Recruitment, I have come to learn, is the best way to find out if an organisation walks its talk – if the people working there truly live their values. Sadly, far too many of them don’t.
by Jill Spurr
Values always sound so impressive: we are brave, we are accountable. We challenge the status quo.
Then there’s the culture evolving out of these values, that invariably these days mentions mental health. Let it be known far and wide: we care. We do, we really care.
While much is said about the candidate side of recruitment, we need to have a deeper conversation about recruiters. Far too many forget that the candidate’s experience of the recruitment process is every bit as much the corporate values in action as customer service is. Brand is every exposure to the organisation we get, and we never get closer to that organisation that when we look to become part of it.
How you treat people while they seek employment with you speaks volumes – how you send them away because they have been unsuccessful tells us more.
I get it. I really do. Recruitment takes time, and often the people doing it are under pressure already. But letting people down is part of the process – not the nicest part, but necessary, nonetheless. If you interview six people for one vacancy, that’s five difficult conversations. It’s literally built into the process.
I’ve kept a spreadsheet to monitor my job applications since being made redundant, carefully recording the outcomes. A monstrous 40% did not respond in any way to an initial application, even with a group email. 40% ghosted me. That’s two out of every five applications that is a complete waste of time and effort. Agencies and some well-known names, organisations that I thought I wanted to work for, that I thought shared my values but when it comes down to it, don’t even have the common decency to say, “no thank you”. Shockingly, there are a few more that have fallen strangely silent further down the process.
Applications take time and effort. We are expected to tailor them, reflect the job description and person spec, shape our CVs and research the company to show this isn’t just any application, I really, really want to work for you. That all takes time, effort, self-belief. Yet in my experience, two out of every five are a complete waste of time, and you don’t find out they are until a couple of weeks after closing when you still haven’t heard anything.
It is the hardest thing in the world to write a job application when you are feeling low, when you’ve had another rejection, when your self-confidence has taken a kicking and you are crying out to just be seen. Ghosting applicants just amplifies the hopelessness in passive-aggressive way that eats at you. Think what that does to mental health. For people who are long-term unemployed, it can be devastating. Just take a look on LinkedIn at the posts by people constantly frustrated by the way they are treated, trying to gather up their dignity and start again, create another application that shows them in their best light.
Frankly, it’s heartbreaking. The recruiter may think it doesn’t matter because it’s just one vacancy, one rejection, one person who didn’t reply – but to the vast majority of applicants, it’s just one more.
It really isn’t hard to get recruitment right. Here are my top tips to make sure your recruitment process lives up to your values and gives everyone involved the best experience.
1. Write your “thank you but no thank you” email when you write your job advert, so it’s ready. Be genuine, be human and wish them well. Harvest email addresses and create a mail-sort to contact people within a couple of days of closing. Sign off with a named person. What would you like to receive in the circumstances? We are all job-hunters at times.
2. Keep candidates updated throughout the process, and when their journey ends, let them know in a timely manner. Don’t delay bad news, it wreaks havoc with the self-worth of your candidates. Yes, I do mean self-worth.
3. Don’t make the interview process too long and arduous, even for more senior roles. The majority of people you will see are doing this for nil return, so keep this in mind when devising exercises and interview panels. Do enough to enable people to show you what you need to see, but keep it proportionate.
4. If you interview, factor in giving feedback to all the candidates you see and plan time to do it. Make sure that feedback you give is constructive and about the candidate – tell them what you liked and give them at least one thing they can do differently next time that would change the outcome. Don’t tell them what a tough time you had picking from great candidates, it’s not the compliment you think it is.
5. Reflect on your company values – are you demonstrating them throughout the process, even the difficult bits? Your candidates are seeing the organisation up close and personal, and the “inter” in interview means mutually or reciprocally, so be mindful of what you are showing them and how your recruitment activity will contribute to your reputation. Unsuccessful candidates will talk and post on LinkedIn about their experiences. Or blog.
And for the applicants, my advice is: however hard it gets, never forget it’s not personal. The odds are ever against us, there will always be more interviewed than vacancies available. It’s normal to have feelings of rejection and to be upset, so give yourself space to work through them. Regardless of the feedback you get (or not) from the company you applied to, try to be objective about your application and reflect on what you could have done differently, what you could have highlighted more – but don’t do that until you have moved through your initial response if you are upset. Remember, if you are treated badly in the recruitment process, that’s a massive red flag for what it would be like working there if you were successful.
We are communications professionals. We deliver tough messages for a day job. We know when it’s done well – and when it is not.
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Image via Sean MacEntee