THE BLOG

Why I See a Future in Feedback

23/01/2015 12:11 GMT | Updated 22/03/2015 09:59 GMT

Just getting an acknowledgement for a job application can be rare enough but employers should also offer feedback to those who apply for jobs.

Yes, it's a big ask but it is also something that has the potential to transform young people's lives.

I was speaking recently to a young woman, Gemma, who applied to Young Women's Trust, didn't get the job but accepted our offer of feedback on her application. She put this advice to good effect and, in her own words, has just celebrated her first Christmas away from minimum wage roles in retail for the first time since leaving university four years ago.

"I found job hunting in the current climate incredibly difficult - it was time consuming, fruitless and a pretty soul destroying process all round, recalls Gemma. "A typical application took up to around six hours depending on the company process, to which I was lucky to even get an email acknowledging the receipt of my form/email, let alone an actual interview. Part of what is so disheartening about job hunting is never knowing why you were unsuccessful. It is near-impossible to critically review your own application when you are convinced you put 100% into it.

"This was the first time in a long time I felt encouraged by an organisation rather than rejected and ignored. Part of what makes young people my age stay in minimum wage jobs is the fear of constantly facing silence from the companies they apply to and in turn feeling more and more downtrodden. Young Women's Trust utterly set itself apart from any other organisation through the level of support they offered me, when in fact they were under no obligation to do so, and encouraged me to keep on applying for jobs.

An acknowledgement isn't much to ask and is the very least someone who has taken the time to complete an application should expect. Indeed, when most applications are made online there is no excuse for not setting up an automated acknowledgement.

But I believe employers should go a step farther and also offer feedback on applications for all entry level jobs. I'm not pretending this wouldn't require a time commitment from employers but the larger ones should make this part of their corporate social responsibility policies and ask their own staff to train as volunteers to deliver it. In time, they will see the quality of applications improve.

General advice on writing CVs, filling in application forms and attending interviews is all well and good but it is no substitute for specific, tailored advice that will help someone avoid repeating the same mistakes.

In-depth, sector-specific feedback was exactly what Gemma had been looking for. She was on the point of paying for it but that wouldn't be an option for many young women and we've started offering feedback to all our job applicants.

Of course, these applicants include men and women and all young people face challenges when looking for work - far too many of them are unemployed. But young women need all the help they can get; many more of them are NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) - over 100,000 more young women than men - and many more young women end up in a narrow range of poorly paid, insecure jobs, for example in childcare or hair and beauty.

Says Gemma: "I am the very proud owner of a job which has lifted my confidence and my future; and I'm certain it would have taken me a great deal longer if I hadn't been given the support and feedback that Young Women's Trust offered to me."

Feedback isn't just nice to have, it can make the difference between getting a job and not getting a job; between a lifetime struggling to avoid poverty and a lifetime of opportunity.