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supporting welfare to work providers

Modern recruitment techniques

Recruitment practices have changed a great deal over recent years and if it has been some time since your older customers have looked for a job, they may find them difficult to adapt to. Younger advisers, in particular, may not appreciate just how different they now are from when their 50+ customers first entered the labour market.

You will need to paint a realistic picture about how modern recruitment techniques and processes work, and set realistic expectations about the time that they can take, since its not unusual for candidates to be called to participate in more than one round of interviews.

You will also need to explain that in many instances their applications may not be acknowledged and they may not hear whether their application has been successful. This happens to jobseekers of all ages but can lead older (and younger) applicants to believe it is their age that is the problem. Sometimes it may be, other times it is not.

One of the major changes that has taken place is that there are now far more places where jobs are advertised or listed, many of them are online.

In the current economic climate, where there are likely to be many more candidates chasing each job, it is important that your customers stand out from the crowd by meeting the requirements of the recruiter. They should do this by matching their skills as closely as possible to the job description.

The key to this is a carefully constructed CV or job application which reflects the same language as that used by the recruiter in the job advertisement, job description and/or person specification. Many recruiters, especially those working for larger employers, use software applications to automatically sort CVs, matching their closeness to the employer requirements on a scoring basis. It may be a long process from the time a CV is submitted to the point that any human being gets to see your customers' applications, assuming they haven't been rejected in the meantime.

Tailoring CVs for each job application is essential, regardless of the age of the applicant.

Do their CVs age them unnecessarily?

As your customers construct their CVs they need to think about things that draw attention to their age. They should not put their age or date of birth on the CV as they are not needed. Nor should they include the dates of their education. If they have 30 years of work history, they only need to go back over the last 10 years or three jobs, whichever is the longest. Under certain circumstances, they may need to tailor this, for example, if they are applying for a job where their experience is not recent but where they gained useful skills and experience earlier in their career and they need this as evidence to support their application.

Free text questions in job application forms

When your customers are asked to complete a question and they are given a paragraph, page or more to do this, it is really important that they recognise the recruiter's hints for the type of response they are looking for.

For example, an application form may have a question in it that asks: "Please use this page to outline why you are suitable for this job".

To ensure a response is as good as it can be, they should extract all the key skills and key responsibilities from the job description, advertisement or person specification and, working with the key points, construct their answers around them, using examples of where they can offer experience and good outcomes from their previous work history.

Common complaints from customers making applications

Why does the agency I registered with never get back to me?

Just because an agency has registered your customer, it shouldn't be automatically assumed that they have, or necessarily expect to have, vacancies that match the skills your customer offers. Even if they do, when there is a plentiful supply of candidates seeking work, agencies do not have the time to keep in touch but if they find something they may contact your customer. The onus, therefore, is on you or your customer to keep their details and any application in the forefront of their minds, so a ‘keep in touch' call, on at least a monthly basis, is worthwhile. Whatever happens, it pays to have as many people working on your customer's behalf and not to rely on only one or two agencies.

I have placed my CV on a number of websites but I have not heard anything.

Putting a CV on Monster, Guardian Jobs, Trovit or other job sites or job boards is the electronic equivalent of putting a postcard in the news agent's window. Just because it's there does not mean that anyone is reading it. While it is important to have their CVs electronically searchable it is only one way of getting noticed and your customers must keep refreshing their adverts. Posting, i.e. uploading, their CVs onto a hosting site such as Monster only means that they have placed an advert to say they are available for work and that they want to hear about opportunities. It is not the same as applying for a specific job. It is only when an employer or an agency looking for a candidate whose skills match theirs will their CVs be found. Only if this match occurs will the job application process begin.

Tell your customers not to leave their CVs waiting to be found for weeks and months. They should go back to the site on at least a monthly basis and re-submit their CVs to keep them fresh.

If they have responded to specific advertisements and nothing more has been heard, a number of things may have occurred. The software may have sifted the CVs out of the process because they did not score enough ‘matching points'. In this case very little can be done but they should review job advertisements against the CVs submitted and check whether the CVs were well matched against the terminology used in the advertisements.

One of the biggest mistakes in job searching in the current market is to make thousands of badly matched applications. It is better to make fewer, better submissions where skills and background can clearly evidence the right experience. Taking a punt on a job for which your customers have no experience to offer can do more damage.

Modern job application techniques do not stop with the application process so please make sure your customers are familiar and practised in interview techniques. This is particularly important in the case of Competency Based Interview techniques (where interview questions are designed to test specific skills) which are an essential part of the selection process today.

This case study illustrates how one provider helped a 63 year old customer get to grips with current recruitment methods.

Case study: modern recruitment techniques (The Plus Team)

After 18 years in a sales job with a major food manufacturer, Tom, who had survived takeovers, downsizing and acquisitions, finally felt the axe fall and in August 2010 made his first trip to the Jobcentre. 

At the age of 63, Tom knew that he had to continue working and he was comfortable with the thought of working seven more years as part of his life plan. With a young, dependent family of 14 year old twin boys, and a mortgage to pay, giving up work was not on his agenda.

He felt very low about his prospects and was uncertain about where to get the help he needed. But luckily for him, an adviser at his local Jobcentre told him of a one-day seminar for executive and professional staff run by The Plus Team and he jumped at the opportunity to attend. It wasn't until after he had attended the seminar that he came to appreciate how much he didn't know about looking for work in today's job market.

The advice came in spades: Tom had been investing too much of his time in form filling at various agencies and applying for jobs advertised rather than using the tools he already had in his personal kit to best advantage.

After carefully listening to the advice offered, Tom rewrote his CV, paying particular attention to the things he had been told about: taking off his date of birth and reducing his work history so that it didn't highlight the number of years he had been at work. With some further advice from his Plus Team expert, he learned that uncovering jobs through the hidden job market was probably his best route into employment. What was especially important for Tom was learning about how to get all the different routes of help working for him. With a mortgage protection policy, he found help where he might not have expected it. His insurers had advisers who also helped refine and re-work his CV for the modern job market to give him the best of chances.

To accompany the learning, Tom built an action plan with The Plus Team. This gave real focus to his job searching process. It wasn't one of those "apply for six jobs a day" plans; it was very tailored and covered daily activities, such as who needed to be contacted and what needed to be done, to equip Tom with up-to-date job search skills.

Tina, Tom's return-to-work expert at The Plus Team, told TAEN about the issues Tom faced but she was also keen to point out that he had some very positive things to work with. Displaying a great work ethic, Tom attended the seminar and really looked the part, suited and booted. But Tom lacked understanding of how recruitment worked in the digital age. He was waiting for the right opportunity to come to him and that was never going to happen.

"We worked on his CV and then took him through the recruitment process used by companies in this modern era. By teaching Tom how matching software works, we were able to construct his CV to match the jobs he wanted to apply for. We were also able to show him how to ‘post' his CV, set up feeds as jobs come available and how to answer those competency based interview questions once the appointments started to come in. We were able to use some of our own contacts and we also introduced him to a specialist sales agency where he was given an opportunity to practice his interview technique," Tina said.

Tom attributes his success in getting to grips with modern job searching techniques to the expert help he received: "I was learning from a professional, someone who clearly knew what they were talking about and that made it easy to learn. They were generous with their time, I went to the seminar twice to make sure it all sank in and I had a one-to-one."

Tom then found a sales job himself and was grateful for the support he received.

The selection process is now also likely to involve some sort of testing. This could be simple testing of literacy, numeracy or IT skills; psychometric testing; assessments at assessment centres; or job specific testing. Depending on the role, the selection process may involve a number of these.  See Candidate testing.

When most of today's 50+ jobseekers entered the labour market, the only group who had their skills routinely tested at interviews were secretaries and shorthand typists. So suddenly being confronted with some form of unexpected testing could cause blind panic. Your customers need to be made aware that such testing is more likely to happen than not. If they are invited to an interview it is a good idea to find out in advance what form the interview process will take and whether, and what sort of testing the recruiter may be planning. Forewarned is forearmed and you can help your customers prepare and practise for them to increase their chances of success.

This site is for help and information only. It is not meant as an authoritative guide. It is not meant as an authoritative statement of the law, and future changes in the law and other programmes and initiatives could make it less accurate at times. TAEN, the Department for Work and Pensions and the European Social Fund take no responsibility for your use of the information. You should always take professional advice on any specific legal or financial matter.