A new approach to recruitment – UnRecruitment

As with so many great ideas, I am left wondering why nobody has though of this before. Its simplicity, sustainability and sheer elegance offers so much that it’s easy to fall into the trap of looking for the catch – there must be one, surely. But no. There’s no catch.


[Photo: The Spring Project]Over the past 18 months I have spent quite a bit of time working with The Spring Project. Whenever I have the chance, I take the opportunity to recharge my batteries by working with enthusiastic young graduates with the aim of improving their prospects of employment. Okay, they’re not always entirely enthusiastic – but they are invariably young, competent… and unemployed. Many have suffered repeated rejections from potential employers, becoming canon fodder at the feet of large employers who routinely attract too many applicants to handle. It comes as no surprise to find that these graduates’ enthusiasm isn’t as high as it might be. Just how enthusiastic would you expect to be after 200 rejections? Or 400? Sadly, these numbers are real.

The talented people at The Spring Project have taken a long hard look at the current system, identified all the good bits, the not-so-good bits and the downright wrong bits, and have cleverly proposed an alternative, informally labelled UnRecruitment at Davos by Rajeeb Dey. More of that in a moment, but first let’s take a look at what happens today, and what leads to those huge numbers of rejections.

With supply (of graduates) being so much greater than the demand, employers tend to set the bar rather high, applying automatic filters to identify inappropriate candidates. After several further rounds of review, the list of candidates becomes much more manageable and the final selection is made according to the employers’ specific criteria. Those discarded applicants often learn their fate either by a complete lack of response from the employer, or via a short email advising them that the volume of candidates was very high and they weren’t fortunate enough to be selected. So it’s either “Thanks but no thanks” or… deafening silence.

In the absence of any real feedback, guidance or interaction with any employer, candidates make further applications (copy/ paste facilitating the process), repeating the same mistakes, filling inboxes of more and more employers and perpetuating the rejections. This completely open loop process can’t ever work efficiently and it’s no wonder that so many graduates quickly accumulate hundreds of rejections. How do they know what they’re doing wrong? This is probably the first time they’ve ever experienced a process which routinely scores them without telling them where they’re going wrong or what they need to do differently. It’s completely mad! What would the Corporate Social Responsibility people say if they knew this was going on?

What’s different about UnRecruitment is that whether they’re hired or not, every applicant gets something from the process. Every applicant.

If an applicant submits a very poor application or if it was completely inappropriate, they receive written feedback informing them. Yes, it may indeed be a “standard” letter, but it specifically identifies the problem – poor English language, inappropriate qualifications, wrong time of year, wrong scheme or whatever. This most basic level of feedback can inform future applications.

Further rounds of review invite participation from the candidate, giving the employer an opportunity to see the candidate in real task-oriented situations. Traditional assessment centres are an opportunity for employers to see how closely the candidates match the nominal “ideal”, rejecting those who deviate too far. The UnRecruitment process enables the candidates to see for themselves what is expected of them. It allows them to deselect themselves from the process, further reducing the load on the employer. Even these candidates go away from the process having learned something about not only the employer, but importantly about themselves. Again, this self-understanding informs future applications.

What I really like about this approach is:

  • Every application results in some form of feedback.
  • It forces employers to give honest feedback.
  • It enables employers to spend their money seeing how real candidates behave, rather than spending it on ever more sophisticated filtering techniques.
  • It enables employers to think about candidates – people – rather than their brand.
  • It puts candidates at the heart of the process, enabling them to take part in it – rather than just being a “number”.
  • The further a candidate goes through the process, the greater the learning.

We’ve all come across people who don’t necessarily match the “ideal candidate”, or who don’t present themselves particularly well, but would otherwise be brilliant employees. Traditional methods of hiring exclude these otherwise excellent candidates. UnRecruitment includes them.

Seeing how this can (and does) work, it makes me wonder how employers can justify continuing as they are. It is irresponsible to continue a process which gives nothing back to the majority of candidates and which perpetuates the problem.

UnRecruitment is disruptive; it is a breath of fresh air in an environment which has become stale. Perhaps the strapline should be UnRecruitment – Ethical recruitment for responsible employers.

Further information:


Feel free to comment on this post – I’d be interested to hear your views.
Inixiti – Improving graduate employability. Click here to visit the website.


One thought on “A new approach to recruitment – UnRecruitment

  1. Pingback: Recruiting Strategies for your Small Business

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