Unemployment 3.7%, slow-down in hiring up 84%

Unemployment 3.7%, slow-down in hiring up 84%

hiring

For a flat fee, an employer that’s hiring can get over 9 million resumes from ZipRecruiter. That’s great news, because with unemployment in the U.S. at record lows (3.7% in July 2019), employers need more job applicants!

Not. Actually, employers are drowning in resumes and job applicants.

News I want you to use

The HCM Technology Report says Indecisive Hiring Managers Cause Employers to Lose Talent. Do ya think???

“In 2018, hiring managers took 33 days to make an offer after interviewing a candidate. That’s an 84 percent increase compared to 2010. The extended timeframe led to a 16 percent reduction in accepted offers.”

What changed in 8 years? An employer can get over 9 million resumes for a few bucks.

And you wonder why hiring managers take forever to decide whether to hire you? More jobs stay vacant longer because HR and hiring managers are so overwhelmed with wrong job applicants that they can’t decide who are the good ones.

What hiring slow-down means to job seekers

  • You need to account for poor management when you interview for a job.
  • You should avoid the cattle call of the job boards.

What this means to employers

HCM says:

“Companies that encourage decisive behavior by hiring managers reduce time-to-fill by 17 percent.”

“Hiring managers should spend more time engaging with candidates. This is critical… because candidates trust hiring managers four times as much as they trust recruiters.”

Maybe HR departments should turn off the fire hose of resumes and teach hiring managers how to hire.

There’s lots more news you can use in the HCM Technology Report.

How long did it take to get hired or rejected by the last employer that interviewed you? Did the hiring manager seem to know what they were doing?

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Indeed delivers 65% of hires. Yup?

Indeed delivers 65% of hires. Yup?

In the April 2, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a manager says he’ll never post another job on Indeed.

Question

IndeedIndeed.com – what a joke! The first time we used Indeed was last year. We got scads of applications and scheduled four interviews. One candidate showed. The rest were all no-shows. Fortunately, we got really lucky and hired the one person who showed up. To be fair, for another job we scheduled four interviews and only one was a no-call, no-show.

The last time we used Indeed was for an accounting position. Again, we received scads of resumes (53) and reached out to 10 people for interviews. Only four accepted. We then scheduled and confirmed them. None showed up or bothered to call to cancel.

What interested me about your article (The Bogus-ness of Indeed.com) was that we had been attributing the no-call, no-show behavior to “Millennials,” but your article has caused me to think that it may also be a by-product of using an online job board. We stopped using Craigslist for the same reason.

This is the problem with job boards. They are completely anonymous with no accountability. As a result, their “applicants” are free to be flaky without recourse. This is the last time we will use Indeed.com. Do you think anything has changed since your 2014 article?

Nick’s Reply

Maybe we can all put our heads together. I’d like to know what members of this community conclude by analyzing Indeed’s marketing and Indeed’s claims about its “success rate” in filling jobs.

What’s up at Indeed?

Something big changed at Indeed.com since that 2014 article. Indeed’s revenues went from $434 million (2014) to $777 million (2015) to $1.229 billion (2016).

In its 2018 annual report, Indeed’s Japanese parent, Recruit Holdings Co., LTD., reported 2017 revenues of $1.976 billion attributed to Indeed.com.

That’s a 355% increase in revenues over three years. (Gosh! Do you think somebody in HR is spending a awful lot of money on Indeed?)

What did you say was Indeed’s success rate getting Indeed’s job applicants to show up for interviews?

Since it seems you actually hired one person across three jobs you posted on Indeed in the course of a year, I suppose that’s a 33% success rate, eh?

What do other readers make of the numbers?

Marketing, Indeed

In May 2017, Indeed published this on its company blog: REPORT: Indeed Delivers 65% of Hires and 72% of Interviews from Job Sites. The article includes statements like these:

  • “Indeed gets jobs for more people than all other sites combined”
  • “Indeed continues to deliver more hires than any other job site”
  • “According to SilkRoad, Indeed delivered 65% of all hires made in the United States from online sources in 2016, which represents a further widening of an already commanding lead”
  • “Indeed delivers 2X as many hires as all other top branded external sources”
  • “Indeed is responsible for 65% of all hires from job sites: effectively twice as many as all other online sources combined, and almost six times as many as second place Careerbuilder”

Who needs any other job board, website or even any employer’s own career page?

Aggregating, Indeed

Where do all those jobs that people get on Indeed really come from?

Here’s what we learn about Indeed on Wikipedia:

  • “The site aggregates job listings from thousands of websites, including job boards, staffing firms, associations, and company career pages.”
  • “As a single-topic search engine, it is also an example of vertical search.”

Indeed.com is a search engine that searches for just one thing, everywhere: job listings. Calling Indeed the source of 65% of all hires seems akin to calling Google the #1 source of all information because people use it to search all other websites.

The SilkRoad “Report”

The Indeed blog posting referred to above is actually about a “report” published by a company called SilkRoad: Sources of Hire 2017: Where the Candidate Journey Begins – Your Guide to Finding the Best Candidates. (That link will open the report in your browser, but you may download it from SilkRoad, which makes it freely available.)

The report claims to be a “quantitative survey” of more than “1,000 customers using SilkRoad’s applicant tracking system (SilkRoad Recruiting),” based on “15 Million Applicants, 392,00 Hires, 655,000 Interviews.” However, the survey, sampling, data gathering, and analysis methodology are not described.

The report tells us where employers found the people they hired. It breaks the “sources” of hires into two categories:

  • Internal Sources of Hire: employee and personal referrals, HR, a company’s own careers web page, and internal employee movement like promotions
  • External Sources of Hire: other job boards and online sources

Here’s how SilkRoad presents the numbers. Please pay attention.

  • 52% of hires are made via Internal Sources
  • 48% of hires are made via External Sources
  • 65% of External hires are attributed to Indeed

What SilkRoad never calculates for the reader is the percentage of all hires that are attributed to Indeed. It’s a simple calculation: 65% X 48% = 31% of all hires.

Every HR manager I know says that virtually all jobs are posted online to comply with equal opportunity hiring regulations. So I’d like to know what readers think: How can SilkRoad tease apart “Internal” and “External” Sources of hires?

What does it mean that “Indeed Delivers 65% of Hires… from Job Sites”?

According to comScore, Indeed.com was the #1 job site worldwide in 2018 based on total visits. Since Indeed “aggregates job listings from thousands of websites, including job boards, staffing firms, associations, and company career pages,” WTF are we really talking about? Is anyone impressed by that?

Take a quick look at the SilkRoad “report” and Indeed’s claims in its blog posting. What do you think it means?

Indeed at the CareerXroads

Going back to the turn of the century, my good buddies at CareerXroads — the first real job-board watchdog — conducted annual surveys of the Source of Hires at hundreds of companies. (Check this example.)

I eagerly read every one of the annual reports they issued. In over a decade, the results did not meaningfully change. Accounting for “internal” and “external” and “all” hires, every year all the major job boards in aggregate seemed to deliver only around 10% of all hires to companies surveyed.

But CareerXroads stopped conducting the survey. Here’s why: Tracking Source of Hire Is A Train Wreck. In its 2015 report, CXR said:

The quality of the data currently found within ALL ATSs [Applicant Tracking Systems] is still, and especially today, too ugly to use for effective decision making. Vendors who bolt on other solutions to cherry pick internet candidate movement collect equally flawed data. They [mostly] embarrass themselves with their hype over their claims to be measuring ‘best source of hire data’.

If the oldest job-board watchdog gives up on trying to suss out the “Source of Hires” after over a decade of trying, what’s up with SilkRoad’s conclusion that Indeed is the source of 65% of any kinds of hires?

What do you think?

Back to our hiring manager

I’d like to thank the manager who submitted this week’s question and commentary. Yours is one of the most compelling critiques of Indeed that I’ve seen from an employer. Thanks for sharing it. Even if you filled one out of three jobs you posted in Indeed, the stunning no-show rate may be the most interesting bit of data in your story. It seems to suggest that Indeed delivers drive-by job applications. (I agree with you — I wouldn’t blame Millennials.)

Members of this community continue to recount in detail their experiences with drive-by recruiters “soliciting” them via Indeed and other job boards.

I’ve contended for years that when employers post jobs on heavily trafficked job boards, all they’re doing is turning on a fire hose. Scads of people apply just because they can click a button. Indeed and its ilk teach people that job hunting is a crap shoot, a lottery, a numbers game, a mindless enterprise. Even if you win, you know that if you show up for an interview, you’ll probably lose. So why show up? (See Reductionist Recruiting: A short history of why you can’t get hired.)

This in turn leads those very employers to criticize the quality of America’s workers — they complain there’s a “talent shortage.” But when companies go dumpster diving for job candidates, they shouldn’t be surprised at what they (don’t) find.

What’s your take?

“Indeed delivers 65% of hires.” Yup? I know job seekers are frustrated with the likes of Indeed, ZipRecruiter, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor (which is now owned by the same company that owns Indeed) — because you tell me right here on this forum.

But I’d love your take — your analysis — of the marketing information published by Indeed and SilkRoad and the other data described above. Do me a favor and run some of the numbers that are designed to make employers spend their billions of recruiting dollars on automated recruiting.

What does it all add up to? 65%? 31%? Of what? Nothing is going to change if we don’t figure it out and talk about it earnestly and loudly.

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The campaign to kill HR

In the August 21, 2018 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter we take a hard look at the death of HR at the hands of database firms that make money when you don’t find a job — and when employers don’t fill jobs. Can HR be saved?

hr

La mort de HR

A company’s best hope for finding and hiring great workers is its own managers, because they know the work best

HR (Human Resources) may be a close second — when HR actually goes out to look for and recruit workers.

But ZipRecruiter, Indeed, LinkedIn and a league of database companies have succeeded in killing HR’s recruiting role — and the initiative of hiring managers.

Stripped of the function that once gave HR bragging rights for a company’s most competitive advantage — hiring great workers — HR now serves as little more than the fire hose that overwhelms companies with millions of inappropriate incoming job applications, and as the spigot that pours billions of corporate dollars into the pockets of database jockeys who know nothing about matching real people to real jobs.

Killing HR in 30 seconds

This is what the wildly successful marketing campaign to kill HR looks like:

This commercial — and others like it — have literally killed recruiting because they have replaced it in employers’ minds with a substitute that has no nutritional value.

Here’s how an HR vice president with a Fortune 50 company put it to me when the online “recruiting” industry first launched its brainwashing campaign:

“Executives from the online job boards wine and dine our top executives so relentlessly that virtually every dime of our recruiting budget now goes directly to them. I can’t get a few bucks any more to take a candidate to dinner to actually recruit them!”

A massive marketing campaign driven by database jockeys has replaced people — workers, job seekers, the actual talent — with automated streams of keywords and database records. Employers have de-funded real recruiting to the point where the task no longer has anything to do with actively pursuing, seducing, cajoling, convincing the best people to join your company.

A powerful, long-running marketing campaign has successfully sold the idea that “recruiting” no longer requires talent to do it, like other jobs require talent. “Recruiting” is now the automated churning and turning of databases. (See Job boards say they fill most jobs. Employer says “LMAO!”)

How can a 30-second commercial kill an entire profession?

The insecurity of HR

The success of this campaign to automate recruiting and bury HR is due not only to its persistence, but to the acquiescence of the HR profession itself.

With few notable exceptions, HR executives and professional associations across the board have slit HR’s throat and outsourced HR’s key job to database jockeys who have wowed them with “high tech solutions.” The HR profession as a whole was never very secure in the C-suite, and never very bright, so it folded quickly when fast-talking salespeople embarrassed its leaders with big terms like “algorithm” and “database” and “intelligent agents” and “semantic processing” — terms so misapplied and misconstrued in the HR context that they are laughable.

Loathe to admit their ignorance, HR leaders feigned excitement while their “HR consultant” brethren fed them white papers about the newest “best practices” that should be “implemented in software” immediately. (See HR Technology: Terrorizing the candidates.)

So, HR arrived fully brainwashed into a new era and promptly ran the talent ship aground in the shoals of the job boards, taking big parts of the economy down with it.

The brainwashing of HR

TV commercials like the one above from ZipRecruiter pound four dangerous ideas into the heads of corporate leaders, HR executives and hiring managers.

  • Recruiting and hiring are nasty work nobody wants to do.
  • Recruiting and hiring are very difficult tasks.
  • Nobody is good at recruiting and hiring.
  • ZipRecruiter (and Indeed and LinkedIn and other database companies) will do it for you if you pay them.

The trouble is, none of that is true. Those are some of the most dangerous lies ever created by marketing copy writers.

Count the lies

Recruiting and hiring are mission-critical tasks best done by you and your company — face-to-face, not by diddling a keyboard to pay a middle man who pretends to do it for you. Recruiting and hiring are so critical to your company’s mission that leaving them to firms that have no skin in the game is not only irresponsible — it’s an insane fool’s errand.

So, is it insanity or foolishness that leads employers and their HR departments to buy what the database jockeys sell under the guise of “recruiting?”

Please watch the commercial above. It’s short — 30 seconds. Here’s what the guy says:

“Hiring was always always a huge challenge. Endless hours on job sites with not a lot to show for it. Then, I found ZipRecruiter. They figured out hiring. I post my job. They put it all over the web. And they send me the right people. Because their technology is smart. ZipRecruiter often sends me the right person in 24 hours.”

Count the lies.

1. “Hiring was always always a huge challenge.”

The truth: Hiring is your job; your number-one job. When ZipRecruiter characterizes hiring as something “huge” — something beyond you and your company — Zip disparages you and insults you. It also convinces you that the most important part of your job is a problem you should unload.

2. “Endless hours on job sites with not a lot to show for it.”

The truth: If you’re spending endless hours on job sites, diddling databases, and sorting keywords, then I guarantee you have nothing to show for it — because that’s not where hires come from.

But that’s what ZipRecruiter sells — databases and keywords!

Zip, Indeed, Glassdoor, LinkedIn and countless others of their ilk sell an excuse for not recruiting and hiring.

If you want something to show for your recruiting efforts, invest your time participating actively in your professional community, cultivating and meeting the movers and shakers and opinion makers who know all the best workers. Share valuable experiences with your peers and they will lead you to great people you can hire. No one ever wasted their time talking with peers.

3. “Then, I found ZipRecruiter. They figured out hiring.”

The truth: This is the biggest lie. ZipRecruiter and its ilk have not figured out hiring. They figured out their own business plan: how to make money.

The marketing trick is to convince you they are on your side, helping you do your job. But spend 10 seconds thinking about the business model behind these operations and you will see the blinding flash of the obvious:

  • These companies make money when you do not fill jobs.
  • They make money when you keep searching their databases looking for hires.

If ZipRecruiter had figured out hiring, its home page and its marketing would blare out audited metrics about employers’ success rates when they pay Zip for lists of job seekers. But that’s not what Zip has figured out, and it’s not what Zip is selling you or what you’re paying for.

Here’s what ZipRecruiter blares out on its website — this is what your company is paying for:

ZipRecruiter makes money when you keep paying for job applications — not when you fill jobs. I can find no metrics on Zip’s website and no evidence that ZipRecruiter has “figured out hiring.”

If you work in HR and this strikes you as an unreasonable criticism, call me when ZipRecruiter starts charging you only for the applicants you actually hire.

4. “I post my job. They put it all over the web.”

The truth: If you work in HR, or if you’re a hiring manager — you know, one of those people who pays ZipRecruiter to deliver millions of candidate applications — you can put your job posting all over the web yourself. While it’s true Zip does that, too, you don’t need it. The secret sauce of the web is that it’s designed so anyone can find anyone else easily.

Why would any HR manager with a brain want their job opening posted “all over the web?” What you get for that is 49,106,149 candidate applications. Is that what you really want? Because more is not better. Perhaps the single biggest talent problem HR faces today is overload. Having access to every resume on the planet — but no way to find actual people — has resulted in a kind of catatonia that HR executives disingenuously refer to as “the talent shortage.”

5. “And they send me the right people.”

The truth: ZipRecruiter makes no claims about how often it sends employers “the right people.” That’s left to the actor playing the restaurant owner in the commercial.

Let’s do a reality check. Not to pick on ZipRecruiter alone, let’s check another major “online recruiting service,” Jobvite.

In an April 4, 2018 press release Jobvite “announced that it has surpassed one million jobs filled, with 270,000 hires in 2017 alone.” Then it claims, “Nearly 54 million jobseekers [sic] visited a Jobvite-powered hiring website in the past year.”

We’re looking for success metrics. Do the math. 270,000/54 million is 0.5% — a one-half of one percent success rate for job seekers. While one might argue that there cannot possibly be a job for every job seeker, the more evident problem is that a robustly designed system should not indiscriminately snort 53,730,000 job seekers just so it can spit out a fraction of 1% into jobs.

Finding the best people to recruit is not a database problem.

Hiring is not a database problem.

Let’s do another reality check. ZipRecruiter claims it has “over 8 million jobs.” The U.S. Department of Labor reported on June 5, 2018 that there were only 6.7 million jobs available during the month of April. Ask any job seeker — they already know something is very wrong with all those job postings.

Let’s ask the restaurateur, just who are the “right people” for 1.3 million non-existent jobs?

6. “Because their technology is smart.”

The truth: The manager in the commercial closes his laptop after apparently posting a job.

How has ZipRecruiter solved his “huge challenge” of hiring so quickly? How has Zip made it so easy for him to find talent?

It’s frighteningly stupid. Zip has eliminated the very best filters in the hiring process. Zip has cut out all the humans with specialized training in Human Resources, Engineering, Finance, the restaurant business, and a multitude of other professional disciplines — all the humans who are qualified to judge the myriad qualities that make the best candidate special. None of them are needed in this business model. Zip has made it all easier by replacing expert judgment with recruiting technology so trivial it has generated a false talent shortage.

Yep, the truth is, all you folks in HR are superfluous. All your company needs is someone in Accounting to make an automatic payment to ZipRecruiter, Jobvite, and any of the other databases loaded with millions of job seekers. (See HR’s submission to ZipRecruiter.)

Ask any job seeker. They’ll tell you they feel like a drop of water in a fire hose turned on employers — one of the 49,106,149 applicants delivered in the sales pitch Zip makes to employers.

Except when Zip promises just the one right person, delivered the same day.

7. “ZipRecruiter often sends me the right person in 24 hours.”

The truth: ZipRecruiter doesn’t dare tell you just how often the woman in the video — who just waltzed into the restaurant — gets hired. (The marketing magic implies she gets hired instantly, the first time.)

Zip offers no success-rate metrics (audited or otherwise) about hiring or getting hired. The guy in the commercial does that.

ZipRecruiter CEO Ian Siegel has raised tens of millions of dollars in venture funding for his company (see recode), valuing it at close to $1 billion. While he offers no explanation on his website about how he finds jobs for people — or how he fills jobs for employers that pay him to deliver tens of millions of job applications — he says he wakes up every day thinking about it.

I think he wakes up each day counting the HR departments he has laid to rest while their recruiting budgets have been redirected to his coffers. I’d like to introduce him to the former HR executive who told me, “I can’t get a few bucks any more to take a candidate to dinner to actually recruit them!”

If Siegel and his ilk are to be recognized for anything, it’s for a business model that produces profits without results. They have designed marketing campaigns that have killed off HR and what was once known as recruiting.

They don’t make money when jobs are filled. They make money when you don’t fill jobs and don’t get hired. Their business model requires that you keep paying to search their databases.

If HR is going to be brought back to life, it has to remove its recruiting prosthetics, shake off the ZipRecruiters and Indeeds that are sucking its blood, and flex its hiring muscles again. A company’s best hope for finding and hiring great workers is its own managers and a healthy, robust HR department.

Your turn

I just showed you a TV commercial that I think undermines and insults HR professionals, hiring managers and business owners by trivializing one of the most critical tasks in any business — hiring. But ZipRecruiter is not alone. We’ve discussed the stunning failures of Glassdoor, Indeed, LinkedIn, Monster, CareerBuilder and TheLadders, among others.

Here’s another example of a commercial that kills HR — from Indeed. Can you find the holes in this “#1 job site” and explain to us how the commercial corrupts HR and undermines effective recruiting, hiring and job hunting? Or am I unreasonable and nuts?

Is HR really dead? Is real recruiting a dead art? Are these commercials a marketing plot to undermine the hiring process so database jockeys can profit from the resulting mess? Maybe you think our modern hiring systems are just fine. If you think some other bugaboo makes it unreasonably hard to hire and get hired, please tell us what it is.

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Why cattle-call recruiting doesn’t work

In the February 6, 2018 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a manager who complains about irresponsible job applicants gets a lesson on the recruiting problem employers create.

recruitingQuestion

I am a manager looking for reasons why candidates that apply for my jobs either:

  1. Don’t respond when I reach out to schedule an interview, or
  2. Don’t show up for an interview.


You often write about how irresponsibly employers, HR and recruiters behave toward job applicants. [See
How HR optimizes rejection of millions of job applicants.] I don’t disagree, but it appears that there’s some fishiness happening on both sides of this. Why do you think candidates don’t respond and don’t show up? Aren’t they just hurting themselves?

Nick’s Reply

I agree with you. Candidates hurt themselves when they apply to jobs or when you reach out to them, but then fail to follow up or show up. But often they’re not hurting themselves for the reasons you think.

Their real mistake is applying for jobs they don’t really want or care about. The people who are ignoring you have responded to cattle-call recruiting, and I’m afraid that’s on you — and on all employers that rely on it.

The problem with recruiting via job boards

The way the employment system works encourages people to apply for virtually any job that pops up in front of them. That’s the behavior you’re encouraging when you — as an employer — post your jobs on huge job boards where anyone and everyone can easily click and gamble. The system encourages people to apply to all the jobs they can. That’s how job boards like CareerBuilder, LinkedIn, ZipRecruiter, Indeed and others make money.

Then recruiters and employers waste job seekers’ time with demands for resumes, more application forms, online video interviews by robots, silly phone and e-mail screenings, and instructions to “wait until we get back to you.” (See this oldie-but-goodie NewsHour article: Is Applying for Jobs Online Not an Effective Way to Find Work?)

Is it any wonder the job applicants you’re puzzled about get fed up? The system dulls their motivation because it conditions them to a 99.9% failure rate. And if the job you’re contacting them about is a marginal one anyway — one they just clicked on for the heck of it — then if they’ve got a really interesting opportunity cooking, you’re just a bother.

How the system fails employers and job seekers

If you’re using job boards to solicit applicants, most of them are probably applying blindly, just because they saw the posting, not because it’s a job they really want. They apply to so many jobs this way that they just can’t keep up — or, by the time you get in touch, they’ve moved on. That’s why many are ignoring you. This is how the employment system fails you.

The problem is that when employers solicit so broadly from the pool of “everyone out there,” the rate of failure is virtually guaranteed to be huge.

Recruiting right requires work

My suggestion is, don’t solicit widely by using job boards. Figure out where the best potential candidates hang out. Carefully identify the people you’d really like to interview — and go look for them in those narrow hangouts. I think your hit rate will go up dramatically. Do the work to recruit right. (See Recruiting: How to get your hands dirty and hire.)

For example, if you’re recruiting programmers, go to a conference or training program where the kinds of specialized programmers you want congregate. This takes work, but of course it does. The automated method you’re using takes almost no work — and that’s why it doesn’t work.

I know that posting on job boards is what employers do. LinkedIn, Indeed, Zip make it seem so easy and they promise they will take care of everything. That’s nonsense. Please consider this: Job boards make money only when job seekers keep job hunting and when employers do not fill jobs. Everyone keeps spinning the roulette wheel. Only “the house” wins.

People who respond to cattle calls are not likely to be the people you want to hire. So please, employers — stop issuing cattle calls!

Do you ever ignore employers or blow off job interviews? Does the system dull your motivation? What can employers do better to hire the right people?

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Job boards say they fill most jobs. Employer says “LMAO!”

In the December 5, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, an employer questions the claims job boards make about how often they fill jobs. 

Question

job boardsI’ve read many of your posts about job boards, including Job Boards: Take this challenge, but it was one about The Bogus-ness of Indeed.com that really got my attention because it has over 200 comments on it, and because now I’ve seen how Indeed works for employers — and I’m LMAO!

My wife runs a popular retail chain store and recently took to Indeed.com to find qualified applicants. In Los Angeles, at a high profile new location opening (it’s in the news), she received just three applicants, all of whom had simply uploaded their resume and clicked any title that closely matched their interests. None of the three even knew who the company was, or what the details of the job posted were, they simply clicked “send resume.”

Two didn’t speak high-school level English, the third had never heard of the company and wasn’t sure where it was located, but applied just the same.

I’m sure there are people really looking for work. Are they using the potential of Indeed? Glassdoor? Monster?

I know what you think of the job boards, Nick, but I doubt you’ve had to look for a job recently. I wonder what your readers think. Can you ask them what their experiences have been with the big job boards like the ones we’ve had such bad luck with?

Nick’s Reply

I’m happy to put your question to our community. They love red meat. (That’s a joke, vegans and vegetarians among us!)

Do job boards really fill most jobs?

Thanks for your story about your wife’s problems with job applicants from Indeed and other job boards. It would be interesting to hear from more employers, who don’t seem to say much (at least in public) about how effective the job boards are.

  • Indeed cites a report from SilkRoad (“the world’s leader in Talent Activation”) that claims “Indeed delivers 65% of hires and 72% of interviews from job sites.” (The actual report is free but must be downloaded from SilkRoad.)

What’s not to like? Game over. Problem solved.

  • A few years ago, while I was researching a story I wrote for PBS NewsHour (Is LinkedIn Cheating Employers and Job Seekers Alike?) a CareerBuilder spokesperson claimed the job board accounted for nearly 50% of all jobs filled by staffing and recruiting firms — but told me the study behind the numbers was not published.

So, what’s the problem with all those vacant jobs?

  • Year after year, job-board watcher CareerXRoads has reported that around 25%-30% of external hires come from job boards.

Closer inspection of the data suggests about 10% of hires were being made during those periods through all job boards combined. (I have not looked at CXR’s reports recently.)

Truth or tricks?

Now go back and read those claims about where employers find their hires one more time. I’ve been watching these numbers for over two decades and I’ve learned the code. Can you find the tricks in those claims?

I’m really glad to get a question from an employer (well, from her spouse) on this topic. And I’m glad you’re asking Ask The Headhunter readers for their experiences and opinions — rather than me.

Okay, employers — big and small — are job boards delivering the hires you need?

You don’t have to be an employer to play. What do you make of Indeed’s (and SilkRoad’s) claims? I think there’s a deft sleight of hand — and some clever word play — in how SilkRoad, Indeed, and other job-boards characterize their “findings.”

Let’s get at the truth about job boards, folks. And if you’ve got some expertise in big data analysis, I’d really love to know your take on these reports. Do job boards really fill most jobs?

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Forget Glassdoor: Use these killer tips to judge employers

In the April 18, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader needs to get past the Glassdoor company reviews to find the truth about an opportunity.

Question

I was recently asked to interview at a company that at first I was excited to have a chance at joining. Their industry is interesting and familiar to me, and the position itself is a great next step in my career.

glassdoorAfter my interview was scheduled I did my due diligence and started doing research to prepare. Sh*t hit the fan when I got to employment reviews on sites like Glassdoor and Indeed.

Except for the one or two company-planted positive reviews, the clear majority for the past four years have been scathing and disheartening. To summarize: Employees say upper management rules with an iron fist, takes credit for employees’ successes, and compensation is not competitive.

I can understand a couple of bad reviews that might be from disgruntled people, but with a consistent theme delivered on multiple websites spanning a few years, I’m beginning to second-guess my effort.

My big question to you is: What is the best way to bring up my findings to learn the truth? I feel I absolutely have to ask because I not only want to see how they answer, but I also want to see if they own up to the need to change. I’m worried they’ll blacklist me for bringing it up, and I’ll never know whether the environment is truly terrible or not. I want to approach this with respect and good manners so that I don’t look like a bad seed trying to be planted.

How do I look behind the curtain? Is this worth the effort or should I just run now?

Nick’s Reply

I wouldn’t trust Glassdoor to help me judge a company any more than I’d trust Indeed or LinkedIn to connect me with a job. (See Can I trust Glassdoor reviews?LinkedIn: Just another job board and The Bogus-ness of Indeed.com.) All those websites make money when you keep looking for jobs — not when you find one!

I’d invest more effort to get the truth about this company firsthand, but only if the company passes the first test. So let’s cut to the chase.

The first test

I doubt you’d take this job in if the compensation is not competitive. So let’s get this deal-breaker out of the way because it may save you further effort and later frustration.

Since they asked you to interview, it’s incumbent on them to provide information you need. I’d ask about compensation before taking any more steps. It’s best to ask the hiring manager this question, but if HR is the best you can do, that’s fine.

Make a phone call. (Do not use e-mail. This is too important.)

How to Say It
“What’s the pay like for this job?”

That’s it. Do not elaborate. This simple, off-the-cuff, obvious question says it all. It’s friendly and it’s clear.

If they won’t give you a salary range, I’d thank them for their interest (always be polite) and explain that you can’t invest your time in interviews if you’re not all on the same salary page. If they decline to state a range and instead ask you your current salary or your desired range, I’d politely reply that they’re asking you to interview — and they need to confirm the salary range. (See The employer is hiding the salary!)

If they won’t tell you, you’re done.

Glassdoor reviews are not enough

I’m not a fan of company reviews, especially the way Glassdoor presents them. There’s no accountability. Anyone can post anything anonymously. Nonetheless, when strong criticism spans lots of time and multiple websites, you’re right to be concerned. Just remind yourself that every bit of the criticism could be wrong. Could. It probably isn’t, given the extent of it. But you seem to want to find out for yourself, so take the next step.

Since you’re still excited about the job as you understand it, it’s worth going in to find out for yourself what’s up. You don’t need to confront them with the online reviews. In fact, I would not, because consider their best defense. If I were the employer, I’d respond that those reviews are not proof of a problem and the critics are all hiding behind anonymity.

The company can quickly render your question as a fact-less accusation, and you’ll come off like a person who makes decisions and judgments without solid evidence. Glassdoor is not solid because critics are not personally accountable.

If you had nothing else to go on but all you’ve read, and you had to make a choice right now about this company, the prudent decision is probably to walk away. But you can get firsthand evidence on which to base a sound judgment — and you should, because online reviews are not enough to make a defensible judgment.

Killer methods to judge the employer

Here’s what I’d do. Go to the interview. Answer their questions, and ask the normal kinds of questions you’d ask even a very good company. Then use one or more of these killer employer-vetting techniques. Here’s what to ask the employer (preferably the hiring manager):

How to Say It
“If you could change anything about your company instantly, what would you change?”

See how they handle that. If they’re aware of their online reputation, it gives them a chance to explain without you actually bringing it up.

How to Say It
“I’d like to meet some of the people I’d be working with if I were hired, and I’m willing to invest some extra time to do that. I’d also like to see where I’d be working. Can you give me a cook’s tour of your facility? If today’s not a good time, I’d be glad to come back.” If they let you do this immediately, that’s a good sign. If they put it off, do they quickly schedule that next visit, or do they never get back to you?

Ask the employees

If you get the tour and have a chance to meet other employees on the team, try to get a few minutes with each one privately. Ask this question.

How to Say It
“So, what’s it really like to work here?”

Do not share what you’ve read online. Let them talk. Their reactions will tell you all you need to know. Remember: Your goal is not to show how much you know, because that gains you nothing. Your goal is to confirm what you’ve read and to learn even more.

Leverage the job offer

This is the most powerful way to judge an employer. If you get an offer, they’ve demonstrated they want you — and they want you to say yes. They’re waiting. People don’t realize what incredible leverage they have at this point. It’s the most control you’ll ever have in negotiations. It’s time to vet the company.

Tell them you’re thrilled to get the offer – “Thank you!” Then take more control and learn the truth.

How to Say It
“Before I accept your offer, I’d like to meet some of your key people – managers of departments related to the department I’d be working in. I’d like to make sure I’m a fit for your team and I’d like to get the bigger picture of the work environment.”

For example, if you’d be working in manufacturing, you’d want to meet the heads of engineering and product development, because they create the products your team builds. You’d want to meet heads of sales and marketing, because their job is to make money from what manufacturing produces. If they’re not all great people doing great work, then your team (and you) will fail. Get the idea?

Find your own truth

Glassdoor and online company reviews are not the truth. They’re the partial, questionable truth. The best way to get the whole truth about a company is to talk to key people inside, and to talk with people you’d be working with every day. There is no need to bring up Glassdoor reviews. (You might find that the company’s reputation online is not deserved.) Get the facts for yourself.

Any company that declines to let you meet the people I’ve suggested – even though it’s an unusual request – probably has too many skeletons in its closet, or has a lousy attitude about transparency.

Formulate these questions in a way that’s comfortable for you. Don’t use my exact words. I like that you want to be respectful and well-mannered. Always assume the best, and politely ferret out the truth. Then deal with it, either way.

I hope this is helpful. It’s probably more work than you’d like to do, but consider what you’re investing here – the next several years of your work life. It’s worth the extra effort to find your own truth.

If you need more suggestions about how to vet this company, these two books will help. Check the tables of contents at these links:

Fearless Job Hunting, Book 5: Get The Right Employer’s Attention
(See especially, “How to pick worthy companies,” “Is this a Mickey Mouse operation?” and “Scuttlebutt: Get the truth about private companies.”)

Fearless Job Hunting, Book 8: Play Hardball With Employers
(See especially, “Avoid Disaster: Check out the employer,” “Due Diligence: Don’t take a job without it” and “Judge the manager.”)

Do you trust anonymous company reviews? How do you get the truth about a company?

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What the Federal Reserve doesn’t know about recruiters

In the March 14, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, we look at what some economists at the Federal Reserve say about jobs.

federal reserveRecent reports from the Federal Reserve suggest that switching jobs — and probably employers — is the best way to boost your salary and your career.

In this special edition, we’ll explore what the Federal Reserve doesn’t know about recruiters, and why you should stay away from recruiters who waste your time with been-there-done-that jobs and lower salaries.

Are recruiters killing careers and the economy?

The best recruiters and headhunters boost employers’ productivity by finding discounted talent and up-and-coming talent to fill jobs those people may not have done before. By stimulating capable job candidates with new, motivating career challenges, insightful recruiters help create value for an employer — and boost our economy.

But untrained, inept recruiters lack insight and foresight. They don’t bother to understand an employer’s future needs or a job candidate’s untapped potential. They look for quick and easy “perfect matches” turned up by automated recruiting algorithms. These keyboard jockeys do little but process resumes whose key words match key words in job descriptions. They add no value. They kill career growth and job productivity.

Inept recruiters far outnumber good ones, and that’s killing our economy. Companies aren’t filling jobs with the best hires. But the fault lies with employers themselves, and with Human Resources executives, who buy — hook, line and sinker, and at enormous cost — the reductionist job applicant sorting systems that drive hiring today. (See Why HR should get out of the hiring business.)

New research and analysis from Federal Reserve economists reveals a problem of mismatches between workers, salaries and productivity, but fails to identify and discuss the structural cause of the problem — counter-productive recruiting.

The mad rush to fill jobs mindlessly

With the Department of Labor reporting lower unemployment and increasingly scarce talent, employers are rushing to fill jobs by relying on methods that yield staggeringly low signal-to-noise ratios.

By design, these systems actively solicit as many applicants as possible for each job. (Consider the applicant funnel ZipRecruiter, which exhorts HR managers to post a job on “one hundred-plus job sites.”) The ease with which these systems enable and encourage job seekers to apply for any job in a mindless feeding frenzy contributes to understandably low yields. Then HR managers, who fail to realize that more is not better, claim to be shocked and cry “talent shortage.”

When matches are made, they’re often undesirable to the candidate. It’s a common complaint among Ask The Headhunter readers: Employers want to hire you for a job only if you’ve done that job for three, four or five years already — and they’ll often pay you less. Even when they offer you a raise, the job is usually a lateral move. It’s not a career opportunity or a chance for you to hone new skills  — it’s just an easy database match.

This seems to be much more than a job-seeker frustration. According to economists reporting from several branches of the Federal Reserve, it may be one of the causes of inflation and lower productivity. (See Bloomberg Businessweek: Job Switchers Solve An Inflation Mystery.)

But the economists don’t attempt to explain why employers are making such short-sighted, self-defeating hiring decisions — and I think it’s because the problem is so pervasive that it’s invisible. Although job seekers have long been very vocal and angry about it, the backdrop of reductionist, rude, automated recruiting across America seems to be such a necessary evil that no one but the job seeker sees or questions it. (See HR Technology: Terrorizing the candidates.)

The compelling need to fill jobs obscures the importance of planning to hire strategically and wisely — not just to fill round holes with round pegs quickly. American companies seem unaware of their mad rush to fill jobs mindlessly, and economists seem content to accept the prevalent recruiting infrastructure without reviewing it, simply because employers are content to keep paying for it.

This seems to be what the Fed’s economists don’t know about recruiters and the job market.

The failure is on the front line

Job seekers report wasting enormous amounts of time today fielding fruitless recruiting inquiries and participating in interviews for the wrong jobs. The question arises:

Why do employers look for perfect matches between workers and jobs?

The assumptions behind this quixotic search are incorporated into the ads that candidate vendors like Indeed, LinkedIn and ZipRecruiter run constantly:

  • Employers must hire without training anyone or allowing time for a learning curve.
  • Perfect hires are best.
  • Talent can be had at a discount.
  • Employers don’t have time to find talent on their own.
  • Every job can be posted to “a hundred-plus” job boards instantly.
  • “Big data” makes perfect hiring possible.
  • More job applicants is better.
  • And so on.

These assumptions push employers head-long into automated recruiting. But when we start questioning those assumptions, we’re left with the boots on the ground that create the biggest constraint on hiring the best talent: Inept recruiters on the front line.

When complex factors make it difficult to suss out what triggers the choices business people make, I get lazy. Though I’m not a scientist, I was trained as one, and I find that even if a problem seems complicated, it’s best to start with the law of parsimony: The simplest explanation is probably the right one.

If employers had better recruiters, they’d hire better people, increase productivity and stimulate the economy.

Yet, an employer’s first contact with an engineer, a scientist, a software developer, a machinist, an accountant — anyone the employer needs to hire — is through a person who is probably the least likely to understand qualities and characteristics that make the candidate the best one for the employer. It’s a person least likely to understand the work and the job. Except in rare, wonderful cases where employers have very good recruiters, it’s an incompetent recruiter.

Because employers believe they now have “intelligent applicant systems” at their disposal, many (I think most) dispense with highly trained and skilled recruiters. Employers on the whole have unsophisticated, untrained recruiters who quickly eliminate the best candidates because they’re rewarded for making the easy choices, not the best ones.

The Federal Reserve connects the dots between talent, pay and productivity

Bet you’ve been waiting to see how the Fed fits into this. Let’s dive in.

The job boards say employers can hire the best talent for less money because their databases are bottomless and the perfect candidate is in there, if you just keep looking.

But the Federal Reserve says higher productivity coupled with better career opportunities and higher salaries is better for everyone — and for the economy.

Consider the ambitious little Bloomberg Businessweek article referenced earlier, Job Switchers Solve An Inflation Mystery, that deftly puts the jobs puzzle together:

“Labor economists… are increasingly studying how job-hopping Americans drive compensation gains and affect the traditional interplay of low unemployment, wage gains, and inflation.”

It turns out those economists are now focused on what we already know: The surest way to get a big salary boost is to change employers and stretch yourself.

Consider this handful of factoids and data cited by Bloomberg, from economists at the Chicago Fed, the Atlanta Fed, the New York Fed, and the St. Louis Fed:

  • “23 percent of employees are actively looking for another job on any given week, putting in four or five applications over a four-week period.”
  • “Employers are poaching workers, as 27 percent of offers to the employed are unsolicited.”
  • “Job switchers earned 4.3 percent more money in July 2016 than a year earlier, while people who remained in the same job enjoyed only a 3 percent increase.”
  • “The so-called quit rate, a favorite indicator of [Fed Chair Janet] Yellen that measures voluntary separations from an employer… has almost recovered to levels seen before the recession of 2007-2009.”
  • “Job-to-job changes and the threat of job-to-job mobility are strongly predictive of wage increases.”
  • “Job switching is ‘a good sign for the economy’ and ‘an indication of dynamism,’ according to the [Atlanta] Fed’s [President Dennis] Lockhart.”

And note this nugget of gold in the Bloomberg story:

“While [St. Louis Fed economist David] Wiczer said that the bulk of wage hikes occur from job switching, he cautioned that the gains are highly cyclical, as the median job switcher didn’t reap much of a salary increase during recessions.”

What this means to you: With the economy shifting from recession to inflation, your best bet to make more money today is to switch jobs. I’ll stick my neck out and say that my reading of the Fed analysis — and my own experience and reports from Ask Headhunter readers — is that that you also need to switch employers if you want that dramatic pay increase.

But you can and should optimize that bet by making sure the next job you take also enables you to be more productive. Of course, recruiters sabotage that objective almost daily when they solicit you for jobs that would set your career back five or ten years.

Warning! Warning!

We already know that most recruiters love to stick you into a “new” job that’s not new at all. They don’t get paid to give you a chance at career development — or to help a manager hire for the future. They offer the same job you’ve been doing because you’re the least risky choice for them.

They pluck you from thousands of job applicants only when their database algorithms show that you’re already doing the exact job they’re trying to fill. There’s no need to train you. You will require no learning curve. You are the safest bet and, if you’re unemployed, the recruiter knows he can probably nab your desperate ass for less than you were earning at your last job because you need a job.

But that recruiter is dangerously naïve. The “perfect match” won’t increase productivity because you’re being plugged into the same job you were doing elsewhere, and your motivation is going to plummet along with your value.

Even if the new job pays more than your last one, this is a huge red flag for employers, warns Giuseppe Moscarini, a visiting scholar from Yale at the Philadelphia Fed:

“What we should worry about are wage raises for workers who stay on the same job and are not getting more productive.” [Bloomberg Businessweek]

Whether the “same job” is at the same employer or a new one, Moscarini suggests wage inflation without higher productivity seems to fuel inflation in the economy.

Recruiter failure

I don’t think employers or economists see the razor that’s cutting into productivity and economic growth. But it should be clear to any Ask The Headhunter reader.

It’s the recruiters.

Most recruiters look for an exact match of a resume to a list of key words in a job description. They’re not assessing job candidates to find value a competitor missed or the value an employer can leverage into higher productivity and profit over time. They tell managers to interview any candidates the automated recruiting system flashes on their displays.

Recruiters, who are an employer’s front line in the talent war, are generally not equipped to do their own jobs. They’re doomed to fail because they’re not really recruiting. They’re checking boxes on a database app. The result is hires that are less than optimally productive.

Job Seekers: Follow the money!

The Fed economists are offering job seekers and career-oriented workers a gift of tremendous insight, even if it seems obvious: Your smartest career move may be to switch jobs and employers.

Pursue only jobs that offer you substantially more money and require you to stretch your skills and capabilities — that is, to do more productive work that’s more profitable for you.

That strategy, they also suggest, may be best for employers and for the economy.

Smart workers don’t change jobs or employers without an opportunity to learn and develop new skills, to take on greater responsibility or authority, to stretch themselves — and to make more money. Those who accept been-there-done-that jobs do it reluctantly or because they feel they have no choice, especially if they’re unemployed.

The Fed tells us not only that lots (23%) of employees are actively looking for new jobs, but that competitors are trying to steal them away. Done for the right reasons and for the right opportunities, switching jobs and companies can pay off big. Employers give people who switch 40% higher raises than they give to people who stay where they are (4.3% vs. 3%).

So, follow the money. When a recruiter pitches you a re-run job for little or no extra money, suggest he go find a job he’s better at — because he’s not helping you or the employer. He could be killing your career and the economy. Has anyone told that to the Fed’s economists?

Did you get a better raise for staying in your job, or for switching out? What was the percentage? Did a recruiter move you into another same-old job, or help you advance your career? What’s your take on the Fed’s findings and conclusions?

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“Make personal contacts to get a job? Awkward…” Get over it!

Quick Question

Thanks for your advice about meeting people and making personal contacts to get a job in Do you discriminate against employers? You should. It makes sense… except when you don’t have friends! LOL! Besides, it’s awkward!

personal contactsNick’s Quick Advice

Yeah, I know — it’s awkward to meet people to get a job. (It makes you cringe, right?) You’re in good company. And everybody in that company is wrong.

When I bring up making new personal contacts, everyone likes to excuse themselves by saying they just don’t have professional contacts, their old work buddies are long gone, no one can help them.

My answer is: Bunk.

It’s an excuse, my friend. We all learn to be lazy because we feel awkward reaching out to new people. You have to get over it.

Meeting people, making contacts, making new friends and talking shop is a skill. You learn it and practice it. (Please see I don’t know anybody.) If you don’t practice this important skill, you lose — and the job boards and online applications will not be your automated substitute for the 40-70% of jobs that are filled via personal contacts.

If you quietly fill out online job applications, you’re at the mercy of HR departments that process database records all day long while you wait for them to contact you. You already know that doesn’t work, so why do you keep pretending?

The only alternative is the one that has worked for centuries:

Personal Contacts: Go talk to people.

Meeting people to get introduced to hiring managers and new job opportunities makes sense. You know it does — but you just don’t want to think about it. I know it’s awkward for many people. So go into your bathroom, lock the door, look in the mirror. Smile at yourself for a few seconds, then scream at yourself:

PRETENDING A DATABASE IS GONNA FIND ME A JOB IS BUNK! I KNOW BETTER!

And you do.

Diddling the keyboard to find a job makes no sense at all — except to “job services” like Indeed, ZipRecruiter, LinkedIn, Monster, and every other job board. Their entire business model is based on you not finding a job, and on you returning again and again to the digital swill pot for a drink. (See Reductionist Recruiting: A short history of why you can’t get hired.)

Those companies make more money when you can’t find a job and when employers can’t fill jobs. That’s how the employment industry works. It’s not how people get hired.

I’m not beating you up, just shaking you a bit. Please listen.

For more about making personal contacts, see “A Good Network Is A Circle of Friends” and “How to initiate insider contacts” in How Can I Change Careers? It’s not just for career changers — it’s for anyone who wants to stand out when applying for a job. Until Dec. 5, 2016, you can get 40% off any Ask The Headhunter PDF book — at checkout, use discount code=MERRYATH.

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Recruiting From The Panic Room

Recruiting has changed. In the September 27, 2016 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job applicant responds to a posting and gets a call from the cops.

Is this recruiting?

recruiting-welcomeEmployers are so out of it that they’re not only putting up digital roadblocks against people they’re trying to attract — such as online application forms and video interviews — now they’re hiding in bunkers, barring the doors, and calling the cops on earnest job applicants.

A reader found this stunning episode on an Indeed discussion forum:

I recently applied to a job on Indeed and sent a follow up e-mail a few days later. About a week passed with no response, and I sent another e-mail, saying I would come by their office. They quickly sent a response saying they no longer had a position available. Twenty minutes later I got a phone call from the police. They complained that I threatened and harassed them. I denied it, and the cop said to not contact them again. The whole thing is almost unbelievable. I hate applying for jobs.

WTF?

Why doesn’t this employer just keep an armed guard posted at the door?

When you find a job posting online, can you get arrested for showing up in person at a company to apply? I’m not a lawyer, and I won’t touch that question, but such conflicted behavior and mixed signals sent by employers reveal just how dysfunctional recruiting has become.

Applying through the front door

More than once, I walked into companies I wanted to work for and gave my resume to a receptionist. Sometimes a manager would come out to talk to me. Or a personnel clerk would appear briefly. When no one appeared, I’d chat up the receptionist, collect some company literature to educate myself, and go home. Worst case, I’d write the employer off. On to the next.

If employers are afraid of who comes in the front door, why are they recruiting? Why are they in business? What if a customer shows up unannounced? Does the sales department send in its dogs?

WTF, indeed. I know many people who have taken the time and trouble to go to an employer’s office to demonstrate how serious they are about getting a job. But recruiters have so dehumanized job applicants they’re trying to attract that they no longer know how to welcome them.

Hiding from the applicants

Employers solicit such staggering numbers of people that they’re are afraid of who appears. The only way to process the incoming rush is to dehumanize and render people into database morsels. (See “How HR optimizes rejection of millions of job applicants.”) And to hide.

recruiting-barricadeThis cannot be reconciled with the idea that an employer is trying to attract you. When you’re an abstraction in a database — a mess of keywords — the assumption is that you’re to be avoided and feared, either as a waste of time or, in this case, as a physical threat.

Lest someone suggest it’s inappropriate to show up at a company after submitting a resume, keep in mind that at some point you’ll be invited for an interview at a bricks-and-mortar office that has a front door. If the front door is a locked bunker, then the job applicant who posted that story would likely just walk away — probably disgruntled. But if the front door is open for business, then it’s no more inappropriate for a job applicant to show up than it is for a customer to show up to buy something.

Recruiting from the panic room

So what does this incident mean? We must assume the job applicant did nothing wrong or threatening. After all, this person was applying for a job. They want to impress the employer — not hurt anyone — hence the visit to the office. (On the flip side, does a job applicant assume a murderous psychopath has lured them to an interview?)

When an employer worries for its safety or fears who’s going to show up, that tells us there’s something fundamentally wrong with popular methods of recruiting. It’s pretty clear that the fear and worry stem from soliciting teeming hordes of applicants that employers don’t really want. Depersonalizing and demonizing them only adds to the distrust — we naturally fear the unknown.

This incident is perhaps the most stunning evidence that the online employment system companies rely on is inherently twisted and warped. (See “Employment In America: WTF is going on?”) This job seeker’s experience reveals a panic-room mentality, where employers huddle and hide behind locked doors and impenetrable applicant tracking systems. It highlights one recruiting perversion after another:

  • Advertise a healthy work environment — but reveal your company’s paranoid culture.
  • Proclaim a desire to find great people — but treat applicants like they’re psychopathic marauders.
  • Solicit job applicants — then tell them there’s no job.
  • Open your company to the talent — then call the cops when the talent arrives.
  • Talk about how people are your most important asset — but only let digital profiles and applications in the door.

The problem is not that a company called the cops on a job applicant it attracted. That’s merely a symptom. The problem is that the highly automated recruiting system our economy depends on can’t deal with people.

What kinds of contradictory messages have you gotten from employers? What’s the most bizarre experience you’ve had when applying for an advertised job?

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HR Managers: Do your job, or get out

In the June 28, 2016 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, several readers raise questions about HR that we can’t keep ignoring.

Questions

this-way-outReader 1: Back in the 20th century, employers actually reviewed resumes by reading them rather than scanning them into a computerized ranking system. Keywords have turned hiring into a pass-the-buck game, with HR complaining it can’t find talent! Well, HR isn’t looking for talent. HR isn’t looking for anything. Phony algorithms are keeping the talent unemployed while HR gets paid to do something else! The question is, what is HR doing?

Reader 2: Two weeks after receiving a written offer from this company — and after I quit my old job and moved — HR sends me an e-mail saying there’s no job. That’s right: They hired me and fired me before I started! What am I supposed to do now? I can’t go back to my old job — I quit. The HR person who gave me the offer still has her job. Shouldn’t she be fired?

Reader 3: I was selected for a new, better job paying more money after rounds of interviews. I was all set to start when my HR department called me in to say the job was withdrawn due to budget problems. This was for a promotion at my own company! How did they have the budget a month ago when they posted the job and gave it to me, but not now? What can I do?

Reader 4: My friend attended a business roundtable where multiple employers complained they couldn’t find people. She stood up and said she was a member of several large job-search networking groups, with an aggregate membership of thousands in the Boston area. She offered to put them in touch, help them post positions, and contacted them multiple times afterwards to help facilitate this. Nobody has taken her up on it. Talent shortage my…!

Nick’s Reply

This edition of Ask The Headhunter is dedicated to good Human Resources (HR) managers who work hard to ensure their companies behave with integrity and in a businesslike manner toward job applicants — and who actually recruit.

This is also a challenge to the rest. Do the readers’ complaints above mystify or offend you? You cannot pretend to manage “human resources” while allowing your companies — and your profession — to run amuck in the recruiting and hiring process.

The problems described above are on you — on HR. It’s your job to fix them. Either raise your HR departments’ standards of behavior, or quit your jobs and eliminate the HR role altogether at your companies.

Here are some simple suggestions about very obvious problems in HR:

Stop rescinding offers.

oopsBudget problems may impact hiring and internal promotions, but it’s HR’s job to make sure all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed before HR makes offers that impact people’s lives. Don’t make job offers if you don’t have the authority to follow through. If your company doesn’t give you that authority, then quit your job because you look like an idiot for having a job you’re not allowed to do. What happens to every job applicant is on you. (See Pop Quiz: Can an employer take back a job offer?)

Stop recruiting people then ignoring them.

In other words, stop soliciting people you have no intention of interviewing or hiring. More is not better. If it’s impossible to handle all job applicants personally and respectfully, then you’re recruiting the wrong people and too many of them. Either treat every applicant with the respect you expect them to show you and your company, or stop recruiting — until you have put a system in place that’s accurate and respectful. Having control over people’s careers isn’t a license to waste anyone’s time. Your company’s rudeness in hiring starts with you. (See How HR optimizes rejection of millions of job applicants.)

Stop recruiting stupidly.

stupidThe job of recruiting is about identifying and enticing the right candidates for jobs at your company. It’s not about soliciting everyone who has an e-mail address, and then complaining your applicants are unqualified or unskilled. You can’t fish with a bucket.

You say you use the same services everyone else uses to recruit? Where’s the edge in that? Paying Indeed or LinkedIn or Monster.com so you can search for needles in their haystacks is not recruiting. It’s stupid. Soliciting too many people who are not good candidates means you’re not doing your job. If you don’t know how to recruit intelligently, get another job. (See Reductionist Recruiting: A short history of why you can’t get hired.)

Stop demanding salary history.

It’s. None. Of. Your. Business. And it makes you look silly.

tell-meI have a standing challenge to anyone in HR: Give me one good reason why you need to know how much money a job applicant is making. No HR worker has ever been able to explain it rationally.

It’s private information. It’s personal. It’s private. It’s shameful to ask for it. Do you tell job applicants how much you make, or how much the manager makes, or how much the last person in the job was paid? If you need to know what another employer paid someone in order to judge what your company should pay them, then you’re worthless in the hiring process. You don’t know how to judge value. HR is all about judging the value of workers. You don’t belong in HR. (See Should I disclose my salary history?)


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Stop avoiding hiring decisions.

In a market as competitive as today’s, if it takes you weeks to make a hiring decision after interviewing candidates, then either you’re not managing human resources properly, or you’re not managing the hiring managers in your company. Qualified job applicants deserve answers. Taking too long to make a choice means you have no skin in the game, and that makes you a dangerous business person. After you waste too many applicants’ time, your reputation — and your company’s — is sealed. With a rep like that, good luck trying to get hired yourself.

Stop complaining there’s a talent or skills shortage.

There’s not. With 19.5 million people unemployed, under-employed, and looking for work (even if they’re no longer counted as cry-babypart of the workforce), there’s plenty of talent out there to fill the 5.6 million vacant jobs in America. (See News Flash! HR causes talent shortage!) Recruit is a verb. Get out there and find the talent!

If your idea of recruiting is to sit on your duff and wait for Mr. or Ms. Perfect to come along on your “Applicant Tracking System,” then quit your job. If your idea of recruiting is to pay a headhunter $20,000 to fill an $80,000 job, then you are the talent shortage. Your company should fire you.

“Human Resources Management” doesn’t mean waiting for perfect hires to come along. Ask your HR ancestors: They used to do training and development to improve the skills and talent of their hires — as a way of creating competitive value for their companies.

The good HR professionals know who they are. The rest behave like they don’t know what they’re doing and like they don’t care. We’re giving you a wake-up call. Do your job, or get out.

My challenge to HR professionals: If you aren’t managing the standard of conduct toward job applicants at your company, if you aren’t really recruiting, if you’re not creating a competitive edge for your company by developing and training your hires, then you should quit your own job. If you aren’t promoting high business standards within the HR profession, then there’s no reason for HR to exist. Your company can run amuck without you.

To everyone else: How do these problems in HR affect you?

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