The Good, the bad and the ugly

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Applying a high level of professionalism when dealing with job candidates will always reflect well on your business.

Applying a high level of professionalism when dealing with job candidates will always reflect well on your business.

The financial services sector is full of smart people with high levels of competency; builders of successful businesses, investment gurus and guardians of retirement funds for current and future generations. They are innovative in their thinking, ready to embrace new ideas and most notably generous in their mentoring of the new wave of talent coming through the ranks.

I have seen firsthand the kindness of people in the industry when they have reached out to those who are struggling in their careers and personal lives and have given their time and money to charitable causes without taking any credit themselves. This is the Good of our industry and it is laudable and something that will hopefully remain in our collective DNA in to the future.

I was recently introduced to a young man who is currently in the second year of finance and actuarial studies; he had achieved consistently high marks through his course, he was the recipient of a scholarship that was keenly contested and was looking for an entry point for his financial services career. I contacted three business heads of Australian and US businesses and they all agreed to meet the young man just so they could give him some guidance. At the end of their discussions he told me that each executive had been not only been generous with their time but had provided him with useful ideas, one of which was to apply for a graduate intake scheme with one of the financial services companies. He showed me his application and two of the referees were those executives that he had met with. I have no doubt that he will gain that foothold he is seeking and will have a long and rewarding career in the industry and the generosity of those executives will play some part of that.

I am sure that there are many stories of young people treading a similar path of exploration, not knowing how to gain entry to the industry and through someone reaching out to them they have been able to secure an entry level position which may otherwise not have been made available to them. However, the flip side is littered with the not so kind and generous stories that are not a result of malice but more of thoughtlessness.

Business owners and executives who are involved in recruiting new employees are often facing a range of critical business issues that can distract them from the recruitment process and leave candidates with a poor impression of them and their businesses. Ineffective candidate management is where recruitment processes can easily fall over; at worst preferred candidates shy away from what could have been a great career opportunity for them and the business loses a high performance candidate who could have made a substantial contribution to the business.

I recently spoke to a general manager who applied for a senior executive role. The company had posted an advertisement on a job board and he sent his application through with the expectation that he would hear from the firm within a week or so. He asked me to take a look at the advertisement and to review his CV to ensure that he was a relevant candidate for the role. He had all the experience that was required and in addition had worked for both Australian and offshore companies in similar roles to the one advertised. After a week he called me and said that he had heard nothing and he called back a week after that and still there was no acknowledgment of his application. I suggested he call the HR manager who was the contact person for the role and after speaking to her he called me back telling me that they were proceeding with a shortlist of candidates and he would not be considered. This lack of professional curtesy was not even acknowledged by the HR manager and the candidate now has a very dim view of this firm which he has shared with former colleagues in the industry.

This lack of professionalism is unfortunately not uncommon and can be easily avoided if employers take the time to put in place some thought as to how they should treat candidates. I have a great deal of experience in dealing with large institutions through the SME’s and overall most get it right, but there are times when I have been taken aback by the lack of consideration to candidate management. From there being no acknowledgment of the application to no communication after initial contact, none of it is born of malice but to the candidate it may look like they are being harshly treated and for what reason?

A former colleague from my previous life as an executive was headhunted for a CEO role. He had been recently displaced from his last role due to a restructure and was taking time to do additional study. He was shortlisted for the role and then became the preferred candidate. Discussion with the chairman was focused on him joining the company, remuneration details were agreed to and references undertaken. The executive expected there to be a contract in the mail within a week and when it didn’t appear he called the head of HR who didn’t return any of his calls. He tried to get through to the chairman but the silence was deafening. The executive called me to tell me the story and said that he couldn’t believe that he was in this position after all he had gone through, however he is a resilient person and put it down to experience and moved on.

A fortnight later he called me to say that the contract had arrived and he was in two minds about what to do. I asked him to disregard how he had been treated and focus on the role itself. He ended up signing the contract and he served as CEO of that business for five years making a significant contribution to its growth. I recently asked him if he had taken anything out of he was treated when in consideration for the role and he said that one of the things he did when he took joined the company was to review the recruitment process and those responsible for managing it.

Sometimes it takes a personal experience for executives to understand the importance of ensuring potential employees are treated in a professional manner from initial contact through to contract execution and informing unsuccessful candidates that they have not been successful. When more executives get involved in ensuring this then there will only be good stories and we will not have the bad and the ugly.

In the meantime, I am looking forward to seeing the young man I met experience more of the generosity and thoughtfulness that is the mainstream of this industry and one day I hope to see him in a position in which he is able to draw on his experience to help others.

By Peter Dawson, The Dawson Partnership

3 comments

  • William Yeates says:

    This has really hit the nail on the head, particularly in respect with what my colleagues have been experiencing. I have heard many stories, where my colleagues have shown admiration about companies they have applied for. Even in the face of rejection, due to both helping hand of high level individuals and respect given to them by HR, their stories have been positive. It’s only when treated without acknowledgement or respect that I have ever heard bad stories – and funnily enough, a lot of the bad stories have come through people that have gotten the position. Hopefully we can all grasp onto Peter’s story, and do what we can to show generosity and thoughtfulness to those seeking it, not just to acquire the best talent and personalities, but also so recognise that a helping hand or dose of respect will go a long way in fuelling others to make the best of themselves.

  • Peter Dawson says:

    William it is always refreshing to hear from someone like yourself who is looking to establish their career in the financial services. In my experience there is a generosity of spirit in the financial services industry that would rival any industry in Australia with so many executives passionate about their businesses and ensuring the next generation are provided the opportunity to make a career in the industry. However, as you and your friends may have experienced any thoughtlessness is more often born out of the pace at which people work and the resultant pressure they are under and sometimes good candidates can inadvertently fall through the cracks. I wish you well with your endeavours and I have no doubt that you will secure a role that will provide you with the beginning of a great career in the industry.

  • Max Caprarelli says:

    Peter,
    As always, a well informed and appropriate account of what’s really happening in the industry. I think that you are spot on in terms of the proceedure or lack thereof involved in the recruiting process. It seems almost farcical that companies spend enormous amounts of dollars on building brand expectations on what dealing with them should be like but fall short at one of the most important times…recruiting for the future.
    Keep these short insights coming!

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