Recruitment is a two-way street.

A couple of job adverts caught my eye this week.

An establishment that is open 15 hours a day, 7 days a week, is looking for someone to work 12+ hours a week, but the successful applicant “must be flexible across all opening hours”.

In the second advert (on an internet site) the headline read “Are you interested in working flexible hours?” and the ad described a job in which the post-holder would be expected to work daytimes, with frequent but irregular evening and weekend working at the employer’s behest, and nothing to suggest the individual would have any say in the type of “flexibility” on offer.

I’d be the first person to say that job adverts are tricky things to get right.  In a limited amount of words, a recruiter is aiming to attract people willing and capable of doing the job, and put off people who know from the outset that they could not comply with the job requirements.

But I think both these adverts lose sight of a bigger issue.  When designing jobs, it’s really important to step back and ask the question,

Who would be able to apply for a job like this?

Who could organise their lives around a job that will require them to work any 12 hours out of a possible 105 across any 7 days of the week, and potentially liable to change from week to week?

And who might want to? 

Someone who is

Unemployed? (and likely to leave as soon as they find a job with more predictable hours?

A parent? (finding childcare with hours that can change every week is virtually impossible.)

A student? (with classes or lectures to attend that will limit flexibility)

Looking for a second job? (who can’t work for you when they are working elsewhere)

It may well be that the employer has a range of shifts available, and some degree of choice will be possible – but the advert doesn’t say this, so many people who might have been a perfect fit won’t bother applying.

Of course, in a perfect world an employer wants a completely flexible employee who could work any hours they are given.  But here in the real world, people have other commitments to fit around their jobs, and uncertainty about working hours is a key contributor to stress, low morale and disengagement.  Asking for this degree of flexibility will seriously limit the pool of potential recruits who can meet your requirements.  All the expense and time of recruitment, and you’ll probably be repeating the exercise again in a few months’ time.

Recruitment is a two-way street.  You are looking for the perfect employee, but applicants are also looking for the perfect employer.  How attractive do your job adverts appear to your perfect candidate?


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