Dysfunctional HR and corporate jargon: Why nearly 40% of social workers have bad recruitment experiences

Research by Community Care and TMP reveals what social workers hate about job hunting

What's going wrong with social work recruitment? Picture: REX/Ikon Images

Application processes lasting months, layers of corporate speak and lost documents are just some of the bad experiences social workers have had when applying for jobs, according to research by Community Care and the advertising agency TMP.

The research, which involved a survey of 2,100 social workers and a series of in-depth interviews, found 37% reported bad experiences when applying for social work jobs.

Social workers bemoaned jargon-filled adverts that fail to communicate what the role is about with half saying that job adverts did not make it clear what they would be doing if they were hired.

“You have to get through the corporate speak,” said one worker. “They all say the same things – all the bumf about themselves and how great it is to work there, that’s all bullshit, it’s the real nuts and bolts of what the job is that’s important.”

Rejected job offers

Those interviewed for the study said they had turned down jobs due to bad experiences during the application process, including documents getting lost, a lack of communication and interviewers who could not answer their questions.

One social worker told the researchers: “To be honest, I’m a month into this job, and because of the appalling recruitment process I’ve started on the wrong foot. I’m already thinking about moving on.”

Read why six out of 10 social workers would not recommend their employers to another social worker

Why are one in 10 social workers on the brink of quitting?

HR dysfunction

Social workers often see HR as dysfunctional, said Reed Business Insight, the research company that carried out the study for Community Care and TMP.

When asked what would make them more likely to apply for a job, more than 99% of social workers said having their application acknowledged and good communication throughout the process. Short application forms were identified by 95% and 98% wanted feedback on their applications.

83% of social workers said that lengthy application forms would put them off applying for a job and 70% said they would be less likely to apply for posts if a personality test is involved.

Some said having a chance to do unpaid work within the organisation would be a better demonstration of their capabilities than the usual interview.

“Offer the chance to do a ‘work day’ so the candidate can be assessed on their performance a part of the interview process,“ suggested one social worker.

What do job applicants want from potential social work employers?
Honesty
  • Don’t sugar coat the job. Be transparent about caseloads, staffing and opportunities.
  • Don’t use corporate jargon or generic terminology – give a clear and specific description of the role.
Communication
  • Provide information at every stage about the progress of the application and the role itself.
  • Offer the chance for an informal ‘pre-interview’ phone chat or chance to spend some time with team.
Individual treatment
  • Take a personal interest in the individual and their skills rather than treating applicants as a ‘tick in a box’.
Flexibility
  • Consider social workers with relevant skills even if they haven’t worked in the exact same area before.

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One Response to Dysfunctional HR and corporate jargon: Why nearly 40% of social workers have bad recruitment experiences

  1. spabbygirl October 5, 2014 at 3:44 pm #

    about five years ago I was interviewed five times for the job I was already doing as an agency worker and on no occasion did I meet the interview criteria yet I was told I was a good agency worker.
    I have a health condition and can only work short contracts so having had some time off I wanted to see how well I’d cope with work again and took an agency post. I loved it and applied for a short term part time vacancy. I was nervous knowing I had had time off and would need to do this again. I applied four times, was interviewed four times, and each time failed, whilst I was still working in the agency post and applying for the exact same post. I got more and more nervous at each interview. Eventually the authority told me not to apply again unless something had changed. It was early summer and local students were passing the interview criteria, but they had interview skills training in college. Despite passing the interview there were times when a job wasn’t available cos they lacked child protection experience, yet I had 20 years sucessful child proteciton and mental health experience. It was crazy and meant I continued earning high agency rates when a contract would have been better for the authority.