Tag Archives: recruiting

Recruiting Essay: Further Thoughts

In my essay, Are Recruiters Inhibiting Recruiting?, I pulled together some personal experiences to form an opinion about where things were, and were going, in the recruiting industry.  Let me emphasize this, as apparently this concept didn’t come through: these were my opinions based on my personal observations.  Let me also emphasize that my intent had not been to slam, in any way, a specific recruiter, or indict the recruiting industry in general.  Rather, I have been thinking about the apparent disconnect between the hordes of people looking for work, employers who say they can’t find the right people, and had what I believed was a “Eureka moment” as to one possible cause… and wrote about it.

Apparently my essay was, however, perceived as putting down the industry.  Again I repeat: my intent had not been to denigrate the industry or any specific individual.  Since the perception was, however, that I was doing so – apparently to the point that one commenter wanted to convince me that recruiters were not, and I quote, “the Devil incarnate” – I apologize.

In my contacts are any number of recruiters; several have become regular correspondents.  One has, over time, become something of a friend and sounding board.  I have been placed into several jobs by recruiters, and absolutely see them as aids and helpers in matching people looking for work with companies looking for people.

There will be more on this: I have gotten a LOT of information from a few different recruiters, and after I’ve assimilated it all will definitely write another essay.  On the flip side, though, I’ve received a number of emails from job seekers who do see a similar pattern to what I’d initially observed.  So the mix of information – after digestion and thought – should be interesting.

 

© 2014, David Hunt, PE

Are Recruiters Inhibiting Recruiting?

I have had a couple of interesting experiences in the last several weeks that, put together, make me propose a possibly controversial conjecture: that the outsourcing of hiring, whether intentional by the use of retained recruiters to augment a shrunken HR staff, or unintentional by the proliferation of contingency recruiters, is actually slowing hiring down.

I’ll highlight a couple of recent experiences from my job search, put up some evidence, outline some thoughts-as-I-go, then pull it all together with some possible implications at the end.

Experiences

Over the course of the last 4-5 weeks I have been approached by no less than six different recruiters about one position.  Since some of them sent me the company’s as-written job description, I easily identified unique elements to it – and had the fact that it was the same company confirmed by five of the six recruiters (the last one, when I asked him to confirm it was this company, never replied).

I don’t know if these are retained or contingency recruiters; my suspicion is the latter.  Let’s go with that assumption first – that these recruiters are out there “trolling” company and other websites looking for open requisitions, and then attempting to place people into them (they might also have been contacted by the company directly on a contingent basis).  The fact that I’ve been contacted by six of them implies there are an awful lot of recruiting agencies out there rooting around to fill what is, relative to the recruiter population, a paucity of positions.

A datum that supports this fierce-competition-to-fill-slots hypothesis is the fact that the towns were different depending on which recruiter it was.  In another instance, perhaps 3-4 months ago, I was contacted by a recruiter for a different position in a specifically-named town; during the discussion the company’s product and industry sounded familiar, so I inquired – and had my suspicion confirmed about the company’s identity… a company whose actual locationwas the next town over than the one named.  I informed him that, sorry, I’d already applied to the company directly, but then I asked why the town was wrong.  He said that was to throw off other recruiters who might poach his business.

Thought one: There are far more recruiters trying to fill positions than there are positions to fill.

The other possibility is that these are retained recruiters.  If so, it means the company is scouring the recruiting industry hoping that in those recruiters’ stables of candidates, there are people who could be perfect fits the role.

Thought two: Companies are not getting the volumes of “qualified” applicants they thought they would, and are going through multiple agencies to increase their odds.

In a similar situation, I was contacted by three separate recruiters over two days for a different position; this time a contract job.  Without proof, I believe that this position was posted by the company to whatever requisition networks it is on, and these recruiters leapt at it like famished wolves trying to put someone in before another recruiter did.

Job Search Agents

I get a lot of job openings emailed to me through different websites on which I’ve filled out search agent requests.  In a non-rigorous survey, the vast majority of these positions posted are through recruiters, not posted by the company directly.  As with the above, when I click on jobs I see many that appear to be duplicate positions posted by different recruiters, again with many listing the locations differently even though – to my eyes at least – the positions seem similar enough that they’re likely the same one.  There are too many similarities in the details of the listed requirements, with the locations in close proximity, to conclude otherwise.  Again, this supports the contention that recruiters – especially contingency recruiters – are swarming around too few openings trying to eke out a living.

Conventional Wisdom on Recruiters

It is common knowledge that job seekers should be careful about using recruiters.  One caution is that if two recruiters submit a person to the same company, the company typically disallows the candidate for fear of legal complications with respect to which recruiter gets paid.

(Side note: A recruiter, with whom I have a good relationship and even something of a friendship, said that he has seen how one recruiter known to him, upon learning a person was already in through another recruiter, would submit the person as a duplicate submission – knowing this would then knock that candidate out of the running and then open the possibility for their own submission of another person.  This is, of course, incredibly unethical and by no means am I attempting to paint all recruiters with such a brush.  But it does indicate that there are “bad apples” out there.  It also is another data point supporting the idea that recruiters are desperate to place people to earn a living.  And, sometimes, desperate people will do desperate – and unethical – things.)

Completing the Puzzle

So if we accept several premises:

  1. There are far more recruiters trying to make a living from placing people into positions than there are positions into which to place people.
  2. Companies are relying on outside agency recruiters (both types) more and more.
  3. Recruiters are intent on protecting their postings through misdirection on location and possibly the specifics of the job itself.
  4. Candidates are rightly worried about duplicate submissions eliminating them from the running.

We can then make a stunning inference – one that I don’t think is unreasonable: the oversupply of recruiters combined with the increasing reliance on them to fill positions is actually hampering the placement of candidates from their tactics combined with candidates’ concern about short-circuiting their application through duplication of submissions.  This hampering happens in two ways:

First, large numbers of duplicate submissions are being made by different recruiters.  It is pretty much axiomatic that companies want no part of a turf battle having to choose which recruiter to pay – so they dump the candidate from consideration.  Even a really good candidate can be washed out of the running because no company wants a lawsuit over which recruiter should be paid.

Second, savvy candidates observe these multiple postings by different recruiters, dope out that these are possibly the same position, and decide to not take the risk and don’t apply at all.

What the Future Holds

  1. If there are this many recruiters scrounging to place people, I suspect over the next year – unless the job market really changes dramatically – there will be a vast fallout of recruiters as they fail to place enough people to make a living.
  2. Companies will enact strict and legally-binding agreements with any recruiter with whom they deal governing what happens with duplicate submissions – and recruiters that just throw people at openings will find themselves cut out entirely.
  3. Corporate decision-makers, faced with falling recruitment successes, will turn to re-staff HR departments again in an effort to regain control of the process.
  4. Candidates will become ever-more reluctant to engage with recruiters, even for promising positions, as they become increasingly skittish at having their resume double-submitted.
  5. This skittishness will contribute to the industry fallout in #1 in a potentially vicious cycle.

===

Some further thoughts here.

© 2014, David Hunt, PE

Social Media Vetting: Proposed Standards (Long)

Hiring managers and human resources people search the internet for indications about a candidate’s personality, character, opinions, and human failings – and then are shocked and horrified to discover candidates have personalities, characters, opinions, and human failings.

The buzz in recruiting these days is Social Media.  People are on it sharing information about themselves and their lives as a way to keep friends and family updated; bloggers opine on everything under the sun among other content they post – and tweeters tweet, well, lots.  Recruiters post jobs on it and look for potential candidates, and also use the information people put out for others to see as another tool to vet those potential candidates.  The advice given to job seekers by universal consensus is to avoid any picture or post that might be considered controversial; pictures of parties and drinking, as well as those of a potentially-prurient nature, are particularly mentioned among the verboten.

I recently saw a picture tweeted by a person so well-known in the Recruiting industry they write a column for a national magazine!  They and two others were at a party; alcohol was shown and all were having a good time.  So I asked a simple question: was this a picture that might be viewed negatively by a potential employer.  I believed it was a legitimate question considering the expertise of the person.  The picture and the tweet vanished; my question was answered by the action.

The New Puritanism*

PILGRIMMAN

I’ve written several essays about the use of Social Media (SM) to vet candidates during the hiring process (here, here, and here, with one more mentioned below).  Among myriad posts by others, such as ­Social Media in hiring – You can run but you can’t hide, is a universal caution to job seekers that what they post might rule them out a priori.  The phrase “use of social media to vet candidates” gets millions upon millions of google hits.

The practice of close scrutiny of social media profiles is creating such a terror of any exposure of anything adverse that it threatens to suppress the very utility of using such media to vet people as candidates censor themselves to avoid controversy.

In my last essay on the topic, posted on social-hire.com, I threw out the idea that some standards should be set when looking at a potential candidate’s social media presence.  To my surprise, nothing was forthcoming in the comments.  Thus, please indulge me in voicing some thoughts here.

Venue Matters

LinkedIn is the default location for people networking for work, and for a person’s professional on-line presence in general.  Therefore standards should be high; no drinking, no buddy arm-in-arm pictures, no unprofessional outfits, and so on.  Inappropriate pictures/content here should receive the highest level of concern.  I have seen pictures of both men and women whose appropriateness for LinkedIn I would question; in the case of one young woman to whom I am connected, I pointed this out and they changed their picture.

Likewise, a blog or twitter account devoted to building up one’s reputation as an expert in a field should also have a strictly professional picture and well-written, well-thought out posts (I try!); insights into personality and humor are fine, but again – are they reasonable?

By contrast, what people post on facebook and other locations should be cut a great deal of slack.  Similarly, a blog or twitter account devoted to a person’s personal interests, life, and thoughts should be cut similar slack.  These are, by definition, sites that are not directly related to a person’s professional image, and often are used to communicate with friends and family preferentially.  Especially as privacy settings and defaults can change at the provider’s whims, I believe it should be hard to hold things posted here against them unless they’re truly egregious.

And consider politics: letters to the editor and other posts are, by definition, taking a side on something.  With America split roughly 50-50 Left/Right, odds are good someone out there will be of the opposite view.  I have opined before that this country needs informed and involved citizens; so long as the arguments are well-written and calm, this should be a non-issue.  Indeed, I’d preferentially hire someone who wrote a lot, even if I disagreed, if their writing showed strong writing and argumentation skills.

Context Matters

If someone goes to a party, and posts pictures of themselves at said party drinking on facebook, their personal blog, or tweets them out … so what?  (Which means the picture I questioned earlier is, in my book, completely fine!)  If someone goes to the beach and posts pictures of themselves in a bikini, or Speedo… so what?  Isn’t that what one does and wears in that kind of situation?  I believe the absolute, basic question is simple: Given the circumstance / environment of the picture, is the behavior and dress appropriate for that situation?  If it is, move on.

Volition Matters

It is possible for a person to have their picture taken, especially in a social setting, and have that photo “tagged” by the person taking the picture.  The picture is not taken at their request, the tag is not added by their request and they might not even know it was done.  If they’re guilty of something, it’s of being out in public and not running and hiding from anyone with a camera.  For example, a networking party’s website has a picture of a person drinking, tagged with their name; that’s very different from a person posting that on their personal blog article about the party which, citing venue, is different than their using that picture for their LinkedIn profile.

Generation Matters

A networking colleague of mine commented about this post Why I Just Quit My Job at Apple; his comment was very astute:

There are no hard lines, but I would venture to say that the more elder readers here would be appalled that the writer cut and ran with no notice. The more recent grads would be appalled that he stayed as long as he did and left so quietly.

He is absolutely correct.  The younger one is, the more natural sharing information on social media is perceived.  Hiring managers and HR would do well to adapt to that new reality in considering the exposure people give themselves in their varied social media presences.  Just as older job seekers are expected to have developed some level of “tech savvy”, some level of adaptability needs to be inculcated in hiring managers to take into account the approximate generation of the candidate and, by extension, their sense of comfort in such sharing.  (For example, I’d be far less concerned about seeing a 20-something person hoisting a beer at a party with eyes, face, and posture showing some level of intoxication – it’s a party and they’re in their 20s, for crying out loud! – than I would seeing that same three-sheets-to-the-wind expression in a 50-something person… both from a maturity standpoint as well as thinking “You posted this publically?  Really?”)

Confirmation Matters

My own name is common.  Even names that are foreign (to the US, at least) are not necessarily uncommon as one might think.  If a search on google or bing turns up something of potential concern, it is incumbent to verify that said material originates from the job seeker in question – including asking the person about it.

Learning and History Matter

A questionable picture, done years ago where they agree “I was an idiot to be doing that” is far, far different than a person who posts such an action from last weekend’s bash.  After all – the internet is forever – and there are probably things we’ve all done and posted that we wish we could take back now that we’re more aware, and hopefully wiser.  Again, it is incumbent to ask the person about it if they are under serious consideration.

Beyond the Pale

Certain posts and pictures and other information do cross the line into the no-way-would-I-hire-them category.  Racism and bigotry, clearly, are absolutely beyond the pale and posts denigrating others in that fashion should be viewed with great concern and given great weight.  Calls for or threats of violence also fall into this category.  Overt drug use or discussion of one’s drug habits, or other illegal activities, are obvious reasons for rejection.  The possibilities are legion.

The top disqualifier often listed is sexually-related material.  Speaking personally, were I to interview someone who had posed in Playboy or Playgirl, meh, that’s pretty tame (though it would be points in their favor if they mentioned a magazine appearance up front – even tame, that’s not the kind of thing you want to hear about through the rumor mill, especially after they’re on board).  Likewise, a topless or nude picture taken at a topless or nude beach might indicate some lack of judgment… there might be some giggle factor among co-workers, but it wouldn’t overly concern me.  (A personal experience: at one employer one very attractive secretary was discovered to have had a topless picture in a magazine.  Once discovered, everyone quickly had a copy, or at least had seen the picture… but, speaking for myself, the novelty soon wore off and it didn’t even come to mind when I talked with her – and, no, I didn’t keep a copy!)

However, were a candidate found to have had their own porn website, or have starred in actual pornography – no.  They might be a fine <job title> but the nature of their activity would quickly become known… pictures and video snippets would be circulated and the gossip mill would run overtime; unlike the above example of one mild picture, I don’t think the novelty would fade.  (E.g., consider the in-the-news-now story of a female college student, at a big-name school, who is financing her education by being an adult film actress and whose real name is now known.  Is there a single reader who thinks that she will ever be able to get a professional job or, if given one, be able to function among colleagues who will – doubtless universally – have seen excerpts of her, ah, performances?)

Killing the Golden Goose

Left unchecked, the New Puritanism will slowly dry up the flow of information as people clamp down on anything controversial.  Without standards for what is fair game – in terms of venue, content, etc. – job seekers will eventually censor themselves into dead silence.  In order for social media to remain viable as a vetting tool for the long-term, boundaries and standards need to be set and widely communicated as industry-wide policies.

This does not excuse stupidity, however.  Some discretion and thought needs to be given to posts by job seekers – but without the crushing fear that any stray thought or picture, especially in places where the ability to control the content doesn’t exist, might be taken as one data point that ruins their candidacy for an otherwise good-fit opportunity.

Let Slip the Dogs of Discussion

business conversations

I now throw the discussion over to others:

  • How can “thought leaders” in the industry develop and disseminate standards and guidelines for job seekers to keep in mind as they live lives not only in physical space, but in the new and shifting virtual world of social media?
  • Likewise, how can these thought leaders also convey and enforce a sense of tolerance and adaptability on the part of hiring managers and corporate HR people to use as they rifle through the information available, especially information people voluntarily post?

­I apologize for the length of this; there was a lot to cover.  I look forward to hearing from you.

* My thanks to Neil Patrick; he asked if “New Puritanism” was my own invention.  It is.  So… if you decide to use it, I’d greatly appreciate a pingback or other credit for it.

­

­© 2014, David Hunt, PE