I want to talk about giving critical feedback. This week, I went out of my way to let someone know that whilst I would have liked to invite them for an exploratory discussion about a job, I was not going to. This might sound harsh but I told him that the informal, almost text speak type of language he had used in his job enquiry had made me feel that he was not right for our business.
This followed a speculative enquiry on LinkedIn as a new graduate, with no prior experience or HR relevant degree. I was urging him to formalise his language in order to open more doors during his job hunting.
Initially, I was interested in him as I am just starting to look at employing someone to train up to support our HR consultants. He had a good business degree and if someone has the right attitude I have always thought you can train up the knowledge and skills. What initially held me back though was his very informal language hence why I fed back in the first place. I felt that with minimal effort, he could change the way he came across.
I really shouldn’t have bothered. A couple of emails that pinged back almost instantly were not very happy ones:
“Am very formal Helen only stated in general didn’t mean to put anyone off by it. So you don’t my cv because of my status?
Just seems your discriminating for my english. Also I am a 2:1 gradaute if my english wasn’t to a high standard I wouldn’t have achieved 2:1.
Well companies want experienced people but not willing to give a chance how does that work? Also if you want to help me you want me to post a better status??”
Hmm… well, a few thoughts come to mind.
- Will this stop me from giving honest feedback in future? Probably not, as even if he hasn’t liked what I have said, then at least he has been given important information to help him make changes if he wants to. Now it’s up to him.
- Why does our academic process in the UK appear to downplay the importance in education of being able to write to a high standard and to be able to differentiate between formal and informal language? Surely this is doing students a serious disservice if they aren’t aware this is important when they hit the jobs market, particularly if they are aiming for leadership positions?
- If the argument is that it is discriminatory to suggest that someone’s English is not up to scratch, then does the argument still stack up when a newly graduated graduate in England cannot spell the word graduate or know that English should have a capital letter?
- What benefit is a business studies degree at 2:1 standard, if the chip on the shoulder is so big he can’t land his first job or if his approach to work is so slap dash he leaves vital words out of key sentences?
- How important it is to probe attitude to work, life, employers, work ethic etc. in the very first discussion. This person does not appear to take personal responsibility, demonstrates a tendency to blame others and doesn’t see any need to adapt in order to succeed. I know that some vocational courses interview around attitudes, values etc. before offering places at university. Would there be any benefit in extending this more widely to other degree courses now students in the UK are paying around £27K for tuition fees alone? It’s a huge investment for them, so should we be helping them think about their attitude and values before they spend their money?
- Is there a clear understanding amongst the younger generations that LinkedIn requires a very different communication style to Facebook?
- Finally, do we have a generation coming through who have a tendency to not listen to or accept any sort of critical feedback? If so, how do employers tackle this issue given that it is our responsibility to now develop them from rookie new starters to professional, competent players in the world of work?
Any thoughts, ideas, please do leave your comments. This is an issue relevant to so many in business nowadays. I am sure we all want to avoid finding we have a generation who have come out of university with good degrees, but who struggle to adapt to what is required of them in work.