Serious Only Need Apply

By Cyberquill 03/01/201018 Comments

If you’re just goofing around, applying won’t suffice. In addition, you’ll have to come in for an interview, undergo job training, and perhaps even show up for work every day.

If you’re serious, all you have to do is apply, and you’re done.

Or could it be the dangling only refers to serious and not to the act of applying?

As I keep scouring Craigslist’s Help Wanted section in my endearingly fruitless quest for employment, I keep stumbling across the endearingly insipid Serious Only Need Apply. I can’t help but wonder about the mindset of an employer who would bother to include such a silly line in a job ad, assuming the employer him- or herself either wrote or personally signed off on it prior to its publication. (Even if some factotum was wholly responsible for the content of the ad, the impression it engenders attaches to the employer and the company, not to the witless minion in charge of its composition.)

Obviously, Serious Only Need Apply won’t deter non-serious applicants, precisely because they’re non-serious and therefore won’t take the text of the ad seriously in the first place. Moreover, given that non-compliance carries no penalty whatsoever and nothing is lost by applying, the dopey line won’t even deter those unable to quantify the extent of their own seriosity for the purpose of determining whether or not it falls within the employer’s definition of the term.

The only class of applicants this line may conceivably deter are those concerned about a potential employer’s ostensibly limited understanding of human nature such that he or she appears to believe its inclusion would keep pranksters at bay. A person with such a paltry grasp of how the human psyche operates is most likely clueless about what motivates people in general, and employers who are clueless about what motivates their employees tend to lead by the crack of the whip. Sounds enticing. Can’t wait to apply.

For better or worse, first impressions are crucial on both sides of the hiring process, and Serious Only Need Apply deserves its place on the Mount Rushmore of instant turn-offs, along with a truckload of typos and the infamous No Pay.

Since it takes four to make a Rushmore, here’s another popular doozy:

Must Be Qualified.

At least one doesn’t have to be alive, awake and willing to work, or it would surely say so in the ad.


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  • Cheri

    Oh boy. This must be frustrating, Peter.

    So let me get this straight.

    Serious only need apply.

    Where is the subject of this sentence?

    • Cyberquill

      You mean the subject of Serious only need apply or the subject of Where is the subject of this sentence? Obviously, the this could refer to either. I have a hunch this is a trick question. Very clever. Do I get the job now?

      • Cheri

        Well, now. This answer is impressive.

        I have a stack (53) to be exact of 25 minute SAT essays that must be corrected and scored by Thursday night.

        Perhaps I should send you one essay (unfortunately they are hand written…as will be the essay on the SAT), you can correct it for me, and I will evaluate your skills as a reader.

        • Cyberquill

          Sure. Just make sure a #2 pencil was used, or I’ll flunk it sight unread.

  • Andreas

    Danglers — whether a stray “only” or any modifier — make for hilarious reading in the English language.

    I regularly get emails (intended to be ass-kissy) from PR people that start with “As a pre-eminent writer in this field, I thought you should know…”

    Really? You, the PR person, want to sell yourself as a pre-eminent writer in the first sentence? Or, as the rest of the email makes clear, you were trying to do something else and failing, because you were, well, not a pre-eminent writer.

    • Cyberquill

      As one of the sharpest minds in the country, the purveyor of one the most riveting blogs of the 21st century, and a person who understands the meaning of Dankbarkeit, I thank you for weighing in on the deplorable—and often involuntarily comedic—ambiguity created by danglers.

      • Cheri

        I only wish I had kept a list of the hilarious dangling modifiers my students have written.

        “Burning on the barbeque, I removed the hamburgers immediately.”
        “Hoping for vindication, the DVD was introduced into evidence.”

        And the like…

        • Cyberquill

          In spite of being listless, you’re making me laugh.

          • Cheri

            I AM listless.

            • Cyberquill

              Oops—was I dangling again? Doesn’t matter, as both of us are rather ruseless. (A little pun for German speakers.)

  • Nolanimrod

    Episode. EPISODE. episode

    • Cyberquill

      Mysteriously, the episode issue cleared itself up. Perhaps it’s a new word these days that I haven’t used yet. (No one knows what we’re talking about.)

  • Nolanimrod

    That line could get the prospective employer in hot water if he went through the Labour Exchange in the UK. It is prima facie evidence of blatant job discrimination against the non-serious.

    • Cyberquill

      Yeah, plus all job ads discriminate against the illiterate. Posting a picture-only version of each ad ought to be required by law.

      • Thomas Stazyk

        Plus we’re not sure what ‘serious’ really means. We assume it means serious about getting a job. But it could refer to the applicant’s personality. Jobs where you want serious people:

        --Hit person
        --Immigration officer

        Jobs for the non-serious:

        --Traffic cop (as in, ‘you can’t be serious”)
        --US Congressman

        • Cyberquill

          Exactly. The line doesn’t say what one is supposed to be serious about. An applicant may be extremely serious about checking his Facebook page every two minutes. Does that count?

          In my case, on those rare occasions when I do land a job, it never takes long for me to be informed by the brass that I’m “too serious” and that I should “lighten up” and “smile more.” So whenever I see “Serious Only Need Apply,” I’m thinking to myself Be careful what you ask for, Mr. Employer—you might get it, and then bitch about it!

          I disagree about the clowns. Being a good clown is serious business.

          • Thomas Stazyk

            Yes about the clowns. Especially Killer Clowns from Outer Space, one of the most wonderfully horrid movies of all time. Check it out.

            • Cyberquill

              Sounds great. I’ll put it on my bucket list, together with The Sound of Music, Jennifer’s Body, and The Godfather (neither installment of which I’ve ever been able to sit through in its entirety, which makes me wonder if I’m a real man).

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