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What happened to Recruitment Manners?

01 October 2016 - Rosemary French

I am always hearing horror stories about how job seekers are treated telling me they send in loads of applications and hear nothing.  If they are lucky, they might get an automated e mail acknowledging receipt but nothing more.  It is bad enough for an employer not to respond to an application but what about after an actual interview?   After going to all the bother of setting up an interview why would an employer not take the time to let you know you did not get the job? It happens, too often.

Now, I have not had to apply for a job for a long time and in fact have been lucky enough to have had a long career of polite invitations to interview or rejections. But at last I am experiencing exactly what those unhappy job seekers were telling me.  And it is all the more shocking because it has happened twice within a year with two different but extremely well known south east educational institutes!   And the roles were in my own spare time, unpaid and voluntary to boot!

In example one, I was harassed by a leading recruitment agency to apply.  I suspected a ‘stalking horse’ scenario and was reluctant but eventually relented.  Three months later I remembered the application and wondered why I had not heard anything.  I spoke to the recruitment agency who were embarrassed but could not help me because they were no longer employed and I had no contact details.  It is a year later, no response and my opinion of that university is rock bottom.

However, I had a second chance for an identical unpaid role at another south east university which I saw was heavily advertising.  I applied and, wow, I got an interview.  That seemed to go well but competition was tough although I did remember to ask when would I find out.  Late June, early July I was told.  It is now September and nothing.  I have chased by e mail but not even had a reply to that. So a second university has dropped off my favourites list!

Now why do I think that two leading organisations should consider it is ok not to respond?  

Is it because they have decided not to fill the role at all or even are still deciding?  Ok, but tell the applicants.   The organisation’s reputation is at stake here.  When I ran a private company of over 100 employees, I always used our recruitment as a form of marketing, an opportunity for our company as employer to spread the word about how wonderful we were to work for.  Because there may come a future time when that rejected candidate will be exactly the person we were looking for. And also because one person will talk to many other people about the experience.  It costs an organisation nothing but manners, to leave a rejected candidate with a warm feeling about the company.

Is it rudeness?  Possibly, they just do not care.  Is it fear of telling someone they have been rejected? We all suffer from rejection throughout our lives.  At least, in love, we get a Dear John text!  We know that every business management book tells us that good leadership and management is all about communication.  Not responding to an applicant is the worse form of poor communication in an era of automation.

A grown up employer should be able to tell someone they are not suitable. It costs nothing and is incredibly short-sighted.  If they cannot, what kind of employer are they and who would want to work for them, paid or unpaid?

Rosemary French OBE, Executive Director of the Gatwick Diamond Initiative

First published in the South East Business Magazine October 2016

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