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Career Advice

It’s Not You: Recruiting Is Broken!

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

December 23, 2009

It's hard to tell which is more painful: the traditional Radio Silence treatment that job-seekers get from employers, or the terse, unfriendly email message containing some variation on the sentiment "Your background does not meet our needs, but feel free to apply again. (Or drop dead - either way.)"

Corporations spend millions of dollars on branding campaigns designed to endear them to consumers and business buyers. So why do they post a job ad, receive hundreds or thousands of resumes, and then actively ignore and even insult the vast majority of those respondents? They do this every day. You begin to wonder: do the Marketing chiefs at these companies, and their peers in HR, believe that people who apply for jobs don't  buy products and services, or have friends and family members who do? It's incomprehensible, but it's clear: the recruiting function is broken, in all but a very few hiring organizations.

Why do CEOs allow HR people to trash their brands in the talent community? Maybe CEOs don't understand that it's a viral world, or that smart employees have plenty of choices when choosing where to work. Maybe they don't care. Maybe they've decided that it's the most docile and uncomplaining job-seekers, versus the smartest and most creative ones, who'll be most welcome in their companies. Either way, it's helpful for job-seekers to remember this: It's Not You --  the recruiting process is dysfunctional.

Why is the typical recruiting process so cold and so insulting? I believe it's because these processes are designed to screen people out, not to bring them into the fold. Corporate recruiting systems rest on the premise that there are, and will always be, far more qualified candidates than the employer can possibly interview, so the folks who don't like the ever-raising bar, the invasions of privacy and the overall rudeness of the system can go jump in a lake.


When I was starting out as a corporate HR person, we were taught that the addition of staff members to a team is a two-step process. First comes Recruiting, and then comes Selection. In many employers, the department and/or the function are still called Recruiting and Selection. Recruiting is the early part of the process, where the company posts ads and gets the job-opening word out in other ways. Selection is the later part of the process, where the candidates are winnowed down to a small number and eventually to one lucky new hire. The whole Recruiting and Selection framework is based on the notion that people are simply dying to work for your company, and will crawl over broken glass to have the chance to interview in your shop. Little time and energy, if any, are spent figuring out how to sell candidates on the job opportunities available, or how to keep candidates feeling respected and listened-to during the process. Who needs to waste cycles on candidate TLC, when so many people are job-hunting?

Here's who needs to: every company that cares about the quality of the people it hires. Ditto for every employer brave enough to make its lofty mission statement something more substantial than a framed plaque in the lobby. If employees are our greatest asset, we can make that plain in the way we bring people into the firm. If 'employees are our greatest asset' is an empty platitude, we can make that obvious, too. Large corporations do it every day.

One job-seeker sent me an email containing two links, and caused me to snort coffee out my nose laughing. The two links led me to two very different pages on the website of a local bank. One page, designed for customers, talked at length about the bank's hometown culture and its attention to every account holder, from little Tommy with his piggy bank to dear Mrs. Whittington and her church choir fund. The other link led me to the landing page for job-seekers applying to work at the bank. Different story! In brusque, governmental gobbledygook, the good people of the bank let job-seekers know in no uncertain terms what their time as a candidate was going to be like. "Applications whitch (sic) are incomplete in any way will be rejected. Candidates scheduled for interviews who arrive late by one minute will not be considered. Failure to provide [blah, blah, blah] is reason for immediate termination of the interview process." Hey -- you have a great morning, too! Who wants to work for people who would begin a relationship that way? The juxtaposition of the "we're just folks" marketing message and the we-hate-you job-seeker message was a priceless reminder that marketing talk is cheap. Actions are loud, and their impact lasts longer, too.

Recruiting is broken, so take heart: it's not you that is flawed, or unworthy, or deficient somehow. You are fine. You will find a good job, and if it's not a job in one of these talent-repelling Black Hole salt mines, all the better. I don't want you to work in a place like that, anyway. The next time you receive a terse, bureaucratic 'get lost' message from a prospective employer, don't think "Oh, too bad; I didn't get the job." Be happy - you dodged a bullet! Organizations that treat job candidates like cattle don't deserve you, anyway.


Find out what other Clearview Collection bloggers (a team of career and workplace experts) have to say about the state of corporate recruiting today.