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Sep 12, 2022
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

Recruiting and fashion have more in common than you think. 

What is popular one day is gone the next, with trends popping up and flaming out faster than you can say “viral video.” At least with fashion, all that’s at risk is an unfortunate ensemble featuring cold-shoulder blouses. With recruiting, you’re impacting people’s livelihoods. 

It’s strange that recruiting seems particularly susceptible to the whims of “thought leadership.” Whether it’s CEOs sharing their “fail safe” techniques for hiring, recruiters divulging what should or should not be on a resume, or this collection of really bad advice, recruiting “best practices” (yes, there are air quotes) are constantly shifting. All of which makes it difficult for both recruiters and candidates to navigate the ever-changing landscape.

For example, take this mess of a process: The candidate had already completed two interviews and was asked to come back for a third round. She thought it was a panel interview, but no, it was three separate interviews at 90 minutes apiece. 

Her reaction to this request went viral. “It’s just crazy the hoops companies are making applicants jump through now,” she wrote. “This is insane.” Others also shared their experiences with inexplicable expectations. Recruiting and job seeking is hard enough as it is, let alone trying to jump through the right hoops in the right order. 

Is It 2007 Again?

That story triggers memories of what was happening back in the 2007-2008 recession. Companies found themselves seeking to fill fewer job openings and had their pick of a very large talent pool. This imbalance caused some employers to develop an over-inflated sense of importance, believing that any candidate would feel blessed to be hired by such a benevolent provider. 

That stance gave rise to all manner of ridiculous hiring practices: detailed technical questions, multiple rounds of 1:1 interviews asking the same questions over and over, even hours and hours of pre-hire assessments before a candidate would be considered for an interview. 

I’ve seen this approach in action, and I’ve seen the disparate impact it has on many candidates. When used correctly, assessments, multiple interviews, and other practices can help enhance the selection process. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to use these techniques incorrectly.

As the recession faded and companies started having to compete for candidates again, much of the excess in the recruiting process faded away — thankfully. The focus turned more toward streamlining the steps, as well as emphasizing the candidate experience. It’s as though paperbag waisted pants finally fell away and we all embraced a nice mid-rise fit. 

Recruiting was back on track. The “war for talent” reigned supreme, and any company that failed to put the candidate first was likely to struggle to fill roles. Pre-pandemic numbers bore this out, and many recruiting teams worked tirelessly to educate hiring managers about the finer points of making good hiring decisions and not wasting time on unnecessary steps.

Once the pandemic did hit, and roles were harder to come by, some organizations insisted on bringing back a complicated process, mimicking Amazon’s loop process or worse. We went back to bad fashion, and candidates were not pleased.

Fast-forward to today, where the Great Resignation (or whatever they’re calling it these days) continues to challenge companies to fill a high number of open job positions. One would think that companies would embrace efficiency and simplicity over flash and complication. Yet we still see stories of candidates being asked to jump through all manner of hoops, with some reporting a whopping 16 rounds of interviews

Fighting the Trends

Recruiters, don’t let this happen to your hiring process. Fight against the latest fashion trend and simply focus on the classics. Good job descriptions, requiring appropriate levels of experience for entry level positions, questioning the need for every position to require a degree. 

Remember that “best practices” don’t always mean the best for your business, and that benchmarks are averages, not requirements. Use data to make the best decisions for your recruiting process and avoid getting sucked into the glitz and glam of thought leadership. Build your process around a simple silhouette, supplementing with the appropriate accessories. 

As much as we might love a good bangle or a trendy boot, our approach to fashion shouldn’t be mirrored in our approach to recruiting. If you must keep an eye toward fashion, then embrace Coco Chanel’s advice to remove one accessory — or step in your process — before leaving the house. 

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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