How I was looking for a job, or 5 things which are still surprisingly strong in HR

candidate-experience

A number of reasons made me put off writing this post. But instead of pointing them, I will better explain what made me finally decide to do it.

Firstly, for 10 years of my work in Pracuj.pl (the largest recruitment website in Poland) I would spend every day listening to opinions, expectations and pains of both sides of the recruitment process – candidates and employers. Still, when I started looking for a new job, every now and then I was completely stunned.

Secondly, “Nobody will ever write about it” – I thought. I tried to find articles in which someone would honestly share their experience of looking for a job. I haven’t. And thirdly, sensing that some companies would feel a little hurt (I hope that not offended), I thought, that surely there would also be some that would say, “It’s all true, but we want to change that”.

If you want to learn about observations I gained by participating in 17 interviews within 2 months, I encourage you to.

1. The power of a reference

When it turned out that I needed a new job, I applied neither obsessively nor as hard as I should to find a job. In November and December 2015, I participated in interviews with 8 different companies,  to 4 of which I was recommended by someone. In cases of recommendations, the recruitment process was beginning much earlier (I was going for an interview just a few days after being presented to the proper person), and at much higher level (meetings with heads of departments or CEOs, sometimes with the silent presence of an HR employee). This is not a phenomenon which, in my opinion, must be somehow fought against. We better acknowledge that such situations happen and consider them another reason why “it’s good to be decent” (so that someone wants to recommend you in the future). It is also good to ask around your friends, and ask them for help in finding a new job.

2. Immortality of CV

My contacts with companies (apart from those to which I was recommended), usually began in a way different than sending a CV. A recruiter would contact me through LinkedIn or Pracuj Select service in Pracuj.pl (that is recommending my profile to employers). Of course, my profiles at Pracuj.pl, LinkedIn and Goldenline were up to date and carefully filled, showing my professional history in a precise manner (together with a description of responsibilities and ongoing projects). However, I always wondered whether and at what point, after a nice beginning of “I found your profile interesting” the immortal “Please send us your CV” would be asked. Only in 2 companies it wasn’t.
To be honest, I am amazed at how attached we are to this document. Even booking.com, a company that very positively stood out amongst others for several reasons (about which you can read here), asked for a CV. However in this case it may be justified by the fact that very clear expectations were added to the request to prepare a CV. At that moment, the recruiter has already thoroughly examined my profile on LinkedIn and conducted a preliminary interview with me. I was asked to do specific things: clarify my job responsibilities on one of the positions, give examples of projects that I implemented and which proved that I possessed qualities sought by booking.com (e.g. data-driven mind, ability of prioritizing), and describe the measurable effects of the changes I introduced. I spent about 20 hours working on that CV, but I prepared my ” best CV ever”, full of numbers and percentages (after all, I was applying to a data driven company). So I was requested to write a CV, but also obtained specific guidelines what to include in it.

3. Not keeping one’s word with deadlines

All recruiters with whom I met declared at what time after the meeting they would inform me about any further steps. I was given promises such as “within two weeks”, “next week” and, naively, I treated them seriously. I marked in my calendar when and from whom I would get feedback. Unnecessarily, as deadlines were not being met. I understand that, for various reasons, sometimes more time may be needed to decide. But why not reach out to the candidate and explain the reason for delaying the answer? The only exception was booking.com, a company that after each stage of the recruitment contacted me at the appointed date (always set shortly after the stage).

4. Not keeping the promises of subsequent communication

Assuring a candidate that “no matter what our response will be, we will contact” them and giving business cards “to facilitate subsequent communication” has become a norm. Out of 8 companies 3 informed me that they decided not to enter collaboration with me. In case of the remaining 5 I decided to make use of the business cards I had received – I wrote emails and reminded that I was waiting for the promised answer. Unnecessarily. I didn’t get any response.

5. Not reacting to a request for feedback

The only company from which I received feedback was – yes, again – booking.com. I wrote to the other ones asking them to provide me with reasons for not going with my candidacy, guessing that such a request was not in common practice. I asked, but got no response. An especially funny example was communicating with one of the companies that was trying to pass as very modern. It was an international employer, hiring about 500 people in a Warsaw-based, nicely furnished office. At the very first meeting the recruiter and my potential supervisor went on a first-name basis with me. Ok, I thought, maybe this is more typical for the culture of their organisation. Unfortunately, when it turned out that after all they wouldn’t be interested in working with me, we went again to “dear Ms” and I received an email: “Thank you for your time, submitting an application and participating in an interview. Unfortunately, currently we are unable to enter into a cooperation with you”. After such a friendly atmosphere during the interview, I expected the same partner-like treatment after deciding that we would not work together.

Conclusions

17 interviews in two months made me suddenly realise why candidates complain about the way they are treated and about no contact. Why, when willing to change a job, they begin to lose self-confidence, why during interviews they feel like supplicants, not partners. Dear recruiters and managers leading recruitment – it’s how you treat candidates who are in the process of changing jobs that makes the candidates become “passive” and stop applying. They remember well, or hear from their friends, what they will have to go through. And that is why they prefer to be stuck in their current workplaces and remain uncommitted to what they are doing (according to Gallup’s research 63% of employees are not engaged in what they do at work). At the same time I feel that employers can significantly improve how people looking for jobs feel and make the process a lot more enjoyable through really small changes. I suggested some first steps here.

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