Auren Hoffman has reinvented headhunting and escaped from Armchair Recruiting: Hiring what comes along. This is a genuine compliment, not a backhanded one. I’m tickled that someone else is writing about this.

In Why hiring is paradoxically harder in a downturn, Hoffman realizes that when more people are looking for jobs, employers get more garbage resumes because many more “C” people are job hunting than “A” people. (A people are the best, C the worst, B in between.)

This explosion of job hunters skews the outcome of any recruiting effort that relies on resumes — employers wind up wasting precious resources looking for the same needle in a far bigger haystack.

And this explains why headhunters charge $30,000 to fill a $100,000 position, while a job posting costs virtually nothing. The real cost of “recruiting” (it isn’t recruiting!) via ads and resumes arises on the back end — the overhead involved in dealing with all those resumes. Headhunters cost more by themselves, but they bring you only a small number of highly-qualified candidates. In Hoffman’s terms, “less noise.”

How is that so? Headhunters go find who they need. They don’t sit around waiting for who comes along after requesting resumes — and today who comes along is millions of C people.

Nice work, Auren, for figuring it out and explaining it. I hope more people get it. And I hope it’s clear that while the economic downturn has put a sharp point on the hiring-by-resume problem, it’s a strategic hiring error all the time, even in boom times.

More about this in 7 Mistakes Internal Recruiters Make and Ten Stupid Hiring Mistakes.

  1. “Headhunters cost more by themselves, but they bring you only a small number of highly-qualified candidates.”

    that’s IF you’re smart enough and lucky enough to engage a recruiter from the A team. There are probably the same percentage of B and C recruiters as there are B and C candidates.

    B and C recruiters will bring you the same resumes you can find yourself on

    that’s just my experience never having worked with an A recruiter. then again, I take full responsibility for that – they were my mistakes.


  2. Nick — thanks for the kind words. and I have learned a lot about hiring from reading your blog today. our company will be much better at attracting talent because of your writings. thanks!

  3. Nick and Auren, thanks for the excellent insight. While employed at the moment, I was looking for an insider’s perspective on what has to be a deluge of resumes and what impact that has on a job search. More applicants from the bottom of the pile.