A business perspective on the Job Centre

Last night I listened to Radio 4’s programme about how the Job Centre “sanctions” people if they don’t apply for enough jobs, and in particular how some people (eg, people with disabilities and people with mental health problems) find it very difficult to comply with this and end up getting their benefits cut.  Here’s the programme if you missed it.

There were some upsetting parts of the programme, accusations that Job Centre staff are being given targets to sanction more people, and are using dirty tricks to do this and some examples of people for whom this had ended in truly disastrous consequences. I’m sure many other people will be talking about this and taking up those issues, but I wanted to speak about it from a business perspective.

What businesses think

I work with dozens of businesses as a business advisor and consultant, and represent hundreds more as President of the Brighton Chamber of Commerce.  And I often help people with recruiting staff.

Something that comes up time and time again is the hassle of recruiting, how much time it takes, how difficult it is to find really good people, and in particular how long it takes to sort the wheat from the chaff.

If you advertise a job, you’ll be inundated with applications.  You can easily receive 200 CV’s for any job that you put out there.  And only a tiny proportion of those people will have anything like the experience and qualifications that you’re looking for.

One of my clients recently advertised for a marketing role, and (on my advice) was very specific about the kind of skills she wanted in the new person. And she got 246 applications pouring into her inbox.

You’d think this would be good news, lots of people to choose from, there must be some good ones in there.  But when my client went through them, she found that only a handful of people actually had any marketing experience, and only 3 people had the specific social media expertise she wanted.

The actual pool of people who had applied for the job with a chance of getting it was very small indeed.

Which left 243 people who had sent in their application with no chance of even being considered.  My client spent her evenings that week sifting through CVs, trying to find the ones who were a good match.

It’s not an easy job, and it took hours to do.  She runs a small business and doesn’t have a PA or anyone to delegate this to.

She wanted to reply to everyone who applied and failed, but I told her she couldn’t because she needed to get on with running her business.

Why I think this is the Job Centre’s fault

I’m guessing that most of those 243 people didn’t really want to work for my client.  They knew they didn’t have the experience or skills, and probably weren’t that fired up about working for her company.  But they had to apply for 20 jobs a week, and prove it to the Job Centre in order to keep their benefits.  It was a waste of their time, and certainly a waste of my client’s time.  And in business (and life) time costs money.

Job Centre and the Department of Work and Pensions – if you’re reading this, please stop making people fill out applications for jobs they won’t even be considered for.  My client’s story is the same for thousands of businesses all over the country.  You’re wasting our time, and making us feel like it’s not worth the hassle of creating new jobs. 

Photo credit – Andrew Writer