We Should Be Ashamed

Oct 1, 2009
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

Picture 4Top-notch job candidates are tired of the recruiting mess we have created in the U.S. I would guess that well over half of all recruiting functions are dysfunctional. By that I mean they have no standard process for dealing with candidates, treat some candidates much differently than others, respond sporadically to requests and phone calls, fail to follow through on verbal commitments to candidates, and let themselves be constantly swayed by hiring managers who are unaware of the talent market.

I say this because I have recently talked to a dozen or more people who I know personally and have worked with over the years. I can vouch for their skill, professional abilities, and reputation. While they may not be a good fit for the particular job they were seeking, they were worthy of respect and of receiving a consistent and predictable response.

One particular friend of mine recently decided to switch jobs. He was not laid off and was not unhappy. He just felt the longer-term opportunity was better in a different place. Being a educated candidate, and with some advice from me and others, he laid out a plan. He started by asking friends about opportunities and also by choosing a few specific firms he might like to work at and finding LinkedIn friends who worked in those firms. The net result was referrals to a possible four or five potential jobs.

He then decided to check out the corporate websites of these few companies to see if the positions were listed. His first shock was at the poor quality of these sites. Most of them lacked good general information and offered nothing specific about the kind of work he was interested in. Only one of the sites listed the position he knew was open, offered little information about the position except the usual boilerplate, and then asked him to go through a tedious process of uploading a resume. None of them really learned anything about him or his referral. No questions, no interactivity, nothing. He didn’t know what they really wanted to know about him, and they certainly weren’t providing him much that was useful.

At this point he was already a frustrated potential candidate. While in no hurry to change jobs, he was the borderline passive candidate: sort of looking, interested, easy to recruit to the right situation, and totally unknown. He is also very competent and talented.

He had also given his resume to his friends to submit to the recruiting function and had even helped a friend upload his data into an employee referral site. Yet, after several weeks he had heard nothing at all of meaning. No email, no phone call. He tried to call several times only to receive a voice mail saying they would call back, but no one ever did. He kept checking with his friends and all the positions are still open more than six weeks later.

What is going on?

Here are my thoughts:

Possibility #1: The position is not really open and the recruiting department is just collecting resumes to find out who is out there.

This has a high likelihood of being the case, but is borderline unethical and certainly does nothing to build the brand or create goodwill among people that you might someday really want to hire.

There are much better ways of finding these people.

Possibility #2: My friend does not have the qualifications that the hiring manager is looking for.

Even if this is the case, he should get the courtesy of an email or phone call letting him know that. On the other hand, if the job description is even close to accurate, he meets and exceeds most of the criteria. He is also referred by a current employee and that should, according to all that we write about on ERE, make him a higher quality candidate than an un-referred one. This also makes not getting back to him worse, and it embarrasses the employee.

Possibility #3: The position has been filed and just not taken off the website.

Highly unlikely as he has checked with his internal friends who have told him it is still open and that the hiring manager is frustrated with the lack of good candidates.

Possibility #4: The recruiting department is inefficient and lacks good processes and discipline in dealing with candidate flow.

This is the most likely one in my mind and needs to be addressed quickly and firmly. Once this recession has ended (and for high-end jobs it was never really that bad), these poorly treated potential candidates will be hesitant to try you again.

There is really no excuse for not dealing with candidates in a systematic manner. No matter how many apply, your systems should be capable of dealing with the volume or you should remove the job posting until you can handle it. By letting more people apply than you can review and answer, you are creating an irreversible degradation in your reputation, brand, and future ability to hire the best people.

Needless to say as a foundation your department needs a set of protocols and procedures that every recruiter follows. These should lay out enforceable requirements for response time to candidates, how referral candidates are treated, what is communicated, and how shortfalls are explained to people who are declined.

Other procedures should govern how many resumes are received for a position before no more are accepted and how these are reviewed and presented to managers.

Websites need to be clear and should be interactive, interesting, and engaging. They should answer the questions candidates are likely to have with honesty. Your rules and response protocols should be publicly displayed.

Until we respond with the kind of service candidates are accustomed to from retailers and other service providers, we should be prepared for a backlash of anger and disappointment that has only grown louder over the past year.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
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