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Diary of a job hunt: What happened to feedback?



HR Zone member Sue Harrison resigned from her job earlier this year and has experienced some difficulty in finding another – not to mention having her eyes opened to apparent age discrimination. In the second of a series of articles charting her search for new employment, Sue finds out that age is still an issue and feedback from agencies is seriously lacking.


My last article about my job hunting experiences as an older candidate was a very personal view, a little tongue-in-cheek and reflected my first impressions of what it is like to look for work after seven years with the same employer – and at the ripe old age of 50.

I have continued to target roles that match my experience and the job criteria. I need to work, but I do not wish to waste my time or that of employers and agencies by applying for everything.

I have no problem at all with taking a role at a more junior level, but I have too much integrity to take an unsuitable role and leave it when something better comes along. As I have throughout my working life, I want to commit to an organisation and not be constantly checking for the next opportunity.

I reviewed my CV and changed my job title, so that (a) it would not appear too senior and (b) I would be able to apply for more junior roles with good employers. I also dropped £15,000 from my salary expectations in order to make myself more saleable.

Work-life balance

I reflected also that, as an HR professional, I should practise what I preach in promoting the concept of the work-life balance. So I took the time to consider the personal elements that would improve my own work-life balance, one of them being shorter travelling time, and the other an opportunity to work closer to home.


"I reflected that, as an HR professional, I should practise what I preach in promoting the concept of the work-life balance. So I took the time to consider the personal elements that would improve my own work-life balance."

There is so much press coverage about global warming, climate change and the fact that many of us spend about a month a year just travelling to work! In a small way, I thought that a 'walk to work' approach would not only suit me, but also aid the environment. And because I would have more free time, it would allow me to give something back to my community.

In talking to agencies, however, I stressed that although I would prefer to work locally, within 20 miles of home, I can easily make it into London and would be happy to be put forward for any suitable roles. I expanded my travel range so that it incorporates all of my local major towns. I applied also for roles that would require relocation, so I¹ve certainly kept my options open.

It's a clear brief: I want to be busy, involved with the business, keen to make a contribution, use my skills and experience to my employer¹s advantage and hopefully continue to develop and learn.

The good and the bad

I have registered with several agencies and have had exposure to the good and the bad. Because I mostly advertised direct in my last role, I had only occasional interaction with agencies. Obviously, as a fee-paying client, I received pretty good service from those with whom I established a relationship.

Considering that, after placement, I will earn a fee for the agency and may even become a client, I must admit that I am quite disappointed in the standards of customer care of many. I know that I am not the only client on their books and I am not asking for a personal consultant, but I find it quite disappointing not to receive feedback on my applications.

"For me, even negative feedback is better than none at all. I do care how I got on; it is important to know where I went wrong from a development perspective, so that I can improve technique or alter my approach for the next interview."

In the case of two interviews, I have not even received the courtesy of being told I was unsuccessful. Supposedly, you just assume rejection by virtue of the lack of contact! On checking with the companies direct, one had just lost a huge contract and couldn¹t afford to fill the role; another had used a different agency and appointed someone with greater experience (they gave me some nice feedback, though). Actually, all positive stuff, so ultimately no feelings of rejection there.

I am unsure if agency staff do not feel confident in giving feedback. For me, even negative feedback is better than none at all. I do care how I got on; it is important to know where I went wrong from a development perspective, so that I can improve technique or alter my approach for the next interview.

I have always offered this to candidates; it takes a bit of time, but hopefully leaves them with a positive view of the organisation and the chance to do things differently.

What I have found is that the age issue has not gone away. I am now embracing this and realise that although I could lie about my age, there is no point because I have to prove my identity and eligibility to work anyway and the truth would always come out on my passport! And anyway, I don't want to work with a company that doesn't value diversity. I am not yet ready to hang up my boots!

In conclusion then, I am pleased to say that my initial reaction to the whole issue of being back on the job market has largely gone away, as I have sorted out the good agencies from the not so good. I've found roles that I can apply for direct and I am free now of the issues that caused my unemployment. I am looking forward to the next chapter of my working life with enthusiasm.

I have several opportunities currently on the go and I am hopeful of being gainfully employed again soon. Fingers crossed, please!

Finally, I would like to say that I welcomed the comments from those who read my initial article, both positive and negative.

Click here to read Sue's previous diary entry.

5 Responses

  1. An iterim solution?

    I am sorry to hear that you haven’t secured the post that you are looking for yet but I am pleased to hear that you have relaxed your job hunt criteria as I am sure that this will help.

    I agree that it can take months to find another post – but one of the reasons is that job hunters tend to start with high expectations and gradually become more realistic. You are getting there – being more open to travel further to work or even relocate opens far more job opportunities.

    Perhaps this is the time to consider interim posts – for two reasons – firstly, they can lead to permanent opportunities and secondly because it is easier to get another job when you are employed and as the post is temporary you won’t have any moral issues about looking for something better while you are there.

    Good luck.

  2. Keep it up
    Well done you,

    I agree agencies are terrible offenders, no customer care despite the fact you could be their next customer – short termists every one of them. Such a shame that the Recruitment & Employment Confederation isnt doing more to improve the ‘candidate experience’. An enormous percentage dont get back to you – even with a declinatory email, an enormous percentage want your CV rather than answering your questions, keen to bombard the client with CVs (before all their competitors) rather than address the candidate’s queries. Most are permanently ‘on lunch’ in a meeting or on voicemail and very few of those absent ever return the messages that their colleague’s assure you they’ve passed on.

    What worries me is the increasing tendency for commission hungry agents to push one towards temp work when they you already stated perm. They are after commission and couldnt care less about your loss of benefits and security with temp work – often the promise of(or budget for) a permanent position never arrives after the temp role has been accepted.

    Glad to see you’ve toughened up, it aint easy but then nothing is, as Clint Eastwood said “If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster”.

  3. Why not be more proactive in your approach
    Dear Sue,

    Job hunting can be stressful – lots of rejection to be expected so look for ways to stay positive.

    I’ve read your article and it is a very reactive approach to job search – applying to adverts, and contacting agencies.

    What about taking a more proactive approach? You have already identified that you have a preferred location, within easy travel distance from home so pop on your research hat and find out more about these companies.

    That means you can write targeted letters explaining all your strengths, how you can help their business and basically what a fantastic asset you will be.

    I’d focus much more on your strengths than your age. You no doubt have a wealth of experience and maturity which is a real positive. I’d also make sure that you include details of how you keep your knowledge up to date and your ease with new technology.

    Being proactive is far more beneficial than sitting back and waiting and over 30% of my job search clients get their jobs this way.

    Good luck, Denise x

  4. Network,network, network
    I agree with Chris. Network,network, network. The more senior you are, the more that jobs are filled that way.

  5. There’s more to job searching than ads and agencies
    Sue, I work for Right Management – an HR Consulting firm that provides outplacement support and is not a recruitment agency. We deal with thousands of candidates in similar situations to yours every year.

    You sound like you’ve been in a reasonably senior role, so six months is a realistic time scale. Our research shows it’s 4-6 months for more junior managers to land another job; 6-12 for senior managers.

    Like other commentators on your previous article, I don’t believe age is as much of an issue as you perceive it to be. Instead, I think you have experienced pretty typical mediocre service from a number of agencies and have set yourself some self-limiting criteria for the new post.

    Based on how our candidates find new jobs, I would advise you to widen the net – not geographically but in terms of your contacts.

    Over 20% of our candidates find their next job through networking and 11% find it from a direct approach to new employers they like the look of.

    So get out there! Call some ex-colleagues or contacts, go for a coffee, lunch or ask for a meeting, find out what’s happening in the key sectors or areas you want to get into. Speak to previous clients or suppliers about their views, who they know, what’s happening in their industry, who’s hiring, etc.

    Research some companies you’re interested in and call them up – even if they’re not advertising. Ask for someone at Director level in the part of the business you’re interested in and demonstrate you’ve done your research. Talk in terms of their interests and suggest you could help them achieve their goal of ‘x’ because you have relevant experience in ‘y’ and you’d like to come in and discuss it.

    The quote that I think sums up modern-day job hunting best comes from Richard Bolles’ ‘What Colour is your Parachute?’ (a great book for job hunters): “The person who gets the job is not the person who knows the most about how to do the job; it’s the person who knows the most about how to get hired.”

    1 in 3 people are getting hired without responding to an ad or going through an agency.

    Good luck! Look forward to reading about your progress.


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