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How NOT to respond to job applicants: museum curator accuses candidate of putting themselves first

The response to an innocent enquiry from a potential job applicant is going viral after a candidate posted an email received from the museum curator on Twitter.

Rachel Fox, “artist, curator and poetry slam producer” according to her Twitter bio, got a bit more than she bargained for after asking what she thought was a simple question about a job for a retail role at The Sherlock Holmes Museum in London. In an email to the curator Andrea von Ehrenstein, Ms Fox requested a “more detailed job specification” and details of the intended hours of work:


What she perhaps didn’t bargain for was the response from the curator:


I’m not going to comment on whether or not the response was appropriate or not – I’ll leave that for you to decide. There is certainly an argument that the candidate could have done more research to find answers to the questions herself. Equally, there is a view that regardless of this, the email did not warrant such a terse response.

However, what I am most interested in is the broader impact on the museum’s reputation resulting from Ms Fox posting the response on Twitter:

  • Even though Ms Fox has fewer than 1,000 Twitter followers, her tweet containing the museum’s response has already been retweeted 1,575 times and favourited 323 times. This network effect is the only thing senior managers need to know about social media.
  • The numerous replies received to that tweet are predominantly negative towards the museum and its curator – the summary being that she had a “lucky escape” and “wouldn’t want to work there anyway”. The museum’s reputation has suffered damage, when it really didn’t have to.
  • The story has already been picked up by The Huffington Post and the discussion on Twitter continues. Expect to see more. Social media scandal feeds mainstream media reporting.

In a recent survey by the Chartered Institute of Management, two-thirds of today’s managers say they don’t know how to use social media effectively. This episode proves that – even if managers don’t intend to use it – every senior management team needs to understand its impact and implications on how they act and behave.

Here comes the recession… and B2B spam!

Spam is obviously a fact of life these days, but I can’t help but notice a subtle increase in the amount of unsolicited email hitting my work inbox.

And it’s not just the quantity that is grabbing my attention, but the content too.

You see, this isn’t the usual Viagra or Rolex material but people – I’m guessing salespeople – desparately trying to hit their lead generation quota.

Now I have every sympathy for anyone trying to make a decent living in such uncertain times, but sending unsolicited and untargeted email actually has two effects on me.

Firstly, it’s annoying. Business-to-business marketers think they can get away with email marketing tactics that have been pretty much outlawed for self-respecting business-to-consumer equivalents. Even in this market (the UK) there are some gaping loopholes that allow emails marketing products and services to other businesses a free ride. If we don’t have a relationship that I initiated, then you shouldn’t be sending my email. Period.

Secondly, it’s irrelevant. By casting your net wider I pretty much guarantee that your response ratio will drop. I have no plans to review my developer headcount (none suits fine, right now) or upgrade my IP telephony. Just because your product might save me money doesn’t mean I’m going to be hitting that reply button.

Business-to-business marketing needs to learn a few lessons from its consumer marketing brethren, and realise that its market is in control when times get tough. And that means spending less time selling, and more time listening.