Recruitment: you’re doing it wrong.

Now, I’ve recently had to make a full time job out of applying for jobs (although thankfully the end is now in sight), and as I’ve stated previously, there’s all sorts of ways you can do it well, and also a whole lot of ways you can do it wrong.

Recently, I’ve been on the receiving end of a recruitment process so epically bad, that I’m actually genuinely surprised that the HR department involved are somehow still employed. It became so convoluted that I’m going to reduce it to bullet points, for easier reading.

  • I am advised by a colleague to send a prospective CV to A Certain Workplace (ACW), on the basis that a friend of theirs at ACW advised them a vacancy was available. I checked with another contact within ACW, who advised me that this was an acceptable way to proceed, as certain staff types were recruited in this way.
  • I send my CV and a covering letter.
  • I get a response, thanking me, but advising me that this was not an approach they accepted. I was informed that the ONLY place vacancies would be advertised was on the ACW website, and I should monitor this for them in future.
Fast forward a month or so….
  • An advert for roles at ACW was placed on library mailing lists. Friends forwarded me this information, which I’d missed as I was not on those lists, and I was waiting for it to be advertised on the ACW website. It was not at any point placed on their website. 
  • I email and ask for an application pack.
  • I receive an application pack, complete the requested forms, and realise that there’s no information on how/where to submit them. There’s a closing time on the covering letter, so that implies an email submission, but no email address. And a partial instruction on posting, but not a postal address. There is however, important information about the fact that if I want an acknowledgement of my application, I should enclose a self addressed stamped postcard… 
  • I call to check if they accept email submissions: yes, they do. However, they require them to be signed. OK: this means I have to print, sign, scan and collate a pdf from my original electronic application. It’s a faff, and I’m lucky that I have access to a printer and scanner, but I did it.
  • So, where was it to be submitted? The email address on the covering letter, I was told. I had to break it to them there was no email address on the covering letter. OK: send it to recruitment @acertainworkplace they said.
  • I sent off everything they needed, to the email address I was told to, a week before the deadline.
  • Silence. No automated acknowledgement email, but then again, this company has been so backward up to this point that I didn’t expect one.

Fast forward a week…
  • I receive an email from ACW responding to my original application pack request, saying they understood I had submitted an application, but they didn’t have it, so where did I send it?
  • Apparently (from what I can work out), the recruitment@acertainworkplace email address doesn’t actually exist, so when I phoned up to see where to send my application, I was cheerfully instructed to send it into complete nothingness.
  • I forwarded my original email with the application forms from the week before, saying what email address I’d sent it to, and why.
  • They replied saying thanks, but they couldn’t open the documents, so could I resend them in Word format? These are the documents that I’d had to send as pdfs, because they insisted they needed a signature on them, so I’d had to print, sign and scan them and make them into pdfs.
  • I replied attaching the original, unsigned Word versions of the forms, explaining why they were in pdf format, and that I couldn’t send them the third form as a Word document, because they had supplied it to me as a pdf document.
  • I got an acknowledgement, and a small, grudging “sorry for the inconvenience”.
  • I contacted other people that I knew had submitted applications to ACW, and told them what had happened. They hadn’t been contacted, but as they had received the same information as me on how to apply, they had to assume that their applications too had been lost.
  • The other people resubmitted their applications.
Fast forward two weeks….
  • Deafening silence, until today, I hear that interviews were held last week, and someone has been appointed to the position this week. As far as I know, the other people who applied also haven’t heard anything since submitting their applications for the second time, despite one going to the extent of physically going to the workplace and also handing in a paper copy of their application as they couldn’t get a hold of anyone to acknowledge their email submission.
So, to top off the HR Department’s epic incompetence and inability to manage a recruitment process (which is actually one of the core functions of an HR department), I’m now frustrated by the fact that, after I had to spend hours of my time fixing and resending information that they lost because they can’t perform basic tasks, they also don’t even have the simple good manners to tell me that I’m not being invited for interview.
Now, what have I got out of this process? I’ve gained a healthy disregard for the HR department of this company. I’ve developed a resolve not to apply for any further positions there, should they arise. And I’ve informed all my professional contacts about how bad this organisation is, although I’ve decided against publicly naming them here, as that’s not the point of this post. I wanted to use this to point out how every unnecessary hoop that I’ve been made to jump through, and every missed chance to inform me of what was happening has lowered my opinion of that company as a whole, even though the department I applied for a role in had nothing to do with this process. If you’re recruiting, you’re selling your company to the applicant, just as much as the applicant is selling themselves to you. And if you can’t manage the process of getting people to join your company, how do you manage them once they’re working for you?

Author: Jennie

Law, libraries, books, crafts, and general geekery.

3 thoughts on “Recruitment: you’re doing it wrong.”

  1. This is just spectacularly bad. In my seemingly neverending job search I've had plenty of opportunities to complain (and occasionally praise) various HR departments but this just puts them all into perspective. My 'favourite' one is the deafening silence after you've been to an interview in which you have to decide at which point it's safe to assume you haven't been offered the job. Then you finally get the letter/email days after the event. Anyway, good luck with the job search!


  2. One job I applied for at a well known University… a formal acknowledgement, and then silence for many weeks. Then I got a letter apologising for the delay and saying “We wouldn't blame you at all if you decided to now withdraw your application.” Were they politely telling me I wasn't being shortlisted, or should I take the message at face value? I took it at face value, said I wished to continue my application, and many more weeks later got invited for interview. But I still don't understand that letter.


  3. Having gone through the recruitment merry-go-round last year, I totally understand. My worst experience so far has been when I called up about a certain job with a private school about a management role in their information resources centre (ie the Library). The HR director wasn't in, but they had her assistant who said to me that I will need to put in my application. I also asked about a research role they had (I found out about this role through a friend who was working at that school) and was told that she can't discuss the role with me as it had been given to a recruitment firm. I asked which recruitment firm they had given it to so that I can enquire with them. She then went to tell me that she can't give me that information. So how was I supposed to find out more about that role? It wasn't advertised anywhere. She then further went on to ask me who my previous employer was and I told her. This was her answer “Oh I know company XYZ, I don't think they do the same sort of research”. By this time, I was getting pretty pissed off with this stupid git, and so replied with “so how does the current incumbent do their research? Is there some sort of specialised database, method etc” She actually couldn't answer it.

    Anyway, needless to say, I was so annoyed I told my friend who was working at the school and who encouraged me to call directly. She went to speak to their HR director and the girl was asked to leave the next day. I'm sorry she lost her job, but that was just unacceptable.

    My only advice I can give is to build your network (whether you are employed/unemployed) and find out who the managers of all the companies/universities etc where you want to work and try to meet them at networking events, introduction via LinkedIn etc, (also don't be afraid to ask people to introduce you) and when a job comes up, just go to the manager directly. I find that most HR departments have no idea what role they are recruiting for. You might get a bit more joy from the actual manager themselves.


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