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Listen Up, Employers: Candidates Are Tired Of Being Treated Like Dirt

By Liz Ryan | April 19, 2018

Dear Liz,

There is a job opening in my department.

I told my friend "Ellen" about the opportunity and she was interested in applying. I took her resume to HR and told them how smart and creative Ellen is. I showed the HR person Ellen's LinkedIn profile. She said, "I'll follow up."

Nothing happened. I went to my manager and told him that if he wants to meet Ellen, he should just call her instead of waiting for HR to contact her. My manager "Ben" texted Ellen then and there.

Ben and Ellen had coffee a few days later. Ben told me, "Ellen is amazing. I want to hire her." Ben went to HR. He asked them to fast-track Ellen's recruiting process because he wanted to hire her.

HR said they would expedite Ellen's process but a week later, Ellen hadn't heard from them.

Ben reached out to a contract agency we work with. They hired Ellen as a contractor and now she's working in our department. The only thing is, she doesn't get any benefits.

Meanwhile HR says they will contact Ellen next week to start her "official" recruiting process. Ben and Ellen had coffee five weeks ago!

The HR person I first worked with told me, "Ben really complicated things by bringing Ellen in as a contractor. Now we'll have to pay a fee to the contract agency if we hire Ellen as a full-time employee. Ben cost our company a lot of money."

I said, "Are you kidding? Let's be honest. HR cost our company a lot of money when you sat on Ellen's resume after I told you she was perfect for the job. Ben did the businesslike thing. You guys didn't. You didn't even explain or apologize."

Ben sat down with our VP of HR. He said, "I don't want to make trouble or to bust anybody but our company's recruiting process is broken. I almost lost a great candidate because we couldn't move fast enough. We don't tolerate weeks of delays when we're trying to land a customer. Why would we tolerate weeks of delays when we're trying to land a great new hire?"

Ben said the HR VP told him, "Candidates are not customers. We need customers, but candidates need us."

Ben said, "That attitude will kill our company."

Now Ben and the HR VP are going to meet with the CEO. It's a huge deal in our company. The dam is bursting. Everybody was afraid to complain about our broken recruiting process but now they're speaking up. It had to happen. Our company has treated job applicants like dirt since forever. I got treated like dirt when I applied to work here five years ago.

Thanks for your influence, Liz! I feel very proud to have helped my friend and my manager, and the company too of course. Things have to change. There are 32 job openings currently listed on my company's website and I know we could have filled those jobs weeks ago if we could just see applicants as important people, like our customers.

Yours,

Ramona

man unhappy at work
Shutterstock

Dear Ramona,

The business world is changing fast. HR is one of the slowest departments to get the memo. They don't understand that if a company can't get recruiting right, they won't succeed. Customers are not more important than candidates.

Recruiting is a sales and marketing job. Misguided HR people (and sometimes department managers, too) think recruiting is all about weeding people out. They are mistaken. Recruiting is all about inviting people in!

I'm glad your CEO is getting involved. Hats off to you for helping Ben and Ellen find a way around the bureaucracy and hats off to Ben for escalating the issue with your company's broken recruiting process.

Here are some of the biggest problems in recruiting, and recommendations for fixing them:

  1. Job ads are ridiculous. They list endless "Essential Requirements" that few if any living people possess. To fix job ads, HR people who know the talent market should make sure that job ads are realistic and that the jobs they're hiring for pay the right amount. No job ad should ever be published unless it's based in reality. Every job ad should have a salary range in it.

    Job ads are written as though their principal aim is to keep people from applying (in case they're not perfectly qualified)! Anybody who posts a job ad that refers to The Selected Candidate -- addressing prospective candidates in the third person as if to signal to them "The selected candidate couldn't possibly be you!" should not be writing job ads.
  2. The way we "invite" candidates into the hiring process is repulsive. We make them fill out online job applications loaded up with warnings about leaving any field blank or misrepresenting any tiny detail. In short, we treat job applicants like criminals. Your application process is a window to your corporate soul. To fix this enormous problem, we need to move away from Applicant Tracking Systems as a screening tool, and evaluate resumes and LinkedIn profiles instead.
  3. The way we treat candidates in the pipeline is disgraceful. Fearful HR leaders hide behind pointless and insulting pre-employment tests and questionnaires instead of reaching out and engaging with real people who could help the company thrive.

    To fix the candidate-neglect-in-the-pipeline problem, every company needs to examine its recruiting process from the candidate's point of view. There are unexplained and unacceptable gaps, delays and talent-repelling steps in nearly every corporate and institutional hiring pipeline. Find and eliminate the roadblocks in yours!
  4. The way we communicate with candidates during their recruiting process is horrible. We would never treat a customer, vendor or friend of the company as badly as we treat candidates every day. We make them wait weeks between communications. We send them terse email messages with new instructions to follow and no encouragement that their efforts will be worthwhile.

    To fix this problem, we need to examine our candidate communications and stop assuming that talented people will wait forever while we slog through the thousands of bureaucratic steps in our outdated recruiting systems.

    Recruiting is easily the most broken corporate practice (with performance review a close second). It is shameful how badly most medium-sized and large employers treat the talented people who apply for jobs with them. If managers don't get the message, their competitors will leave them in the dust.

    It's time for employers to wake up and smell the new-millennium talent market coffee. Unemployment is down. Talented candidates won't tolerate being treated like dirt anymore. Can we blame them?

All the best,

Liz

 

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