Career Advice

Recruiter/HR Advice: How to Avoid the Arrogance of Supply

“Arrogance of Supply.” This is a phrase I coined back in the early 1990’s when I was leading a staffing team that received thousands of resumes a week, and my team was horrendous at responding and processing those resumes. I told my team that we had an “arrogance of supply” in how we treated our candidate pool.

This was during a time when every resume came in a paper envelope with a cover letter attached and a human being opened each and every one of those letters, read them, and then processed them to the correct recruiter who would then respond either positively or negatively. (Yes, this was when we walked to work both ways in the snow bare foot!) The supply of candidates and resumes back then was so high that my staffing admin, God love her, had back problems from carrying the bags of resumes home each night to open. This was even before bags with wheels.

In a recent San Francisco Chronicle article, HR Managers were complaining about having to sift through the huge amounts of incoming resumes (which are now delivered electronically thank you very much and probably already screened through a keyword search program…no breaking backs there) and determining what to do with all of these people. A former boss used to say to me in times like this, “are you bragging or complaining?” If you are complaining about this problem then you have contracted an “arrogance of supply.”

Here are a few tips and antidotes to HR/recruiting professionals to correct this condition:

  • A change of heart is in order – Start by realizing that every resume coming in your inbox is someone who is interested in you and wants to be of your team. Be flattered that so many people find your company desirable. If this was and you were an eligible dating candidate, wouldn’t you be ecstatic to receive so much interest? Start bragging about all the interest and the complaining will go away.
  • A simple and honest “thank you” will suffice – As soon as a resume is received, an automated, honest response should immediately feed back to the job seeker. This action provides two benefits: each job seeker will get insight into the interview process, and it can also help build a positive reputation as job seekers will feel they have been recognized. I suggest a transparent response message like this: “Thank you so much for your interest in working at (our Company). Each time we receive a resume, such as yours, we are humbled and consider ourselves fortunate to be a company that attracts such talent and interest. It is a busy time for us right now as we continue to find ways to grow in this economy and in all honesty, we are trying to keep up with limited resources and people. If you don’t hear back from us soon, it is not because we don’t think you are important, it’s just because there are only so many of us trying to do the best we can in these unprecedented times. Again, thank you for your interest, and we will follow up with you soon.”
  • Do the math – If you know your sourcing and hiring ratios well enough you know approximately how many resumes you have to review so that you can run your process which narrows down the job candidate pool enough to ultimately find that ‘right’ person for the job. So, do the math and figure out if, because of the history and experience, you have to review 200 or 2,000 resumes to find that person. By taking a more calculated approach to reviewing resumes, you will feel better knowing that having more than enough resumes to choose from is a great problem when it comes to finding the best employee for the job.
  • Hire a closer – No, not a closer like Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees. No, not a closer to convince someone to take the job. But rather, a closer who works each day with the metric of ensuring that every person who ever applies to your company gets a final response to his/her candidacy. This is a valuable company resource and as every marketing or PR person knows, every candidate is a customer and every candidate a potential ambassador for the company, whether good or bad. If you have a closer on your team (and yes, I know, times are tight and resources must be justified, but this is important) you’ll know that each job seeker, no matter the outcome, will have a positive impression of the company. But most of all, a successful closer will stop you from ever being accused of having an arrogance of supply and you may start to really be proud of that talent flow, not complaining about it.