Thursday, 9 August 2012

Must have experience of PR and Communications in the "X" sector

It is often said - whether used as a lame excuse for a cop out, I'm not too sure - that to get a job you need experience, but to gain that experience you need a job. Perhaps it's just a conspiracy no one has yet tumbled to ensure a steady stream of "interns" prepared to work for nothing for the first three years after their graduation, and why solicitors, trained from an early age to immediately put their hands in their clients' pockets regardless of whether the weather is cold or not, remain unemployed rather than work for nothing.

I'm not to sure whether it's just plain ignorance on the part of companies, lack of guidance by those who use recruitment consultants, or just the general dysfuctionality and uselessness of HR, but unless you are a bus driver being interviewed for a job as chief neurosurgeon of St Bart's Hospital, this business of "not having sector experience" doesn't really stack up in marketing.

Imagine telling a highly-qualified accountant with 20 years experience that he's not getting an interview for a travel firm because he has no experience of travel-trade accountancy. Over 20 years,  he's kept the books for a local council, for a catering firm, for a garage, for a solicitors and even for himself when he went self-employed, but because he's never worked for a travel agency, he's considered not suitably qualified. Could you imagine that happening?

Well that has happened to me on a few occasions. Funnily enough, I'm not worried by age discrimination, because I've found that having worked as communications manager for Age Positive (the government's anti-age discrimination at work initiative) at the Department for Work and Pensions, this particular job appearing on my CV has the positive effect of "a little knowledge", etc. The recruiters perceive that having worked at the initiative, I am suitably qualified to spot an age discriminator a mile off. It helps, but the shock when, as someone in my mid 50's, I walk in the room for an interview, is generally evident on my prospective senior manager's face, especially as she wets her nappy.

However, certain government departments, particularly those recruiting through often mechanical recruitment consultancies (to be fair, some are as good as others are bad), will refuse an interview because they perceive a lack of experience of marketing or PR or communications within their sector is a negative.

I'm sorry. A press release is a press release in whatever industry. Yes, like in any business, you have to get up to speed with how the 'business' works ("learning curve" as the hip, jargonistas would say). A marketing plan, communications strategy, stakeholder engagement plan or whatever, is much the same for any industry, business or organisation - it's just that the people and contacts are different.

There is absolutely no excuse for this lame "the client felt another candidate had better experience of the industry". Well why did you waste my time and the cost of getting to you in the first place? It would have said the other person had industry experience so on their CV, and you could have saved a lot of time and effort all the way round.

Oh! But silly me. Of course, I should have tumbled. HR were bound to have been involved!

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