Recruitment nightmares

O wad some Power the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us

So, the figures from the Office for National Statistics, released yesterday morning (August 13), show that the number of people in work reached a record 76.1% between April and June 2019.

However, the figures also show that actual job vacancy numbers fell – to 820,000 in May to July 2019 – 20,000 fewer than a year earlier, and 20,000 fewer than in the three months to April 2019.

One of those recruitment industry commentators that the papers always quote when they write about statistics like this said that employer caution is limiting the supply of new vacancies, yet stiff competition for recruits is still driving up wages and that there is renewed intensity of competition between employers for the best recruits.

Which is all very well, but if you want to recruit the best people you can for your roles, it would help if you were in any way competent at the recruitment process in the first place.

I say this because I met up with some friends that I hadn’t seen for a while the other day, two of whom were celebrating having landed new jobs. They regaled me with tales of some of the interviews from hell they’d been through.

Neither of them were trying to get jobs in this industry, however, I reckon there are probably people in this sector who have experienced some of these scenarios, either as applicants or recruiter.

There was the lady who thought it was OK to schedule an interview for a fairly senior role the morning she flew back from the States and was jet-lagged. My friend said that she asked about eight questions, yawned the whole way through, didn’t listen to any of the answers and 20 minutes in said: “OK, so is there anything you want to ask before we finish?”, then announced she was going home for a nap.

Another friend had five interviews for a senior role with all the various team members, managers directors and had been told by the hiring manager that the role was her’s, only for the HR director to decide, on the basis of a final 20 minute chat, that her answers to what my friend said were some very non-role specific questions weren’t ‘quite on message’. My friend did a bit of digging and she thinks this was a role that was then filled by the candidate that had been put forward by the recruitment company owned by the MD’s son.

Then there was the interview that was for a completely different role to the one prepared for – with the same job title – and the interviewer had been copied in on the confirmation from the recruitment consultant. Not so much goalposts moving as the entire game changing. My friend’s husband said it was like turning up in your football kit, only to find you’re expected to play waterpolo. The consultant, to be fair, was steaming angry about it as she felt that it reflected badly on her and her ability to manage her clients.

There was one interviewer that kept another friend waiting for over an hour and then said that they hadn’t got time for it.

One of my friends was turned down for a role because one of the other candidates was a better fit. Fair enough, she thought, that’s how it goes sometimes. But she added that the sting could have been taken out of it had the two of the four-strong panel bothered to stay for the afternoon appointments, instead of just doing the morning ones. Guess who was a ‘better fit’, yup, one of the two candidates seen in the morning.

There were more horror stories but I can’t remember them all. I’m not saying my friends were completely perfect for all of the jobs they went for, but in lot of instances they certainly were. In any case, do you really want someone who can do every aspect of every role straight away? If there no room for them to grow and develop then you’ll end up going through the whole process all over again sooner rather than later as they’ll get bored and move on.

I also know that for every interview story like the ones above there are a) plenty that go really well and b) just as many where the interviewees didn’t turn up, dressed inappropriately, made it clear that they felt the role was beneath them, didn’t turn up to their first day or patently didn’t do any research on the job or the company (on a magazine that’s known as BMJ, we’ve had a few of those!).  I also know, having had to do it on numerous occasions, that recruiting isn’t always an easy task and if you get it wrong (which I have done once or twice) it can backfire horribly.

However, we talk a lot about customer service and the importance of putting ourselves in the customer’s shoes and in order to better understand things from the customer’s point of view. It would be great if, no matter which side of the table you’re sitting, the recruitment process was conducted with the same do-as-you-would-be-done-by etiquette.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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