Fast Track Recruitment

Institutional Corporate Arrogance

Posted by Mitch on 22nd November 2019


‘Institutional Arrogance’ is a phrase I came up with a few years back, after years spent looking for reasons why so many companies (and recruitment agencies) struggle to attract enough of the right kinds of candidates to their job ads.

But before I explain what it means, I first need to put this struggle into some kind of context.

If you were to ask every hiring manager if the types of candidates they were looking for were most likely to be employed or unemployed, most would say “employed”. And when I say ‘‘most”, I mean nearly all of them.

Logically, I can only think there are two reasons for this.

1. They think that anyone unemployed is in some way inferior, simply because they are out of work. It’s a conscious bias.

2. They have their finger on the pulse and are aware that we’ve recently been living through a period of the lowest unemployment numbers in 40 years. In other words, they understand that statistically there is a slim chance the person they need is sitting at home watching daytime television.

So, we can safely assume that, for whatever reason, companies and recruitment agencies understand that they are probably going to have to persuade someone to quit their job in order to come and work for them, or their client.

For someone to put themselves through one of the most stressful life events like changing jobs (along with all the financial and domestic changes that often go with it), first they have to be confident that the new job is going to be better than the one they’re about to resign from.

For that to happen, someone (or something) has to persuade them that the new job is going to improve their life in some way. It could be more learning, a bigger challenge or something boring like more money – but whatever it is, it has to be something that they think is going to make their life more rewarding.

There are various touch-points where this would start to happen. It might be a referral from someone who already works there or it might be a call from a recruiter they already know, asking if they’d be interested in hearing about a new job opportunity.

But these days, the most likely starting point of any persuasion process is a keyboard. You know, writing. Words mostly.

These words will usually take the form of a job advert, a social media update or an email, Inmail or private message.

Logically you’d think that if those words are going to be successful, they’d have to tell the reader why the new job might be an improvement on the one they’re currently doing. And quickly too, because as we know, everyone these days have hundreds of messages daily vying for their attention.

So, if we agree with all of this, then the only place left to go is to define what’s needed to at least start the process of persuading someone to leave one job to start another.

And, do you know what that is? It’s self-interest.

More specifically, the self-interests of the people you’re trying to persuade.

It’s the basic DNA of all forms of selling. If someone doesn’t see a potential benefit to them, they’re not going to engage with any sales process. Doesn’t matter if it’s a new job or a new fridge.

Regular readers might already be rolling their eyes and saying to themselves “Great, he’s going to start banging on about how to write job ads again..”

But I’m not.

Because this blog is about something else.

It’s about companies who don’t think they have to appeal to other people’s self-interests – either because they’re called things like Google, Coca Cola, Apple or P&G or because they’re living deep up their own backsides and think they’re doing the world a favour just by having job vacancies.

It’s about companies being so blind to either the realities of the current employment landscape or their own sense of self that they arrogantly assume that people will automatically want to work for them once they find out they have job vacancies.

The third possibility is that they don’t understand anything about selling – and for any business that would be incredibly worrying because most employee’s livelihoods depend on their employer’s stuff being sold.

I accept that the Googles and Apples of this world don’t need to sell most of their jobs. But a newly funded tech start-up operating out of a converted roof in Old Street? Or a steady but unremarkable manufacturing business in Preston? Yeah, they need to sell their jobs.

The alternative is to hope that enough qualified people see their job ad/message/social media feed who also happen to be in jobs they hate. But that is a really small slice of the target candidate pie.

For those of you who’ve stayed with me this far, here’s the pay-off.

The other day I saw the most egregious (or just plain stupid) example of institutional corporate arrogance I can remember ever seeing in a job ad. And I say that as someone who looks at a lot of job ads.

It was memorable because it raised my hopes of it being a good ad because it started with the sub-heading “What is in it for you?” I instantly thought, “Finally a company that gets it!”

It was an ad for a management role. Here are the 4 bullet points that followed…

“Be responsible for leading the full portfolio of change across the organisation.”
“Be a key decision maker – developing strong working relationships at all levels.”
“Showcase your ability to lead, motivate and engage a wide range of teams.”
“Work collaboratively with a range of different stakeholders.”

That’s right. Those were all listed as benefits to the potential candidate and all of them basically translate as “You get to do your job”.

I particularly liked the 3rd one; “Showcase your ability to lead, motivate and engage a wide range of teams.”

So, here they’re telling the reader that one of the key benefits they’d get from working there is that they get to show their new employer that they can do their fucking job?! If that’s not reminiscent of a master/servant dynamic from the 19th century, I don’t know what is.

At least those recruiters who post long boring job descriptions (that read more like ransom notes than job ads) are making no pretence that they couldn’t care less about making a job look attractive.

But to tell the reader “what is in it for them” only to then list 4 sentences that just mean ‘you get to do your job’ is a level of corporate arrogance I’ve not seen before.

Is anyone qualified going to respond to an ad like that? Possibly, but it’s totally dependant on being seen by someone with all the right qualifications and who happens to be in a job they detest.

The light at the end of the tunnel for companies who think about potential new employees like this is that hiring good people will get easier when the recession comes. That’s assuming they can get past their inbuilt prejudices against unemployed people.

If they can’t, that particular light at the end of the tunnel is going to turn out to be a speeding train.

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