Growing to a point where we need help, the time came for us to expand our team and we made provision for new team positions. A wide variety of vacancies, from live agent support roles, to middle management and the C-Suite.

As a South African, I thought it a good idea, to recruit in Cape Town. With good international Internet connection, and similar time zone to our offices in Europe. When global companies like Amazon and Google are investing in support centres and oceanic fibre cable connections to Cape Town, it seems like a good idea to surf in that wake.

More importantly, I know that South Africans are dedicated, team players with a good work ethic. Not to mention desperate, given the pandemic and economic meltdown in that country. It would be nice to help my homeland in some way or other, be it by way of employing locals. Enabling people with international income and career path.

Henceforth, we put the word out to 20+ job boards, that ZaGenie is looking to fill some vacancies. Mostly remote and paying in Pound Sterling. We do not discriminate financially, just because potential candidates live in a country where the currency exchange rate, looks like a cricket score. We lobbed the tempting offers into the digital shade of Table Mountain. A fabulous array of well-paying global jobs, while still being able to bask in the warm African sun.

Within a matter of hours, the applications began pouring in, at the rate of about one every five minutes. A deluge of desperate employment seekers. With appealing cover letters and elaborate curriculum vitae, digitally dumped onto my desk. I was flabbergasted. Seemingly, we had just dropped a dozen jelly doughnuts, into a colony of hungry ants.

When the number of applicants surpassed 3000, it became clear that we would never be able to read all these résumés, let alone respond to everyone individually. Just reading some of the desperate cover letters, begging for the chance of a job, practically brought me to tears. Being the bad businessman that I am, emotions got the better of me. There had to be some innovative way of giving everyone a fair chance, to work their way onto our new team.

Instead of trying to thumb-suck good candidates out of the pool of 3000+ people deep, the idea was to let everyone complete an online worksheet. This was not the usual HR monkey puzzle, to fit round pegs into square holes, but a productive process. Candidates could set themselves up for success, and eventual employment, as the worksheet facilitated access to the 45 initiatives our company supports. To boot, they get free membership access to these 45 websites, to the value of £2700. Simply for taking the time to prove that they can complete online tasks, diligently and accurately. Actions speak louder than an illustrious CV, or character reference from a cousin. Our process was free and fair. “Show us your character”. With a clear conscience, I sent the worksheet invitation to all 3000+ hopefuls.


What could possibly go wrong?


ZaGenie Team - Job Candidates - Recruitment Kerfuffle


In a word, I was BLINDSIDED.

Bullshit – Some people simply did not believe us, calling BS.

Lying – A few outright called me a liar, all the jobs being faked.

Insincere – Meaning that my apparent empathy was not genuine.

Narcissist – A lack of empathy and exploiting those looking for work.

Disappointed – They will not get £2700 cash for doing the worksheet.

Scammer – Many said that it’s a scam, and we did not actually exist.

Infuriated – A few threatened to sue, feeling duped and mislead.

Devious – Others said it was a ruse to get more membership signups.

Evil – One gentleman actually said our application process was “pure evil”.

Deflated – When asked to do some work, the very thing they were looking for.


Why this unhappy response to a transparent, fair and positive process?

It can be attributed to a few factors. Firstly, some applicants did not READ the entire memo. They did not follow four simple steps to access the worksheet in question, and bypass the membership paywall. Hence, assuming (incorrectly) that we were asking them to PAY for our application progress. This inability to follow a few basic instructions, turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Would we want to employ someone, unable to understand simple tasks? Jumping to conclusions, and sending me abusive emails. Imagine them interacting with our clients!

Secondly, my job marketplace ignorance was a factor. Clearly, I had touched a few nerves. It seems the status quo for recruitment these days, is for the unemployed to apply for hundreds of jobs. Seldom hearing back from whence the job offer came. Considering the ease of applying online, understandably the large volumes may be hard to cope with, from the employers point of view. Classic supply and demand, with way more applicants than available jobs.

When old-school guys like myself come along, with manners to actually respond, I found myself in the frustration firing line. Methinks the younger generation do not know that the word ‘correspondence’ means two-way, polite communication. That’s what I was taught to do, and got shot down in flames. C’est la Internet vie. TL;DR. WTF.


What was the outcome of this recruitment kerfuffle?


ZaGenie Recruitment Kerfuffle - Every dark cloud has a silver lining.

Just like a wild and wonderful African storm, the bush benefits and life goes on, better than before. Our unique and tempestuous recruitment campaign went much the same way. It kicked up quite a storm. We hailed, it rained, and hailed. Out of 3000+ applications, about 1000 took to the challenge of the worksheet. Only THIRTY FIVE persevered.  That’s just 1% of the total. Minimal indeed, but we ended up with the cream of the crop. A good fit for our team.

If we had gone the traditional route of trying to manually weed out the best candidates from 3000+ self-glorious résumés, the result would not have been the same. When I spoke personally to the successful candidates, at the END of our unorthodox application process, I knew it’s the BEGINNING of a rewarding professional relationship.


My conclusion of the state of recruitment?

Far be it for me to pass comment on an industry I am not familiar with, I can however offer some feedback, as an employer. The current ways of recruiting, suck. Candidates are treated like nightclub patrons. Advertise the venue, get a (long)ing queue, and then only cherry pick the lucky ones. Lifting the door rope, based on CV looks, not merit.


We should treat all candidates with respect. Reply to each and every application, even if automated. Consider that people put proud effort into their application, laced with hope. Be the answer Yay or Nay, the candidate needs to know. While not every candidate can be employed, every candidate has the right to know. It’s the least you can do.


You reap what you sow. Send out a half-hearted application, put no pride in the presentation, and you will remain in jobless damnation. Buck up, cheer up and remember the old Japanese mantra – “Fall down seven, get up eight!”. Keep firing your candidate canon, and sooner or later you will explode onto the stage of the gainfully employed.


I declare our recruitment campaign a success. ZaGenie Team will be made up of positive, proactive people who took matters into their own hands. Persevering through a worksheet that showed their character.

They know how to work. Job done!


Since the publication of this post, we have yet another deluge of hopeful applications. Ironically, some are the very same people, who shunned the first chance at completing the online worksheet. Fortunately the door is still open. We still have vacancies. Have a look at the ZaGenie Team matrix here >>


Herby Olschewski

Herby Olschewski

Been there, done that… doing it all over again!

A product of South Africa, vintage 1963. Internaut since 1982. Roaming the world from the age of 23 to date, learning. Jack of all trades, master of none. Technology nerd & pilot. Digital Nomad. Free to travel~live~work, anywhere.


This author can be found on the web @


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