In recruiting, nothing worse than the reputation of the proverbial black hole

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Deep dark dangers of the recruiting black hole


Of all aspects of HR and recruiting not much has a worse reputation than the proverbial black hole. It wasn’t always that way. In fact, back in the mid- 90s when was “the monster” of the digital recruiting space, job boards were an amazing and efficient delivery tool for both companies and candidates to exchange information.


As an early adopter, I remember how excited I was to be (as far as I knew) the first person from my company to post a job online rather than place an ad in the Sunday newspaper. That was no easy feat either. Believe it or not, I was met with severe skepticism and had to press hard to convince those in control of my department’s budget that spending $300 on an inch square extremely limited newspaper ad each week was not as cost-effective or useful as an unlimited text online ad for the same price that would be available for 60-90 days.


Another milestone that stands out was having a relative that I created a resume for be the first person their company hired through an online job board. For me, monster was addicting. On my own time, I explored, experimented and learned as much as I could about interfacing with the site. That included becoming an active (though anonymous) participant in their chat rooms and discussion boards on various topics related to job search.


Not only did I get a kick out of using this method to hire people or be able to apply for jobs, but I became an evangelist of sorts and convinced several friends to give it a try. Soon, we were all hooked.


Meanwhile back at the office, applicant tracking tools, processes and systems were not particularly sophisticated in the early days, as most businesses were still learning how to integrate technology into previously manual steps and traditional recruiting methods. My first memories of what must have been a very primitive applicant tracking system (ATS) are not pleasant. Most of the functionality was cumbersome, tedious and lacking intuitive features needed for a smooth workflow.


Since then, I’ve experienced several other systems as a user and even took part in some implementations as a pilot tester for upgrades. Though ATSs have come along way, it seems that gaps still exist from either a functionality standpoint or due to poor execution of candidate interface from the employers’ installation. Simultaneously, job boards for every possible demographic have sprung up like weeds in an abandoned lot. The combination of these factors is where the black hole phenomenon gets interesting.


Over the years as enhancements were added to all of this job board and ATS technology, many talent matching areas became streamlined and simplified.  Yet, from the applicant side, that same level of simplicity and ease of use meant higher volumes of competition. And, from the corporate perspective a burdensome pile of data and paired with evolving technology to navigate, understand and afford continues to baffle practically everyone involved.


Donna Weiss, managing director for Corporate Executive Board, a research and advisory services company, provides some enlightening statistics in her articleon the Post and Pray method.


A few points from the article that I found most pertinent are:


  • According to CEB’s annual Candidate Rules of Engagement study, “the average number of applications a recruiter receives for a given job posting increased by 167% from 2007-2011.”


  • Unfortunately, the same study reports “only 35% of the typical applicant pool meets even the most basic job requirements.” 


  • CEB’s 2011 Recruiting Trends Forecast suggests “going into 2011, 91% of recruiters were increasing their use of online professional networking tools for recruiting.”



Regarding the first item, some might attribute that increased volume to the coincidental timing of our beloved great recession. Or, perhaps the fact that our collective attention span has decreased to the point that 2-3 years at one company is considered having longevity. Either way, jobs are in short supply and movement from one position to another no longer carries the stigma of job hopping.


As for the second metric, there is always room for interpretation, but I venture to guess that both companies and candidates are at fault here. The primary issue I see with this area is related to the quality of content in most online job ads. What I’m referring to is how they tend to be structured to only attract those with the minimum qualifications, at best. The other problem is that job seekers have become conditioned and led to believe they have nothing to lose by applying for anything remotely relevant to their interests.


In my opinion the third statistic is where the dreaded black hole has the potential to become a non issue. Even though countless reports confirm that job boards remain the predominant source of hire, they generally only serve the most active members of the job market. That is where returning to old fashioned networking, referral programs, cold-calling online and offline and other relationship based concepts will prevail.


The above applies to both job seekers and employers. True talent is always in demand and despite reliance on convenient tools, the fundamentals of finding the right fit have never changed. 

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