In the February 6, 2018 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a manager who complains about irresponsible job applicants gets a lesson on the recruiting problem employers create.


I am a manager looking for reasons why candidates that apply for my jobs either:

  1. Don’t respond when I reach out to schedule an interview, or
  2. Don’t show up for an interview.

You often write about how irresponsibly employers, HR and recruiters behave toward job applicants. [See
How HR optimizes rejection of millions of job applicants.] I don’t disagree, but it appears that there’s some fishiness happening on both sides of this. Why do you think candidates don’t respond and don’t show up? Aren’t they just hurting themselves?

Nick’s Reply

I agree with you. Candidates hurt themselves when they apply to jobs or when you reach out to them, but then fail to follow up or show up. But often they’re not hurting themselves for the reasons you think.

Their real mistake is applying for jobs they don’t really want or care about. The people who are ignoring you have responded to cattle-call recruiting, and I’m afraid that’s on you — and on all employers that rely on it.

The problem with recruiting via job boards

The way the employment system works encourages people to apply for virtually any job that pops up in front of them. That’s the behavior you’re encouraging when you — as an employer — post your jobs on huge job boards where anyone and everyone can easily click and gamble. The system encourages people to apply to all the jobs they can. That’s how job boards like CareerBuilder, LinkedIn, ZipRecruiter, Indeed and others make money.

Then recruiters and employers waste job seekers’ time with demands for resumes, more application forms, online video interviews by robots, silly phone and e-mail screenings, and instructions to “wait until we get back to you.” (See this oldie-but-goodie NewsHour article: Is Applying for Jobs Online Not an Effective Way to Find Work?)

Is it any wonder the job applicants you’re puzzled about get fed up? The system dulls their motivation because it conditions them to a 99.9% failure rate. And if the job you’re contacting them about is a marginal one anyway — one they just clicked on for the heck of it — then if they’ve got a really interesting opportunity cooking, you’re just a bother.

How the system fails employers and job seekers

If you’re using job boards to solicit applicants, most of them are probably applying blindly, just because they saw the posting, not because it’s a job they really want. They apply to so many jobs this way that they just can’t keep up — or, by the time you get in touch, they’ve moved on. That’s why many are ignoring you. This is how the employment system fails you.

The problem is that when employers solicit so broadly from the pool of “everyone out there,” the rate of failure is virtually guaranteed to be huge.

Recruiting right requires work

My suggestion is, don’t solicit widely by using job boards. Figure out where the best potential candidates hang out. Carefully identify the people you’d really like to interview — and go look for them in those narrow hangouts. I think your hit rate will go up dramatically. Do the work to recruit right. (See Recruiting: How to get your hands dirty and hire.)

For example, if you’re recruiting programmers, go to a conference or training program where the kinds of specialized programmers you want congregate. This takes work, but of course it does. The automated method you’re using takes almost no work — and that’s why it doesn’t work.

I know that posting on job boards is what employers do. LinkedIn, Indeed, Zip make it seem so easy and they promise they will take care of everything. That’s nonsense. Please consider this: Job boards make money only when job seekers keep job hunting and when employers do not fill jobs. Everyone keeps spinning the roulette wheel. Only “the house” wins.

People who respond to cattle calls are not likely to be the people you want to hire. So please, employers — stop issuing cattle calls!

Do you ever ignore employers or blow off job interviews? Does the system dull your motivation? What can employers do better to hire the right people?

: :

  1. If I have applied to a job and I get contacted about an interview, then I definitely find a way to get there. I can always say “no” later (and I have). One behavior mystifies me, however. An employer will contact me, and even pay for me to visit from out of town. Then during the interview, the person I’m talking to starts getting angry about my lack of qualifications. Did that person not read my information? If I am that poor of a candidate, what am I doing there? Yes, I know about the “stress interview.” I kid you not, but I have had people get upset about qualifications I do have. For example, I became a licensed Professional Engineer (PE) for a few years (I dropped the license during a cross country move – I don’t need the license in my line of work). More than one potential employer had an interviewer who got angry with me and ask, “Why do you have a PE!?”

    One more thing while I’m on a rant: Don’t contact someone out of the blue about a job with your company unless you know you are REALLY interested in that person. I had a couple big name companies contact me recently (and I double checked – the people contacting me were employees of said companies) – and once I submitted my resume I never heard from them again. I am not looking for a job right now anyway. Even so, these companies have put another blemish on their brands by not even telling me that they were not interested.

    With such bad behavior, you can see why I am more often ignoring recruiters. So I have a new policy: I will search jobs through personal referrals only, and only on my terms when I am ready. No more responding to cold calling.

    • @Kevin: I think your new policy is wise. As for interviewers who get angry about your “lack of qualifications,” chalk that up to discontinuity in the recruiting process. One person has a job open (the manager), someone else writes the job posting (HR clerk), someone else screens applicants (another personnel jockey), then you wind up in an interview and the interviewer goes, “Huh??”

      Personal referrals are best. Falling into the keyword pit only to be mauled by personnel jockeys is no way to go!

    • I am an experienced portfolio manager who simply will not EVER apply for a position using a job board or apply on-line. US Army veteran 1968 – 1972. Top Secret security clearance. Background: Systems Analyst 1968-1974, Investment professional 1974-current. Chartered Financial Analyst 1980 – present. Venture capital investor since 1974.

      David W.

    • I’ve only had that happen a couple of times (employer angry during my interview). Most notable one was when I was interviewing for a director of engineering position with a large media corporation. They were a large group owner and their NYC division was one of my clients with whom I dealt on a daily basis. I thought that relationship was why I was able to get through to their corporate hiring person so easily. I had been through about a half hour of the interview, during which I was able to show how all of my knowledge and hands-on experience was exactly what they needed to fill this job, and everything seemed to be going well.

      Then, the interviewer finally realized for whom I had most recently worked and who I was (couldn’t miss it, was on the first page of my resume in bold caps and underline!). That’s when the interview didn’t turn angry, it turned nasty. Interviewer wrapped it up with, “We don’t want YOU!” and promptly ended the conversation.

      Although this could have been a potential dream job, the clueless kid on the other end of the phone had no idea that he really gave me a compliment. I had treated this customer very well, as I did for all of our customers per my boss’s orders (after years of bad management and a hostile customer environment before I worked there). This customer never signed my paycheck, so I owed him nothing. Prior to this incident, I had negotiated with this customer (wearing a different hat) for a lease modification required by their corporate reorganization. Apparently this clueless kid thought I was somehow personally responsible for their significantly increased operating expenses. That formerly large media corporation was subsequently mostly liquidated, and the clueless kid probably ended up on the street along with most of the other former employees. Good thing for me to find out early that they weren’t qualified to be my employer.

  2. Personally I think the good way to find suitable candidates is to talk to the employees you most value and see if they know people who they think will be a good fit with your organisation. They know what sort of work you do, they know what their friends are capable of. It saves a bunch of fishing exhibitions and the friends have got skin in the game to not put your current employee on the spot. A finders fee bonus might not go astray either, as long as the person works out.

    • A friend of mine used to be an HR VP at a huge multi-national. I asked him how many resumes his particular location of the company received last year. 108,000 he said. How do you choose whom to interview, I asked. Easy, he said. I put out a call to all my buddies in the industry and they give me great personal referrals. How many of those 108K does he actually interview? Very few, he said. Personal referrals are how we hire.

      Need anyone say more? And does this prove I know some very good HR folks?

      • While that HR VP is be commended for finding potential candidates the old school way, the fact remains that his organization has wasted the time of 108,000 applicants. Worse, the company is almost certainly employing a team of “talent acquisition” specialists and a manager, who go through the motions of contacting some of those 108,000 applicants and doing phone interviews and perhaps some live interviews. So that’s more time wasted–and hopes raised and dashed–because the official applicants are never going to get the job anyway.

        • Whenever one is dealing with “talent acquisition specialists” nine out of ten times one is dealing with an overseas (typically Indian) outbound call center running a cattle call phone bank staffed by phone jockeys who have a very specific script and timeline they are on. They have no qualms about lying to job candidates and are even instructed to do so by their employers. These so-called “talent acquisition specialists” are really just overseas outbound call centers rebranded as “recruiting process outsourcing” (RPO) services that companies hire (i.e., they outsource their recruiting function) to mass email and cold call resumes downloaded from the job boards via a resume harvesting service like JobDiva, which also provides in many cases the web tools to allow this army of call center jockeys to spoof their actual location by stripping out the email’s X-Originating-IP and replacing it with an IP provided by JobDiva’s relay server located in the US. For phone numbers they use PBXs to spoof the callers number.

          You can listen here as they spill the beans:

        • Bill/Nick–I’m wondering if they have to go through the motions of finding applicants to meet diversity requirements. Every application has asked me my sex, heritage, veteran status, and whether I have a covered disability. I’m thinking that ‘old school’ finding through networking and referrals is being discouraged by Federal, state, and local regulations. Thoughts?

          • Dee, I don’t think that HR just goes through the motions to meet diversity requirements externally imposed by the EEOC. It’s far worse. HR not only believes in diversity requirements, but leads the way in setting the quotas.

            My view on this is that EEOC, together with the job boards, enabled HR to completely take over the hiring processes. HR says, “we must be compliant” with EEOC, so we have to be in charge. No old school networking is to be allowed. Then, with the advent of the internet, job boards, and careers pages on company websites, HR tells management that there are so many applicants that only HR handle the load.

            I’m a veteran, but I can’t claim protected veteran status on those forms.

            • This is a good article about the effect of HR on recruitment:

            • Borne’s article below (can’t reply to the note) is interesting and with a few situational differences demonstrates how HR has become an impediment to hiring the best. (The writer is a UK recruiter.)

            • HR has been used as a dumping ground by companies over the past two decades, assigning it functions that simply don’t belong there. As someone here said a long time ago, HR should handle pay and benefits, period.

              Want to do recruiting? Embed a recruiter in every department, to work closely with managers to actually recruit, not post jobs and wait for resumes to come in over the transom so software can sort them.

              Want to comply with federal hiring rules? This is a compliance task, easily assigned to the legal department.

              Want to throw company parties? Hand it to, well, HR.


            • Wow, this comment on ‘AskAManager’ is an incredible example of placing diversity above everything:
              “The diversity committee advised the hiring manager to make a different choice than the one she had decided on. Instead of promoting the person who knew the job and had done it before, someone with almost no experience was promoted instead.
              I work in an industry that is heavily regulated and the person with no experience made many mistakes and routinely asked those who reported to her to break the law.”

              “Authorities ended up investigating the department because of the illegal things the person with no experience had done. Everyone in the department (including me) has been suspended without pay until it gets sorted out.”

              Another successful diversity hire! (sarcasm)

  3. I’m not sure I completely agree with this assessment.
    I think (like myself) there are plenty of people who are quite genuine when applying. I research companies before even considering an application and if something fishy turns up I won’t even consider an application. One of the problems I think, is how government unemployment agencies handle people on the dole. I don’t know how it works in the US, or Australia (where I live), I haven’t been out of work yet. But in the country I was born in, Holland, anyone on the dole had to apply for jobs at least x number of times a week. It didn’t matter which jobs they applied for, so people just applied for whatever. With the internet and job boards that has been made a lot easier for people on the dole. One click, print and submit to the agency as proof that you applied.
    It’s counterproductive for everyone, yet government persists. Then again, politicians aren’t commonly know for doing what best or right. Granted, there are exceptions. :-D

    Long ago, jobs used to be advertised in newspapers. And in peer networks. When I migrated to Australia (15 years ago) there were no IT jobs advertised in newspapers, or at Centrelink (the government unemployment agency). I had no peer network, so my only source was online ( being the main board in Australia).

    The world being as global as it is these days, job boards can certainly fulfill a useful function. People can apply from half way across the world, have Skype interviews and fly over if needed. Being able to find what jobs are available in a region is very useful.

    The problem starts when the job board wants to make more money out of it. Share holders are rarely a good thing for customers. More often than not, the focus shifts more a quality product to making more money.
    I do agree with Nick that employers (and job seekers) have a responsibility towards each other. Not responding to people applying for jobs, or vice versa, is just not on. It destroys the ecosystem.

    I think perhaps a job board system a la eBay, where employers and job seekers get rated on during the process could be a lot better.

    relying on co-worker’s friends to fill jobs is far too narrow. There are plenty of very skilled and eager workers close by that you’re not reaching then.
    But I agree that the current systems is broken. Big time. Perhaps employers could take a different approach and list available jobs with a description of the work to be done and request seekers to write a half page how they would do the job. Make it a people process again.

    • “a job board system a la eBay, where employers and job seekers get rated on during the process could be a lot better”

      Kinda makes you wonder why none of the job boards do this. Is it technically difficult? Of course not. It’s not profitable.

      Job boards don’t make money when jobs get filled. They make money when everyone keeps looking.

    • It’s true that a lot of applicants are only trying to maintain eligibility for unemployment benefits. Where I live (Virginia), the unemployment system requires that you make at least three job search contacts per week; you must keep a record and provide details during you weekly report.

      During a couple of extended periods of unenmployment, I often got to the end of the week with only one or two contacts. I would then apply for something for which I was not really qualified or paid well below my worth. There were other times when I would submit applications for three minimally suitable jobs as insurance early in the week if I knew that my time later in the week might be limited. In Virginia, if you are offered employment while collecting benefits, your must accept the job. I went to an interview far out of my commuting range because the job description furnished was exactly what I wanted, only to find out that duties were confined to the smallest and most boring part of the JD for less pay than advertised and was on a contract with no benefits. The recruiter -one of those off-shore types-kept trying to make an offer and I would cut him off bcause there was no way I would take the job after the misrepresentation. Too bad but I needed unemployment to keep the roof over my head.

      • It’s astonishing that any state’s unemployment benefits program thinks “proof of seeking jobs” is anything more than people surfing the Net. Isn’t it time to clean up these programs? Provide unemployment benefits with more integrity, not by encouraging people to play sanctioned games.

  4. Here is another problem, Employer appears to be a lot more jobs than what there really is. They are open to all sorts of web crawlers, bots, spiders and other digital vermin. Why don’t they install reCAPTCHA to allow only real humans to access job postings and apply? And why do they even bother with the job boards?

    • HR says, “We love to keep the pipeline full! It doesn’t cost us anything to post jobs that don’t need filling right now!”

      • Nick, I’ve heard that they need to maintain a certain # of postings to get favorable rates, another incentive to post and repost nonexistent or closed jobs. That leads to another annoyance–the reposting of jobs even months later on downstream or tertiary job sites that supposedly aggregate the big ones.

        • @Dee: True. In the old days, HR would publish phony jobs in the newspaper want ads just to qualify for volume discounts.

  5. Did an HR rep poison the well? Negative reviews on Glassdoor? Candidates may be fickle but managers need to be sure the firm is putting its best foot forward.

  6. The way things have been happening in the job market for some time now is very disturbing to me. I still have my name in the major job sites AND that used to work pretty well, but that’s just plain unproductive these days. Most of the calls or emails I would get were from people who could barely speak English. Where are they calling from? How are they in this country and working? Is there that much of a shortage of qualified head hunters? Are they even in this country? They can get a “local” number from the phone company so they appear legit and local. I think a lot of these people/agencies are doing “due diligence” to the rules(?)/laws(?) about having to look for American workers first before going the H1B route, but are not following through with the contact. IF they are questioned they can claim that they tried to make contact but got no response or the person they contacted did not have the right qualifications.

    I have experienced responding to calls and emails and getting NO response. My rule is that if they don’t respond they’re not being professional NOT treating me as a professional, and I refuse to do business with them. I think a lot of these bogus contacts are agencies doing data mining, the same for companies who never respond.

    The Companies contacting applicants but not getting responses is kind of tricky. Again, I think data mining is happening. I have a friend (manager) who had to have a new hire escorted off the premises. He was NOT the one they interviewed or who took their tests and they found that he could NOT do the work. His agency went through the process and got the “right” answers and then sent someone else.

  7. I believe this is the entitlement and laziness of the young worker rearing its head. They don’t respond or call back because they may have found something better or they can’t be bothered that day. I am on a forum for my profession and have noticed how many people write in asking if its okay to take all their sick leave for “mental health days.” Like a sick day per month just because they can’t cope at home or on the job. How did we raise young people who can’t cope with going to work every day even if its not your dream job and you aren’t having fun? How did we raise people who crumble at work when their personal life gets rough? These are the people who don’t answer the phone or return the call. Its too much trouble. I also believe many people are desperate for a job and apply everywhere and for anything. Then reality hits days later and they realize they can’t take this job because its too far, its too little money, they can’t stand all day, or whatever. Additionally, so many “jobs” are cattle calls where they interview a ton of people for really crummy jobs and play games with people. My son thought he found a great job like this and went to the interview, which was with 25 other people and he and 3 others walked out. I knew right away from reading the job posting that it wasn’t a real job, a good job, a long time job. They even called him later and said he didn’t attend the interview and he said he was there but he walked out!

    • Oliva,
      I have millennial children and work mostly with millenials and have not found the stereotypes to be true. They seem pretty much like I was at their age. Maybe I’m a millennial boomer!
      Anyway, here is a fun video about millennials. Enjoy

    • @Olivia: I don’t find young people today to be any different from young people of any generation. There are lazy ones, smart ones, respectful ones, hard-working ones — all kinds. I don’t think we can any more criticize an entire age group than we can criticize all of any large group.

      Unfortunately, that’s exactly what employers do when they use cattle-call recruiting — they brand everyone a possible candidate, then they let those people sort themselves out. It doesn’t work.

      The true laziness in our society is in a sad expectation that it’s easy to suss out who an individual is — and that people are fungible.

  8. I agree with Nick’s assessments here – employers share some of the blame here, because of the recruiting methods used.

    I don’t think all cases of candidates being unresponsive is intentionally done to be rude. For example, when you are looking for a job, you apply to several and 1-2 get back to you quickly to schedule an interview, while others take 6-8 weeks to schedule an interview. From the candidates perspective, one in hand is worth two in the bush, so companies that move quickly through the recruitment process will be favored.

  9. 2018 kicked off the 5th year of job-seeking for me. Part of the early years were consumed with caregiving responsibilities, but I still went on interviews. Last year, I had 100 informational interviews, applied to perhaps 150 jobs, had some 20 interviews, and received no job offers. I feel numb now when I see Indeed or LinkedIn emails with job listings. Some of the jobs I’ve applied to have popped up again, a year or two later. Perhaps I dodged a bullet by not being selected for those jobs, but I believe had I been hired, I would still be in the role.

    Over the years, I hired a career counselor, went to conferences, had many “good words” put in for me by colleagues to hiring managers. None of my colleagues can understand what is going on. I keep alive with small projects.

    If I could do life over, I would have never quit work to stay home with my newborn. Watching first steps was not worth the loss of a steady paycheck and being part of a team.

    • @Debbie: I have seen your situation happen to many women. After we moved across country and my wife left her library job – she has a Master of Library Science degree and many years of experience – it has been 6 years and many interviews later and no offers. She is very good in her field.

      The truth is that I’m many professional fields one has to be able to relocate and this may be incompatible with family life or a spouse/partner in a more lucrative field (I’m an electrical engineer with degrees in engineering and music – although I no longer use my music degree as my specialty in music is obsolete).

      I’m not going to give you advice as to what to do – you will have to figure that out. I will say that some of the best workers I have seen anywhere are mothers – especially single mothers. Typically busy people, it is a “failure is not an option” attitude that makes you valuable in business. You may need more flexibility, depending on how much help you have with your children. I think many businesses are missing out on some very productive workers by overlooking mothers as well as mature workers.

      I may want to start a business someday. You can bet I will seek out parents of young children as well as mature workers/retirees. I intend to tap the market others don’t. (Of course, I do not discriminate on age, race, gender, LGBTQ status, disability nor anything else that has nothing to do with the job).

      As for my wife, who is very intelligent, she may need to do something different for now.

    • @Debbie: What a succinct indictment of our employment system. I encourage you to print what you wrote and mail it to your legislators. Snail mail. Perhaps someone on their staff will open it and then paste it to the legislator’s forehead.

  10. I work as a creative in the fashion industry and a common practice on industry job boards is for companies to list themselves as “confidential,” meaning applicants don’t know what company they’re applying to unless the company reaches out to them. I would say about a third of the opportunities posted fall into this category. I avoid applying to these opportunities when I can, because often when I find out what company it is, I’m no longer interested in the position. I sometimes elect just not to follow up instead of having to essentially say “sorry, now that I know what company this role is for, I do not want to proceed as a candidate.”

  11. @Kevin Thank you. I hope your wife gets a job she wants soon!

    I am willing to relocate; I’ve applied for jobs in five states and overseas. I have 10 years of corporate experience and five years with the federal government as a diplomat. I’ve made presentations to prime ministers, government officials and academics on three continents. Two months ago, I wrote speeches for a European ambassador to deliver to UN representatives and African politicians.

    Recently, when I was interviewed by phone for a government relations role with an insurance company, the hiring manager wondered whether I was comfortable with technology. The job was to go to local councils and pitch the company’s product and pay councils in exchange for parking spaces. Even as I affirmed my technical chops, I knew the hiring manager’s comment was code for “I think you’re too old.”

    I’ve been the runner-up in some jobs. I hope this year will be the one in which I’m hired — I will keep trying! Let me know when you start your company.

    • That “comfortable with technology” line is so bogus. How many of us have been using “technology” since these interviewers/recruiters were in diapers?

      Give me a break. Any interviewer/recruiter who asks that question is either too naive or too biased to be entrusted with playing an active role in the hiring process.

    • @Kevin: I work in a community college library, and we recently hired two full time people (after getting rid of one full timer who wasn’t pulling her weight). One of them recently got his library degree and interned here while he finished it (he knew our current interim dean, so there was no posting for the internship or the job) and the other applied to our ad. We also recently hired a part time reference librarian. We’re part of a consortium (of other public and academic libraries in central and western Massachusetts) and job vacancies get posted first via email to everyone working in these libraries. All of the jobs I see are part time evenings, with the occasional full time job that requires the degree. That’s fine if you’re just starting out and need to get some experience (then many get hired on full time as others leave or retire) but it isn’t so good if you already have tons of experience and want to work full time. I’m beginning to believe that we’re moving permanently to being a nation of part time workers, who will have to cobble together several part time jobs (no benefits for any of them) and temporary contract work.

      The two full timers are older (both men) and the part timer is young–early 20’s with a toddler, so she’s fine with working part time (and she has a husband who has a good job, so she’s doing this just to keep her skills current and so she can write that she has been employed so when she is ready to work full time, she won’t be penalized for taking time off to care for her baby).

  12. Another great article Nick! Thank you! BTW, I’d love to share this on my LI feed. Is that possible?

    • @Kay: While it’s a copyright violation to copy/paste this article into your feed, you are more than welcome to copy/paste a link to it so your LI friends can read it. Thanks for your kind words!

      • @Kay, the easiest way that avoids complications is to like then share Nick’s update via LinkedIn so it goes to your updates. It will contain both his post and your comment, if any (it frames it better if you comment). If you are active on Twitter, your comment will appear as the tweet, so make sure that it’s something you want to say and leads in to Nick’s article.

  13. This morning I was asked to do a phone screen, on the spot.

    I think next time I’ll request another time, to give me time to retrieve and review the job posting and my application (cover letter etc.) so that I am better prepared.

    They seem to assume that job applicants have every application, they have sent out, memorized or something. Even though it was three weeks ago that I applied for the job.

    • Imagine calling a company to which you sent your resume and telling them you want to do an interview on the phone NOW. Sheesh, they’re idiots.

  14. I have a phone interview scheduled with a “Senior Technical Recruiter” later today.
    I asked if there was any special preparation I could do for the interview.
    I was told no, that we would be covering my previous experience and projects.
    I somehow doubt there will be an opportunity to demonstrate I can do the job.

    By the way, I was referred in by someone I know who works there.

    • Timothy–don’t despair. I’ve found that the ‘senior technical recruiter’ is there to check a bunch of boxes about your skill set, how you present yourself, and background. More than likely, that person doesn’t know all that much about the job. Your job is to ace that, dig out information from that person about the real job *if* they know, ask the ‘what’s the pay like’ question (per Nick), and ‘pass go’ to get to the person you’d be reporting to.

      Before that call, you’ll research the company, know what they do, and be able to speak to the points in the JD with concrete examples of what you’ve done in similar situations. It’s also easier than ever to use LinkedIn to research the probable exec to whom you’d report (or your direct report would report to.) Look at the profile that they hire for jobs like yours.

      Relax, be ready, and answer the questions succinctly without overtalking or appearing that you’re taking over (but you are controlling it, of course). Good luck!

    • @Timothy: Another stupid move by an employer. When an employee makes a personal referral (it should have been to the actual manager, by the way), the manager should personally jump on it and make the call. Otherwise it’s a huge diss to the employee — because why else would they ever make a personal referral again, if it isn’t handled PERSONALLY by the manager?

      Sheesh, employers are STUPID. Then they complain they can’t find good candidates.

      • @Nick, it’s stupid but true. Hiring managers wind up in the HR crossfire. I’ve worked for several companies where the hiring policy is that personal referrals must be steered to HR for initial screening. What the hiring manager should state on the hard or electronic copy of that resume is that ‘I WILL interview this person’–and keep a copy. BTW, one of these companies would not permit a current employee to give a personal recommendation of a former co-worker or direct report either.

  15. The other related issue with this is that there are so many fake jobs out there. HR posts them to look busy, to mine data, to be able to tell the muckety-mucks that they have x number of potential applicants based upon how many responses they received from x number of job postings. Unless you the job seeker can find out who the manager is in that company’s particular department and he is actually willing to talk to you (and confirm that the job posting is real), you don’t know if the HR person calling you just wants your data or is truly looking to fill a vacancy. With so many fake job vacancies/postings, all HR has trained us to do is ignore them, just the way we don’t answer the phone if we don’t recognize the number.

    If candidates aren’t showing up for scheduled interviews, that’s a different matter. If they’re no longer interested, then a simple phone call as a basic courtesy is all that is needed. Ditto if they need to re-schedule. Now if I could only get companies to behave with the same courtesy–if they’re no longer interested in me, then call me, tell me that they’ve hired someone else (or not) and cancel the interview. I’ve showed up for interviews, waited, and no one wants to admit that they’ve hired someone else or that they decided not to hire anyone. Courtesy goes both ways.

    • Yes, I wonder if the no-shows/non-responders might be cynical job seekers who are fed up with the radio silence after going to the trouble of going to interviews.

      They might wonder why they should advise the prospective employer that they have already successfully found a job when many employers don’t have the courtesy of advising job applicants, who have been interviewed, that they didn’t get the job.

  16. More phony screening that disgusts candidates and is not about how you’d do the job. Company called Myriad Supply (IT and security) is looking for a Director of Marketing. The first clue was that the JD had a fair dose of ‘foo foo’ in it:

    If you pass their initial screen, you get to fill out a dozen mostly marketing questions online at

    The questions are loaded because they appear to be gleaned from a quick view of What’s Hot In Marketing from a site like MarketingProfs. As this is an IT company, I’d bet these are algorithmically screened for keywords, not logic, and never sees a human except on a ‘pass’ list.

    BTW, an experienced marketer would expect to answer some of these in the context of an interview with good solid past examples and how to apply this expertise to prospective company situations. There’s an odd ringer in there about coming into the office 5 days a week (designed I’d bet to keep out the non-locals) and while they’re being intrusive, compensation.

    Oh yes, if you pass through this hoop, Erin Davis, an (undoubtedly fictional) hiring coordinator states “Within 48 hours of completing your survey you will be notified of whether you will be moved on to the phone screen round. The final stage of our interview process includes 2 separate interviews at our headquarters in NYC.” Hiring manager not mentioned.

    Crain’s ‘Best Places to Work’ is largely regarded as a sham. ZocDoc made it for a few years and it is a boiler room that sells doctors on their scheduling/doc review platform.

  17. All interesting responses and as usual Nick Corcodilos calls it right.

    But perhaps one avenue he hasn’t explored ironically is the centrality of his main thesis: which is that companies and HR cause the problems by ‘fishing with a bucket’ and soliciting far too many applicants for HR or a manager to study/analyse competently.

    The argument – that there are ‘too many applicants’ is often used by HR and recruiters to justify lack of responses, remote communication and the barrage of tests and Applicant Tracking Systems that are deeply flawed and filter out good people.

    But let’s challenge this – are there really ‘too many’ applicants for any post or is it that quite simply HR are just too lazy to do their jobs properly when screening a CV? You see this flippancy in the cliches that abound about how your CV must pass the ‘six second test’ of a recruiter’s attention span – the notion being that six seconds is sufficient to judge someone. The quality of HR and that of recruiters has plunged as their industry has grown in power, with technology being used to embed laziness and inefficiency. Second rate ATS software salespeople of course love this as their stock-in-trade is selling garbage to a market sustained by laziness tolerated by companies. They set ever longer forms whilst getting a computer to ‘read’ them.

    As HR teams all study the same ideas and concepts, they move between companies, cross-pollinating the same dogmas. Effectively HR has created a shadow, automated function of itself whilst retaining core jobs that are made redundant by such technology.

    We see this especially in the UK in the Civil Service, which struggles (it claims) to get the right people yet their own barrage of forms and dysfunctional out-sourced recruitment systems push out the talent needed. To take an example: the Department for Education sets out a very long application form with lists of competencies any applicant must demonstrate. Yet it also states that, owing to ‘large amount of candidates’, short-listing may only be done on one competency alone. So imagine the message that sends to prospective hires – fill in this very long form but only 20% of it might be read. Does that incentivize anyone? Does that get the right people for the post?

    It has gotten to the point where (at least in the UK) HR is so de-skilled, that it is the Emperor’s New Clothes profession that senior management hasn’t yet realized is a barrier not a critical function of an organisation. And the problem is self-sustaining: HR and recruitment has such a bad reputation that talented people don’t go into HR/recruitment so that the mediocrity embeds itself with all the issues around out-sourcing, buying mediocre software (rather than developing soft skills of negotiation and mediation), of not reading CVs and relying on the pseudo-science of psychometrics (the science of guesswork).

    People try and imagine the situation is more nuanced, with the claim that ‘you shouldn’t tarnish HR or recruiters in this way – there are some great ones out there’ – but frankly are there any ‘great’ HR professionals or recruiters – or simply ‘less incompetent’ ones? What does recruiter or HR excellence actually look like?

    So – perhaps challenging slightly Nick Corcodilos’ thesis – it isn’t that HR attracts too many candidates, but that companies attract too many third rate HR people and allow the sourcing of talent to be outsourced to psychometrics and bogus software

  18. @Nick: You present a pretty good argument, but there’s a fundamental fallacy in it: That getting more applicants is better than getting fewer.

    Someone might argue that you’d be right if the open job were one that any of lots of people could do, so the more applicants you get, the better. But then, no matter how efficient or smart your HR team is, you’re still wasting time because if almost anyone could do the job, then why process so many?

    Your argument suggests that if HR people were better at their jobs, they could then process loads and loads of applicants more accurately. But I’m afraid you still haven’t explained why more applicants are better.

    Nonetheless, I love your argument because it reveals the underlying problem: More is not better. Having the right candidates is better, and that’s not a function of volume.

    It’s a function of what you’ve suggested, however — how smart and good HR is at identifying the right talent. If HR can define the right talent, then HR can turn off the firehose of incoming applicants. Armed with certainty about who is the right candidate, HR can get off its duff, exit the building, and go where the right talent hangs out. Pluck, entice, seduce, convince, recruit the best person to come work for the employer.

    No applicant flow needed. None. The flow is HR and hiring managers — out toward the professional community where the right talent is. Bring them home.

    No processing needed.

  19. “My suggestion is, don’t solicit widely by using job boards. Figure out where the best potential candidates hang out. Carefully identify the people you’d really like to interview — and go look for them in those narrow hangouts.”

    Respectfully, this is a formula for a discrimination complaint. Consider for example, which lays out some of the basics of why it’s a bad idea in the context of social media (which is where the young and technically savvy ‘hang out.’)

    The fundamental problem with this idea is that if you’re only going to ‘narrow hangouts’, your candidate pool is very likely to be narrowed to a particular range of races, ages, sexes, religions, etc.

    More to the point: if you want to minimize your risk of a discrimination complaint, you _have_ to advertise job openings, and you have to do so in places where lots of flavors of people will see the ads. You can’t tell your recruiters ‘go find a white male, a pregnant black female, and old woman, and a young indian or chinese man’, or even ‘go find a diverse workforce’, because you’re effectively telling them ‘go discriminate on the basis of one or more protected classes.’ And you can’t tell them ‘go identify and recruit only the best possible candidates’, because most or all of the data about the protected classes into which those candidates might fall are going to be as readily available as their qualifications. If you do happen to draw a complaint, you might have a tough time showing that you selected your hires on *this* job-related-qualification basis and not *that* protected-class basis (and you’re going to spend a lot of time, money, and effort trying to show it.)

    • @Bill: Points taken. But none of what you elaborate on explains or justifies the inexcusable, un-businesslike, counter-productive, disrespectful and frankly stupid behavior of HR.

      EEOC rules can be respected while an organization recruits intelligently and defensibly. The crap we see coming out of HR is inexcusable and indefensible.

      Nice try, but a lecture about the law does not address all the other problems we’re discussing here. Tell you what — if your concerns are about violations of EEOC regulations, let’s turn recruiting over to corporate legal departments. Because HR seems to largely use “regulations” as a transparent excuse to behave inexcusably.