New Jersey is the only state where it’s illegal to publish job ads that exclude unemployed people. Is that because New Jersey has especially stupid employers, or because New Jersey is the first state to recognize that there are too many employers everywhere that behave stupidly?

Does it matter? Here’s what matters: The company that took the first bust under this new law reveals a lot about Stupid Recruiting.

CEO J. Michael Goodson explained Crestek’s recruiting strategy. The job posting for a service manager included the requirement, “Must be currently employed” because Crestek wanted someone “at the top of their game and not people who have been unemployed for 18 months.”

Now for the punchline: According to the Star-Ledger, Goodson “spent three years seeking the right person and sifting through resumes was time-consuming…” [Emphasis added.]

Recruiting is hard work: You have to sit and wait an awfully long time.

This $185 million company spent three years trying to fill a position so important that the CEO waited leisurely for a resume to come along and nibble on his job-ad line. Translation: Hiring what comes along. Gee — I wonder how much it cost Crestek to leave that job unfilled for three years while Goodson sifted incoming resumes. Did it ever occur to Goodson to go out and find, cultivate, cajole, steal and otherwise recruit the person he needed?

The Talent-Shortage Brain Fart

Waiting for job ads to deliver a top candidate to your front door is like waiting for customers to show up. Doesn’t Crestek have a sales force that goes out to find customers? Then why doesn’t Goodson get out there to find top talent? Why is this company banking its future on want ads? I can see Goodson’s next initiative: Fire the sales force and run more ads!

Why did this company resort to warning jobless applicants away? “This was the only time we ever advertised that way and we only ran it when the other ads failed to produce any viable candidates.”

Ahhh… this was an experimental, state-of-the-art job ad. A new way address the talent shortage. A brain fart.

Remember the talent shortage? 4.2 million Americans are out of work, and almost half a million of them in New Jersey. Not one qualified applicant came along while Crestek was dipping its line in the water. Must be the talent shortage at play — or poor management?

Stupid Recruiting: A sign of lousy management

Says Goodson: “For this job, I wanted somebody that’s in the service business and is employed. If someone is out of work for 18 months, my concern would be that their last job was in a bakery or pumping gas.”

If I were looking for a job at a good company, my concern would be that the service manager’s job at Crestek was empty for three years because the CEO didn’t know how to fill it. I’d wonder whether the the company might be better off if the CEO would go pump gas.

Running ads and waiting for Mr. or Ms. Right to show up at your company is passive recruiting and poor management. Now that the CEO has tripped over his tangled recruiting line, Crestek’s corporate resume has been updated with a rap sheet for violating New Jersey employment law. But no state in the union fines companies for Stupid Recruiting.

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  1. Four years ago I was laid off and since then built up a modestly successful consulting business. Because I’m earning much less than I would in a full time job in my industry, I apply for jobs. Would you believe that many HR departments consider someone in my situation to be “unemployed?”

    Now I know that many who have no work hang out a shingle and call themselves a “consultant.” I don’t fault them for that tactic. It preserves self-respect. HR seems to thing everyone who is an independent practicioner is doing this.

    MY point is that with a bunch of accomplishments, and clients, HR turns up its nose at people like me in favor of someone who is “employed.”

    Gee, wouldn’t you want someone who can make a buck no matter what the circumstances?

    My motto for the morning – brain dead recruiting can lead to dead companies.

  2. Did I read this correctly? He said, “at the top of their game and not people who have been unemployed for 18 months.” In this economy? I have never read anything so idiotic in my life.

  3. Typo police force notice:

    “because the CEO didn’t knew how to fill it”

    Nick, I know you’ll want to correct that. It’t the first typo I’ve ever seen you post and I’ve been enjoying your unique perspective for years.

  4. Oops. I meant It’s. I should’ve hit preview before submit.

  5. It embarrasses me that NJ is my former home…

    Should this really surprise us coming from the same place that produced Jersey Shore, The Sopranos and The Real Housewives of NJ? But seriously, this situation may be an extreme example of “dumb $ss” recruiting, but it’s not alone. You can’t believe the stories I’ve heard from job seekers as well as tech vendors about the recruiting departments they sell to.

  6. Consulting as “Unemployed”. Tell me about it. On top of that you get questions like “what ever motivates someone to bring you on as a consultant?” implying that it’s just gullible companies that would actually lend you any credibility as a gainfully employed consultant. They will also imply that you’re just ornery and intolerant of the corporate bureaucracy where you have to hire and fire, follow plans, do compliance, etc.
    All of this of course flies in the face of the “insightful” career guidance that tells you how favorably consulting will be looked upon rather than idleness. I actually think some companies and recruiters would prefer to think you were sitting by the phone with hands clasped hopefully waiting for a “real job” rather than muddying the waters with your mercenary “consulting”.

  7. How you are treated as a candidate sets the ceiling for how you are treated as an employee…. it doesn’t get any better after you are hired. There is a lot to learn about the company in the recruiting process for cues about the culture, decision making and how people are valued. Crappy recruiting practices that seem like they lack basic human professionalism and courtesy are generally associated in my experience with workplaces lacking those qualities. So although being treated poorly as a candiate is painful, and often feels personal even though it isn’t, job seekers should heed the big red flag. It’s not you. It’s them.

  8. Anyone who “disses” an individual for consulting almost has to motivated by envy. Either envy of consulting’s perceived freedom, or of the consultant’s talent and courage. In any case, any employer who is that stupid and disrespectful doesn’t deserve talented employees.

  9. I’ll share what I opined in the Cynical Girl on much the same topic.

    Great topic. Discrimination can be a form of laziness, an attitude some people can take to lay claim to some status not gained by achievement. This particular form, copping an attitude about the unemployed is nothing but that, a toxic mix of laziness, stupidity and risk avoidance. Deployed by people in corporations who’ve never been unemployed……yet.
    Hiring, firing, terminating etc is too complex to reduce to a mantra like “hire only the employed” or hire only (fill in the blanks) The stupid part is the underlying assumption that “if they were any good they’d still be employed. You only have to live in Corporate America and go through a major layoff to see that the end result always fails a reason test, where people are stunned by who’s been let go….and who stays. The “only the best survive” fallacy is based on the root assumption that companies behave rationally when they terminate. NOT!
    The lazy part Laurie pointed out, on this idiotic search for the Holy Grail of hires, the perfect candidate, the perfect fit. In the cold light of day, the perfect fit, isn’t perfect at all. Say the perfect candidate is an employed one who hits the mark dead on 10 requirements. 6 won’t do, 8 won’t do. So what it comes down to is you’re looking for someone who will do exactly what they do where they are. They’ll be effective the day they start work etc.. Zero challenge, zero professional growth, the human robot. And you’re looking for someone who’s satisfied to keep doing the same thing over and over, seemingly content to live in their comfortable box. You’re going to build a hard charging department, division, company with new hires like this? Really?
    As a manager I learned if the length of the search exceeds the ramp time of a new person I’m losing productivity big time. …or some higher power is going to question if my need is real. I’ll quickly take 6 out of 10 from a person who has a track record of moving out of their comfort zone and learning fast. I prefer spirit over function. If they love what they do, or will do, they’ll do fine. You can’t teach enthusiasm.
    Risk aversion. Behind a stance like only the employed is a company and managers who lack the guts to do the job to find TALENT. Talent to take on new things and succeed. They want what they think is the low risk route to cover their collective ass. It doesn’t work, as I noted above, the low risk recruiting path brings in low risk perfect hires, who also don’t take risks.
    So Laurie’s got it right. Quit whining about not finding the perfect candidates, hiring vets, hire career changing unemployed, and open your freaking eyes and look inside your companies. The people you want are likely in front of you. They just need leadership
    Let me give you a good example of this whole thing. I’m old. I worked in the hi-tech computer industry. Back in the day when computers became commercial, you needed computer programmers. In short…they initially didn’t exist. You couldn’t recruit to meet need as the industry grew. You couldn’t snivel about lack of trained people etc. Computer Sciences didn’t exist in universities. That didn’t stop anyone. You got creative. In my case, I just had a knack for programming. We made computer programmers out of truck drivers, musicians, mathematicians, chess players, engineers etc. So I look at industry’s claims they can’t find people…and think it’s lazy BS.
    Sorry I rant, and this is too long, so I’ll close Don

  10. @Linda Soldatos I could not agree with you more. The precursor to a firm IS found in the HR process.

    I do find the chain of events in many HR departments out of control with too many managers and overworked unqualified reps, nine times out of ten the scene is as follows:

    Too many HR departments are relying on too many people, too many managers, too many area directors, too many titled incompetents, therefore computerised, poorly planned out application processes to gain employees (notice I am not using the word talent.) These resumes, which are then sorted and scanned by poorly, trained incompetent so-called HR Assistants. Those assistants are often just “Go’fers” for the HR Administrators (who are themselves simply secretaries “Go’fers”) for HR Directors. These same HR Directors are also just “Go’fers” (and glorified overpaid secretaries to the one so-called executive over HR.) This is all resulting in a ton of salaries being wasted, a horde of effort that results in just pulling in poor candidates, and producing mounds of paperwork in terms of spread sheets. All that in the end winds up in the hands of an older job jumping Senior VP of HR. This Senior man, who in most cases is an older hen pecked man who desperately does anything to keep his job, so in return he keeps producing paperwork, consolidating in-house jobs and or cutting staff entirely to make the end game, the CEO think that he is a man who knows his stuff.

    It is all too often a hilarious chain of events creating a black comedy no serious talented applicant should have to endure. All of this waste of money and effort. The bottom-line is that real talent must recognise this scenario and run not walk out.

  11. That’s a very good thread. I remember when I first ran into this mental stance that consulting is somehow bad: I was befuddled, first and foremost, because the overwhelming majority of contractors/consultants I ran into in my life were head and shoulders above the regular FT crowd. Technically, I mean. It’s just no comparison. But perhaps it still makes sense, only from a different standpoint: after all, technical competence aside, an employee should be (or is expected to be, w/o saying so) a good “organization’s man”. Now, on THAT account contractors tend to be very lacking: they’re quite independent-minded and don’t easily fit into a horde of cattle as it were. So perhaps THIS is the reason, rather than anything technical, who knows…

  12. … technical competence aside, an employee should be (or is expected to be, w/o saying so) a good “organization’s man”. Now, on THAT account contractors tend to be very lacking: they’re quite independent-minded and don’t easily fit into a horde of cattle as it were. So perhaps THIS is the reason, rather than anything technical, who knows…—Reader

    The main difference I’ve found between consulting and FTE is that as a consultant, my butt is on the line to hit my numbers. If I don’t work, then I don’t eat.

    When I was working “for the man” as long as I showed up on time (butts in seats when the clock strikes 9) and did a reasonable level of work, then I was fine. As a consultant, it is the other way. The ONLY thing that matters is getting the work done.

    It is ironic, because when I was a FTE, I found meetings to be a waste of time, but other than boredom, no big deal (that’s what smartphones are for). As a consultant, I can literally hear the money burn away, because I don’t get paid for meetings, just what I produce. The incentive is to get out of there and get to work :)

  13. It can be this way, sure. Although, sometimes, even as a contractor you end up in a typical FT setup (butt in seat at 9 am, etc.). When they hire you for a large job that you do exclusively (for them), you end up somewhat like an FT employee for a time. Nothing wrong with that, except, again, contrators tend to be very knowledgeable – which (going back to our topic here) is strangely lost of those who thing a contracting period on someone’s resume is a bad thing. Could never quite understand this, especially in our times where life-time employment, though fairly typical in the past, is literally nonexistent anymore. The two best companies I worked for (and would have liked to work there forever) went out of business or got bought (and effectively dismantled, changed beyond recognition). You simply can’t rely on any particular employer for your livelihood, even under the best cricumstances (and they’re not always the best, too).

  14. A Coopersburg (Pa.) lighting-controls manufacturer’s most recent excuse for refusing to talk to me was an employment gap prior to a then-current 36-month-plus period of continuous employment. HR seems to do the recruiting; I have no reason to believe that the hiring manager is involved initially. I generally refuse to waste my time with these people; but, on this occasion, I made an exception. I was not disappointed; they behaved as I expected. I’ve also been led to believe that these people have a hard time finding warm bodies to do the work. Go figure.

  15. “Contractor” = cheaper and easier to get rid of

    “Consultant” = a) what unemployed people call themselves b)… c)… d) what competent people with sellable expertise call themselves

  16. @Linda Soldatos: What you are pointing out is so easily missed by most folks, and it’s often dismissed by those who see it. How a company behaves when interviewing and hiring you is how it will behave once you are an employee. Little will change.

    Now here’s my message: Judge the company during the interview process.

    They’re judging you. Pound it into your head: This is what you’re getting into and who you will be working with. Decide now if this is what you want. Because you’ll have to live with it.

    I say it so often, but I’ll say it again: I believe most people go job hunting because they took the wrong job to begin with.

    Judge. That’s what the interview is for.

  17. @Bryan: I make no secret of the fact that almost everything I advocate for the interview and hiring process is based on how a good consultant wins a new assignment.

    It’s all about showing how you will do the work profitably and the way the employer wants it done. It’s that simple.

    Why do people forget that even if you’re an employee, this rule always comes back home to you: If you don’t produce good work, you don’t eat. That automatic paycheck keeps arriving only until they figure out you’re not producing.

    Employees enjoy (?) a lag between the realization that you’re not producing, and the termination of that paycheck. Consultants don’t see much of a lag. It keeps them honest.

    Employees should all think more like consultants.

  18. > Employees should all think more like consultants.
    Absolutely. A lot of people have illusions about the full-time status. I’ve been contracting for a long time and, regrettably, saw a number of companies go out of business (telecom crash, etc.). Once the things start going badly, they start dribbling people, and the funny thing is, they’ll kick out all their employees and I-the-contractor will still be there. I literally closed the building a number of times. So much for the permanence of their employment. The way it’s going there will not be any permanent employment soon; you truly are safer on your own, first because every end of engagement doesn’t disturb your overall setup (medical, retirmeent, etc.), and second it looks better on your resume: why did you leave this job? Well, if you’re a contractor, the reason is the project ended. But if you’re a perm, an HR donkey (or a recruiter) will think, aha! there must have been a problem! I’ve regularly taken sabbaticals, no problem (no one’s business, really), but how would a perm explain a year-long (or two) gap in his employment? Independent is better. And, effectively, you’re not even finding yourself looking for work more than perms. Well, a little bit.

  19. The HR people themselves have coined the term “Purple Squirrel” to describe the 10 out 10 candidate, the “perfect fit”. Has anyone else come across this term?

    I believe Nick has a guest post on why the imperfect candidate is the best fit.

  20. @underemployed and Clinically Depressed

    Purple squirrel as we used it basically meant hard to find unique corner cases…e.g. left handed Romanian nun who speaks Mandarin and is an SAP subject matter expert. Must pay own relocation expense.

    There was a period of time when clients were particularly picky but “perfect candidate” usually said it well and it was habitual.

    You can safely assume when there are more people than jobs, clients get the itch for perfection and waste peoples time. When there are more jobs than people, they come to their senses and pay more attention to real recruiting and talent scouting, finding people who can do the job regardless of bullet points.

  21. Nick, after all your time in the business, I’m surprised that you still seem to think that the Firing Department’s job is recruiting employees.

    Isn’t it obvious that HR’s purpose is to protect the organisation from embarrassing lawsuits? The first step in that process is ensuring that they don’t hire anyone likely to cause one. If that thwarts the achievement of any actual goals, how will they be blamed?

    P.S. I share Don Harkness’s background, and endorse his comments about diversity. IT used to be much more interesting when it was full of misfits, and called “Data Processing”.

  22. @AJR: “Data Processing!” And HR was called “Payroll!” As operations become redundant and inefficient, the length of their titles increases and the easier it is to make fun of them. I’ve mentioned that the Shipping Department at a company I once worked for was a real disaster — so they renamed it “The Department of Efficient Deliveries.”

  23. Nick Corcodilos,

    OMG, you worked for Federal Express? (I could not resist the opportunity to post this well-deserved dig aimed at Federal Express’s contingent of Satan’s minions — LOL.)

  24. @Omar: Sorry, it wasn’t FedEx… I’ve actually had good experiences with FedEx as a customer.

  25. Regarding FedEx (formerly Federal Express), by now, many/most people have at least heard of the infamous delivery that was caught on surveilance video. Several days ago, for the first time in my 15-plus years’ experience with FedEx and FedEx Ground at my current address, my local FedEx Ground route driver made a proper delivery. Note that I have never had a problem with the way that UPS and USPS make their deliveries.

  26. Not hiring (or even looking at) a candidate who is not currently employed is truly foolish. If you think about it, I believe each of us could name at least one person who is very capable, but has at one point in time, been unemployed. Good grief!

    Now as to the bad rap that “consultants” get. Assuming that all “consultants” are the same is a mistake. I have been a consultant since 1985. Yes, I have met some consultants who had been laid off and really just wanted a job.

    However, I CHOSE to become a consultant for several reasons. When I worked at a public accounting firm, a client asked me to look at a business that he was thinking of purchasing. After gathering information and talking with him, I put together a spreadsheet of anticipated income or loss and cash flow.

    I showed my projections and assumptions to my supervisor, who agreed with my projections. These projections showed that he would lose $1.8 million the 1st year. I told my supervisor that my recommendation to the client would be for them not to buy the business. My supervisor told me that I could not give the client that information, “since the client had not asked that question”.

    I vividly remember thinking, “If I ever have my own consulting business, I will never withhold this information from my client.”

    I could not advise the client that he not buy the business. Absent that advice, he purchased it.

    Oh, by the way I was mistaken. My client’s loss was not the $1.8 million that I projected. He only lost $1.7 million before he shut down the company.

    As a consultant I am free to offer my best business advice to clients. Since the client is my boss, I can focus on delivering value to him or her. Not only does that help the client’s business, but I derive great personal satisfaction from doing so.

    I think that a great consultant would make an excellent employee. First, we need to keep up with technology, best business practices, what is happening in the current economy, government regulation and taxation. For me, making changes in a business is not just a process of ordering subordinates to do XYZ. As a consultant, I need to sell my ideas to management and then work with teams of client employees to accept and implement these ideas.

    So, 27 years later I am still a consultant. I love what I do and it does give me great pleasure to help my clients succeed.

    Yes, there are downsides to consulting. You must be a self-starter, need to find your own clients, collect the receivables and pay the rent. In my experience, the positive attributes vastly outweigh the negative.

    I close with a quote from a client. “Dennis, every time I meet with you, I make money.”