The Role of Desperation on Your Credit Union’s Hiring Stage and Four Ways You Might Be Writing It into the Script

By Christine Pena-Oquist

You’ve probably seen article after article advising job seekers to not look desperate. Or, in other words, to not act like they want the job too much. On the other hand, there are just as many articles advising job seekers to make sure they let the interviewer know how truly interested they are in the job. So, they shouldn’t appear disinterested either.

No wonder job seekers get stage fright. The role is not clearly defined. It’s like the director is yelling at them: “Be excited! No, no, don’t look so excited. Act bored!”

How much does the level of desperation really have to do with hiring good candidates anyway?

Let’s take a look at a typical “desperate job seeker.” This particular person has been out of work for several months and has a family to support. Now, let’s say that in the course of their frenzied job search they happen to spot an ad for a job that they would enjoy, which taps into their skills and talents, that they’re qualified for, and that pays enough to keep their family solvent.

Should he or she be eliminated from the applicant pool just because desperation is involved?

The theory behind avoiding desperate candidates is that they are more likely to apply for jobs that they’re not really interested in, not qualified for, and/or not planning to stay at long-term. After all, everyone around them, including the voices in their own head, is telling them to get a job, any job.

If you have effective hiring procedures in place, though, wouldn’t you already be filtering the less than ideal applicants out, desperate or not? If you are making the final decision from a pool of candidates who you are confident have the aptitude for the job, you could replace the word “desperate” with “motivated”?

Then, it doesn’t sound like such a bad thing, does it? 

Some might say that what makes desperate candidates less appealing is that they got themselves into that situation to start with. This implies that they are defective for needing a job. How unfair. After all, most people need jobs, and plenty of good employees have at one time or another been laid off, gone out of business, or even been fired by unreasonable managers. They may even have been fired by a reasonable manager for a job they were not a good fit for. It doesn’t mean they’re not a good fit for another type of job.

Being desperate for a job should not disqualify a good candidate, but neither should it qualify someone for a job.

So, now we’re going to take a peek at a comedy of the absurd that so often occurs on the hiring stage. Though many hiring professionals insist that they don’t want to hire desperate candidates, many use traditional hiring practices that actually tend to attract and hold onto the most desperate applicants.

Then, the interviewer goes through and tries to eliminate the most desperate of those desperate applicants.

Does that make any sense?

Here are four ways you might be inviting mostly desperate candidates to try out for roles at your credit union:

#1 Long and/or Boring Job Ads

Many job ads are written so that only the most desperate candidates will want to apply or even finish reading them.

Long and technical ads are unnecessary. If you are concerned about compliance issues, place a link to the legal job description in the ad. This way, detail-minded people still have access to all the information, but it doesn't weigh the ad down.

Job posts are advertisements. They should highlight the benefits and advantages of the job. You don’t necessarily need to go so far as to hire a reptile to be your spokesman, but your ads should spark interest in anyone who reads them. That way, even if the job isn’t for them, they may think to tell a friend or relative for whom it might be perfect.

#2 Openly Hostile Job Ads

Some job ads seem to be written with the real intent of scaring away all but the most desperate candidates. Those who stay behind to apply, want to get on stage so badly, that they don’t mind being pelted with rotten fruit.

I once read an ad for a bank teller position that literally threatened potential applicants with termination before they even applied. Several of the job responsibilities that were listed included the words, “failure to...will result in termination.” Wow, I don't know about you, but I would have to be pretty desperate to respond to a ad like that! They did an awesome job of advertising their negative and adversarial work environment!

#3 Leaving Out Essential Details in Job Ads

Above, we discussed how job ads don’t need to be weighed down with every single obvious detail about the position. There is some information, however, that is essential.

Unless you’re only targeting desperate applicants who are willing to go through your whole application process with nothing but a slim hope that this job might actually fit their needs, you must list the salary range and describe the required schedule.

You can still have negotiations within that range based on experience or qualifications, but be up front about it in your ad. This is necessary if you want to attract thoughtful candidates who have evaluated what they're worth in the current job market. People tend to assume that those job listings which state no salary range or starting wage will pay the very minimum for their industry.  

The typical schedule required is also an essential part of a job ad, especially for part-time jobs. People who are willing to consider taking part-time positions are almost always working around something else, whether it be caregiving or another job. Why would they put time and effort into applying for a position that might not have any chance of fitting into their current life? Only a desperate applicant who has reached the point of throwing anything and everything at the wall to see what's going to stick will do that.

Also, if you want to attract more of the right applicants, your ad should mention something about what kind of person will thrive in the position. Education, experience, and ability are not the only factors involved in being a good fit for a job. For example, extroverts are probably going to be miserable in a position that requires them to go with no human interaction for 8 hours straight, 5 days a week.

#4 Time-Consuming, Tedious, and Frustrating Application Processes

Long, boring job ads are one thing. But what about after a candidate decides to go ahead and start the application process? What happens when they run into frustrating glitches or are required to put hours into unnecessary, drawn-out, and/or repetitive tasks. Well, simply put, unless they’re desperate and have already applied to every credit union in town, they will apply to the one down the street that has a smoother and simpler application process.

This report by CareerBuilder states that "about 60% of job seekers have quit an application in the middle due to its length/complexity." If you had 30 minutes to fill out applications, wouldn't it make more sense to fill out 3 that take 10 minutes each, rather than 1 that takes 30 minutes?

There is an old-school hiring philosophy that says applications should be difficult and time-consuming in order to weed out lazy or less motivated applicants (read less desperate). But, actually, only truly desperate applicants have 24 hours a day to devote to filling out applications.

I'd love to hear from you about other hiring practices that you've noticed seem to target desperate applicants!

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