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Starting a new job can be both an exciting and a stressful period. A new role, in a completely new environment, surrounded by new faces. This is a situation that can mark the start of a new chapter for that particular individual.

However, what happens when the employee is a few days into the job and realises that it is not what they had signed up for?

This is a situation that has become more and more common in recent years, with employers opting to oversell a certain role to candidates in order to encourage them to accept it. This can result in various issues in the long term, such as employee retention and a lack of motivation.

As a result, reached out to recruitment specialists in order to understand why employers choose to oversell jobs, together with the risks that this presents.

David Borg, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer at BigWig Headhunters, remarked that this is mainly a result of a very competitive labour market with a limited number of candidates. He explained that there is currently an issue with the market, as the demand for workers “far outweighs” the supply, leading to “desperation hiring”.

As a result, employers occasionally find themselves overselling “both the roles and the company’s potential growth”, he said.

David Borg / LinkedIn
BigWig Headhunters Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer David Borg / LinkedIn

“The nature of competition in this market is putting companies under a severe amount of pressure to grow their business at what can only be seen as an unhealthy rate, especially in certain industries. This pressure leads to unrealistic projections, reactionary decisions, and ultimately, overselling,” Mr Borg continued.

Konnekt Recruitment Specialist Jessica Schembri was in agreement with Mr Borg, stating that as a supply and demand market, recruitment might put companies in a “state of panic” to close the position if the situation becomes “desperate”. However, she acknowledged that this is still not a case of “intentional overselling”.

She added that “finding talent is already tough, yet retaining that talent is even tougher”, and so it is integral for her and other recruiters to get to know both candidates and clients “on a deeper level” to fully understand the employer’s “cause, values, struggles, and pain points”.

When asked which points employers tend to oversell the most, Mr Borg remarked that this mainly comes down to the responsibilities and potential career growth.

Touching on his own experience at BigWig Headhunters, he noted that they encounter many instances “on a daily basis” where candidates who are within the first year of employment with a company have said that they have become “disillusioned” by the fact that things are not the way that was originally agreed.

“Clearly overselling roles or a company can lead to disillusioned employees and an unhealthy working environment, which will ultimately result in issues with employee retention and hiring,” he added.

Jessica Schembri / LinkedIn
Konnekt Recruitment Specialist Jessica Schembri / LinkedIn

On the other hand, Ms Schembri stated that a business’ “general culture” is the area that is “more often than not miscommunicated”. She continued by adding that this would “typically be localised to the employer’s expectation when it comes to working hours and their openness for flexibility in terms of hybrid work or remote work”.

“Unfortunately, due to these misconceptions, candidates with previous commitments would end up leaving the job because they do not have the flexibility that they initially thought they would. At the end of the day, it is an issue of communication and understanding expectations,” she explained.

These situations can have very damaging consequences on the business as a whole, especially when hiring managers and human resources (HR) staff, in their enthusiasm, end up sharing their own personal vision for the company with a prospective candidate. When this is done, the newly hired employee could end up in the lurch, particularly if the company does not opt to honour that vision, or the hiring manager exits the company and is no longer available to implement it.

Touching on this scenario, Mr Borg remarked that it “does not take long” for a company to lose its reputation when it comes to the treatment of its employees, especially since “the market loves to gossip”.

“Any recurring negative employee situations can have a long-lasting effect on a company’s ability to hire going forward,” he added.

“The solution is simple: be open and honest. Make sure your company has a clear strategy that all employees are on board with, so the team is driving the project together. Don’t oversell, and if you promise something to an employee, make sure to deliver on that promise. And finally, value your employees properly, and take the time for dialogue regarding their places within the company,” Mr Borg continued.

Ms Schembri highlighted that these situations present dangers such as “high turnover”, which has been known to be a “costly issue for employers” due to the use of internal resources, manpower and training. Additionally, she agreed with Mr Borg in terms of the negative publicity that these instances bring about, as they might create “branding issues”, which at such a small country like Malta, could result in “major problems” for the company.

She identified three primary objectives that employers should have when it comes to recruitment: values, mission and company benefits.

“These three should always be communicated openly irrespective of who the employee is or what position they hold, as this will then help to eliminate any misalignment issues,” she noted. If these objectives are identified and clear, then employers would not need to change the strategy if a hiring manager decided to part ways with a company, as the business vision would not change as much.

“Another solution would be to ensure that the business is putting in place a series of retention strategies such as pulse surveys and embracing a culture that promotes ongoing feedback so that they know their employees are being remunerated fairly for the work they are doing,” Ms Schembri said.

Aside from this, there are also ways for the workers themselves to avoid landing positions that do not live up to expectations.

Both Mr Borg and Ms Schembri remarked that candidates should do their research on the company ahead of the interview process. The former remarked that the process is a “two-way street”, and the candidate should be doing their “own due diligence” on the company and team they could potentially be joining.

“Outside the interviewing process, the candidate should do their own market research to ascertain whether the role and company is truly the right fit for them. I am not talking about just a Google search here. They should be sure to tap into their network to see if they might know someone who can provide them with valuable feedback on the company in question and its modus operandi,” he added.

This is also one of the primary roles of a Headhunter, who helps candidates “mitigate the risk of making the wrong choice”, as they need to “understand the wants and needs of both the company and the potential candidate” in order to make a “more authentic connection”.

Ms Schembri also emphasised that candidates need to also “stop choosing money before anything else”, as even though the salary is a “large factor” that contributes to changing jobs, “we must remember that it does not buy you happiness”.

“Candidates must also reflect on their skillset and what their objectives are in terms of careers. This will be most critical when scouting for jobs,” she added.


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