Friday, 1 February 2013

Climbing lots of stairs

The other day I was talking to someone who is struggling to find employment. It isn't just the economic climate that’s the problem. It's the attitude of employers; they want experience, preferably gained in someone else’s environment. They want extended hours for less pay. Sometimes candidates are considered ‘overqualified.’ It's very hard to pick yourself up each time you’re knocked back. The sad fact is that often you don't know you knocked back because employers invariably do not bother to respond to applicants. Eventually you get that you’ve been unsuccessful when they don’t respond to your emails or return your calls. Contributing to this has been the system of online applications which has a certain degree of protective anonymity for the employer. They get away with it because they can. People are desperate for work and the employer continues to get applications because of that fact, not because they are ‘employer of choice’.

The most spurious argument for non-reply to candidates is that there are so many applications they don’t have the resources to do so. When I worked in the recruitment industry, the practice was to send letters to every candidate when they were unsuccessful. One occasion, I signed over 500 letters in one sitting. A number of people ridiculed me about this saying it was a waste of my time and resources. From my point of view the applicants had put time and personal resources into his or her application and deserved the courtesy of a reply to show that their application had been received and properly considered. These days email provides flexibility to respond easily as can appropriate wording on the job ad itself about expectation of response times.

One of the first things eroded in a continuous and unfruitful search for employment is the individual's confidence. For many unemployed people the cost of repeated applications is both practically and emotionally wearing. My friend fell into this category. It culminated when the consultant at the employment agency where he is a registered client told him on the last visit that she had not bothered to match him with potential work ‘because it was January’.  

My friend’s reaction was, ‘I'm not climbing the corporate ladder. I'm just climbing lots of stairs.’ At the top there is usually a shut door.  

Why am I ranting about this? Because employers and recruitment service providers often miss the fact that work and the process of seeking it isn’t just about economic considerations. It’s about a sense of purpose and achievement. It’s about establishing and maintaining social networks. It’s about belonging somewhere. And those in a position to offer or advance employment owe each applicant an appreciation of that. 

If nothing else, we owe them the courtesy of a reply. 

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