Recruitment – What does your firm’s culture say about you?

On the face of it, the purpose of recruitment is to find and appoint the right person for a particular role. The employer will approach this with their list of requirements, such as:

  • Skills needed
  • Level of experience required
  • Relevant qualifications
  • Desired attitude and outlook

Generally, the employer knows the kind of candidate they’re hoping to meet when they advertise a role.

But what if the employer is not what the candidate is hoping for?

When recruiting, it’s tempting to assume that candidates will simply be happy and grateful for the opportunity of a job. The job market is competitive, after all, with potentially hundreds of applications for a single role. That they might turn down an offer of employment is almost unthinkable.

However, a story recently gained attention on social media about a job interview apparently so traumatic that the candidate, when offered the role, rejected it – and let the employer know exactly why.

22-year-old Olivia Bland had reached the final round of interviews for a role at Web Applications UK which was with the CEO, Craig Dean. Bland posted her emailed response to the job offer via her Twitter account. In the email she described the interview process as ‘very uncomfortable’ and stated that she was intimidated and humiliated ‘to the point of tears’. The two-hour interview was described as ‘brutal’.

At the time of writing, the tweets have been shared over 40,000 times and have generated thousands of comments. 

Exactly how brutal this interview was is impossible to say without having witnessed it first-hand, but the story raises some interesting points.  

A firm’s interviewing process can say a lot about them. This case might be extreme, but it’s important to consider the recruitment process as a reflection of a firm and its culture; it’s not just a test for the candidate.

An interview may be the only interaction an individual has with your business – not dissimilar to that of a prospective customer.

What kind of impression do you want them to walk away with?

Why should candidates want to work for you? If you want to attract the most talented individuals, you need to be able to answer these questions.

The Senior Managers and Certification Regime (SM&CR), effective from 9 December 2019, aims to improve conduct at all levels. The FCA is not being prescriptive about how a firm’s culture should look, but the Conduct Rules give some idea of where their attention will be focused. Strong leadership will be crucial in promoting a culture that sets a good example in the sector. Naturally, you will want to recruit the individuals that reflect this culture, but you need to be able to attract them and show that you’re the kind of employer they want to work for.

Olivia Bland described her experience as ‘like being sat in a room with my abusive ex’. Is this the sort of image you would want associated with your firm?

It is also worth bearing in mind the power of social media in these situations. Very quickly, this story gained momentum as it was shared, liked and discussed on Twitter. Social media is providing people with a voice that is more widely heard than ever before. Previously, interviews like the one described may never have come to light and the company would not have been put under such public scrutiny. Whether feedback like this is accurate or not, stories can be shared widely and employers should be mindful that they are accountable for their actions and the behaviour they demonstrate.  

Web Applications UK issued a statement saying that it has conducted an investigation into the allegations, but was satisfied that ‘no bullying or intimidation occurred’.

They said they were ‘saddened’ by the incident, however, and ‘will take this opportunity to reflect carefully on our recruitment process and HR policies’.

Candidates are often told to make the right impression when being interviewed for a job.

It seems employers should bear this in mind too. 

About the author

Lisa joined RWA in 2014 as an e-Learning Assistant, designing training material for the Aviva Development Zone learning platform.

Her role as Professional Standards Manager involves the creation and review of e-learning content as well as providing proofreading, copywriting and standards support across the business.

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