Why are job candidate expectations falling short?

A growing number of job candidates are finding that their new role is not living up to their expectations. New research* from pre-hire assessment specialists ThriveMap has uncovered that 55% of UK employees surveyed have quit a job because in some way it wasn’t what they expected it to be.

A growing number of job candidates are finding that their new role is not living up to their expectations. New research* has uncovered that 55% of UK employees surveyed have quit a job because in some way it wasn’t what they expected it to be. Thrivemap conducted the same research in 2019 and the findings show the situation is getting worse.

Four years ago, when the same questions were asked, 48% of respondents said they had quit a job because it didn’t meet their expectations. In the intervening years, may organisations have adapted their recruitment processes, including many more virtual and online elements. These figures suggest that these changes have failed to provide candidates with a realistic picture of the role and instead given them an even more misleading idea of what their job will entail.

 How are expectations not being met?
The most common reason respondents gave for quitting their job was that the responsibilities of the role were not what they expected (59%). This suggests that candidates have been led to believe they would have greater autonomy or be involved in more exciting projects than proved to be the case.

This was the same reason given back in 2019, however the survey revealed a significant rise in the number of employees who felt their working environment was not what they thought they would be. Four years ago, 42% of those that had quit a role said this was a factor, compared to 57% in 2023.

This increase reflects the shift that has occurred since the pandemic, with employees now expecting much more flexibility around how, when and where they work. These criteria have become much more important to employees and shows they are prepared to leave a role if they are not happy with where they are working.

There was a similar rise in those who felt the working hours or shift patterns weren’t what they had expected them to be. 47% stated these had been the reasons for them leaving a role, compared to 35% back in 2019.

Salary and benefits not meeting expectations are also a factor
Just over a third (35%) of those that said they had a left a role because it wasn’t what they expected said they did so because of their salary and benefits. Interestingly, men were nearly twice as likely as women to have left a job due to this, indicating perhaps that male employees are more prepared to quit over money than women or have higher expectations on salary.

Recruiters are also mis-selling roles too
This issue is not restricted to employers. More than half of the respondents, 52%, stated that they believed a recruiter had intentionally misrepresented a job to them, creating yet another significant expectation gap. The survey reveals that this issue extends beyond employers, as recruiters also play a role in contributing to the problem. The impact is particularly pronounced among people under the age of 35, with 55% believing that recruiters had been dishonest about the true nature of a job they shared with them.

This potentially creates a huge problem, with candidates becoming wary of recruiters and not believing what they are being told about jobs. This means people who may be very suited to a role not putting themselves forward for it because they don’t believe what the recruiter is telling them.

A shortage of candidates leading to more misinformation
The results of this survey highlight a common issue in the current job market. When there is a shortage of candidates, recruiters and employers may resort to tactics that are not entirely honest to attract applicants and fill vacant positions. This can include exaggerating the benefits of a role, downplaying its challenges, or providing unrealistic expectations about the job.

While this approach may help in the short term by attracting candidates, it is likely to cause negative consequences that can be expensive and long lasting. When employees join an organisation based on false or inflated promises, this leads to decreased job satisfaction, lower morale, and ultimately, a higher turnover rate.

While recruiting has evolved dramatically in the last four years, relying much more heavily on virtual and online processes, candidates are not getting the information they need or deserve. These results show rather than improving the candidate experience, they now have an even less clear picture of what they are applying for.

Employers and recruiters appear to be focused on quick fixes to solve their recruitment problems rather than trying to find candidates who are most suited to the roles they have available. This is leading to them over-promising and under-delivering, which recreates even more problems for them to fix. Candidates are not prepared to put up with this lack of clarity and the survey shows they are willing to look elsewhere rather than put up with a situation where they feel they have not been given the full facts. A more honest approach is needed from employers and recruiters to reduce the expectations gap.

*Survey carried on behalf of ThriveMap by One Poll in March 2023 with 1,000 full-time employees who’ve had at least two full-time jobs.

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