HR urged to treat recruitment ‘like PR’ after theatre’s controversial job ad

19 Jul 2017 By Marianne Calnan

Venue’s aggressive anti-millennial rant will ‘undoubtedly’ deter candidates, say industry experts

A café-turned-arts venue has come under fire after posting a job advertisement for an office administrator slating millennials’ attitudes to work.

After struggling to fill an administrative vacancy, the Tea House Theatre in London published an advert insulting the attitudes of previous candidates. It asked: “Are you just not taught anything about existing in the real world, where every penny counts. Did no one teach you that the end of your studies is the beginning of your education?”

The posting on the Arts Council’s website, which has since been deleted, added that the company is seeking a “grafter, who can commit”, and possesses “the absolute dogs in office skills”. The advert said it had “not been impressed [with the applications] so far”.

HR experts said employers needed to “treat job adverts like a PR exercise” by ‘selling’ the company to the best available talent. “The advert must be upbeat, inspiring and entice applicants to apply,” said Jenny Goulding, director of Agile HR Consulting. “It’s seriously difficult getting an applicant that has all the skillset and behavioural attributes that a company is looking for – but they do exist. The skill is attracting their attention.”

Goulding acknowledged that an unconventional advert might make an employer stand out from the crowd, but urged companies to question whether “the maverick job applicant that wishes to break free from the usual job market is really the person you want to hire”.

In an ongoing poll of People Management Twitter followers, 89 per cent said the Tea House Theatre was not justified in posting the advertisement, 9 per cent said it was justified and 2 per cent were undecided.

Emma O’Leary, partner at Essential Solicitors and an employment law consultant for ELAS Group, said she sympathised with the theatre’s disappointment in the quality of candidates, but added that its approach would “undoubtedly deter any applicants and leave them questioning whether anyone would want to work for a company that would do this”.

It is also vital that job adverts are not discriminatory to potential applicants, cautioned O’Leary: “This advert specifically targets millennials and it’s all too easy to say that there is a hint of age discrimination about this advert, compounded by another line that refers to an ‘old’ lady.”

Recruiters have a responsibility to assess the way their job advertisement is coming across to potential candidates, rather than complain about the quality of applications, said Paul McFarlane, partner at Weightmans and chair of the Employment Lawyers Association’s Legislative & Policy Committee. “An employer struggling to get suitable candidates ought to look at whether their advert accurately says what they are looking for without turning off or offending candidates, whether they have pitched their recruitment drive wide enough, and whether they have offered a salary that’s appropriate for the role and its location,” he said.

“Far from encouraging 'the right' candidate to make an application, this ad is at best a turn-off; at worst, it’s offensive. I would suggest Tea House go back to the drawing board or alternatively hire a professional recruiter.”

Claire Harvey, senior divisional director at REED, commented: “There is a direct correlation between a well written job advert and the quality of the candidates that apply. This posting may see a slew of irrelevant applicants, which will overwhelm an HR department, slow down the recruitment process and ultimately harm the business’s brand."

Kelly Tucker, managing director of HR consultancy HR Star, said employers and recruiters should never “underestimate the power of social media… The likelihood is that prospective candidates will have researched your company thoroughly, including your website and social media channels.”

The Tea House Theatre had not responded to People Management’s request for comment at the time of writing.

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