Ask anyone who’s never heard back from a 10-page application, or been ghosted after their second interview: job-hunting is no joke. To save you the wasted energy and inevitable heartache of signing on the dotted line with an employer who’s a bit of a wrong’un, here are some red flags to watch out for during the application process.
(Employers: read on for a few not-so-subtle hints on how to improve your candidate experience…)
They don’t disclose salaries on job ads
Considering 82% of people view salary as the most important factor when looking for a new role, this makes zero sense. Aside from being confusing (is it worth you applying? Are you under- or over-qualified?), employers offering a “competitive salary” could be compounding disadvantage.
According to the Social Mobility Commission, people from lower-income backgrounds are paid on average 7% less than their more privileged colleagues – even when they have exactly the same role, education and experience. Meanwhile, the UK gender pay gap still sits at around 10%, while the pay gap between the white workers and ethnic minority workers is an average of 2.3% (although this broad statistic is misleadingly positive, because it masks a wide variety of experiences among different ethnic minorities).
These discrepancies could be due to unconscious (or even conscious) bias on the part of employers. They could also be in part down to the different ways we’re socialised to know our self-worth (or not), to expect a certain level of salary, or to confidently partake in successful negotiation.
Whatever the reasons, salary transparency shows a company holds itself accountable and leaves less room for bias during the application and negotiation process, suggesting they’re trying to be proactive in terms of equality, diversity and inclusion. It also demonstrates that they want to nurture an environment of trust, which makes for a much happier team and workplace.
(Yo, employers: did you know job adverts without salaries listed receive 25-35% fewer applicants? Sort it out, yeah?)
They don’t use gender-neutral language and signposts
The 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey found candidates often turn down opportunities as a result of language used in interviews. Yet there are still more than a handful of employers out there who clearly haven’t read our article on why language matters for inclusive recruiting – and how to get it right.
If you’re a candidate looking for your next role, language slip-ups (and outright clangers) can be a useful clue about the sorts of places you don’t want to work. Does the job description – or, worse, job title – include male-centric language, such as “chairman,” “waitress,” or “manpower”? Yawn: next. Has a culturally insensitive, ableist, or ageist phrase – like “slaving away”, “crazy”, or “young, vibrant company” – found its way into the application form unchecked? Blurgh, no thank you.
Less obvious, but still important: is the language in the job description or application coded in any way? For example, phrases like “ambitious”, “competitive”, or “assertive” could be telling of a company culture that rewards certain types of behaviour – which is fine if it works for you, but worth keeping an eye out for if it doesn’t.
Finally, has your point of contact included their pronouns in their email signature, or have you been given the opportunity to share yours at any point during the process? Showing an awareness that gender shouldn’t be assumed is a promising sign that a business will be a safe space, however you identify.
The application is too demanding
Jumping through ever-more-complex hoops or interviewing over and over without a clear understanding where you are in the process, or what you should expect next, can feel like you’re being taken for a ride. And when the application process seems to involve you doing the company’s work for them – with no promise they won’t actually use it – we think it’s understandable to feel a bit used.
(Employers: Did you know applicant pools shrink as job applications take longer to complete? Try reducing yours by 10% – it’s likely you’ll see an increase in applications.)
Don’t even get us started on application forms that aren’t mobile-optimised. With 58% of Glassdoor users looking for jobs on their phones (and mobile-friendly job openings getting up to 11% more applicants – are you listening, employers?), there’s no excuse for getting this wrong.
You don’t feel comfortable in interviews
Apparently as many as 93% of job seekers experience anxiety as a result of interviews, but we’re here to tell you it doesn’t need to be that way. Remember: an interview is as much for you to find out about the company as it is for them to find out about you. If you’re not invited to ask questions and learn more about the organisation, or feel as though you’re in a one-sided interrogation, maybe they’re not the right employer for you.
It goes without saying that everyone you meet throughout the interview process should interact with positivity and kindness. If the hiring manager is doing a great job of putting on a brave face, but the receptionist looks utterly miserable, maybe it’s not the sort of company culture you want to invest in.
They don’t reply in a timely manner
We get it: hiring teams are busy. With the average corporate job opening receiving roughly 250 applications, it’s not always possible to get personalised feedback. But considering the average candidate spending 3-4 hours submitting a single application, we think acknowledging and responding to your application in a timely manner – even if it’s a standardised email – is the bare minimum you should be able to expect. When it comes to the interview stage, we always chase clients for feedback – we think it’s the least you deserve.
If you haven’t heard back from your application, it can feel like the ball’s not in your court. But our advice is: you can still withdraw from the interview process, even if it’s just in your head. Chances are this isn’t the sort of employer you’re looking for, and drawing a line under your own application might help you move forward with confidence. The right opportunity is out there waiting, we promise – so protect yourself to make sure you’ve got the motivation and headspace to smash it when your time comes.
Here at Lightning we screen our candidates and clients, and we only work with businesses that we trust – saving you unnecessary stress down the line. Looking for your next move? Check out our latest roles.
If you’re a business looking to improve your candidate experience, we can help. Get in touch to find out how.
And Jack has some final advice for y'all job-seekers below: