We Exploit Vulnerable And Desperate Job Seekers


PhotoCreds: china environmental law . com

A bit of a sensational headline, but what damage would it do to your employer brand? How about if the headline read:


We only care about you if we want you. Don’t bother contacting us if we don’t contact you. We aren’t interested in you.

Or how about:

We don’t care if you want to work for us. We are far too busy to be bothered by you.

Not great employer branding, but this is exactly what I thought when I took a look at a number of the LEADING career sites  that are held up as great examples of employer branding. Award winning employer branding no less.

These are seen as the best of the career sites for candidate experience, and in many ways like design and functionality they were.

These headlines were the thoughts that went through my head when I found the following statements in the application process, a little below the gloss:

We take x number of interns each year, before applying, please be aware that we do not pay interns, but offer great work experience. We pay travelling expenses within the London area only.

The second headline was actually:

If you don’t hear back from us in 3 weeks you have been unsuccessful.

The third headline:

Please do not send speculative C.V.’s.

All of these career sites had clearly invested heavily in design, look and functionality. The comments were well behind the front page. These are great sites with good companies to work for. I just felt they took away from positive thoughts i was having about the companies.

Is it just me that thinks this damages the great work being done on the packaging? What examples do you have of poor process undoing great brand packaging?

Be an ambassador for your brand,






17 comments on “We Exploit Vulnerable And Desperate Job Seekers

  1. Couldn’t agree with you more, Bill. A lot of these award-winning companies’ processes,when inspected through the mist, are simply bejewelled turds.

    The package is hot and inviting, but the underlying message is that though the design and functionality may entice you in, the message, to many, will remain the same. It may be a great company to work for but nine times out of ten you shouldn’t hold your breath for that 3 week period after application.

    • Toby,
      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I think the process outlined is quite poor, and some simple modification or change of attitude would change things.
      These published statements could impact on how potential employees view the employer brand. It is could even stop the right people from applying. I think it is worth considering when considering the whole investment in employing the best talent. If I was in demand for their jobs, it might make me rethink applying to them over a competitor.

  2. I totally agree Bill – Too many companies behave outrageously towards jobseekers! I think it’s damaging to their brand – as well as to jobseekers’ confidence.

    I also think there is no excuse for it as there is so much software available to help with managing responses to unsuccessful candidates. HR depts who say they don’t have time to respond to everyone are insulting candidates who have spent hours – sometimes DAYS! – working on their application.

    There is also increasing evidence that a bad candidate experience can be damaging for business – as too many companies forget that their candidates may also be their customers, or potential customers.

    I wrote about this on my blog GraduateFog.co.uk, in a post called ‘Ignored candidates take revenge on rude recruiters’

    I am also appalled to see that Prospects – the self-styled ‘official’ graduate website, who everyone knows I’m not a big fan of! – openly adopt this approach too, towards applicants who may want to work for them.

    “Due to the number of applications we receive, we are unable to reply to all applications submitted. If you do not hear anything from us within four weeks, please assume your application has been unsuccessful at this time.”

    For more on this, see my post ‘Applying for a job at Prospects? Don’t expect a response’

    Don’t you think that’s a pretty disgusting way to treat jobseekers? Because I do…

    • Tanya, I empathise with your observations – and in truth a major corporate business should have the resources to respond effectively to every application. They have a team of internal HR/recruitment people to deal with this stuff.

      Sadly the average independent recruitment company does not, and so you will find that an increasingly large proportion of these `if you don’t hear from us` messages.

      The reality of the current world is that applying for jobs is too easy. There have been days in generalist recruitment when I have responded on the phone to 10 people every day who can’t even identify the job they have applied for the previous evening and you are calling them about, because it is too easy to apply for `anything`, without reading the job spec. The percentage of person who does this is high, VERY high. For example I recruit in Social Media – and so all of my jobs have a `theme`. One person often applies for EVERY job automatically because the key phrase `social media` fitted their search.

      Is it right that these people can be ignored? Well the recruitment agency cynic would say we are a free service. Our time is better spent talking to businesses who DO pay us, so that we can find sufficient jobs to provide for that jobseeker.

      I get over 50 applications a day, close on 100 sometimes. Relevant CVs per day? Usually about 3, and 5 on a good day. I try to respond to worthwhile applications, but I admit to ignoring the frivolous click-thru application who couldn’t be bothered to even change their covering note from the job they applied for 8 applications ago.

      So let’s not tar everyone with the same brush. I agree corporate entities should either respond, or be clear on guidelines, as per Bill’s examples. But it is not good business sense to spend 25% of your day responding to the 90% of applications that were so poor, and instead engage wholly with the exciting prospects that made the valid & considered application, or applied using ingenuity and connecting with purpose through multiple communication channels.

      I would advise Graduates to take this route seriously. Stop bashing out CVs like christmas cards and start planning your application process with defined, dedicated and logical career matches.
      Sadly, there are too many graduates in the current world – and not enough jobs to go round by a LONG show.

      But there lies another topic entirely.

    • Tanya,
      You know my views on unpaid interns. I have stated them a few times at Graduate Fog. The bit I struggle to understand is why a business would invest so heavily in a sparkling career site, then make statments that could stop great candidates from applying. They are obviously serious about getting the best talent, so why promote such negative practices on the expensive site? Seems counter productive.

  3. Bill, I believe this is the first time I’ve visited your blog. I am astonished at how some consider the treatment of candidates a completely separate animal from the organization’s brand.

    Thank you for drawing attention to this continuing issue.

    • Ed,
      thanks for visiting. i hope you stay. what amazed me was not only that they carried out practices that I see as potentially damaging to the employer brand, but that they also publicly pronounced them.

  4. Bill I love you and on the surface, I agree here. But truly, with large brands, managing expectation needs to come before making sure every Tom Dick and Harry gets a positive vibe from your site. The fact is, we don’t advocate this sort of “please everyone” philosophy in dating or any other relationship in life…why do job seekers get special treatment? I know I sound a bit harsh and perhaps that’s the trouble. Reality is harsh. And reality is that a large company with an award winning brand, can only afford to care about so many. There just isn’t enough manpower to handhold every single person that “doesn’t make the cut”.

    Sure a hard line criticizing those companies gives your personal brand a huge boost with jobseekers, but here’s what corporate America knows that many smaller consultants don’t. Only in large numbers do job seekers have any purchasing power. Jobseekers generally do not have any money. “Candidate Experience” doesn’t apply to you if you are no longer a candidate (see above: managing expectations) For third party recruiters, there is a distinct and inherent value in maintaining a brand and a relationship with a rejected candidate. Eventually, you might place that person. The same might be true for a corporate recruiter but that message perhaps is not important enough to make it to the schematics when it comes time to develop the UX for next year’s career micro-site.

    Finally, if what we’ve been telling these people is true (that they need to network, develop a personal brand, get to know the company they’re applying to) chances are they should have at least ONE name to follow up with. I know several job-seekers who have done just that and at the very least, gained interviews, if not the job.

    Rather than reinforcing the concept that large companies and organizations are responsible for every single applicant (down to the interns), I say we empower job seekers to push out of the “vulnerable and desperate mode” and start being proactive, reactive, downright nuclear in their job search. Rather than fuss because you’re being ignored, become impossible to ignore.

    Hopefully, this doesn’t come across as offensive. I’ve spent a great deal of time coaching and helping jobseekers in my hometown and across the country and I understand the job landscape is scary and difficult to navigate for the many, many unemployed. But if we build within them a resentment that they are not being catered to properly, we do them a disservice, as many companies do not believe it is their “job” to cater to the jobseeker, because generally, to most of the company, it’s not.

    • Maren,
      I hear exactly what you are saying, and believe me, I’m no bleeding heart. What I don’t understand is why invest so much in presenting an employee brand as positive as you can, then publish statements that could put off the best talent from applying, certainly I would be looking to be positively encouraging and making candidate experience important because it makes business sense, not just good morality.
      PS: I love you to!

  5. Reasonable comment Bill – but who’s calling the shots?
    You have already said that these are companies who are great brands and people would want to work for.
    Should they panda to their 3,000 applications a year, of which 2,500 were pointless and irrelevant?
    Should they be obliged to provide a fluffy user experience to the random job seeker with misplaced job value?

    To me, they are examples of slightly direct messages – but direct messages give assurances of your position as an applicant – and that is so often rare, usually applications are catapulted into a dark, dark hole of uncertainty.

    These companies should have the pick of the market due to their profile, and I think they are merely exercising that power and managing expectations early.

    I don’t think it appears very `social` – but it’s the way it is. The application structure is clearly so inviting – that it attracts allcomers. Sometimes applying for a job needs to be a little more difficult again.


    • Steve,
      I’m with you on toughening up the process. The bit I don’t understand is why you would spend the cash to get great response, then say we are just too busy to talk to you.
      My reaction, (forget the morality point), is that this talk MAY put good talent off applying. Why organise your process around doing something different and better.

  6. Bill,

    It’s a issue that was brought up in last months Onrec magazine re corporate responsibility in recruitment and I’m glad your are highlighting the point. Job seekers who are not being handled like valued people when applying for jobs will leave the brand in question with a bad image of the company they have taken the time to engage with.

    Right now BS8877 is out for public consultation, it’s there as a code of best practise for online recruitment. I’m sure they would love your input. Simply go the the BSI website and type in BS 8877.

  7. Can you name names Bill? I’d like to visit the sites myself to see the full context of the messages before commenting. DM me on Twitter if you prefer!

  8. Grads are already complaining about one of the companies, Harrods. http://graduatefog.co.uk/2010/1129/harrods-internship-unpaid/

    Harrods declined to comment! (see the link)

    I guess when it comes down to it a company like Harrods can afford to be stuffy. There will, after all, always be people mug enough to work for such an openly ‘up themselves’ organisation, but I’d be interested to learn who the other companies are.

    In this day and age if a mere mortal employer adopted such an attitude they would have a bad reputation within weeks. As I say, Harrods are no ordinary company. A pity they can’t get down with the kids once in a while though.

  9. Not got so much of an issue with the “if you don’t hear back from us within X timescale” approach as, with application levels at possibly an all time high, many companies just aren’t set up to be able to deal with several hundred applications at a time. You can’t really blame them for taking that approach. It is better to state it up front, preferably in an ad, but at least they mention it. Nothing worse than just not knowing what the state of play is.

  10. Here’s a good example in the caser of speculative CVs. http://www.channel4.com/4careers/faq.html. I guess people have to draw the line somewhere. It’s the case that supply far outstrips demand and with all the will in the world you can’t expect business to respond to every Tom, Dick or Harriet, particularly when they have not invited CVs.

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