Lessons To Take Away From The Secretary Job Advert Disaster

Recruitment firm ICS faced a massive backlash recently after advertising a job role with a raunchy image of a woman bent over in a short skirt. The advert was posted on social media and included the caption ‘Secretary required in Mayfair. Stockings optional! £35K. Ready to assume the position?’

Unsurprisingly, the firm was inundated by messages from angry Twitter users. ICS tried to defend its position saying that it was simply a reference to the 2002 erotic movie Secretary, about a sexually submissive office worker, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal. By then though, the damage was done. It would have been hugely inappropriate at any time, but coming in the same week as International Women’s Day, the decision to run the advert was in exceptionally bad taste.

In every recruiting blunder though, there are some important lessons that you can take away to ensure you’re avoiding similar disasters. Here’s what you can learn from ICS.

Mistakes are inevitable. It’s how you handle them

Business owners, HR professionals, and recruiters, are only human. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll have a successful career without making your fair share of mistakes along the way. What’s most important here is how you deal with the situation when things do go wrong. Part of the reason why there was an uproar about the job advertisement in question was the firm’s reluctance to admit their error and put it right. Though hundreds of men and women expressed their shock at the advert, a member of staff simply replied that the advert had the ‘desired result’. It was eventually removed, though by this point, the damage had been done.

If you do find yourself in the middle of a similar disaster, make sure that you take a different approach. Be humble, apologise for any offence that you caused, and do what you can to put it right ASAP.

What you put online has long-lasting consequences for your business

Like most people, you might not have even heard of ICS before this incident. Now, if you search for the firm via Google, you’ll be inundated with stories about this incident. It’s not likely to do the company any favours in terms of attracting and retaining the right clients and candidates.

Keep in mind that what you publish online when you’re running your recruitment exercises is just as important as any other documentation. It has the potential to be spread far and wide in a very short period of time, and you should never underestimate the power of the web. Make sure that all your adverts and materials are very carefully assessed before they’re released, and it makes good sense to have a checking procedure in place. Never assign the task of creating and publishing job adverts to a new member of staff without ensuring they’re fully trained, and consider running such materials by an Employment lawyer, an HR professional or a reputable recruitment professional before putting them out into the world via the internet.

Always think about the legal ramifications

There seems to be a tendency to think that what we do online is somehow not as strictly governed by the law. This isn’t the case. It’s illegal under the Equality Act to advertise for a particular gender for a role (with some very clear exceptions that do not apply to this job). It’s not hard to see how the secretary advert implies that only women should apply. If a potential candidate did decide to take legal action, the hiring firm, as well as the recruitment agency, would be liable.

If you do decide to outsource your recruitment, make sure you’re carefully vetting your options so you know your business won’t be brought into disrepute. On the other hand, if you prefer to take care of these matters in house, it could be worthwhile to seek out some advice regarding employment law, so you know you’ve got your bases covered.

As more and more firms turn to social recruiting to find their next talent, it’s unfortunately unlikely that this will be the last blunder we see. Take the time to absorb these lessons, and make sure you get things right.

To make sure you don’t make any mistakes in your recruitment processes, please give me a call for a no obligation chat.

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