Belfast Telegraph

Employer’s fury ‘lack of talent’

Employer blames the brain drain for woeful applicants

By Margaret Canning

Business people have come out in support of a vexed employer who has slammed the quality of jobseekers.

The fuming company boss said he cannot find the right person for a job despite receiving nearly 300 CVs when he advertised the position.

His experience comes at a time when there are around 5,665 advertised vacancies on Belfast Telegraph sister company website Jobfinder, and 60,400 signing on for Jobseekers Allowance - around 10 job hunters for every vacancy.

The businessman, who wants to remain anonymous, said he feared a "brain drain" during the Troubles had created a shortage of good candidates. He summed up the appearance and demeanour of many of his interviewees in a letter to the Belfast Telegraph.

"The most inappropriate appearance with multiple facial piercings, tattoos, ripped jeans and ridiculous multi-coloured hairstyles.

"I'm losing the will to live," he said.

His job advertisement for a receptionist/personal assistant paying £14,000 to £16,000 attracted 267 CVs from across the UK, including one from a trained doctor and others from applicants with legal qualifications and banking experience.

Around 200 were rejected because of basic spelling mistakes.

The businessman said: "Of 16 invited for interview, two never showed up and two made no effort when they did show up.

"I may sound like a snob but there was also a lot of 'theminz' and 'useinz'," he said, referring to candidates' use of idiomatic Northern Irelandisms instead of correct pronouns 'them' and 'you'.

He said the position was a "prominent" role speaking to clients, such as school principals and company chief executives, so good communication skills were a must.

The employer added: "Most of those that were called for interview would depress even the most optimistic of Northern Ireland employers."

The experience has left the businessman "thoroughly dismayed".

"It has only reaffirmed my view that this little country is living the legacy of the 'brain drain' whereby anyone with any brains left during the Troubles.

"It baffles me that people can proceed through a formal education system until the age of 16 and still not be able to spell, speak clearly or present themselves in a manner that will benefit themselves for their own future."

His experience has ignited a debate over whether our workforce is fit for purpose and if our institutions are turning out people suitable for the job market.

Recruiters agree that despite the number of unemployed and the economic situation, it is still hard to find the right people.

One said graduates are applying for jobs for which they are not qualified. Others, who have qualifications in law or experience in banking, are applying for lower-paid work.

Nigel Smyth, the Northern Ireland director of the CBI, said problems were starting much earlier in life. "With many people leaving school without grades A to C in Maths and English at GCSE, there are significant failings at the lower level of the system," he said.

"However, some of those skills are missing in the graduates who are coming out these days.

"After 14 years of compulsory education a lot of young people don't come out with basic skills."

Claire McKee of recruitment firm Clarendon Executive said: "We see significantly more applications from people who aren't adequately experienced because they don't have the correct skill-set.

"For example, senior management or financial roles may attract applications from recent graduates or non-financial people and those who have not worked at group or board level."

But she disagreed that there was a "brain drain". "More than ever there's a drive for people who are seeking to come back to Northern Ireland. In addition, talent here is still very, very strong."

Francis Martin, president of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce, was also upbeat.

"While the job market is challenging and unemployment continues to rise, there continues to be a significant number of vacancies and even shortages in certain sectors like IT and life sciences.

But another businessman said he identified with the man whose receptionist vacancy is still to be filled. "I interviewed a woman who came in and said she'd seen us on TV, then named a completely different product from ours. She said she would drive the business growth by using volunteers on a Saturday. She left - then came back in and asked us for the bus fare home."

Belfast Telegraph