A reader wants to hear from the hiring manager, not from a recruiter, in the September 22, 2020 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter.


hiring managerI need to change employers after almost two years of stagnant pay and “nothing new learned.” But I’m fed up with what passes for recruiting. Recruiters almost never know what they’re talking about, and I don’t get to talk with an actual hiring manager until I’ve already wasted a lot of time doing the HR dance. Then the manager tells me I’m not a good candidate! Why don’t companies recruit more accurately from the start? Why aren’t they making better matches before we even get to the interview?

Nick’s Reply

You just identified a profound problem. Most employers start the hiring process all wrong. That’s why they can’t make good matches efficiently. I believe the problem arises before the job interview.

How the hiring manager gets the wrong candidates

I find that most employers and managers demonstrate poor recruiting habits. For example, why do they interview a candidate at all – on the phone, via video or in person — if they don’t already know the person’s level of expertise?

But most managers would object: “That’s why we have interviews!”

I say bunk. A job interview is not the place to vet a candidate on the most basic qualification criteria. That should be done before anyone even contacts the candidate. Leaving this crucial question for the candidate to answer in an interview is a waste of everyone’s time.

You’ve become frustrated because you should not have been recruited to begin with. The rate of hires made to job candidates considered is so poor because employers and their HR departments haphazardly recruit and encourage anyone to apply. These wrong candidates flood employers with so many resumes and applications that HR must turn to software and algorithms to “analyze and sort” the wheat from the chaff. But when an employer turns on a fire hose of job applicants like this, it is creating its own problem!

How many candidates do you need?

Hiring-software maker Workable reports that before filling a job, the average company considers 19 “qualified” candidates. Qualified means the candidate has moved to “promising” or “call” stage of the process.

That’s actually one of the low estimates. Lever, a recruiting software firm, reports that it takes 189 candidates to fill data-related jobs like data scientist, analyst or security specialist. Sales jobs require the fewest candidates: 43.

Lever also finds that hiring involves nine or 10 “runaway processes” from initial candidate contact to job offer. Google, for example, has required 15-25 separate interviews to judge one job candidate.

Multiply that kind of hiring overhead by the cost of HR, management and interviewer time and employers are more frustrated than you are, even if they act like they don’t know it.

How many candidates does an employer really need?

Hiring managers are the best recruiters

What I’m about to say will not help you unless you can find companies that recruit and hire smart by turning this important process over to people that can do it right.

I believe recruiting can be more efficient — and hiring more accurate — if managers did their own recruiting. Who else is better qualified to recognize and identify the talent necessary to do a job? (Anyone in HR that scoffs and says managers are terrible at recruiting isn’t managing its management resources properly!)

There is evidence that when managers recruit via their trusted professional contacts, and verify candidates’ skills and reputations by polling their professional communities, hiring is not just more efficient – the quality of hires is better and new-employee turnover is lower.

The “HR dance” hurts employers and job seekers

Recruiting and hiring are a big job that HR should stop trying to do. Everyone loses when hiring managers don’t do this job themselves. That “HR dance” has lots of bad ramifications.

SHRM reports that, under the prevalent recruiting and hiring processes, up to 38% of hires quit before their first year is up. The employer must again incur the overhead cost of “nine or 10 runaway processes” and “15-25 separate interviews” to refill the same jobs!

This hurts you, the job hunter, because you have to change jobs again.

Why hiring managers can do it better

Jobvite reports that the “most effective” source of hires – that is, the source that drives the most actual hires – is hiring managers. When they actually do it, hiring managers recruit and hire almost three times more candidates than a company’s own HR department does (19.35% vs 6.61%).

I’ll stick my neck out and suggest why hiring managers are more successful at bringing the right people on board. My own experience tells me it’s because they turn to their networks of trusted contacts when recruiting. (Surprise! This is also how good headhunters recruit!)

While HR posts a job and pushes over a hundred applicants through nine or 10 processing steps (“the dance”), a hiring manager finds and talks with perhaps three highly qualified candidates.

But, without a job posting, where does the manager find them? In the manager’s professional community, after asking a few respected contacts, for example, “Who are the best PHP programmers you know?”

Those contacts make only good referrals because their professional relationships and reputations hinge on it. They want to keep the respect of their dance partners. There is no fire hose.

Managers talk shop

What do hiring managers do differently than HR recruiters? Jobvite says that 43% of new hires leave a job “because it wasn’t what they were expecting.” But why is that surprising, when the candidate’s first contact with a company is with a personnel clerk or recruiter that doesn’t understand the nuts and bolts of the job? Hiring managers are naturally better at discussing the job and the work with candidates. Candidates like you expect a recruiter or interviewer to actually be able to talk shop  on your own level!

If an employer wants to avoid losing almost half its new hires in their first year, it needs to make sure all candidates get the job they were expecting. The best way to ensure that: let a hiring manager (or a credible member of the manager’s staff) be the first person a candidate hears from.

But you’ve already seen that this is not how it works. SHRM reveals a dirty little secret that surely all its HR management members are aware of. Hiring managers recruit new hires only 16%-18% of the time. Given the implications of letting someone else do this critical job, why does any employer permit someone in HR to do the recruiting 51%-73% of the time – when this results in lower hit rates and massive turnover of new employees?

Start recruiting and interviewing the right candidates

Screening candidates who come in over the transom is a fool’s errand. It takes a lot of time, costs a lot, and imposes ridiculous failure rates. This reductionist approach yields too many – if not all – wrong candidates.

HR posts jobs and solicits applicants in bulk. For the most part HR selects “who comes along.” HR does not go out and find its candidates via trusted sources in the company’s professional community.

Hiring managers pursuing highly recommended candidates through personal recruiting not only gives a company a higher hit rate; it ensures good hires that stick around.

If a manager doesn’t already know a software development candidate is competent in jQuery, for example, then why have the interview at all? Maybe the keyword “jQuery” isn’t even a critical criterion for pursuing the candidate. What if the hiring manager’s trusted source says, “This candidate hasn’t used jQuery, but I recommend them highly anyway because they’re quick learners who have used related tools.”

Who recruited you?

When hiring managers are left out of the initial recruiting effort, recruiting is by definition dumbed down. When HR, which usually lacks subject matter expertise and insight, makes the first cut of candidates, then the likelihood of meeting the wrong candidates increases. That’s also how employers miss out on the very best candidates – and then waste precious time sorting through more candidates.

If you want to avoid wasting your time, look at who is recruiting you.

There is a reason why most jobs are found and filled through personal referrals. It works best. And there is a reason why better matches aren’t made: The recruiter isn’t the hiring manager!

Who recruited you the last time you got hired into your favorite job? If you’re a manager, do you agree you’re the best recruiter for your team? If you work in HR, or you’re a recruiter, do you buy what I’m saying? What other methods of recruiting might make better matches?

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  1. The LW said “I need to change employers after almost two years of stagnant pay and “nothing new learned.”

    Nick’s advice was terrific as always, but I didn’t see a lot of introspection by the LW. Why did you take this job? What would you do differently next time?

    In the interim, what can you do to make the current job more interesting? Challenge yourself to find a way to improve your existing job. You might be able to take formal training, or pick-up more in-house responsibilities Are there people that you look up to? If so, have a chat about what they like about the job. They might show you something, or give you some insight.

    Look to pick up a new technical or interpersonal skill in-house. For example, I teach all of my overseas reports how to lead a meeting. And then I let them lead some of my meetings. It is a skill they can use on the job, off the job, and at their next job.

    • Hhmm, I had a vivid scenario in mind when I read LW’s letter and his annoyance at those absurd recruiting processes…

      If one is in the wrong place, one can try to do all those improvements at work but ultimately they’re met with apathy “But you can always push harder!” Sure thing we can always push harder, but to what end? There are places where, no matter what you do, you won’t be paid more, you won’t be respected more, and some colleagues may even feel annoyed at you because your efforts to improve things make them look bad. In theory we shouldn’t apply to companies like that, but sometimes the application process is so convoluted that you end up experiencing what is effectively a bait-and-switch.
      For example: the expectation was for a forward-looking and innovative company but in the end it was just a mediocre place where people go to settle in their comfort zone, other times it may be a dynamic company alright, but it thrives by squeezing the will to live out of the workforce and doesn’t reward them for their sacrifice, it is expected. Maybe the LW was in one of the former.

      • “…some colleagues may even feel annoyed at you because your efforts to improve things make them look bad.”


        This happens WAY more often than people want to admit, why A-talent never sticks around long, and why A-talent candidates don’t put up the the massive waste of time that the “HR dance” is.

      • @Pentalis: Exactly! I’ve learned the hard way that offering to do more, offering to help, to take on more tasks resulted in snide comments and nastiness. Why? Because once I was done with my usual tasks, I was looking for things to do to fill the rest of my time, and because I wasn’t one of the “cool kids”, I didn’t dare spend most of my day on Facebook, watching cat videos, or texting relatives and friends.

        I know that not every workplace is like that; I’ve worked for a couple in which my offers to take on more were welcomed (rewarded at one place, not rewarded at all at the other). At some places, your offer to do more, to learn more could backfire, with colleagues and bosses feeling threatened by your wanting to do more, to learn more.

    • “To be always ready, a [wom]man must be able to cut a knot, for everything cannot be untied.”

      — Henri Frederic Amiel

  2. > Who recruited you the last time you got hired into your favorite job?

    Interestingly enough, not my actual manager, but his manager (and the manager two levels above my actual manager), though I later learned they were treating the position(actually positions; they hired three people with the plan to keep 2 long-term on that position and to transition one of the three to a manager role) as a sort of candidate pool for the manager role as they were expecting a large future growth in the department. They hired senior technical people for the existing technical role with an eye for candidates that they could grow into technical managers. Worst-case scenario for them would have been to field a valuable senior technical person, best case was to field senior technical people that they could use down the line to lead newly created teams.

    It worked out very well for all sides. My actual manager was happy to have me (the hiring manager was close enough to him to appropriately “talk shop” and evaluate me for the role) and when the growth spurt came I was experienced enough with the company to effectively transition into a manager role.

    > If you’re a manager, do you agree you’re the best recruiter for your team?

    I’d slightly disagree. At my job, we use a multi-pronged approach to recruiting that works reasonably well for us.

    We have the classic job ads where candidates get into the HR filter. HR filters out on very hard, easily to implement criteria they actually understand (e.g. zero experience for senior roles, applicant already applied for an adjacent position and got a hard no, applicant has no realistic chance to get a work permit, applicant has major red flags just based on the documents they submitted) specifically to let candidates through that don’t have the keyword “jquery” in their CV. I go over the remaining candidates and schedule actual interviews for those that look interesting, the rest get’s a straight rejection letter through HR. For the applicants that get rejected it’s a quick turnaround (we usually manage to get rejections out within 2-3 working days), for the interesting candidates the first human they encounter during the process is the hiring manager. I’m also the point of contact in the job ad and field the questions from potential applicants.

    This process does take some of my time, but we see hiring decisions/recruiting as part of the core duties of a manager and wouldn’t dream of letting HR make the decision. I can make the decision for/against an interview within a few minutes; it’s the perfect activity to fill “dead” time between scheduled meetings where starting a longer tasks wouldn’t make sense. I wouldn’t actually call this applicant pipeline active recruiting; it’s a very passive activity, but it *does* result in good hires.

    From my POV, the crucial point to keep the amount of applicants in a manageable size is the quality of the job ad. The ad is created by the hiring manager and only checked by HR for legal problems (wouldn’t want to let a misguided manager tarnish the companies reputation by creating a discriminatory ad…). That way there’s no mismatch between what’s in the ad and what the hiring manager tells the applicants (and no ads requiring 10 years experience in technology X when the technology was invented 5 years ago…).

    The active part of recruiting (other than strictly using our personal networks) is comprised of our active presence at industry events, fairs and (mostly aimed at junior positions) recruitment events on university campuses. Whenever someone from our company gives a talk (and we actively encourage our people to give talks; it’s both beneficial for the person giving the talk and serves as a general recruiting ad for our company), we usually set up a vendor stall with the express purpose of recruiting. On customer-facing events, we are always also prepared to field recruiting-related inquiries. Even if the talks and conversations at the events don’t directly lead to an application, they serve the valuable purpose of long-term general advertising the company. Hires that come up through the HR pipeline often tell us that they applied to us because they saw a talk or had a conversation with us a year or more ago.

    While I as the hiring manager take a very active part in recruiting, I wouldn’t say I’m the best recruiter for the team. That position of pride belongs to the team itself. It’s usually not me that gives the talk, it is never just me that staffs the vendor stall and it is never just me that conducts the interviews.

    I *always* have someone from the team in the interview. We deliberately do this for a multitude of reasons. It keeps me grounded, gives the candidate a much better insight into the day-to-day activities and into the team dynamics (you can tell quite a bit about the managerial style when both manager and team member are in the same meeting) and also prepares the team member for the hiring manager position down the line (conducting an interview is hard and you get better with every interview you conduct). We usually have an HR person sit in on the interview; they aren’t there to ask questions but to answer questions we are ill-equipped to answer (e.g. detailed questions regarding our benefits).

    The hiring decision is done as a consensus between the team member and myself. I would never hire a candidate that didn’t get the approval of the team member (though that situation hasn’t come up in the last three years. So far our opinions were always in sync).

    Due to company policy, candidates for positions with salaries over a certain limit have to go through a second interview with the hiring manager and the manager one level above (it makes sense as those candidates are few promotions away from becoming managers/senior people with management exposure themselves).

    We treat interviews as a two way street. It is not just the setting for the candidate to present himself and convince us that hiring them is the right thing to do; it is also the setting where the company and team has to convince the candidate that the company is a great place to work.

    The feedback we get from our hires and our rejected candidates regarding our interview approach is quite positive. We’ve also had several referrals from candidates that ultimately weren’t a fit for the position but were convinced that their friend would find the position compelling.

    All in all, we don’t treat recruiting as a one-time thing to fill a single position in the shortest time possible, but as a constant long-term activity. We don’t just recruit to fill the currently empty position, but with an eye on future career development of our hires. This makes it easier to fill senior positions by promoting from within (junior positions are usually easier to fill), let’s us retain talent by promoting them and gives us more breathing room to take the needed time to fill an empty positions (it’s usually easier to keep a junior position unfilled than a senior position).

    If we have the need to immediately fill an empty position, we prefer to fill it temporarily through a staffing agency and keep our regular recruiting processes going to fill the position with a good candidate a few months down the line (some staffers even turn into permanent hires); we seldomly have the need to hire someone right this instant. If we do have that need and can’t find a staffer, we make use of industry specific headhunters which whom we have a long history. This also works out pretty well for the headhunters, as they know our company and what we look for (and offer to the candidates!) and can steer the right candidates to us. When we go through headhunters, we rarely need to interview multiple candidates.

    • I think starting with large a pool of candidates is the best way to go. Especially with a focus on diversity and inclusive hires these days.

      That said, companies need to get out of the Archie search engine days (sorry for the 1980s reference) and find a more robust way of finding the best candidates. Most of the big HR database systems absolutely suck and constantly exclude qualified candidates.

      • With all the “…focus on diversity and inclusive hires these days” and the ridiculous subjective key word identity, is it any wonder employers “…constantly exclude qualified candidates” and then turn around crying “talent shortage”?

        Priorities, priorities, priorities…

  3. Gee – like qualifying for a sale :) why would a pacemaker seller start calling on a bakery?

    • Uh, because there are 100 million bakeries in the database? Heck, wouldn’t that be a good place to start?? You KNOW there are some pacemaker customers in there, right? You don’t believe it? Well, we’ve got this algorithm that will help you find some…

  4. Alphager, by what you’ve said here, I’d want to work with you tomorrow!

  5. Hiring managers should absolutely be more involved but this will simply not fix the disaster that is most company’s hiring process.

    From countless conversations with other business consultants and from comments on this board, in broad stokes the issues are:

    Not looking at enough qualified candidates. Routinely large pools of candidates are often ignored or overlooked for really dumb if not outright illegal reasons.

    Not understanding which types of employees would be a good fit for any one position. For most positions there are must have qualifications and qualifications that would be nice to have. As an example, one company I have helped look for a new candidate off and on for the past two decades (yes, really) is a very technical and analytical position. This individual sends out an email to the Partners In Charge for various practices once a month and answers any questions they may have. Routinely they have hired an extrovert who sucks at hardcore analysis. The individual gets discouraged after a few months and either leaves or receives additional training. With the end result of the employee finally giving up and leaving the position. In one year, they hired twelve different people and I just received word their current employee has put in her two weeks notice. I don’t have to explain how much frustration someone must have to be be leaving a job in this economy. I have no doubt they shall hire the wrong type of employee yet again.

    At a dinner with one of my colleagues, he couldn’t stop laughing and showed me one of his company’s open job postings on his smartphone. The HR department wrote up a list of qualifications for a software programmer and they were asking for more years of experience than the program (including beta) had existed. The HR department literally excluded 100% of all qualified candidates and had already paid to advertise this ridiculous open position description. Some basic research could clearly have avoided this mistake.

    The other issue I have noticed is companies in America really have trended towards hiring/promoting highly narcissistic if not outright abusive individuals for management positions. These individuals usually don’t work well with others, don’t listen to others, and tend to push for uniformity over producing a good work product. They simply do not make good managers and IMO they cause more issues than they solve.

    Overall, I think most companies need to take a hard look at their hiring process and almost do a ground up overhaul of what they are doing now.

  6. Wow, this topic is really timely for me. Just last week I had a scheduled phone screen that never happened because the HR person did not vet me properly before inviting me for said interview – at least according to what she wrote me in an e-mail 45 minutes after our scheduled time.

    Here’s what happened: On a Sunday night I applied via LinkedIn (LI) for a position I am suited for in most, but not all, aspects. I would say about 85% of what was in the description is what I have done for three years (their required minimum) and the rest I figure they either are adding in the kitchen sink (as most do), or I can be trained and learn as I go along — which has been much of my experience in medical devices.

    On Thursday of that week I received a generic e-mail stating that this company has an interest in me and when am I available for an interview via the telephone? The time was to be 10:00 the following Monday morning.

    I recognized the name of the “talent acquisition” person as someone with whom I had spoken last November for a lesser position at this company, whose only interest seemed to be why my 14-month-long contract didn’t go perm (outsourced out-of-state) and how much money would I take between a $5 difference for an hourly rate? I replied that I don’t like to lock myself into any type of dollar amount at this stage in the interview process (which she didn’t know for certain and kept me on hold for about three minutes while she looked up on Glassdoor (?) a “relevant” rate range that she assumed was appropriate for this role). She also asked about a salary range and again, put me on hold while she looked up two arbitrary numbers with a difference between $5,000/year. She asked which I would be happy with and I answered the higher number, and she asked why? I replied because I have over 20 years’ experience in medical research and I think I’d deserve it. All of this was completely hypothetical and unprofessional, especially since she did not have a definite range as to what the company could actually offer.

    Finally, she said that the director for this position needed to be filled (probably in the new year) and that he/she would want to be involved in hiring their subordinate — basically this was a wasted interview.

    So, I realized I’d be talking to this same person again but there was nothing I could do. 10:00 Monday comes and goes and at about 10:10 I sent an e-mail just to see if she was tied up or if we were still on to which there was no response. While walking my dogs I receive an e-mail at 10:48 from her where she apologized for missing the call but that there was a last-minute meeting to review candidates and they (managers and HR) realized that there were other, more qualified candidates to pursue. Really?? This couldn’t have been determined prior to inviting me for an interview??

    I imagine I made it past the ATS and she didn’t look carefully to see that I have not been employed since last summer (2019). HR girl had a full day (Friday) to review again, stalk my profile and “likes” and/or comments on LI. Or perhaps she/they were able to deduce that I wasn’t under the age of 40, or she remembered our last phone call 10 months ago and didn’t like my answers then. Whatever the situation, she didn’t vet me thoroughly and in the last minute, someone pulled the plug and said no. Seems to me she isn’t very qualified if this is how she does her job; telling me that I don’t meet their qualifications is ironic.

    All I know is that if I had blown off an interview for whatever reason (pet emergency, for example) I most likely would never get a second chance. Funny how people have higher expectations for others than they do for themselves. The entire situation was completely unprofessional, and I know I dodged a bullet. Can you imagine the toxicity of a place that treats hiring like that? I suspect if I were hired, I’d be regretting it three months in.

    • @A Face: Well, this is easy! No second chance for this company! Sheesh. No one could make this stuff up! “There was a last-minute meeting” during your interview time??

      Yes, you dodged a bullet.

    • “Funny how people have higher expectations for others than they do for themselves.”

      Pretty much sums it up.

  7. The problem really resides in HR itself. The best job I’ve ever had was at a major commercial bank from 1973-75. The individual in Personnel (that’s what the function was called before it became “Human Resources”) in charge of the bank’s management development program had been through the program himself a few years earlier, and had worked at three branches in the bank’s metropolitan operations before being selected to handle the management development program.

    He knew what the management development program was like, because he’d been through it. He knew what the work was like in at least seven different departments within the bank because he’d spent time in them as a trainee, and he knew what the personalities of the people in those departments were like, as well. Whether he was evaluating interested students during campus interviews, or handling walk-in inquiries into the program, he spoke with direct knowledge and authority — something that today’s typical HR staffers lack.

    The best interview I had coming out of grad school in 1977 was with a leasing firm where the person in charge of coordinating the interview process was a relatively recent MBA hire who’d completed the firm’s management development process and would move into one of the firm’s functional areas once the current season’s recruiting exercises ended. (I didn’t receive an offer from them because I was at the tail end of their interview process, and they’d filled their new team from the earlier candidates … I was told.) Again, everyone I talked with during my interviews had been through the program, as had the interview coordinator, and could answer my concerns with knowledge and authority.

    In 1981 I had an impromptu interview with a major oil company — I was in town, had just completed a full interview with a nearby firm, and decided to drop in while I had some time. The coordinator in Personnel/HR to whom I was directed informed me that she’d worked in the firm’s finance department for two years before being sent to Personnel/HR on a temporary basis to handle recruiting for financial positions, and would return to a financial position after 12-18 months. As with the previous examples, she knew the nature of the work in a functional area, and the personalities of the people with whom any financial candidate would be working.

    My dad spent his career in the “oil bidness,” starting in the field in Venezuela in the 1940s. He was promoted to warehouse manager, and made a “land-man” when transferred to the firm’s HQ in the early 1950s. When he tired of that job three years later and applied for a warehouse manager position with a competing oil company, he was told that the position had been filled. However, the Personnel manager who interviewed him was unusually prescient, and noted that my dad’s variety of experiences, including an overseas assignment, would make him ideal for a role in Personnel. I heard people from his firm and another larger oil company say that his broad experience made him one of the best in the business.

    If HR (or “Talent Management,” or whatever they want to call themselves these days) would stop staffing themselves with “HR Specialists” and follow the example set by the oil firm mentioned above, recruiting would be far more efficient, and the experiences of candidates would be much more satisfactory.

    • @Robert: I was waiting for the punchline… and it’s great! If you’re going to recruit ditch diggers from the HR department, maybe you should have been a ditch digger first…

      There’s a lesson in there.

  8. Nick,

    I can’t take any advise here seriously if it doesn’t address ageism. Even hiring managers are guilty of it. There is a huge pool of qualified candidates for virtually any professional job out there, but suffer from the inexcusable problem of being 55 years old or more. In my own case, I profited handsomely from the combination of ignorance and arrogance of upper level managers who were ignorant of the basic realities of getting things done as well as severely underestimating the ability of the milleniels to recognize a bad deal. Sorry I can’t get more into more details, but I am bound by non disclosure convents in return for taking a huge settlement. Easiest money I ever made. The basic problem is that HR under the direction of senior management has decided to focus on age and not experience in the hiring process in the pursuit of hiring people at the absolute lowest salaries.
    But getting back to the issue of hiring qualified candidates, you cannot dismiss a large swath of candidates simply because of the year they were born and not expect some consequence such as high turnover.

    • Ageism is a serious problem and so is absurd expectations of experience, together they essentially exclude all possible candidates from the pool.

      Companies write their job ads looking for young candidates: the younger, the better. They want Enthusiasm! They want Proactivity! They want them to be Always Available! And I guess the reasoning goes that young candidates will better fill that criteria. And yet simultaneously they want “vast, demonstrable experience in X, Y and Z” and also an advanced degree. If you add up the numbers, the youngest candidate would be over 30 to fill their position, and around 40 they start showing gray in their hair and therefore are no-nos. But if they’re looking for vast, demonstrable experience, large projects, a successful career, demonstrable ability to commit and deliver and whatever other buzzwords they manage to cram up in their ad, then, what’s the problem with a candidate showing up in their 50s or older? Who is going to fill their positions if they don’t want inexperienced people, but they also don’t want old people? They’re essentially discriminating against everyone. No one qualifies. And their positions remain vacant and the job remains not done.

      It really makes you wonder who writes these ads.

      • At 62, I’ve seen more than enough ageism, and I’ve had it flaunted in my face multiple times!
        Funny, it used to be when you turned 50, you had a bullseye on your back. Now, I’m hearing it’s dropping to 40.
        Let me share a story that ties into what you are saying.
        I had an account that manufactured playing cards for the gaming industry. After many years in business, the new owners decided to close shop and move to Mexico. They laid off their entire workforce, mostly comprised of age 50+ workers with 20+ years of tenure. The Plant Manager and Maintenance Manager were the last two employees to turn off the lights and lock the doors.
        The Plant Manager was well in his 50s, and had done a stint in the army, then started from the bottom and worked his way up. On his way up, he spent 5 years in their HR department. He held a dim view of HR. One day, the HR Manager went to lunch, and he had to wait 15 minutes in the drive through at a fast food joint. He complained to the young woman at the drive through window about it. “Tell someone who gives a rip” was her reply. The angry HR Manager returned to work. A few days later, a different young woman came into interview for a job, but she closely resembled in appearance the rude young woman who’d snubbed the HR Manager a few days before. Despite being a strong candidate, the HR Manager disqualified the young woman simply because she resembled the young woman at the fast food drive through.
        The Plant Manager also told me about how the EEOC had schooled them on how to protect themselves when writing job descriptions. Say they wanted to offer a position to an internal candidate. They’d write up an industry specific inflated job description, one that no one outside their immediate company would meet any of the criteria, then they’d offer the position to an internal candidate because they met the criteria.

    • @John: The problem is so deeply embedded in the psychology of employers and HR that I really believe some don’t think it’s even a problem. And I’m insulting them by saying that because what I’m really saying is, they’re screwing over their own businesses.

      The loss of expertise and experience represents a staggering cost to businesses. I don’t know of a company that has diversity policies and training that accounts for ageism.

  9. A simple solution is “just don’t deal with recruiters” at all. I’ve never got anywhere with them, nor have others I know.
    I’ve never understood why posters on here continue to fish in dirty water by using recruiters. Clearly, the horror stories should be enough to deter most from using recruiters.
    Two years tenure at a job is barely getting your feet wet. This guy may be expecting too much out of the job, but if he sees no light at the end of the tunnel, he needs to jump ship now.

    • With most of the best jobs disappearing, and employers dropping salaries 100% or more, the dirty waters might be all we have left. Every week the intermediate and senior technology positions are appearing as very specialized with stranger “extra” requirements. This usually means that a consultant who also sells prep courses for PMP, RCDD, Scrum, Agile, and other scams, wrote (or re-wrote) the job spec. There’s a good reason why undergrads can’t find courses that cover this. No one appears to be getting what’s wrong with this picture.

  10. Interesting topic as always. I may sound like I disagree with the hallowed idea that hiring managers should do the recruiting because they’re the best ones to do it. but I don’t disagre. And I’ve been a hiring manager for decades and mostly did my own recruiting..

    And perhaps I’ve lived a sheltered life..but I’ve worked in some hard assed companies. but I never worked anywhere where HR wrote a job description or “hired” anyone. In some companies the offer letter came from HR but the trigger was pulled by line management.

    For the sake of discussion, and perhaps over simplified, Managers are responsible for managing the best balance of product/service, time (to market), $/budget and finding and leading the people who impact those things. Ideally they do this with enviable precision with a team that gets the specified product, done on time within or budget…or better. Right! But company’s have learned, that idealism crashes into reality and managers being people, they don’t always do their jobs. That’s where accountability comes into play.

    I spent much of my life in QA. Product Quality is also a manager’s responsibility, a product/service attribute.. You can’t delegate it. It’s best done by those who build a product. The concept of a QA function/department is a management check and balance, put in place to reduce risks, usually learned the hard way, of line management failures to do due QA diligence. And show me a company that doesn’t have bean counters, looking over manager’s shoulders to ensure they are paying attention to that responsibility.

    Now back to the recruiting responsibility & why it usually ends up “in” HR. I know a lot of recruiters who think it should not be in HR, but reporting directly to the CEO. Why does it exist as an adjunct to line managers anyway? …because the concept that managers should do their own recruiting is unquestionable for all the reasons given. That’s a great idea, right up to when they don’t…And in my view here’s where things went awry and the HR dancing begun…It’s a senior management problem. Instead of putting strong managerial accountability in place..they engaged HR…in effect putting a staff function middleman in place… distorting hiring management performance. When in the hands of a process savvy HR team it can work…but not nearly as well as it does in the hands of a recruiting savvy hiring manager.

    When a QA Manager, I met a QA VP who had a very interesting philosophy about the role of QA. In his view, our job was to put ourselves out of business. That if QA was given the right attention by the development and Manufacturing managers, there’s no need for a separate organization. When I entered that business, QA was used like a verb..to QA mean to test really an engineering function. And we were historically doing a lot of testing that should have been done the (software) developers. acting like a 2nd class citizen testing service. In short what I focused on was moving QA back into the process, the ideal being the day development released software to QA..it was done. And we knew it was done. Conceptually this saves time & money.

    Suppose one applies that concept of putting yourself out of business to the recruiting process. And the writer’s angst. You could do these things.

    1. Start at the beginning. Put concerted effort into crystal clear, no BS, No platitudes job descriptions. Give potential newbies the info they need to consider joining you. Don’t be coy as if you’re doing them a favor by hiring them. Provide Starting salaries, salary ranges, what the business does, where it does it, why you think it’s a good place to be. Where they’d work. Up front access to employee manuals.
    This is a time saver on both sides. I’ve done this with conversational narrative postings with good success. It works. Job hunters really appreciate it. You know what feels good as a recruiter/hiring manager? when someone tells you “I want to work for a company who has a job description like this.”

    2. Build a process that treats people with respect, of their time, their convenience, their value, keep them informed, be decisive. A process leaves them wanting to work for you…even if you don’t see a place for them. Harness their networks by making them advocates of working for you. impress the heck out of them Always work the worse case…like there’s a shortage of people you need even when there’s a surplus. And act accordingly.

    3. I have this idea, that a recruiter would be far more useful to a hiring manager and the company, if you helped them develop sources. Sources for developing their networks, from which they can recruit. Where as Nick noted, they can directly contact people who can refer good candidates to them, and vs versa. Move past recruiting to connecting. For example I found it’s been very productive to go to a manager and tell him/her “I’ve met someone you should really know, want to know, and facilitate a meeting(s). I may be in the 1st one but then step out of the way. they can take it from there. Recruiters have sourcing skills and the time to do it, that a hiring manager lacks.

    4. Similarly do the spade work on universities. professional organizations, local job hunting networks, and vet the sources. This is a better use of time then sorting through volumes of applicants. For example, I found the much maligned job fair to be very useful to hiring managers. In most cases HR people represent the companies. In some cases warm bodies that just tell people submit your resume to a website and pissing people off in the process. What we did is lure the hiring managers to the fair and if done, that’s a whole different ball game. When you have 6-8 hiring managers there, who will talk to a job hunter..it stands out big time. And word gets round. And if you’re wondering how you can vet people before you bring them in as Nick noted. This is one way. It’s not an interview at the fair. It’s vetting.

    for example. One place I worked was at a manufacturing company. The Mfg manager was one of the larger
    departments. And if business picked up significantly he needed people fast. He quickly learned to love the job fairs that we found (oh free by the way) as he could meet a lot of people in a day, and get a sense of value. He typically didn’t talk shop there. What he was more interested in was enthusiasm &
    attitude. and he could get a very good sense of that at the job fair. Then he’d give me a short list of people he’d like to talk to.

    People that came to the table got biz cards and contacts & the savvy ones would reach out directly to him.

    Again. HR/the recruiting team really were just facilitating connections.

    5. Accountability. If you want hiring managers to recruit..it won’t work well without accountability. I’ve seen this done and it makes a world of difference as a motivator for hiring manager involvement.
    Top Down driven, from executive level down. Where status comes from the hiring manager and not HR. Where managers are told “treat hiring as if it was a new product development, a project” I will too and in every status meeting everyone’s going to status me, and I’m tracking it.” You’re recruiting success/or not will effect your bonus.” If they were crappy networkers..not helpful to their cause.
    There were still recruiters in play, but clearly just another resource. And good recruiters were
    appreciated, but clearly it was not their responsibility.

    6. In the last company I worked..if a hiring manager wanted to make an offer he/she had to get an OK on the offer from the President (small company) Once done, he/she’d make it verbally, and follow up with an offer letter. HR would only be in the background if needed, e.g. double checking for legal aspects, or formatting if the manager was uncertain etc.

  11. Interesting Q&A this week. The problem as I see is that too many so-called hiring managers either don’t want to do the hard work of actually recruiting or hiring, hence they’ve outsourced this task to HR, or they do, but upper level management has tied their hands behind their backs and taken this task away from them, outsourcing it to HR, or worse, to third party “recruiters” who know nothing about the job and less than that about the company.

    At my previous job, the former dean did her own recruiting and hiring, writing the job descriptions, and making use of her own personal connections and networks to hire. Not only that, if someone she knew didn’t get hired for a job but she knew of another opening somewhere else and thought that person would be a good fit, she’d recommend that person to the head of that dept., and tell the person whom to contact. After she retired in 2016, her methods of recruiting and hiring ended. The interim dean turned over all hiring to HR, and let them write the job descriptions. After his tenure as interim dean ended, the new dean followed his example (let HR handle everything) rather than the dean who retired. Yet both the interim dean and the new dean, as well as staff, complained to high heaven when the job descriptions were so poorly written as to be meaningless. When I gently suggested using B’s (the retired dean’s) example, I not only got shouted down, but written up. I kept my mouth shut after that, and figured that they must like it this way, because if they truly didn’t (you’d think with all the complaining about how badly HR wrote the job descriptions and how they brought them candidates–yes, using key words, letting a computer do the screening and selecting of candidates) they’d go back to B’s methods. So I don’t feel sorry for them–they created the mess, and can fix it, if the will is there, and it isn’t.

    So they got the “candidates” they deserved, plus the delays, because HR added more steps than necessary.