When I was in transition, I spoke with plenty of recruiters. Most of them had a job description in hand and would look for a mirror image of that job description on a resume. It was easy to see that if there was one bullet on the job description that wasn't listed on the resume, the conversation stopped. I want to know why recruiters treat intelligent people like they're incapable of learning? Learning is ongoing for professional people and let's face it, the Internet provides an amazing springboard for research.

Every position cannot be all-inclusive to every company and recruiters and hiring managers should understand that an intelligent person can learn new areas of their jobs if it's a requirement. If recruiters have a strong candidate, they should make an effort to build a relationship with the candidate so they can make a professional assessment about their current competencies as well as the candidate's innate abilities to take initiative and want to learn more. There are, what I like to call, "Steady Eddies" who are great employees; however, they're not going to be superstars. Not everyone can be a superstar and that's okay too, but that's a topic for another day. In addition, hiring managers and companies need to stop expecting recruiters to wave a magic wand and find their perfect candidate. The perfect candidate is non-existent!

In closing, it would be peachy if recruiters and hiring managers would understand that people aren't perfect and companies aren't perfect. There will always be a hole or a void somewhere on the resume and it's a matter of determining the priority of that skills void. Talk to the candidate and let them share their work and personal experiences with you. Stop using the recruiting process to rule out candidates and start using it to court them. When a candidate knows you want to learn more about them, they'll be less nervous when they speak to you and inclined to share their experiences candidly. Maybe then candidates will stop being on the defensive with recruiters and recruiters will stop accusing candidates of lying.

This is human nature folks, don't overcomplicate it. Thoughts?

Views: 226

Comment by Paul Basile on January 13, 2011 at 12:52pm
A nice, thoughtful post. Surveys show that about a third of recruiters aren't completely accurate when describing the job and about a third of applicants aren't completely honest about themselves. We can do a lot better by knowing more of the truth about the person and the job. That's what we do, scientifically. It's very personal, very human, and much deeper and more relevant than resume. The issues you cite are real, and can be addressed.
Comment by Peter Lanc on January 13, 2011 at 12:56pm
I agree Kim and what is more fit for job does not mean don't hire an individual who will challenge. People do not move jobs to move to another one like they just had skill set wise. They need to develop new skills in the new job while adding value by bringing what they have!
Comment by John J Burke on January 13, 2011 at 1:08pm
The word "some" prior to "recruiters" would be a useful addition and make your comments more accurate.  Our company often places square pegs into round holes by shaving the edges, if the person has the core strengths our clients require.  Recruiters and hiring managers who abide by the detailed job description as described by you, are either newbies uncertain of their job and unfamiliar with the perimeters of the position they are trying to fill, or Very familiar with the specific requirements and forced to resort to finding "legally" justifiable reasons to decline your application rather than tell you the truth, which could be any one of a hundred reasons you do not fit the position.
Comment by FREYJA P. on January 13, 2011 at 1:28pm

I agree with John J.'s comments - and would add if a recruiter stops talking to you because one bullet on the resume is missing, the fault lies with the recruiter and their relationship with their client. It is a rare one that expects perfection - and while all clients have a "wish" list - it is our job to find out which items are the "drop dead" list and which ones have some flexibility on them.

And it's a two way street - one needs to prepare a candidate to have some flexibility to trade off on their wish list - for challenge and future growth vs. salary and benefits. 

It's why we recruiters have a place in this world.

Comment by Reb Blanchard on January 13, 2011 at 1:59pm

In answer to the question, " I want to know why recruiters treat intelligent people like they're incapable of learning?" the answer is the same as to the following, "When you shop for a product, do you allow the product salesmen to tell you about every attribute, or do you go in with a list of 3 or 4 things that are required for you to listen further?"

As a professional recruiter, I would love to be able to throughly interview every candidate before even speaking about a specific position, but often I am faced with a candidate (especially those employed or believing that they have several options) who just want to know the particulars about money and location before they will take the time to tell me what there career objectives are.

Just as often, if I ask a person in transition to take litterally 15 minutes to fill out a short survey that captures the infomation I would need to be able to effectively help them I rarely get a response that doesn't include "what do you have open?"

At the end of the day candidate, hiring manager, and recruiter are all motivaed by getting a reasonable return on the investment of time.

Comment by Karen Lynn on January 13, 2011 at 2:06pm

You articulated some powerful ideas for how the 'hiring game' could become more authentic and effective Kimberly. I share your vision and passion for upping the Art of game vs the Science of game. But comments above remind us that this is indeed a business game, one in which the gambles, bluffs, and strategies are often hidden to gain a winning advantage of some sort or to offer severe protections to the paying side (clients).


I agree with the comments that suggest that while the practice you described above may not be the most artful way to recruit, there are often hidden sub-games being played that rely solely on a scientific method for filling a position. In those cases, candidates are indeed reduced to a 2-D image match. But that is just part of the larger hiring game being played today.


Are recruiters successful because they know exactly what game is being played plus how to win that specific game? or Are recruiters successful when no matter the game, they are governed by a robust humanitarian of principles? 



Comment by Kirk Baumann on January 13, 2011 at 2:07pm

Kimberly, great post. Recruiters should be hiring people, not laundry lists! You're right - the perfect candidate doesn't exist. If they did, the role of the recruiter wouldn't! 


There are lots of things that a person can learn on the job. You're not (and shouldn't be) expected to know everything on DAY ONE. That's what training, orientation, and onboarding is for. That's also what employee development is for - as a person and employer, these things ARE important! Recruiters and employers should be looking for the best fit - no one is perfect...but you can get close. Hire those that have undeveloped potential.

Comment by Kathleen Davis on January 13, 2011 at 2:36pm

Hi Kimberly, I have been a recruiter for 23 years. I don't just go by what is on the job description, however when I am retained by a company to find them a candidate with certain qualifications, I know which qualifications are mandatory for them, and which ones are just nice to haves. That is why a client will have requirements, and then 'desired' skills. That gives a recruiter some leeway. But when you get to the bottom line, yes we want to find out how your background fits in, and most recruiters who have been doing this awhile know where they can draw that line with the submission of the candidate, especially if they have been working with a company for awhile. It has nothing to do with your intelligence and that you can learn the job or the task. I admit, I screen people out, not in. But in that process, I have made placements with those candidates that I interviewed them for but send their resume to another company who their background might be a better fit. It sounds like you just had a few bad experiences because I look at each and every one of my candidates as having value and even though they may not be a fit for a particular recruitment that i originally called them for, they may be for another one. Then there are candidates who say they have experience on their resume but when i interview them, and dig a little deeper with questions, they didn't actually have the experience that they said they had. Those are the candidates who do not get passed on to the hiring manager. A client isn't paying me to give them a candidate whose background and experience won't meet their current need. SO i hope this helps to clarify why we recruiters do what we do.

Kathleen Davis, President

KzDavis Recruiting/Executive Search 

Comment by Ilona Jerabek on January 13, 2011 at 3:36pm

I agree - a competency fit doesn't need to be perfect, as long as the core skills are there, along with the ability and willingness to learn.  However, this is only a part of the picture. 

I live by the motto: "Hire for attitudes, train for skills".  Again, as long as the basis for those skills are there, and the company can afford to provide the training.  For instance, when hiring programmers, excellent candidates may be overlooked just because they don't know a particular language at a high enough level.  However, once a programmer knows the basics of software design, and have mastered several programming languages, learning a new one may be a question of a few weeks.

I am persuaded that a good personality fit and workplace culture fit is as important, if not more, than specific skills ... for job satisfaction, for performance, for loyalty, for low turnover, for initiative ... the list goes on and on.  If you have a major gap between what the position requires in terms of behavioral style and who you are as a person, you have to "act" most of the time you spend at work.  For instance, if you are an introvert with good social skills, you CAN work as a salesperson, but you don't necessarily WANT to.  You have the skills to do it, but it will be exhausting.  I CAN do accounting, but I hate it and it drains my energy much more than writing complex algorithms for scoring of our tests (which another person might find utterly boring and daunting).

If you get someone with the right personality fit for the job, who matches well with the team, and can thrive under the leadership of the manager in charge, then everyone wins.

Comment by Alan on January 13, 2011 at 4:43pm
Its been my experience having worked both sides of the desk that having a candidate tick all the boxes is an accounting issue not a people issue. No one has a problem intelligent people, learning etc. however when accounting asks if the fee meets the requirements (the perfect candidate). If a full fee is paid it is expected that the candidate can hit the ground running with no other training expenses, accommodation or time/dollars/production being spent getting up to speed.
If the hire is direct by the employer and I have seen/experienced hiring where accommodations and other expenses were picked up with development programs put in place.

Recruiters need to understand how to best find the needs of the role, the environment, stakeholders, demands and assumptions. What candidate does do and how the candidate will fit every ticky box. Or provide a strategy of how they will.
The client needs to stop playing "stump the chump" and work with the recruiter as a partner instead of pointing to the slot machine.
The candidate needs to understand the dynamics and requirements of getting a job and work with them and being their own advocate.
We're all consumers of the process each has a role to play.


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