Mystery prizes – Managing expectations in the employment process

Mystery prizes – Managing expectations in the employment processWhen I was a child, I won a competition in a comic. I can’t even remember how I won now (I suspect I sent in a joke or something) but I do remember what I won. Unfortunately, I remember it for all the wrong reasons. There was a choice of prize when you entered, but on the little list of options, there was one that stood out. It read ‘mystery prize’, and it had a picture of a mysterious box. To my young mind that had everything going for it. It was a mystery prize. It would be a flying hover-board or a magic wand at the very least. I mean, how could a mystery prize not be something special? I eagerly awaited my prize. It turned out to be a rather cheap compendium of board games, most of which I already had in a much better form. It was annoying because I could have taken the far more useful book token. The point here is that our expectations and the reality are often not the same thing, but in fairness to my younger self, the mystery prize was presenting itself as something it wasn’t.

Manage expectations

It is the same with the employment process. Both the candidate and the potential employer need to manage their expectations to avoid some difficulties down the line.

For the candidate

It is vital that you remember that no matter how apparently suited to the role you seem to be, there may well be other factors you know nothing about. In a pool where you are the only capable person applying for the job, clearly you stand a very good chance, but how often does that happen? It is also important that you are realistic about your chances for employment in a particular role. There is a tendency amongst some candidates (statistically men, apparently) to apply for jobs where they only meet part of the criteria because they feel they are in with a chance. Well, yes you are, but keep a clear head on how much of a chance that chance is. A further area where we sometimes find people have a little bit of an unrealistic expectation is on employability in a new role. This is an odd one because it goes both ways with candidates both believing they are suitable for a role they simply cannot do, or not wanting to apply for promotions or similar because they think they cannot do the job. Why not make a skills list to centre your approach? High expectations are great, but if they are let down constantly, it will knock your confidence.

For the prospective employer

There are similar pitfalls when it comes to unrealistic expectations. Recruitment is a process, and unfortunately, it must be followed. No matter how urgent the requirement is, we, or any reputable recruiter, can only expedite it so much. On top of which, an overly fast employment choice is something that you can easily regret later. In a similar vein, speed is still an issue because candidates are probably not sitting around waiting for a call. At the moment, low unemployment means good candidates are likely to have choices, so expecting them to wait around for your offer may not be too realistic. The other area where the expectation is sometimes a little at odds with the reality is the pool of candidates. An overly strict job specification, for example, can lead to a very reduced pool of possible employees. A realistic approach is needed to get the right team together.


We’ve seen every situation you can imagine

We have been in recruitment now for nearly four decades, and in that time we have seen just about every situation you can imagine, so when it comes to having the right expectations of what the employment process will entail, we have a lot of experience. It is our job to help you to understand the process so that you have a realistic expectation of what will happen, what timescales are involved and the process you will be following.


In short, there is no way we would ever let you take a mystery prize if the book token is the much better option.

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