Recruitment process and HR practice in the Middle East still has a lot to improve, as is evident from the below examples.
Just like any other professional in the region, I have had my fair share of interviews and encounters with recruiters and HR managers. I have been blessed to meet many wonderful ones. However, despite the well-observed HRM advancements in the region, my jaw still drops when I see how some recruiters handle hiring talent for organizations in the 21st century. They cause the organization more harm than good, alienating real talent, and giving the brand a bad reputation instead of a competitive advantage. The following behaviors and examples are of real recruiters in real organizations of various sizes across different industries from the Levant to the GCC.
1. Using condescending patriarchic language
One Saturday morning I received a phone call from a recruitment officer of one of the top three banks in Lebanon. Her opening line was: “Hello, is this Amal? Don’t you ever answer your phone?.” I had not answered the phone as quickly as she would have liked. She made two previous phone calls within a 5-minute window. I guess it never crossed her mind I could be preoccupied or driving. She continued to highlight that she had received my resume through my university’s career consular, but they are currently not hiring, and I should call her back in February of next year! Now, I understand that the economy is not what it used to be. Finding a job is harder than ever, and recruiters have the upper hand. But a recruiter’s attitude and approach speaks volumes about an organization even more so than the attitude of front line staff. Promising excellent service to customers, but belittling job applicants is not exactly what one would call great branding. Needless to say, I never called back. I never opened a bank account there either, even though I was approached to do so on multiple occasions.
2. Demanding Punctuality but not reciprocating
Content, job sites and experts emphasizing the importance of being on time or even 5 minutes early to an interview are too many to mention. Yet the punctuality recruiters and employers demand is not reciprocated. Punctuality is not solely about efficiency. It conveys respect as well. So when recruiters, HR managers, or line managers keep an applicant waiting between 10 to 45 minutes before he/she gets interviewed, when they set meetings at times an applicant clearly expressed are not feasible, or when they delay responding after an applicant clearly indicated that his/her visit visa will expire on a certain date, all of these behaviors reflect disrespect and how poorly human capital is thought of within the organization.
3. CV! What is that?
You got an interview, oh happy day! You dress up, research the company and even rehearse some questions you think your interviewer might ask you. But when the questions begin, you are bewildered! Questions like: “What companies did you work for?” “Do you have JAVA experience?” leave you thinking you walked in to the wrong interview, or your interviewer has you mixed up with some one else… OR, your interviewer probably did not even read your resume! Many interviewers walk into an interview or start a phone call with applicants without the slightest clue of their background or skill set! The implications of interviewers ignorance go as far as offering graduates of top-notch universities, jobs that do not even require a university graduate. If organizations hope to recruit intelligent people, then HR managers and recruiters need to act intelligently and educate themselves about applicants, the job market, and the concept of ROI.
4. Asking the questions, not answering them!
At the beginning of a career, a person is more on reactive. One would sit through an interview, answer questions, take tests, complete assignments and basically jump through burning hoops to get the job. As you grow and develop, you summon the courage to ask back. Job applicants should ask various questions to see if joining the organization will add value to their career paths and lifestyles. But when an applicant starts inquiring more about the team members, tasks, expectations, objectives, etc. they often receive vague answers or no answers at all. Such behavior reflects two main insights:
- There is a disconnect between HR and other business functions resulting in a shallow understanding of what the job requires
- No one has taken the time to think of and write down a job description
In both cases, if you are looking to advance your career and develop as an individual, I would be very reluctant, to join such organizations.
5. Demanding to know an applicant’s current or last salary
Off course this scenario is not unique to the Middle East as Liz Ryan indicated. Liz even gave great advice on what a job seeker should answer when faced with such a question in this article. That said it’s about time that recruiters cease to ask such a question and many others that are in no way relevant, and invasive to applicant’s privacy. A person seeks another position to advance his or her career and improve his or her lifestyle. A package that is of higher value than the one the applicant currently enjoys is a natural demand. If individuals working in talent management cannot grasp the previously mentioned notion, or value talent properly, then how can an organization entrust them with it’s most valuable resource, human capital.
6. Keeping the power of technology and databases idle.
It is a fact that people will always prefer to hire people they know, or people who are acquaintances of people they know. It really comes down to risk management more than anything else. And yet investing in HR databases, where an applicant can apply to a job vacancy online, has not slowed down. That off course does not mean that those databases are being utilized. How many times have you applied online to a position and received no answer, but when your exact same resume was presented to the HR manager or Line manager through an acquaintance, you get a call the next day? A balance must be achieved. To continue investing in HR databases without optimally using them is a waste of an organization’s money and the applicant’s time, time he or she cannot afford to loose.
7. Setting applicants up to fail!
Life never feels fair, and we learn to accept it. But it is borderline unethical to call an applicant to an interview for the sole purpose of justifying the hiring decision to management. If there is a specific applicant in mind, why waste other applicants’ time and conduct interviews with them during which they are not given a fair chance to portray their capabilities and how they can add value to the firm. Cut a long story short and just hire the person you have in mind.
8. Being the Job Fair Zombie
You have seen it, and I have seen it, and we will continue to see it as long as universities and HR managers do not set clear standards. Many companies participate in job fairs and they do so regularly, but they do it with no intention of hiring anyone. Some even go as far as treating the job fair as a marketing platform and a chance to access a market segment fast and cheap. Others just sit there in their little booths, looking disgruntled, and only the brave or the foolish graduate will dare approach with a resume in hand.
9. Specifying good looking or single as a job requirement
Since when are looks or martial statuses a boost or an obstacle to one accomplishing tasks and completing projects? I understand that in the hospitality industry, for example, image has a bigger weight. But then the word that should be used is presentable, not good looking. Presentable is about how a person carry’s him or herself. It’s about conduct and aptitude not physical features. Judging someone by his or her looks, on the other hand, is subjective and discriminatory. The same applies for someone’s marital status. How is it the right of a future or current employer to control one’s personal life? No labor law states anything against or for being single or married. If an organization is worried about whether an applicant can fulfill certain duties, then they need to be clear about what the job entails, be it long hours, traveling or otherwise.
10. Requesting applicants to specify their religion on an application form.
With so much turbulence and sorrow in the region due to this specific topic, I am surprised that organizations still ask this question till this day. Unless the job entails that one works for a religious entity, information about one’s religion is irrelevant to the recruitment process. Organizations already have access to this information from identification papers they request applicants to provide. Asking for it again just adds more unjustified harm to injury.
(Amal is a marketing and talent development professional, blogger and TEDxBeirut speaker. She has held various retail, banking and consultancy roles between Kuwait and Lebanon, and is passionate about adding value to an organization via its people, be it developing their talent, or empowering them with insightful customer understanding and well tailored marketing strategies.)