There was a time when the process of retail recruitment was relatively simple. You stuck a notice in the shop window saying "strong boy wanted", or placed a press ad reading "vacancy for sales assistant. Should be intelligent, polite, eager to learn and of good appearance."
Not any more. A prospective employer must now tiptoe through a minefield of EC legislation, including the Human Rights Act, sex and race discrimination laws, employment regulations, and any of a hundred more of the 15 new business laws a day (yes, really) brought in by the present government.
These days, job interviews proceed something like this:
Applicant: Hi, you awright there mate?
Interviewer: Er, yes, I'm all right here, thank you. Are you all right there? Do sit down. Oh, I see you already have. So - how have you been employed until now?
Applicant: Oh, a bit of this and that, know what I mean?
Interviewer: Not really. I wonder if you'd mind awfully not eating that burger while we - no, the waste paper basket is that way. Do you have any selling experience?
Applicant: You can't ask me that, mate. Freedom of the Individual Act 2003, clause 4, subsection 2. You wanna get that carpet fixed, mate - I might've tripped over it. That would've cost you!
Interviewer: Anyway, are you punctual, hard-working and enthusiastic?
Applicant: Nah mate, couldn't give a monkey's. You discriminating against people like me then, or what?
Interviewer: Er, certainly not. What exactly are your ambitions, then?
Applicant: I just wanna be famous, don't I? On the telly, like.
Interviewer: Hmm. It says here that your hobbies are clubbing, boozing or snogging. How do you think these will equip you for a career in menswear?
Applicant: Well, there's a staff discount for buying gear, ain't there? And you can wangle up to seven weeks' pay if you throw a sickie or two? And six months paternity leave if you get the girlfriend in the club. You get to meet some tasty little numbers at the trade shows, right? And there's a free bar?
Interviewer: I notice that you haven't looked at me once. Do you think you'll be good at face-to-face encounters?
Applicant: I've been texting, ain't I? Get a life, grandad.
Interviewer: (Faintly) Well, thank you. We'll let you know.
Applicant: (Leaving) I'd better get this job, pal. Otherwise a few of my mates might be interested in rearranging your windows, y'know what I mean? And if they was to hurt themselves on the glass, well, oh dearie me! ... (Exits)
And they wonder why unemployment figures are beginning to rise again.
Martin Jones is the manager of menswear store Vaughan-Davies in Mold, north Wales.