NEW YORK — Many potential employees don’t follow directions on job postings, are no-shows at interviews and sometimes accept a job only to say at the last minute, they’re going to work for somebody else.
It’s a situation that makes small business owners wonder as they wade through piles of resumes, are many job applicants unskilled, unreliable slackers? Many of the complaints are about younger workers, but human resources consultants say it’s an issue across the age spectrum and pay scale. But the problem isn’t just a flippant attitude on the part of job applicants. Employers have contributed to a change in job search etiquette.
Brian Schutt is one of the frustrated bosses. His company, Homesense Heating, got about 300 applications for an administrative position, and the office manager interviewed 25 candidates. Schutt expected to meet with a dozen people in the second round of interviews, but only one showed up. Younger applicants in particular seem to have a different work ethic, says Schutt, whose company is in Indianapolis.
“They just want to play and have fun and smoke,” Schutt says. “I’ve gotten a very cynical view of what I’ve seen of folks under 25 that we’ve tried to bring on board.”
The lackadaisical attitude of some applicants compounds a difficulty finding skilled employees that owners have reported for several years. In a 2013 survey of 1,200 local employers by St. Louis Community College, 56 percent cited applicants’ poor worth ethic as a problem. In a survey last year by the nonprofit Seattle Jobs Initiative, nearly 35 percent of employers said most applicants for entry-level positions weren’t reliable.
At Vacasa, a Portland, Oregon-based vacation home management company, chief strategy officer Scott Breon asked applicants for a marketing position to perform a simple task: Design a sales flyer showing why they’re the best one for the job. He got three emails. After he posted the job again without the assignment, applications poured in.
“If you have very few requirements, you get flooded with generic responses, the same letter they sent to 100 other companies,” says Breon.
Rob Wilson, president of a company that provides human resources services, not only hears about hiring problems from his clients, he also encounters them. Chicago-based Employco got hundreds of resumes for several open positions. Wilson and his staffers winnowed that number down to 30 and began setting up interviews. Out of six people scheduled, only three showed up. Because of their unprofessional attitude, those who stood up Wilson can forget about working for Employco in the future.
“If they’re a no-show, there’s no second chance,” Wilson says.
Employers may be partly to blame for applicants’ uncaring attitudes, says James McCoy, a vice president at the staffing company Manpower. Many human resources or hiring managers never acknowledge applications. Candidates are following their example, McCoy says.
Three-quarters of candidates surveyed last year said they never heard back from an employer after applying for a position, according to job search company CareerBuilder. Sixty percent said they went on interviews but weren’t informed afterward they hadn’t gotten the job.
Job-seeker Becky Cole has skipped second interviews or canceled when a would-be employer wasted her time or was condescending during an initial meeting.
“How I respond depends on the person. If they have made an effort to be a human being during the interview, I will email to cancel and let them know why I don’t plan to show up,” says Cole, who has been looking for a job as a technical writer in the St. Paul, Minnesota, area since January.
For employers, perhaps most frustrating are candidates who accept jobs and then change their minds.
One day before a new staffer was supposed to start at Erika Flora’s technology consulting company, Beyond 20, he sent an email saying he’d taken another job. The work she’d put into the selection process, including four rounds of interviews, was wasted.
But Flora, whose company has offices in Washington, D.C., Phoenix and San Diego, is philosophical.
“I’m glad we found out. He didn’t have much integrity,” she says.