by Amy Fallon
31 July 2019
One-way video interviews, multiple writing tests for part-time gigs, and an interview process that can drag on for a gruelling 22 hours. Is it just me, or has the recruitment process changed dramatically in the past 15 years since I began my career?
Of course journalism has always been a highly competitive field. When I graduated from uni and began looking for work I was fortunate enough to be able to do a few weeks of unpaid work experience at a couple of different places – a women’s magazine, a suburban newspaper and the national newswire agency. I had stories published at each. The latter told me about an annual intake for their editorial assistant position. I applied, did an interview and was lucky enough to get that and then worked my way up to a cadetship. I can’t recall ever doing a writing test.
Flash forward to years later, and with at least four of the publications I’ve worked for having folded over the past three years, I’ve this year done three tests for a part-time communications and marketing role, and a one-way video interview for a full-time media manager position, in a bid to secure other work that is also meaningful to me. (There was no update on whether I’d received the role for the first position, or any feedback until I asked for it, and it was also hard getting constructive feedback on the second interview, which was only to get onto the next interview round, which was in person).
Of course there’s a difference between journalism roles and communication positions, even if some of the skills are transferrable. But after speaking to other jobseekers, it does now feel like job-seekers have to jump through hoops – more than they ever did – to score work in these areas.
One told me that for a content producer position at a high-profile media network they were made to create a two-minute video for their streaming platform, plus a 30 second video. She was handed instructions in a ‘vague’ brief just four days before the interview.
“It was a huge ask and it was lucky I didn’t have plans that weekend,” she says.
She felt that simply looking at her previous work should have been enough. The candidate was however provided with constructive feedback.
Another, working as an intern, wrote articles for free twice at another outlet – before being told she wasn’t experienced enough for an entry-level job.
Last year the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) published a piece on writing tests for journalism jobs being ‘out of control’. In the UK, those looking for freelance roles are also being asked to take these for freelance roles. Sian Meades recently called this out, after a company searching for remote travel writers were given unpaid tasks on different destinations with a tight turnaround.
If you think that sounds bad however, Australian mobile app company Appster have an interview process that can drag on for up to 22 hours over a month.
Akiko Kawakami is a career coach with the Merimbula, NSW-based Life Beyond Limits, and a human resources lecturer. She says from a company’s point of view much of these tests and lengthy interview processes can be justified, as poor recruitment decisions can be expensive. If employees quit within a year, it can cost an employer a minimum of 30 percent of the employee’s first-year earnings plus advertising costs, induction training costs, and recruitment fees if agencies are used.
“Companies and recruiters know all too well the cost of recruitment and are tightening their procedures to select the ‘right’ candidates for organisations,” says Kawakami.
With practices like ghosting also becoming common, it’s no wonder that Kawakami says many jobseekers can end up suffering anxiety and depression.
“There is always a risk to a candidate’s self-esteem – like a balloon it will burst at its weakest points,” she says, adding the majority of job seekers in any industry become stressed and frustrated by the recruitment process, particularly if they need to repeat it.
In order to be flexible for changes in the job market, it’s crucial to keep developing skills and learning.
But it’s equally important to stay positive throughout the process.
Steven Dzierzanowski, marketing manager at SaaS Company, recommends several tips, including checking your resume after an application, networking and having some time off from the hustle – but ultimately not giving up.
Another solution is to hire a coach.
“You may still go through ups and downs but the journey with a coach is far more easier and encouraging than managing it by yourself,” says Kawakami.
As for employers who ghost, she points out that it damages their reputation and brand, which are both costly to build and maintain.
Recruitment is a ‘values-based issue’, says Kawakami.
“It starts with appointing the best candidates for the job in HR and management positions, people who respect and care for others,” she says.
Do you feel job-seekers have to jump through hoops these days in order to get work? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments.