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For a good start…

Beauty contest or the Olympics? Or how to work not where one wants to and not with those who one really needs.

Few facts to start with:
      •    50 percent of employees declares that they’re in constant searching for other job. Employment time with only one employer decreased from 23 years (in 1950’s) to 4    years (in 1990’s). The average employees circulation level in all enterprises reached 15 percent annually, and for companies from new technologies sector exceeded 40 percent (McKinsey & Company, 2008)
      •    Recruitment, selection and new employees introduction training cost comes to 150 - 250% of their annual salaries and exceeds 3 to 5 times the cost of keeping current workers instead (Stephen Taylor, Employee Retention Handbook, 2002)
      •    Philips Lighting Poland (PLP) in Piła: A total cost of the employees’ rotation per one contract comes to about 35 thousand PLN.

There is no research on costs of badly executed recruitment process... but there are researches on burnout syndrome, depression, absences and stress induced diseases.
When we look at the data, a question appears: how to look for work and how to search for the candidate in order to match both sides interests and diminish percentage of faulty recruitment? Surprisingly, it seems that we’re standing on opposite sides, but actually both, candidates and employers are facing similar dilemma: to present oneself’s best side or to make an optimal choice?

Let’s start with the candidate’s viewpoint. We have just graduated from the university, we are about to start looking for work or we’re in between jobs. Usually we do it quickly, often in despair: because we are either tired of current position or we must immediately start earning our living. So we enter various websites, look around asking friends and family for some advice and we slowly learn do’s and dont’s of the interviews. After having a glimpse on the job add, in interests and hobbies section we put down required competences and we hope that will do: which is exaggerated CV so it looks more impressive (or - surprisingly - less, happens in cases of over skilled or educated candidates who apply for  unskilled jobs). We gloss over our curriculum, bits here, bits there: maybe a bit more extensive computer proficiency then we really have, we add skills we believe a perfect candidate for the position should have or courses he should have finished. CV and the motivation letter are being consulted and touched up to uttermost perfection to avoid being overlooked and have our CV  thrown directly to the bin (as it happens to 90 percent of them – we all know it).
We prepare our papers to “show off”, to come off well and increase chances of the interviewer being interested in hiring us. Perhaps there is nothing bad in such practice - after all most of us are trying to show our best side. The problem begins when we act in such manner during the interview - we say what they want to hear from us rather than the truth. Before the interview, preparation goes as far as reading some popular interview questions and answers, making up some useful stories as the answer to more detailed ones, we have a strategy and some practical issued resolved. All this to get, not necessarily dreamed,  but definitely desperately needed job.

On the other hand – while juggling job searching and our everyday lives – we don’t have time to actually find some crucial information about the company we’re about to apply for job at. Of course we check the website to learn their expectations and what they offer in all adds we can find, but we haven’t got much time for something more . Sometimes we browse the Internet, but rarely we check out forums to seek for   personal opinions about the company or we equally rarely search for press notes, ones of the sort “the company succeeded in some projects and  totally failed in others". And we are definitely not finding the time for paying a visit in the company’s office just to breath with "its air", to listen to employees conversations or for instance to stand in the entrance hall and look around to see what is happening. Moreover - during the interview we usually don’t ask too many questions, and if any, it’s just the basic ones no to give bad impression. Because we believe that if we’ll “carp at" to much, we won't get accepted.
In many cases, based on such recruitment process we make irrational decisions of accepting given position. Consequences? The “honeymoon” passes by fast and it quickly turns out that we are working in the company that completely doesn’t suit our needs. It’s values do not correspond ours; we’re working with people we often don’t like or don’t accept their ways. Eventually  the job is everything but  golden opportunity we were hoping for. We feel we’re suffocating and we definitely don’t want to work there. And there we are, a moment later, often in bigger desperation then previously and back in searching for new job…

Let’s have a look at  the matter from the employer’s viewpoint. Usually as an employer  the process of  recruiting takes place under a huge stress and with tight timeframe  - since it’s  usually a case of: somebody has just resigned, we had to let someone go, which means the company is experiencing a great change that requires fast and well chosen replacement. We’d of course like to attract the best specialists to join the company. They will represent the company at every second, build it’s reputation and give testimony of business proficiency and skills of it’s management. What do we do then?  First we compile a job add that presents the company as an amazing place of employment. We offer everything: career development, great financial conditions, all sorts of complimentary courses, perfect inner company dynamic, young but effective team, extras like medical cover and supportive co-workers – when as an employer we read our working condition it seems it’s uttermost delight to work for us. Of course it is, since we don’t add “you’re about to work 60 hours per week”. We don’t put down: “say goodbye to weekends off”. We also don’t say: “ it’s a rat race – you have a short fuse? Don’t apply!”. We rather say: “ it’s great here with us, you’ll receive endless possibilities and support, and working for us will give you wings.”

Also: we’d like to find someone who would match the image perfectly so often we set the acceptable requirements level too high. Like: one or two fluent languages whereas the position has nothing to do with using foreign languages; education level higher then necessary; certificates of extensive office software courses while we want the candidate simply to be able to use Word – in general it’s a case of so called “over-qualification”. In many situations we’re not even sure who exactly we’d like to hire [unfortunately it happens too], so in this case “requirements”  we fill in with a totally general information that is suppose to make us look good as a company…

After having about 90% of all applications thrown away and having finally decided which of the candidates we’ll meet, often we don’t have time to prepare well for the selection  process; we have no time, and money to execute it properly. We’re not really aware of the position’s profile, or how to assess candidates answers and behaviour – what shall we accept and what we shouldn’t when it comes to both, attitude and respected values. It’s not so rare that employer doesn’t really take bigger picture into consideration, he follows “here and now policy” and in effect   company strategy and plans, market dynamics and so on are not being respected while making a decision of hiring a candidate. Sometimes we have prepared questions for the interview, but the evaluation sheet - not necessarily. We love to use  psychometric tests, because they are considered fast and cheap. But supplementing the interview with planned simulation techniques? Case study? Staged conversation? Some group discussion? Sample of the work? No! Certainly not during lower positions recruitment process. It takes time, money and requires a great amount of work. Unusual or crisis-resolving  questions and actions are introduced by the more creative recruiters to stress out the candidate during the interview. More serious companies avoid such solutions and rather prefer a good and well prepared interview. However both groups don't usually use evaluation sheets to follow and as a result make a well grounded choice; it’s rather an effect  of intuition or "chemistry".

Additionally  the recruitment process is usually very simplified: it consists of two,  three stages (including documentation analysis and the interview). What are the consequences? Good chemistry with the company representative during the interview does not mean it has to repeat in case of other employees and company CEO. We have verified CV and working experience, we might have even checked whether knowledge claimed in the CV reflects reality. Usually though the candidate has been accepted at face value, and not based on reliable and objective criteria that would be an outcome of our needs for now and future.

The conclusions we came to are something to be considered by candidates and employers and we’re encouraging users of Miasto Pracy to implement them in their everyday life of work seekers:

•    Dear candidate:

     o    If possible please don’t decide while desperate and in a hurry  -– give yourself some time to make a rational decision about your professional life
     o    Look deep into yourself and try to find out what are your expectations regarding future job ( not just financial but also people wise – who you’d like to work with, what values you cherish, what career path you’re planning, what do you want to achieve in your life)
     o    Take a good look and assess your strong and weak points, evaluate what your real experience is, what did you gain by it; next, present it at the interview – objectively!
     o    Spend some time researching on the company you’re applying to, try out various resources, not only company description on the website; it could be media [press etc], maybe some of your friends have some information about it, try even asking passing by employees when you’re in the building
     o    Ask, ask and ask! Ask during the interview about things you find important – you have exactly the same right to actively participate in the process as the company representative; request statistics, ask of any possible issues to rise in close future or possibilities, try to get examples of good practices in the company etc.
•    Dear employer:

     o    If possible please don’t make any decisions about hiring  while desperate and in a hurry  – give yourself some time to make a rational decision and think things through
     o    Try to honestly verify what qualifications and skills are ACTUALLY necessary at the position you need to fill and also in the whole company (now and in the near future) – avoid over-qualification, be realistic and asses what people (regarding education, language skills,   personality, values and attitude) do you need now to fill current position and – what also important – all others in the company considering it’s standards of working, development and work ethics
     o    Remember that the recruitment process is not a beauty contest – your job is to show advantages of the company (and actively promote company image), but most of all, both sides need to make a rational decision; to make a long story short: even if now you’ll put on your best dress, sooner or later it will turn out  that your high heels are old and worn down and your stockings have holes…
     o    Recruitment process is not just an interview; also remember that if you try to spare time and money now you’ll pay for it later. Complete the interview with samples of the candidates work, some practical tasks, examples, questions based on the candidates experience, ones addressing his/hers values, try to use case studies; use this opportunity to establish/confirm benefits of the possible cooperation for both sides

Both, candidate and employer are walking over a thin line. On one side – “My Great Image”, on the other “My Very Rational Choice” . These two attitudes are not very compatible. A bit like in everyday lives… We see a beautiful girl and later we discover it’s mainly make up and good hairdresser; we see elegant, charming boy and it turns out all that matters for him is his buddies and football games. To make it worse, when the deal is made – usually  the make up, the hairdo, flowers and all the romance is gone. So please don’t buy a pig in a poke and realize that recruitment process isn’t unnecessary waste of time but can prevent unnecessary costs and stress in the future. A proper approach is crucial to make a good and satisfying decision as a result of it.

…I wish that to all…

Magdalena Robak

[1] Robert St. Bokacki "Way to the retention", the Staff and the Management ", No. 4 / 2008

Image: renjith krishnan /

Image: jscreationzs /

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