Companies also need to apply
There are numerous tips on the internet about how to apply for a job. However, what about the companies that advertise a job vacancy? They too must adhere to certain rules, claims IUBH lecturers Jan Steffen and Michela Ivano. After all, it is a two-way street: each side is trying to win over the other side.
On numerous channels we get detailed explanations about how to behave as a job candidate in order to succeed in the job hunt – it starts with preparation of the application documents and ends with the correct demeanour during the interview.
Applicants should be young – and at the same time preferable have ten years of work experience- submit stylistically perfect documents, follow classic pathways without side-tracking, appear confident and at the same time deferential etc. Career experts also give tips for the interview: What to wear; when to arrive; how to talk; how to prepare; how to present oneself; which questions to ask and how to say good-bye. The applicant should be reverential in the face of the “superior power of potential employers”.
Get off the pedestal
Because of such tips, the applicant almost instinctively puts the company up on a pedestal and settles into a position as an inferior applicant. The company feels majestically comfortable in their role as arbitrator of someone’s career path and allegedly allow themselves to do whatever they want.
So, it is very easy to find information about how to behave as a candidate. But vice versa? Nothing. A gaping void. (At this point, we urge companies to have an etiquette manual for how to manage applications.) The culture described above is about as passé as pea soup. Employers need to be aware that they themselves are applying to win over candidates, that their forms of communication and mannerisms are important, and that they will not fill their vacancies unless they get off their pedestal.
Application process step by step
The first step is the job advertisement. This is a company’s application letter to potential candidates. Surprisingly, only a few seem to be aware of this. A common reality is an almost endless list of unkindly worded demands and zero reasons for why an applicant should respond to the ad.
It then continues with the form of communication. As an HR manger, how do I respond to incoming applications? Apparently, it is still in vogue today to ignore applications that do not suit one at that moment, to leave them unanswered, or – as one sees repeatedly – to answer half a year later. Yesterday, Ms Ivano received a call with a job offer on an unsolicited application she sent in January of this year! Is it that hard to acknowledge a candidate with two or three lines? And then the friendly woman did not even apologise.
Step three: the interview. An invitation to a personal interview has been secured – and now? In preparation, the applicant is so nervous s/he almost goes stir-crazy. In contrast, the company barely prepares, manages to print out the CV just in time and in this ton receives the applicant for whom so much is at stake. This alone reflects a considerable lack of appreciation for the person.
Several people often conduct the interview, which can be intimidating. They view the conversation as a nice coffee break, mobile phone constantly in hand. Some talk more about themselves, rather than letting the other get a word in, while others ask the classic (useless) questions such as “What are you strengths and weaknesses?”, and yet others go out of their way to put the applicant off balance by, for example, criticising his/her CV and asking inappropriate questions that can verge on being disrespectful.
All that glitters, is not gold
An illustrative example needs to be mentioned here. I well known shipping company, which was also awarded as best employer in the country, invited Ms Ivano to an interview. Two women, who huddled together like two gossiping sisters, talked about how great they were, asked few questions and then criticised Ms Ivano in a disrespectful manner for daring not to take notes. “You do not want to tell us that you can remember everything? We are not convinced but we want to give you another chance with a written test.” The queens of their own empire were astonished when Ms Ivano passed the ten-page test without a single mistake. They offered her a job on the spot and called her every day for a week, trying to hire her. It dawned on Ms Ivano for the first time: “Who really has to convince whom? Applying for a job is not a one-way street in which I have to humiliate myself as a candidate and expect nothing from my counterpart. We have to convince each other.” Obviously, she did not take the job offer. As a candidate, not only she must show her best side, but company representatives must also do at least the same.
Unfortunately, this is common practice in many companies. We do not want to over generalise in our remarks, there are certainly positive exceptions, but the majority do not shine favourable on this issue. This is based on our own experience and the experiences of friends, as well as contributions from Mr Steffen as tourism lecturer at IUBH.
Mutual respect is the bottom line
We have well-intentioned advice for reflective companies and HR managers to question themselves and their approaches. How do we present ourselves? Do we communicate to the outside how the company behaves on the inside? What impressions do we leave behind? Do we treat our counterpart, as we would want to be treated if the tables were turned? Are we aware that every applicant and his/her circle of contacts is always a potential customer?
And for those of you who are applying for a job, we would like to give you a tip for the road: Never be meek in an interview, meet your interview partner with confidence and on equal footing. Stay polite, but do not put up with everything. When a company makes a bad impression on you, listen to your gut feelings and refuse an eventual offer. Even if you are disappointed in the end, just remember, “It was not meant to be”, it was a learning experience along the path to your personal destination.
Jan Steffen is not only managing partner of eto Personalmarketing GmbH, but has also been a tourism lecturer at IUBH since 2017. In addition to his vocational training in the hotel sector, he completed a degree in hotel and tourism management. Nationwide, he has accumulated extensive professional experience, especially in executive positions, in the hotel and river cruise industries. Last year, he founded his own company, which focuses primarily on personnel marketing, branding and employee satisfaction.
Michela Ivano is project manager at eto Personalmarketing GmbH. As a trained foreign language correspondent with an online degree in tourism, she was drawn to the international hotel industry and cruise ship sector. Ms Ivano not only has many years of experience working on ships, but also in executive positions on land. In addition to resort management experience in Ghana and hotel and human resource experience in Switzerland, she was also in charge of hotel operations of a cruise ship.