Recruiting people to work for you is tough. Not as tough as applying I grant you, but treating people fairly and decently and making the right decision weighs upon me.

We’ve had over 20 applications so far for the part-time position. And there are three days to go at the time of writing (Monday morning) – I’ll finish the post and publish once we’ve shortlisted.

UPDATE: We had 45 applications in total.

I’m not going to be able to give detailed feedback to everyone who applied so here are some general points:

  • Well done the first 20. You applied well before the deadline. We’re looking for someone with excellent organisational skills who is motivated to work here. Being quick off the mark shows your qualities.
  • It’s a tough market at the moment. If you haven’t got genuine relevant experience then you’re going to struggle against those who do have. New graduates, you’re up against seasoned professionals. Sorry. There will be other opportunities that are less attractive to experienced people.
  • “The job would be good experience for my career” – that’s not a selling point to me. I want your experience to be good for our organisation.
  • “Can we speak on the phone?” – we’re advertising for a writer and communicator. If you need to revert to the phone to get my attention or ask me questions already in the job specs then you’re going about it the wrong way.
  • “Dear Sir/Madam” – The ad gave a name and email address. I get it that Shane is a gender (and species) fluid name, but I’m not hard to find online.
  • “I’m writing to express an interest in applying for the role advertised…” – this is not concise writing. If you can’t write the start of your application concisely I’m not going to be confident you’ll do it in our comms. Perhaps half the applications began this way. Whoever is teaching people to write this way needs to stop right now!
  • Cover letter – We’re an online project. If you wrote your cover letter in Word and then attached that to an email, it displays a strange adherence to old skool, non-digital communication. Always question for yourself the best way to do something.
  • Cover letter part 2 – the first requirement of the job is “Clear and concise communication skills suitable for online” – write to me in a clear and concise manner, don’t write endless long paragraphs. And please don’t write 3 pages. Be concise, please.
  • CVs – the only relevant experience is your writing and communications experience. Make sure that stands out on your CV more than your academic qualifications.
  • “examples of your work” – less than half of applicants didn’t provide examples of their work, or hid them in a CV. The stand out candidates provided quick and easy access to examples of their work.

We are shortlisting a small number of candidates. Their applications and experience stood out. Stood out a lot. There are a lot of suitably qualified applicants to whom the bullet points above don’t really apply, but your letters and CV’s weren’t quite as good for us as the ones we’re shortlisting.

The next steps involve choosing one person from the shortlist. I imagine they might be reading this and thinking about how they might attract my attention appropriately for a job involving online communications.

I also hope that anyone who has applied or is thinking of applying for the full-time project wrangler role reads this. If you have and want to add anything to your application then please do so, I won’t hold it against you. Quite the opposite. It will demonstrate to me that you’re paying attention.


Lauren · 9th September 2020 at 2:18 pm

Was a long winded, condescending blog post the best way to communicate this to rejected applicants?
The idea of detailed but non-person-specific feedback is a great one, but the tone and manner of this one have really given me a bad impression of what working for this organisation would be like.
I won’t be applying for the other position after all.

    ShaneMcC · 9th September 2020 at 3:37 pm

    Sorry you feel that way Lauren.

    It is intended to be constructive and helpful and some candidates have already found it helpful.

    As for long-winded, well that’s one reason why we need someone who can write on the team.

      My · 9th September 2020 at 4:02 pm

      Ooh. This is pretty tone deaf. As a reminder, it’s a really tough job environment out there. People are being made redundant. They still need to pay their bills. They will put effort into applying for roles they think they can do. So, for info: 45 applications is a tiny pool to sift through. What you’ve itemised above is your preference for how people should write. How would any applicant know that in advance? A piece of advice to avoid any tribunal claims now or in the future (given you seem to enjoy feedback) if you’re going to sift on that/a certain basis, you have to tell candidates about that in advance. They aren’t mind readers. I’m sure many of your candidates spent hours putting together their application based on the information your company provided. Did you provide a style guide? It doesn’t seem like it. A blanket response like this is pretty insulting to all of their hard work. In future, a general email to unsuccessful candidates saying “thanks for applying, unfortunately your application hasn’t been successful” is generally way better than a blog post. It sucks to get turned down, but a personal response is just good manners. Then those who want feedback can request it. Also, early applicants don’t necessarily mean the best people. It depends when people see the advert, how much research they do, other roles they ha e on. If you have a deadline, as long as the candidates apply before that, that’s all that should matter. Personally, I think you’re focusing on completely the wrong things, which are very driven by your own personal experience/way of doing things. It’s very unlikely you’ll get a diverse workforce like that, and diverse organisations are always more successful and innovative than those who recruit in their own image. Some food for thought.

        ShaneMcC · 9th September 2020 at 4:36 pm

        Thank you My for the feedback. It wasn’t intended as a solution to finding a job. It is feedback to explain in general terms how we chose who to shortlist.

        Everyone who applied was emailed. This isn’t their notification.

        I’m not in a position to write individual feedback to them all so I wrote this post and pointed them to it. I’m hoping it helps those who are applying for the other position we have open.

          My · 9th September 2020 at 4:49 pm

          Yep, didn’t think you’d take any of the feedback on board, but I appreciate the acknowledgement.

          As a leader, where you choose to spend your time and energy is your choice. And those choices are very visible to employees and candidates. If you had time to blog and to write these replies, you did have time to feedback to candidates. If that’s how you want to run your organisation, you do you. It’s not the kind of organisation I’d want to work for. As an impartial observer.

Gramm Erpolice · 9th September 2020 at 3:17 pm


    ShaneMcC · 9th September 2020 at 3:38 pm

    Thanks Gramm.

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