In the May 17, 2016 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, an employer is miffed at a good but cocky job applicant.
We received a resume which looked very good. The applicant appeared to have all the skills we are looking for, and would have gone straight to the top of the list, but the resume was submitted with an e-mail that read:
“If you are intelligent enough you will find that I’m everything you’re looking for and more. If you are not, then keep on looking…”
I understand people are trying to get noticed, but this comes across as arrogant and insulting. In the body of the resume, the candidate describes himself as, “Friendly, well-liked individual with a good sense of humor (at least I think so).”
If he was trying to be funny with his e-mail, he missed the mark. If he had omitted the e-mail comments entirely, he would have been called for an interview.
We are a small company and personality is a large part of what we look for in a candidate. Why would a candidate go out of their way to insult a potential employer? What are your thoughts on such bold statements when submitting resumes?
I’ll tell you exactly why the candidate wrote that note: He’s frustrated and exasperated with employers who waste his time again and again. Perhaps not you — but it’s happened so much that he sees no risk in being so bold.
Your company may be different, but the sad story today is that employers in general behave poorly and irresponsibly when hiring. They believe that because millions of resumes are available essentially for free online, they can interview all the candidates they want without recognizing a good hire — and continue interviewing without any obligation to candidates who match requirements. (See Systemic Recruitment Fraud: How employers fund America’s jobs crisis.)
Is your company part of a frustrating employment ecosystem?
Good employers who recruit and hire thoughtfully and treat candidates with respect are rare today. I believe the problem is an over-reliance on automation. LinkedIn and Indeed have sold employers a bill of goods – “We guarantee you the perfect candidate if you submit as many keywords as possible… and if you just keep searching our database… eventually, you’ll find your perfect fit.”
Employers who buy into this nonsense start running through applicants like paper towels. This particular applicant is fed up and probably doesn’t care any more whom he offends. That’s not wise. He should stop sending out random resumes, start relying on personal contacts, and emphasize respect. But so should employers.
(To get an idea of how big this frustration is, please see David Hunt’s excellect expose, “The Perfect Fit, Isn’t.”)
I think the recruiting tools that HR departments rely on are the root of this problem. HR’s systems program job seekers to apply for any job they find. HR has convinced job seekers that it’s a numbers and key-words game.
Then the whole thing blows up. HR complains of a “talent shortage” when we’re in the biggest talent glut America has ever seen. Candidates complain they are treated like commodities. And, finally, you get a note like that. It’s silly for any candidate who doesn’t know you to suggest he’s everything you’re looking for — until you consider that you probably advertised your position using keywords. If the candidate matches all those keywords, then he’s right — he is indeed “everything you’re looking for.”
Clean up your recruiting ecosystem
So the next thing to do is look at how you recruit. Is your method fair and reasonable, or is it contributing to a form of dumbed-down “matching” that encourages job applicants to view you with suspicion?
When reasonable people — like your “top of the list” candidate — start showing their frustration, it’s usually a sign that something is wrong. Your company may not be guilty, but your peer companies may be creating a communal problem. That affects your business — so, what are you doing about it?
I give you credit for trying to understand what’s going on. Otherwise-smart employers and candidates are doing imprudent things — because they’re frustrated. The system has to be changed, and I believe it’s up to employers to take the lead, since they’re the ones who own the jobs and spend the money.
Here are some suggestions:
- Attend a chamber of commerce meeting. Work with other employers on standards of recruiting behavior. Raise them.
- Ask your HR team to survey other employers: How do they treat job candidates?
- Work with other employers: Improve the employment ecosystem for everyone’s benefit.
I don’t think the applicant in question was trying to be funny. If you think he’s a good fit, I’d pick up the phone and shock him with a call — and ask him politely why he seems so frustrated. If he’s rude, hang up. But my guess is you might meet a solid, engaging person who’s just fed up with the system. He might be a gem.
(Consider the other side of this: Job applicants often interview with employers even after they’ve been insulted by ridiculous online application forms. Don’t be so quick to judge people before you actually meet them.)
I wrote so much about this because it’s a huge problem in our employment system. I think job seekers who behave badly sometimes do it because they feel abused and at a disadvantage. I’m tickled to see an employer pausing to think about what’s really going on. I enjoyed your thoughtful note. But I’d like to know, what are you going to do about this problem?
Do you get cocky with employers? If you’re an employer, how do you deal with good candidates who seem to have an attitude? Is everyone on edge because the employment system is so broken?