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When new recruits are welcomed with: “I don’t suffer fools gladly!”

Julien Gargowitsch, CEO - Nicholson Search & Selection

Employees, including new and potential recruits, are being demotivated by a list of thoughtless phrases: “You’ve got big shoes to fill,” “You don’t drink? that could be a problem,” and: “Oh dear, where are we going to sit you?”

It might well be a crazy time but that’s no excuse for saying crazy things. Employers must remember that the impact of the ‘great resignation’ will be felt in 2022 with a frenzy of job searching. And if employers use clumsy, insensitive and time-worn phrases with their people the best ones will go elsewhere. In 2022, people skills will be more important than ever.

I was reflecting with colleagues and people we have placed into roles some of the ludicrous things I’ve heard from bosses and colleagues in my career and we ended up putting together a list of ridiculous, insulting and needless phrases. We decided to make it into a checklist of truly awful examples of ‘what not to say’ to new or potential recruits.

The list comprises demotivating and needlessly challenging statements which new line managers, colleagues and interviewers have used, and are not-so-fondly recalled. Some positive suggestions and alternatives are also listed. The list is not in any particular order.

  • You’ve got big shoes to fill.” = “We don’t think you’ll be as good as the last person.”

Better: “Your fresh outlook and ideas for this role will be valued.”

  • “I don’t suffer fools gladly.” = “Despite you being recruited through an arduous and complex process, you’re probably an idiot who won’t last long here.”

Better: “I like to help and see people perform to the best of their potential. We’ll help you with that from day one.”

  • “We work hard and play hard.” = “We’ll give you too much to do and then expect you to play an escape-room game (which the chief exec must win) at 8pm on a Friday night.”

Better: “We really enjoy our roles and teamwork here, and we know that you will too.”

  • “We don’t take lunch breaks here.” = “We’ve reinvented the sweat-shop.”

Better: “Some people chose to take a working lunch some days, that’s up to you though.”

  • “I’ve no time for people who use Apple/Android/etc.” = “Your IT choices could show you to be an imbecile and put you outside of our ‘tribe’, you’ll never fit in here.”

Better: “We use X technology here, and if you’re not used to that we’ll help you with it.”

  • “We really like you but want to speak to other candidates to compare.” = “You’re probably ok but we’ll keep searching until we find someone who’s not like you.”

Better: “We’re still in the middle of the recruitment process, you’re a great candidate and we’ll come back to you with a decision quickly.”

  • “If you don’t bill in the first three months you’re out.” = “You’re probably out before you’ve started.” This adds unwanted pressure to a person who has taken up a role in full knowledge that they must bill.

Better: “We know people feel pressure to bill quickly when they join, and we’d love to help you with that.

  • “You don’t drink? That could be a big problem!” = “You’re probably too religious, a recovering alcoholic or just a bit dull and we’ll do whatever we can to stop you fitting in.”

Better: “We learn a lot from each other at social occasions. We’ve a range of get-togethers, it’ll be helpful to go to the ones you think you’ll enjoy.” And in the age of remote working it is important to ask current employees to make video calls to new people. It can be lonely trying to integrate into what could seem like a cliquey team, especially remotely.

  • “You don’t have to be mad to work here but it helps!” = “I saw that on a plate in a gift shop in Bridlington in the 1970s and it is the only ‘humour’ I’ve ever brought to the workplace.”

Better: “You’re going to love working here, there are many opportunities to excel and great people to work with.”

  • “Let’s hope you last longer than the last three people.” = “We just sold you a pup on this job, don’t you feel silly leaving your last firm now!”

Better: “We know from the recruitment process that you’re more qualified and more experienced for this role than anyone else before you.”

  • “Hey newbie, get the coffees in!” = “You won’t fit in unless you buy us stuff.”

Better: “The team will take you to lunch on your first day and give the low-down on how things work.”.

  • “Oh dear, where are we going to sit you then?” = “Your role is so unimportant we’d forgotten we’d recruited you.”

Better: “Here’s your desk ready with laptop, phone, notepad, induction manual and a first-week itinerary. You’ll be meeting the chief executive/appropriate board member too.”

I don’t doubt for a minute that anyone reading this will remember when they’ve had some of these phrases aimed at them. And what they thought of those that said them. Any of these phrases will say something about the employer and chip away at any respect a new or even established  employee might have. There is no excuse for using these phrases.

And it’s not just about current employees: applicants must also be given a great experience, whether successful or not. Being disrespectful to them because employers know they are looking for a job, or ‘ghosting’ applicants, creates a very negative brand impression; they tell their colleagues about it, put it on social media and leave poor reviews. It’s a small world, while an applicant may not be the right fit for a role at this time, building an employer brand is a long-term strategy and there’s a possibility that you will cross paths and work together in the future.

Don’t forget, people won’t suffer foolish firms gladly in 2022, and now they have a choice.

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