Is The Job Application Process Damaging our Mental Health?

The job application process is one of the most turbulent experiences anyone can go through.


Applying for jobs is an emotional process, the highs of finding your perfect job, the nerves of clicking send on your application, the daily ups and downs you get with every ping of your inbox and the inevitable downward turn as you begin to realise weeks have gone by and you have heard nothing.


I believe that the weeks of not knowing, and, in most cases, never getting a reply can severely impact people’s mental health.


Applying for a job in today’s climate turns an experience that is already turbulent into a sure-fire way to affect your mental health. As a nation many of us have been asked to retrain which makes the already unpleasant job application process demoralising and degrading too. Even those applying for their dream jobs can experience negative mental health effects due to the unthinking recruitment processes of most companies.


I am currently retraining. I am currently applying for jobs. And you know what, I am currently experiencing negative effects on my mental health because of it. Luckily, I’m a trained meditation teacher so have the tools to deal with it, but not everyone does. And that is why I believe this is a serious problem. Without serious system change there will be a further deterioration of the mental health of this nation.


To prevent this the recruitment and HR services in companies needs overhauling.


I’m not going to beat around the bush; there are fundamental flaws in the way the job application process is managed. When did we forget that the CVs and cover letters are not just assigned to numbers but are from real, live human beings? People have poured over these pages for hours, desperate for their dream job or maybe just desperate for any job that will help them pay the bills. No-one applies for a job that they don’t want or need, even if we say ‘it’s just to get the experience’. We say this so that when we don’t hear anything after the 6-week allotted period we don’t feel completely awful…oh wait, we probably do feel completely awful. Every new email, every new notification is a glimmer of hope, likely to only be crushed again realising it’s just another sales email.


So, my question is, why are we treating people like data?


Many companies are starting to look at improving their employees’ mental health in a bid to improve performance. Well why does it stop with your employees? What about prospective employees, are they not still human beings? Is it really that hard to send an email letting people know about the outcome? Seriously, there is this fantastic thing called technology that I’m pretty sure would send a general ‘thank you for your application but we haven’t picked you this time’. In fact, a few companies do send one of those emails, and to each of those companies, thank you.


That one simple computer-generated email could save weeks of mental strife, and in turn could save lives and NHS money. No this is not an exaggeration. The mental ups and downs of the job application process are horrific enough at the best of times, add in the fact that many people are being asked to apply for jobs that aren’t their passion and well in my opinion I can’t see a way that that isn’t going to cause an increase in mental health issues and potentially even suicide. Yes, that is extreme, but I think the time has come to be extreme. The time has come for companies to take responsibly for their actions. Recruitment processes should be created, and recruiters should be trained, with mental health in mind. We know that mental health issues are already far more prevalent than they should be, and we can have as many awareness days as we like, but until we call for action to be taken, the mental health of the nation is at risk.


So, this is my open letter to recruiters, human resource teams, employees, companies and corporations. Are you okay with the way you treat your potential recruits? Or is there room for a little more kindness? Should you have a little more respect for the people behind those numbers and treat them like the humans they are?

© Copyright Naomi Chavasse

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