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Career Advice

Clearview Counterpoint: Is Corporate Recruiting Broken? Career & HR Experts Debate

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

October 22, 2009

Moderator: Liz Ryan

Here’s the issue:  Observers of the current organizational recruiting-and-selection process, in place at most employers, have noted that it's a contender for the dubious 'least functional corporate process' award.

While Six Sigma and LEAN principles are in place in large and small organizations, governing processes from new-product design to the ordering of paper clips, the recruiting function too often sits in a slow, bureaucratic, talent-unfriendly realm of its own. A few of the symptoms include:

1. Candidates wait for weeks to hear from employers after what seemed like promising job interviews.


2. Candidates are treated like third-class citizens during the selection process as they go through the tedious and even insulting screening steps, also known as the Seven Trials of Hercules routine. ("Here's our online personality test key, and when that's done, we've got an honesty test, a writing test and a little math test for you to take...").

3. Employers ask candidates to trust in them (that the company will stay in business, that the managers are ethical) but show less and less trust in candidates ("We'll be needing W-2s for the last five years of employment ... ")

4. More and more selection processes are 'front-loaded' ("Before an interview, we'll need three references, a credit check, and a ten-page business plan that you'll write for us...")

We asked the Clearview Bloggers panel:

What's your take on this issue:

Is corporate recruiting broken?  If so, how would you fix it?

Here’s what they said:

John Sumser:

Wouldn’t it be great if you could walk up to a potential boyfriend, propose marriage and get an immediate answer? It would be fantastic if you could decide you wanted a new house and then immediately go and buy it. Adoption would be vastly improved if you could see a child on the streets and take her home with you.


Changes in demographics, technology and management create unforeseen opportunities to supplement and improve the process of finding and filling jobs. It is easy to confuse the fact that the process can be improved with the notion that it should be improved. Virtually all of the people who argue that recruiting is defective just happen to have something to sell that improves the process.

Today, employers have amazing levels of instant access to information about every size and stripe of potential employee. Those same potential employees find a wealth of opportunity and information on their desktops. Far from being broken, the hiring process offers plenty of choice for both sides of the equation.

Hank Stringer:

Broken and busted…

The systems that support corporate recruiting, primarily sourcing and applicant tracking systems are not designed to support efficient recruiting. The sourcing solutions today post positions that are aggregated, scraped and spread all over resulting in a talent flow of qualified and unqualified talent that cannot be dealt with effectively.  Ask any candidate who has submitted their resume to a corporate site if they expect to hear ‘anything’…you know the drill, submit, wait, hear nothing. The sourced flow is stored in the ATS – a system built primarily for compliance not for a gracious recruiting relationship. The corporate recruiting department won’t respond – they don’t expect to because they can’t.

The problem is serious and requires new approaches to the way we source, filter, assess and recruit/deliver talent. And I mean new approaches, new technology focused on solving the problem supported by businesses models with the same goal. Increased advertising dollars based on page views and clicks is not the sourcing goal – connecting the right talent with the right opportunity is. And forcing corporate recruiting departments to use technology to comply first VS attracting and hiring the best talent at all costs continues to be the focus of too many HR Departments.

Some companies get it right, they invest and use whatever resources (internal and external) are necessary to work talent through the process efficiently and they reap financial benefits of attracting and retaining better talent than the competition. The truth however is that most don’t. Broken….but a great opportunity to get it right – quality talent will appreciate the companies that get corporate recruiting right.

Jeff Hunter:

As the sole member of the Clearview team with direct responsibility for a corporate recruiting department I feel that I should rise to the defense of my chosen profession. After all, every day I get the privilege of seeing great people working hard to find and hire people. Recruiters usually get into recruiting because their heart is in the right place: helping people find work is a good thing to do. But when I read the list of indictments, I had to agree that we have a long way to go.

Corporate recruiting is broken. This is how we can fix it:

Let's start by asking ourselves the simplest question: how does the corporate recruiting department think of itself? Most companies treat their recruiting departments like an extension of their purchasing departments. Purchasing departments exist to make multiple vendors bid against each other to ensure that the company gets the best price. When you think about it that is how recruiting usually acts: treating candidates like vendors bidding against each other so that the company can get the lowest price. I think this is at the root of our problem. I propose a different way of thinking about corporate recruiting: A recruiting department should be just as strategic as sales: no customers, no company... no talent, no company.

Let’s keep asking ourselves tough questions: what does a sales department do that a purchasing department doesn't? Cultivate relationships, even when the buyer isn't interested. A company brings out new products and they want to know which prospects may be interested in buying. Sales needs to keep every prospect warm for just such an occurrence. Similarly, a recruiting department gets a new opening and needs to know which candidates may be interested in applying.

Purchasing departments wait until they have a need and then let the vendors come to them. Sales departments get as much information as possible so that they are ready when a new opportunity presents itself. Recruiting needs to be like sales.

Next question: how does a sales department treat is prospects? Like gold. No prospects, no sales. No sales, no company. How does a purchasing department treat its vendors? Like cattle - all pushing to get to the trough. No cattle, no big deal - more will be on the way. There are always more cattle. Recruiting needs to treat candidates like gold. No candidates, no talent. No talent, no company.

Rusty Rueff:

It’s hard to say that something is broken that was never built correctly in the first place, so I guess, yes corporate recruiting is broken.

My reasoning on why it is broken, and always has been, is that the process that has been built in most corporations does not align with the way real-life relationships are built.  When was the last time that we acquired a new personal friend by having someone else sit down and write a friend specification, distribute that friend wanted request through a bunch of other people and sources that we have never heard of, then have people apply and use a sorting process or technology to cull through the applications, then have someone that we don’t even know well, sit with these applicants and determine whether or not we will like our new friends?  Nope, we don’t acquire any relationship in our life this way other than those who are going to spend 40-80 hours a week with us on the job. BTW, that’s way more time a week than we spend with our friends and maybe even more waking time than we spend with our family.

Hank and I write in our book, Talent Force, about why we believe that corporate recruiting is broken and that is because of a foundational philosophical problem. That problem being, that most corporations have what we call an “arrogance of supply.”  This is a silly notion that there is always more than enough great talent out there and it causes much of these further sillier process barriers and hurdles that companies put on prospective talent.

I was talking to a person the other day who turned down a job at Facebook because after, in his words, he “endured the five hours of grilling” he didn’t know any more about where Facebook was going than he did before he interviewed with them.  So, he turned down the job.  No one took the time in those five hours to answer his questions about the company’s future or business model.  So, he punted the offer back when it came his way.  He felt he was treated like they believed they were giving him a gift of working at Facebook.  I suspect there is an arrogance of supply at Facebook.

Liz Ryan:

I think that corporate recruiting is broken, and maybe, as Rusty points out, it was never built correctly in the first place. When I think of my own experiences filling jobs in my department, what strikes me is the realization that at some point in every successful selection process the person sitting in front of me could do the job. I believed in him, or her. That belief didn’t arise because of a weighted list of essential requirements for the job, or some point-factor analysis that convinced me Candidate A was stronger than Candidate B. Belief comes from a different place – a terribly important, valid place, let me be quick to say. In each interview round, I talked to six or seven people, and one of them jumped out at me as the person for the job – or sometimes, sadly, two of them did, and in those cases I’d have a hard choice to make.

The corporate recruiting process breaks down job requirements into teeny, discrete parts that somehow don’t add up to a whole. The recruiting process demands that candidates crawl over broken glass to get an interview, or, more likely, wait forever for a friendly note, even a No-Thank-You note, that never arrives. Worst of all, it treats complex and worthy human beings like commodities. That’s unethical.

The only people I know who don’t find the standard recruiting process to be badly broken are the people whose jobs are made easier by its rigor and process: namely, corporate recruiters. Third-party headhunters denounce it. Candidates decry it. Hiring managers write to me every day to tell me how the recruiting process in their shops slows down their ability to hire great people.

I’d like to scrap the job-requisition/essential-requirements/online-job-ad process and start again, building a process that addresses the real need: something in a hiring manager’s domain that isn’t working. If we could start there instead of with the endless list of Essential and Preferred, nitpicky requirements, we’d be way ahead of where we are now.

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We'd love to hear from those who have experience recruiting, being recruited and those who continue their job hunt. What do you think?

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