In the November 15, 2011 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job hunter who tries to take a personal approach to an employer is told to “go tell it to our website” in order to comply with federal rules:
Nick, this is a new one to me. Do we really need to apply online for positions before contacting anyone in a company, “to be compliant with government programs?”
Is this true, or are they using a federal smokescreen here? I made a personal inquiry about a job through LinkedIn, and they sent me to their website to apply. Here is the reply I received:
“In order to be considered for any of our positions at [Fortune 100 company] it will be important to apply to the position. To be compliant with our Govt programs, a candidate has to apply to the positions to be considered. Also, if you are interested in moving forward, can you please send to me a copy of your resume and I will send it over to our hiring manager.
Mary [surname omitted]
BE VITAL in your career, Be seen for the talent you bring to your work. Explore opportunities within the [Company] Family of Companies”
When I did as I was told in the past and applied online at this company’s website, they immediately sent out a notice of rejection, thanking me for applying, saying they have no open positions at this time, and wishing me best of luck in my job search.
How do they expect to get good candidates?
Many companies have policies requiring submission of an application online, even if they don’t cite federal law. (The feds require employers to document their compliance with equal opportunity hiring laws, and this may be why some companies like to have an online audit trail of applications.)
You’ve encountered a company recruiter who is more concerned about dotting i’s and crossing t’s than recruiting competitively. Telling you that the personal approach you took is inadequate, and to go fill out the online form, is not smart, competitive behavior. (I do give her credit for requesting your resume. But after you went to the trouble to make a personal contact, her suggestion is no more personal than filling out that online form.)
Even if this recruiter were to respond to you outside the confines of those online forms, she could still make sure that your application was properly documented — later. To answer your question, I don’t know how a company expects to attract “VITAL” candidates and to “see the talent you bring to your work” when the first order of business is to shunt them to the website, where applicants can do the HR staff’s adminstrative work — filling out forms and tracking applicants.
What you should do
Keep taking the personal approach. If you can make a good contact through LinkedIn, go for it — but don’t bother with contacts in the personnel department. Find a manager in the company who actually needs to hire someone. Establish mutual interest, and even get an interview if possible. If the discussion becomes serious, then you can submit the online stuff to satisfy the bureaucrats who had absolutely nothing to do with attracting you to the company. In the meantime, you’ve got the ball rolling with that hiring manager, ahead of your competition.
The personnel jockey who told you to go fill out the online form will be busy driving away good candidates — to her competitors.
Your experience isn’t unusual. Employers seem to have turned half-assed recruiting into a top-level strategy for turning away top talent. “Recruiting” has been reduced to running ads, telling people to fill out forms, and waiting for talent to show up. In New Jersey, lazy, mindless recruiting practices are getting companies busted for violating the law: See my blog posting, Employer Fined for Stupid Recruiting, about the first employer to be fined for posting a job that requires applicants “to be currently employed.”
I’ll keep saying it: Stories like this prove that the talent shortage is in the recruiting department and in the leadership of many companies. It’s why employers can’t find talent when we’re in the biggest talent glut in history. Goof-ball personnel jockeys send talent away, while foolhardy CEOs (see the aforementioned New Jersey story) would rather leave a job undone for three years than even consider jobless talent.
Did you go sour on an employer who wouldn’t give you the time of day after you went to the trouble to make a personal contact? Have you opened a door to introduce yourself to an employer, only to wonder, “Is there anybody in there?” What behavior do you see among employers that tells you they’re not doing this right?