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The Big Recruitment Experiment of 2019

Updated: Jan 13

I've been conducting an experiment over the past few months. I've been applying to different organisations for roles to test how important engagement actually is at the point of recruitment.



I set some simple criteria.


- I would only apply for jobs that were a good match for my skills and experience, I would use combination of recruitment websites, LinkedIn and direct application - I wouldn't use agencies (seemed pointless to take that resource away from people who needed it more)


- I would only apply for roles in my local area or reasonable commutable distance (London is fine from Brighton)


- I would make 50 applications in a one month time period - all with company names you would probably recognise would only select companies that had an outward facing value of their people - companies that really invest in them and want to do great stuff for them.


I had lots of questions that I wanted to find the answer to. How would potential employers engage me at the point of recruitment? Would they make an effort to engage me, even if I wasn't the right candidate for them? How would I feel in the recruitment process? Would I fall in love with their brand and want to work for them even more? Would I find the most amazing job and actually consider taking it?


As a result of the experiment, I have total empathy for anyone looking for a job. It takes a lot of time to put a good application together. On average, it was taking me about an hour to craft the application to suit the employer, make small amends to the language on my cv and draft my covering letter or email. Would my investment of time be recognised, rewarded or even acknowledged?


One month on, the results are in. Of the roles I applied for, I wasn't successful with any of them. Not a single response. No attempt to engage me, no 'thank you for applying' or 'sorry you are not what we are looking for' or 'we've found who we are looking for'. Absolutely nothing.


Take a minute to let that sink in. Every company I applied to is a customer-centric organisation - meaning that they all have customers that purchased from them or choose their services over another supplier. I revisited their websites. I often found they were using words like 'customer focussed' and 'our customers are part of our DNA' (all phrases changed in case you google and think you know who I'm talking about...) - you get the idea.


So these organisations apparently focus on their people but couldn't even acknowledge an application. Not even a copy and pasted email to attempt engagement. An hour of my time given up in good faith for zero recognition from an organisation.


Let's look at this from a human point of view - as an applicant for a role, you have no idea why I'm looking for a job. You don't know if I'm a customer of yours and you really have no idea that I'm going to report back on my experiences on a social media platform. I have integrity so I won't be naming and shaming who I applied to - but if you travel, fly, buy groceries, buy electrical, shop online, enjoy a Saturday trip to the high street, or if you own a car. then chances are you will recognise a lot of the companies I applied to.


In my view, these companies need to completely revisit their applicant experience. If they can't be bothered to engage at that first point of the recruitment experience then how can they expect to be believed about the rest of their employee value proposition. I feel deeply disappointed as some of most favoured brands didn't even acknowledge me. Was I over qualified? Did they just think I wasn't very good? Did they even receive my application? I'll never know.


So here's what all employers need to do:


1. Take a fresh look at your recruitment experience.

It's a candidate led market - so your experience should reflect that


2. Make a commitment to your applicants.

Get back to them to acknowledge the investment they have made in your organisation


3. Humanise the recruitment process.

If you are using automated sifting - be honest about it in your responses


4. Remember how fragile the market can be

It could be you tomorrow


5. Don't expect me to buy in to brands who can't buy in to me



None of us know the story or motivation behind an application and I know that HR teams are pushed to the hilt in many cases, but there has to be a happy medium, right? People teams across the UK have to humanise the recruitment process - as much as candidates can frustrate them too.


We've been recruiting and recently had a day of interviews. Seven candidates in total. One of those emailed to cancel (although I think we will rearrange...) and of the remaining six, none turned up .

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