Job, schmob – I need a career…

POST #6: Monstrous-waste-of-time.com

Is it just me, or do other people find most recruitment websites useless? Well, maybe useless is the wrong word. Hit and miss, certainly. It’s hard to find a good one and I’m yet to hear of anyone who’s actually snared their dream job by using one.

In case you’re not familiar with the process, you sign up to a website, upload your CV, spending hours trawling through the various screens to fill in details about your profile and experience with the aim of receiving carefully selected email alerts with zillions of relevant jobs to apply for.

That’s the theory.

In reality, I have to say that these job-schmob.co.uk websites are pretty useless.

My profile is fairly self-explanatory: I am looking for copywriter and editor roles, I’ve got 12 years’ experience as a writer, editor and proofreader and have worked in broadcasting and media, customer relations, corporate communications and journalism – and I’m prepared to sell these well-honed skills within the rather modest “at least 30k” bracket. I’m worth a lot more than that, I would argue, but that’s for another blog post.

And yet, after going to such pains to make sure my profile was as perfect as I could make it, the other day inaccurate-job-opps.co.uk sent me a job alert suggesting that I apply to be a tree surgeon.

Not that the idea doesn’t appeal to me, in fact, on some level. I quite fancy wandering around Hampstead Heath or Regent’s Park all day in my jeans, racing green “Royal Parks” sweatshirt and hiking boots. Maybe they’d even let me loose on those buggies they drive around in occasionally. Given that I frequently spend nine hours a day in a converted factory in a 10×10 “pod”, in a pseudo-altruistic role as a subtitler (providing the subtitles on TV for the hard of hearing, primarily) which essentially makes me little more than a touch-typing battery chicken, the thought of being “free range” out in the open air is very appealing. But that hardly fits my profile on sell-your-soul.co.uk, does it?

Even when I do receive job alerts from incompetence-rules.co.uk which manage to fit some of my skills, my heart just sinks when I look at the wording in the adverts. At the risk of repeating what I wrote in blog post no.2, “I Should Of Got My Spelling Write”, what right does an employer have to expect “excellent written and spoken English” when they then manage to refer to “adition” and “borchures” in the very same sentence? Oh, and I needn’t apply if I’m not “pracitced in writing effective press releases”.

But this isn’t my only bugbear when it comes to job sites of the workforpeanuts.co.uk ilk. Not long ago, I went to a recruitment fair. Don’t those two words fill you with bile-inducing dread? They’ve managed to take the exciting word “fair” which, to me, conjures up ghost trains and waltzers and candy floss and then turned it into some sort of disturbing Kubrick-esque nightmare. Anyway, I went along, suited and booted, with a stack of carefully pressed CVs, a warm handshake at the ready and my opening patter…down pat.

What a load of toss.

Many of the recruiters there were simply taking CVs and putting them in a pile on the desk behind them and handing out business cards. I didn’t see any actual recruiting going on. Welcome to the recession, I suppose, but come on, people, make an effort! Aren’t you supposed to sell your company to us willing-and-ables too?

You will have noticed that I have avoided naming real job sites thus far. I don’t mind naming this company which made a particularly bad impression on me at the recruitment fair: Hilton Hotels. The guy on the desk was audibly slagging off candidates to his colleague in what he obviously thought was a whisper, but wasn’t. And when I approached him and stumbled on “c-c-c-communications” (stammer) he openly smirked and said “YOU’RE in communications?” When I left, flushed but composed, I turned back to see the same conspiratorial nod to his colleague aimed at me.

No word of a lie. This cretin was chosen to face potential new recruits. Staggering. Yes, I did write to the Head of Communications at Hilton Hotels in the UK. No reply.

Personal bad experience aside, the presentations at the recruitment fair by the staff of monstrous-waste-of-time.com were, at best, shit. You would think that someone of my extensive vocabulary could think of a better adjective than this, but in fact, this was a careful choice. It was shit. In almost every way. The recruitment “expert” from monstrous-waste-of-time.com held a microphone a foot away from his mouth so that he was inaudible (yes, someone did shout out that they couldn’t hear him) and then proceeded to stand in front of the Powerpoint presentation which he had prepared on an overhead projector. He was vague, uninspiring, inarticulate and patronising. So describing his presentation as shit is arguably, in fact, being generous.

Really, all of my freelance work as a writer has been gained via word of mouth, which is a far better way of doing things. Yes, you need to be proficient at networking and being nice to people (and obviously have the skills to back it up) but the strike rate is pretty good, in my experience. So I think I may withdraw my profile from the various recruitment-hell.co.uk websites. Actually, maybe I won’t. I quite fancy seeing what other little gems they suggest for me and my skills. It’s a good outlet for what you may perceive as my anger, for a start! Just browsing now… Damn, I see the vacancy of chairman of ITV has just been filled.


January 30, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Dear Ashley,

    I think you should write a book on the matter. Your style of bile is so entertaining and spot on, that I can’t help but think it would be a best seller.

    Keep on networking and don’t give up on hope.

    Best of luck,


    Comment by Sacha | January 30, 2010 | Reply

    • Sacha, I haven’t quite worked up enough bile to get past the first few chapters, but once I have become a fully-fledged embittered middle-aged man (having matured from my current angry young man status) then I may well flesh it all out into a novel.

      Funnily enough, I told a story recently about when I was at school and my English teacher at the time (“Ned” Sherratt) failed me on one paper of my English exam. At 14, I was devastated. I came bottom of the class whereas – in English – I was always at or near the top. The point was, Ned had failed me for not answering the question…but he loved my essay. He said he had failed me because he had to, but remarked on the paper itself that I could look back on this experience [quote] “with a glint in your eye when you’re being interviewed after winning the Booker Prize”. That was the best fail I ever had…

      Comment by Ashley Morrison | January 30, 2010 | Reply

  2. Ned did have a way of seeing through the demands of the curriculum and into the deeper essence of what makes a creative individual; even if his methods were, at best, unconventional.

    I hope you kept the essay!


    Comment by Sacha | January 30, 2010 | Reply

  3. Companies reject candidates purely on the basis they were lazy enough to stick themselves on a virtual notice board and wait for someone else to choose them, like the sad boys with no girlfriend sitting by the dancefloor.

    To throttle the metaphor, to get the girl these days you’ve got to stride over like a golden god, tell her she’s the most desirable creature this side of the sun, then thrill her with the perfect-10 dance moves of a come dancing legend before anyone else gets a look in.

    Ashers, you are a golden god – and you will get a wonderjob, thanks to your wit, charm and awesome writing talent, not these nincompoop web monkeys. You’re right to ditch them – save for the amusement of seeing which freaks actually ask you to dance…

    Comment by Johnny Fenton | January 30, 2010 | Reply

    • Wow, that’s some metaphor! I can’t see it now: Strictly Job Hunting…

      Thank you for your affirmation, John Boy. Next interview I get, I’ll be sure to moonwalk my way in through the door. I might not do the “Ow!” groin-grab, as I take my seat, though…

      Comment by Ashley Morrison | February 1, 2010 | Reply

  4. Very amusing yet again Ashley, an enjoyable read!

    In my opinion you should stay away from uploading your CV to any job board including the ones for £50K+ candidates where the candidate has to pay upwards of £75 to log their CV as the only winner is the website. Job fairs if done well (which is rare) are average at best.

    In my experience, I have found job boards to be saturated with the mentally unemployed i.e. people who perpetually have their CV online on the off chance that some unsuspecting company is suddenly compelled to pay them 20% more than their current employer for their same average performance. … See more

    On the other side of the fence the websites are striving to attract more candidates $ and clients $$ to fund the site and therefore attract more advertisers $$$. Some sites over the last couple of years at least have started to charge candidates to register their CV because they only deal with more senior positions. What they do not advertise is the fact that they are also trying to attract the recruiters (be it agency or end user) to have access to the site and charging them serious amounts of money for the privilege. As you can probably imagine a high proportion of businesses do not see the value in it and therefore your CV is only available to those who subscribe.

    This brings me to your point about NETWORKING. It is key to any job seekers success. You’ve got to work it baby.

    Rather than register your details on a website and wait for your CV to be dredged up in a search with a number of other candidates who are clearly not suitable for the role that is being recruited for, OR, job vacancies such as the Tree Surgeon position you mentioned from the candidates perspective.

    I would suggest to anyone seeking employment that they draw up a list of employers that could use their skills and approach them directly through NETWORKING if possible. Identify the name of the person who would be the line manager or maybe even one further up the chain and try and get an introduction. Failing that, call them an introduce yourself or email them your CV directly. I would avoid HR initially. They will have to become involved at some stage but quite often will follow process and procedure {usually their own} which can often get in the way of identifying the strongest candidate for the position because of budgets, succession blah blah blah. Also an HR person is unlikely to know the technicalities of each position they recruit for or identify the need for making an addition to a team that is not mentioned in any succession planning. Apologies to the HR birds that I know!

    An employer is far more likely to interview and offer someone employment if they have made a direct approach and it is not going to cost them any recruitment fees!

    Nuff said.

    Comment by SimonJ | January 31, 2010 | Reply

    • Thanks for your very interesting and industry-savvy comments, Simon. The recruitment websites I’m referring to don’t actually charge a fee (perhaps it’s only executive or board-level sites that do this) but it’s interesting to learn that these websites are as or more keen to attract employers and advertisers as they are actual candidates.

      To be fair, and not to tar all the recruitment websites with the same brush, I have secured a few interviews by replying to ads which were forwarded to me. But the trouble with this, of course, is that quite literally hundreds of people apply for the same position. So as gratifying as it is to get down to the last three, it’s still a miss rather than a hit.

      That’s why I mentioned the networking – and I’m glad that you agree with me that that is the way forward. As you know – given that you gave me a great contact recently yourself in the shape of Mark, who has subsequently recommended me to someone else – I’ve got the people skills to be able to make this approach work. But I have to say that it does very much depend on the company. Take the BBC, for example. I know a lot of people there, even in the various fields I want to be in, but whilst their advice is helpful and appreciated it, ultimately, knowing people there is of absolutely no use when it comes to getting a job. The reason being that the BBC have an extremely stringent and complex application process. For my recent journalism scheme application, for instance, I had to write something like three essays. It literally took all day.

      Of course, the BBC is a special case and I know not all companies are like this.

      I think I’m getting a lot better at knowing what “tone of voice” to use in my applications or networking letters to get my foot in the door. In fact, the rules are pretty simple, it seems, if you have the goods to back up your offer: be pleasant, be efficient, be honest, be flexible and don’t be arrogant. Oh, and don’t undersell yourself. At the risk of going all L’Oreal on you: “because you’re worth it”.

      Just one thing I’d like to ask you: given that you are a board-level recruiter yourself, doesn’t your opinion about networking being the best way to do things potentially do you out of a job…?

      Comment by Ashley Morrison | February 4, 2010 | Reply

  5. Great blog Ashley! I suggest you add Head of HR, and cc the Diversity rep, at Hilton if you get no response from the Comms person and fancy another shot.

    Take Simon’s advice and avoid HR at all costs – though you can still talk to me 🙂

    Comment by Marion | January 31, 2010 | Reply

  6. Hi Ash,

    Your best post yet. Remember, all history’s famous poets wrote their best work when they were feeling p*****d off, (think Kelly or Sheets – or was that Shelley and Keats? I could never tell them apart despite my desmond in English Lit. In fact, perhaps that’s why I got a desmond?) So, if the next post is not so good, then I will assume you have more freelance work in the pipeline…
    Why don’t you write to the graduate columnists on the broadsheets. They may reference your blog?



    Comment by Andrew | January 31, 2010 | Reply

    • Yes, I have a sneaking hope that someone in the Guardian’s G2 section will read it and snap it up for the careers page! Not that I’d mind any of the broadsheets “snapping me up”, of course… 🙂

      Comment by Ashley Morrison | February 1, 2010 | Reply

      • Further to that, Ashley, and apols for telling you how to suck eggs, but have you been contributing to various Comment is Free chats pertinent to work/jobhunting on the Guardian website? (Saturday work section, Monday’s Media etc). You sign off with your blog url so it highlights your expertise on the subject – and may even lead to work. I understand the Guardian pays something pitiful like £50 for a blog. Have you tried pitching to the various section eds? and of the other papers? good luck !

        Comment by Chris Rush | February 17, 2010

  7. You’re picking up some speed now Ashley, very slick and fluent.

    Thinking of English classes, I also remember a long dispute with Bruno as to whether “utter crap” constituted a constructive comment…


    Comment by Philip | February 1, 2010 | Reply

    • Ah, Bruno Rost, yes! I remember him taking us through Catcher In The Rye. Are you aware, by the way, that I was the pupil in question when he decided to slate one answer to a question as being “utter crap”?! I remember the incident very clearly, which is quite something, given that it was over 20 years ago. I remember how you all told him that it was not, in any shape or form, a constructive comment. Perhaps that is why he gave up teaching and became a PR Manager for Experian! (I saw him on TV a few months ago).

      I also remember watching his face fall when he said he’d give any pupil £20 if they could recite Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Kubla Khan from memory, and then Anthony Zachary/Zacherzewski managed it in about an hour! Maybe I should email Bruno and tell him to look at my blog – get him to join the debate…

      Comment by Ashley Morrison | February 1, 2010 | Reply

  8. Shit is of course a noun, not an adjective.

    Just thought I’d mention it, as one writer to another…

    Comment by Ben Trovato | February 1, 2010 | Reply

    • Are you suggesting, Ben, that you have never referred to something as being “a load of rubbish” or “completely pants”? Both nouns, you’ll notice. But if we are going to go down the road of semantic pedantry, may I in turn suggest that you add two commas to your first sentence and a pronoun to the start of your second one. At the moment, I’m afraid you have a 0% strike rate at writing a comment which is totally grammatically correct – and I’d hate to see anybody cast a slur upon your obvious grammatical pre-eminence…as one writer to another!

      Or perhaps I am talking bollocks. Oops, there I go again…! 🙂

      Comment by Ashley Morrison | February 2, 2010 | Reply

  9. Definitely agree. I am wondering why I joined the ones I did. Those sites are really just so broad and vast that it’s hard to weed through and find jobs that you match the most. Their criteria is always so strict, and I hate the postings that say things like “such and such experience required before consideration” However guess what, I don’t have the experience because I’ve never gotten the chance at gaining the experience, so it snowballs into this nasty “catch22” effect. And the saddest part is I know I could do the work, if given the chance. 🙂

    Comment by ilkhan28 | February 6, 2010 | Reply

  10. It’s also pretty annoying to get down to the last two or three after an interview and then the job goes to someone who works or has worked for them already!

    Comment by Ashley Morrison | February 8, 2010 | Reply

  11. Interesting point Ashley, and a question I am asked a lot!

    Potentially, yes there is a danger of being cut out however in a lot of cases search assignments can be sensitive for various reasons.

    A company can not start calling its competitors offering jobs as this could be damaging to its reputation. A good example would be a top 4 supermarket calling the Operations Director of another top 4 supermarket and asking them to come for a chat about a new role. The Ops Dir might have no intention of changing jobs at this stage (as is usual) however he or she will be damn sure to mention it to the rest of the board members – the damage is done.

    My role is to test the water without giving away anything about a client until I am certain that the target individual would consider leaving their employer and at what cost. Quite often the candidate will not know who the client is until they have passed several screening stages.

    One client gave me the name of the person they wanted to hire and their mobile number but for political reasons were not able to ask.

    In summary, NETWORKING is still key and I would imagine that for every one job I lose through my network, I would pick up 10.

    Comment by SimonJ | February 10, 2010 | Reply

  12. I’m with Sacha (although I won’t call it bile). I really could see a bestseller about this, especially when so many of us are feeling the heat in this economy. *Sniff, sniff* – yeah, I can smell the money.

    Write the book!

    Comment by Patricia | March 12, 2010 | Reply

  13. Absolutely correct, Ashley, virtually all recruitment websites are total rubbish. You’re over there in the UK while (or should I say whilst?) I labor (labour) over here in tropical Hawaii. Yet, the opportunities for employment are equally dismal on either side of the globe.

    Then there’s the problem of education. Jobs are so scarce that employers are requiring a Masters degree before they will even interview you for a receptionist job.

    Are firms in the UK permitted to use a credit check to determine whether or not they will employ you? That’s a real devil in the US — the longer you are unemployed, the deeper in debt you get, thus the worse your credit score virtually guaranteeing that you will be unable to get a job to pay off your debts.

    Last fall, I wrote a couple of blogs about my job-hunting experiences. You might find it amusing to see how things are done over here in the US. Check out “Try Not to be so….You.” (September) or “Google Yourself – You’re in for a Shock” (October) or “No Shirt. No Credit. No Employment” (November)

    My blog site is http://www.BizBitchBlog.blogspot.com

    I enjoyed reading your articles. Thanks for sharing!


    Kay Lorraine
    Nonprofit Executive
    Honolulu, Hawaii

    Comment by Kay Lorraine | March 13, 2010 | Reply

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