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At Whit's End

What’s Your Recruiting Experience Really Like?

Talented job candidates are choosing to vote with their feet and take themselves out of the talent pool because companies are not capable of treating them with respect.

I saw in the elevator at work recently that jobless claims are lower than expected, signaling — according to that brief paragraph — signs of strength in the labor market. I wouldn’t know. I’m not looking for a job, and I don’t know anyone who is, which is interesting. Because I know quite a few people who are jobless.

Why? A variety of reasons. Layoffs, bad bosses, health issues, whatever the reason, they should be looking for work. But to a man, their “search,” well, let’s just say it deserves those air quotes.

I’ve asked why, and again, to a man, their responses are some variation on the following: You couldn’t pay me to look for another job, and let these folks treat me any old kind of way. Um, OK. So it’s more important that you be treated well  than it is to find a job?

Their response: Basically? Yeah. Out of necessity small, home-based businesses are popping, there’s long-term temping, dedicated freelancing, there are all kinds of hustles out there keeping good workers out of traditional offices.

Of course, when I hear stories like these I ask for details. One lady told me for one job — she’d been looking steadily for over a year— she interviewed with four different people. She thought she was in until that last one. The man interviewing her wouldn’t meet her eye, and he was looking pained. He also kept sighing and rubbing his head.

She said she knew it was over at that point. Weeks went by and she heard nothing. She finally called them and was told some vague variation of “we’ve gone in another direction.”

“Well, thanks for sharing,” I scoffed.

“Mr. Crusoe, I’m concerned about this 20 year gap in your resume.”

She nodded. “Yup. That’s what I thought too.”

Another lady told me she was up for a great job. Her first phone screen went well. The second one went even better. Then she showed up for the in-person interview. She was kept waiting for almost an hour with no explanation or apology, and when a man came out he looked at her with feigned surprise and said, “You’re [fill in first and last name here]?”

“He wasn’t even the person I was there to meet. But I suspect the receptionist told him what I looked like.”

We had a good laugh about it. I shared an eerily similar story of my own that happened years ago.

“Huge waste of time,” I recalled. “Whenever that mess crosses my mind I regret that I even sat through it. What did you do when he asked you were you really you?”

She laughed. “Girl, you’d have been proud. I said, ‘I sure am,’ and I held up my phone. ‘And I just found out I got a fabulous job. Bye!’ I should have won an Oscar. Buzzards. Wasting my time, making me put on my good clothes and spend money traveling to deal with stupid ****. They weren’t getting another minute from me.”

She has since suspended her search altogether and is now happily enrolled in beauty school. She’s been doing hair on the side for years and figured she was doing well, why not make it official? She likes being her own boss, she said. “And I always treat my customers right.”

Both stories are examples of how talented employees are choosing to vote with their feet and take themselves out of the talent pool because companies are not ready or willing to treat them with respect. It doesn’t make sense.

The phrase war for talent is a little dated, but it’s definitely still valid. Companies have tons of unfilled positions, and I know there are a good number of qualified, hardworking people out there who would love to fill them; I’ve worked with the Oscar winner/stylist before, and she’s sharp as a tack, professional and dedicated. It was definitely their loss.

The problem is, the recruiting process is broken. Whether it’s a sign of the times, the result of technology and the rapid pace of business edging out common courtesy and common sense, recruiters aren’t always what they should be.

I’ve heard them described as careless, rude— how would you like to go to an interview in your best clothes and be called by the wrong name or be asked were you there for the housekeeping position?— and completely unprepared. And what’s with the weeks going by without telling people whether or not they got the job? Even a form letter-type email is better than silence. Close the loop already. Don’t just leave people hanging.

Recently my boss sent our intern candidates — interns — who didn’t get the post an email within days of us making the decision. And that’s standard practice for him. So, talent leaders? Y’all may need to ask yourselves, what is our recruiting process/experience really like?

If you have unfilled positions and you’re spending a lot of time and money recruiting and interviewing with no results, something’s not right. Determine:

  • Are we being careless with people’s time?
  • Are we making assumptions about candidates who look a certain way?
  • Do we have a clear idea of what we want a candidate to be able to do?
  • Are we willing to offer training if a candidate looks promising?
  • Are our resume review, candidate selection and interview processes user friendly and free of bias?
  • Are interviewers well trained?
  • Are candidates being treated with respect? For instance, are we informing people in a timely fashion that they did or did not get the job?

Those are just a few questions to get you started. The actual recruiting process analysis will need to be much more in depth, and correcting any problems will be an even bigger job. But it’s a job worth doing. Further, you need to ask these questions of the right people — the candidates.

The best time to ask is right after the interview when the experience is fresh in their minds. Of course, who’s going to answer honestly when they’re still holding out hope of getting the gig? The next best time would be after they’ve been notified in the negative. Shoot them an email. It’s kind of like an exit interview.

I think companies should send in the job-seeker version of secret shoppers. Send in fake candidates of all shapes, colors and sizes with stunning resumes and see what happens. It might save some serious recruiting costs in the long-run by rooting out systemic bias and other institutionalized missteps. And anytime you sweep out the bad— assuming the company fixes what is broken — you make way for something good.

And good in the recruiting game means talent.

Kellye Whitney is associate editorial director for Workforce. Comment below or email editors@workforce.com.