what hours suited and the maximum number I was prepared to work. Following this, I had to fill in multiple choice answers for what to do in a wide variety of scenarios.
For example, you are serving a grumpy customer. Do you: (a) Be short with them; (b) be extremely pleasant with them; (c) refuse to serve them; or (d) treat them like you would any customer but don't go out of your way to make them happy? To me, (d) seemed like the best choice; but then again, I'm the rejectee.
More painstakingly, I had to write two 500-word essays on 'What I like to do in my spare time?' and 'What is my greatest achievement?' Obviously my completion of the An Gaisce President's Award and my Saturday morning football coaching just didn't quite cut it.
The next stage is the interview, but alas I have nothing to report as I never got that far.
McDonald's, like so many other service industries in the
economy, is subject to huge demand. With more than 440,000 people on the live register and cashless students not included in that list, there are too few jobs for a lot of people. The ERSI predicts 120,000 to emigrate by the end of 2011 and this doesn't surprise me.
So as a McDonald's rejectee I shouldn't feel so hard done by. Working in McDonald's now seems to be an occupation pursued by the luckier ones in society.
As for my job prospects, the search goes on. But time has nearly run out before I leave for my year away from Trinity at the University of California, San Diego. Maybe there I will have a chance to savour the McDonald's experience from the inside.
Meantime, dear sir or madam, I have had a taste of humility and I will have fries with my Big Mac, please.