The Other Side of Recruitment
Forecasts by economists predict that the job market will begin to experience a turnaround in the upcoming year. Salaries will remain static, which is disappointing, but those without employment should fair better in 2010 than they did in 2009.
Still, the average length of unemployment is now up to 28.5 weeks from 8.7 weeks. Looking for talent is as challenging to an employer as seeking employment is for a candidate. The perception of difficulty is merely driven by whether you are looking for employees or employment.
Exploring recruitment from both sides gives the applicant and the employer an opportunity to look at the other side of the coin and appreciate the challenges that exist.
(a composite of experiences from colleagues seeking employment)
“I did everything the books tell me and I can’t even get someone to return my call, and this was after I was told I was one of the final four.”
It’s frustrating to be out looking for work, and the pressure to find work when the mortgage is due, or medical bills are rising, or tuition for your child’s college is due, can make the search unbearable at times. Professionals and acquaintances tell you to "hang in there" and that "your day will come," when honestly you are thinking my day should have come the day I lost my last job.
An applicant can do some things to assist themselves in the process. Some applicants explore new opportunities or shifts in their career direction when facing the unknown and the struggle with unemployment. Your challenge if you are one of these folks (who honestly wants a job and wants to contribute but doesn’t really have a passion) is to present how your skills are transferrable to the employer’s sought qualifications.
If you can’t make this connection, you won’t be considered.
Look at what the employer is seeking and if you have relevant, transferable skills demonstrated to the employer on your resume, application, or cover letter. The average resume gets 20 seconds of an employer’s time. If you don’t think you have the appropriate skills, in this economic climate, you may want to weigh if it’s even worth your time to apply for a specific position.
Thinking of asking an employer why you aren’t selected? Well, most employers will not tell you. They tell you someone else was a better fit. I know, I know, all the recruiters tell you to ask. You can ask, and if they tell you, great. If not move on to another position. The reality is that you are competing with a lot of talent today–unemployment is higher than it’s been in decades, and rehiring is the last and most difficult piece coming out of a recession.
Arguing with an employer is futile: they will generally not change their mind, and I have heard that some employers note that the applicant was argumentative and won’t ever consider them for any position. There are pugnacious people, and employers don’t want to get locked in debates. If you think you are a victim of discrimination–well that’s another topic for another day–and even then, employers still aren’t going to engage in a long debate with you.
Human Resources is a team that is often as nervous about employment stability as anyone else in the company. HR is subject to out-sourcing, budget cuts, and more work due to statutes and regulatory concerns, but receives no additional staffing–do more with less. While all of these mitigating factors are legitimate issues for the professional, it is critical not to lose sight of your obligations when recruiting: finding the best talent for your business and treating all prospective candidates with dignity. No one (and you could soon be amongst the ranks of the unemployed or underemployed) wants the situation they are facing. Operate with the assumption that each candidate is a prospective customer or a loved one.
I have heard Human Resources team members directly involved with recruiting speak about how they hate recruitment. They treat it as the least desirable task. They quickly scan resumes, fail to return calls or e-mails, or send updates to candidates. Among themselves, they talk about how busy they are, and how they "don’t have time." The grumble about "what a nuisance it is" and how the applicant "just won’t stop bugging them."
If you are engaged as a recruiter for your company and you find yourself saying these things, you are in the wrong job. Not all Human Resources professionals are recruitment and selection folks, but if you are in this job, it is only right that you help your company find the best talent possible with your ability.
I suggest, employers, that you need to view recruitment as an opportunity to screen your future leaders. All companies have stories of their industry’s version of the pizza delivery guy who became president. As employers, we can be realistic: some people want to come to work, do their job, and go home at the end of the day. Their goals are to keep their job and support their family, but they don’t want to supervise or lead people –they see their life progressing elsewhere. That doesn’t diminish their ability to be a good employee who helps with the bottom line everyday.
As an employer, we can do some basic customer service activities that will enhance the applicants’ perception of us. First and foremost, expect–no, demand–that the Human Resources team is respectful and ethical in their interactions with prospective employees. All applicants should receive notice that their resume or application has been received. That notice can include the now standard “don’t call us, we will call you” line, but at least this way an applicant knows. It’s common courtesy and allows the applicant to track and continue their quest for employment. It also speaks to your respect for the candidate.
If an applicant is screened into your selection process, be thorough in explaining what the applicant can expect and when.
Deliver on what you say.
If through the process the applicant is not seen as a good fit, tell them. You’re a grown up: sharing disappointing news is part of the job of the recruiter. That doesn’t mean you have to engage in a debate with the applicant, and if they try to argue, be polite and professional:
“It was a difficult decision and we have gone with other applicants. We wish you well in your search. Thank you for your interest.”
You can do this via electronic means or phone, but DO IT! Remember, each applicant is a potential customer and you know, next time it could be you.