Falling Down on Our Job

May 22, 2009
This article is part of a series called Opinion.

I was talking to a friend of mine who is a senior manager/director-level IT professional who was recently laid off. He was moaning about poorly written job descriptions, and what he was telling me bothered me. A lot.

There was the “CIO” position calling for a high school diploma and two to three years of experience. He actually emailed the company and found out it was a startup with fewer than six employees. They were really looking for a network admin and thought a flashy title would attract someone entrepreneurial. OK, this is obviously an amateurish company that has no clue how to write a job description to save their lives.

But what about the global telecom company that was looking for a software manager who had a requirement of “5-7 years experience using .NET 2.0 or above.” In Seattle, I can tell you exactly when .NET became “the platform.” In 2004. My friend spoke to the recruiter, and she told him that he didn’t have enough .NET 3.0 experience; the hiring manager wanted someone with at least five years of experience with .NET 3.0. But 3.0 has only been around for three years or so. We are only on version 3.5 now. My friend tried to explain that to the recruiter, but she obviously had no understanding of the technology she was recruiting for.

As a recruiter, I have friends and colleagues constantly asking me “why do companies do this?”

It ranges from the whole lack of follow-through when it comes to the candidate experience to hyping job descriptions way out of proportion (sheer hypocrisy, IMHO, when we complain about exaggerated resumes!) How many times can I say to my professional network that hiring managers generally write job descriptions, and unless a recruiter is really knowledgeable about the industry and the job, s/he has no idea why two “requirements” may be mutually exclusive, or that sometimes a company will use a generic description to build a pipeline, or that perhaps the organization has an internal candidate lined up but for legal reasons has to post the job externally? It’s getting really old, really fast.

And in my own search for a position in the last several months I am appalled at the lack of what I see as “professional courtesy.” If I have a phone screen or in-person interviews with a member of an organization for a recruiting position, and you don’t give me the courtesy of answering my email or phone call a week later to follow up on my candidacy, why on earth would I consider working for you? Obviously you don’t value the candidate experience.

Yes, we are swamped with resumes and our sourcing may be falling by the wayside. Yes, our hiring managers are being incredibly slow to respond to us and candidates are getting desperate. Yes, we may even be concerned about riding out this economy. But many of the pains the candidates are feeling are not new, they are not unique, and as a profession we are giving ourselves a bad reputation, worse than even it was before. My own rule of thumb is that if a candidate has spoken with anyone from my organization (phone screen, for example) they deserve a politely worded email or phone call to let them know they are no longer a candidate for the position.

If organizations are laying off their seasoned recruiters in an effort to save money, they are doing themselves a huge injustice when job descriptions and situations like the ones outlined above become more commonplace than not. Recruiters should be some of the most valuable gatekeepers any organization — be it corporate, non-profit, or agency environments — has in their arsenal. And part of that gatekeeping responsibility lies with the recruiter to push back on badly written job descriptions. It goes to the “account management” portion of our profession. We are the experts at what we do, and our hiring managers should respect that knowledge and work in partnership with us.

This article is part of a series called Opinion.
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