Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Recruiters And Hiring Managers Aren’t Telepathic

I’ve gotten many comments lately from frustrated candidates complaining about how they were never considered for jobs they felt they were “obviously” qualified for.

I’ve seen this as a candidate issue for years, at all levels – from rookies to executives. The frustration is almost universal that well qualified people aren’t getting the call.

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When I “peel the onion” I’ve seen a common thread – telepathic expectations.

I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve heard from candidates blaming the “rude recruiter”, “unqualified HR staff”, and “discourteous hiring manager” for not recognizing they were “prefect” for the job.

In practice, it’s a high likelihood that the hiring manager never even saw these resumes - if they did, it’s also highly likely that the resume didn’t clearly point out exactly why the candidate was a good fit.

As an example, back when I was recruiting, I recall talking to a CIO candidate. To start the interview, the CIO talked about how upset he was with my firm – he had submitted his resume for a job he was perfect for, and didn’t even get a call. He had a copy of the ad to show me how close of a fit he was.

When comparing his resume and the job description side by side, I was able to see that approximately 40% of the criteria listed in the ad were not addressed on his resume. When I asked about each gap, the CIO gave great answers, clearly stating where he had this experience. After talking to him, he clearly built a case why he was a great fit.

I asked him to show me where each of these experiences appeared on his resume. His eyes demonstrated his understanding … they got wide, and his voice dropped in tone as he said “I planned to discuss this in the interview.”

The CIO candidate suddenly realized that a busy recruiting office or HR department gets thousands of applicants for each job. The CIO had even implemented Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) for his past employers, so he knew how companies set up processes to pre-screen resumes and to centralize the nearly 50% of the resumes that its own employees receive through their personal networks. The CIO’s department had been responsible for designing, documenting, and testing these systems. Yet, he overlooked how these same systems applied to him as a candidate.

Recruiting offices, HR departments nor hiring managers can’t possibly read all the resumes they get, so they pre-screen by searching a resume database for keywords. Those that pass the database get pre-screened by lower level HR staff, who typically don’t know much about the job past the keywords they are instructed to look for. Hiring managers are pretty busy people these days, and spend an average 15 Seconds deciding whether to interview a candidate or not. 96% of hiring managers make this decision based on the resume, not the cover letter.

To recruiters, HR staff, and hiring managers, if it’s not on your resume, it doesn’t exist.

It’s the rare case when hiring managers hire the best candidate.

Hiring managers hire the best candidate they’ve interviewed.

Hiring managers interview the best candidates of the resume they see. Hiring managers typically only see 10-20 resumes out of the thousands of applicants.

So where are the best candidates? Often they remain buried in a recruiter’s or company’s ATS.

Even the best recruiters I’ve met or the most experienced HR professionals just aren’t telepathic. Even people with industry experience, those who have done the job or will manage the position, can’t possibly see that you are an exact skills or experience match, if you don’t clearly explain why you’re a match on your resume.

This isn’t a lone example … it’s very typical among job applicants.

Why do candidates systematically neglect to list skills and experience that are relevant to the position and company?

Many recruiters and HR staff, frustrated that they find so few who fit in such a large pool of candidates, often blame it on applicant laziness. For the most part, I disagree – Instead, I’ve found it to be a knowledge gap. Most candidates have been trained in this process, and it’s reinforced even still by much of the literature and advice given about job search. You’ll still hear paper resume advice given out by outplacement firms, recruiters, and college placement/alumni offices. Why give out outdated information? It fits within candidate expectations and comfort zones.

The problem is that candidates can’t possibly demonstrate how their experience matches a company’s specific needs by sending the same resume (or even a slightly tweaked one) to all jobs - even if a customized cover letter is included. You’d have better odds of winning Lotto and Lotto pays much better.

In an article written this September, I describe how candidates can adopt a new winning strategy. I illustrate how a candidate can structure Fishing and Response resumes to improve the odds that they will be seen. Further, when implemented well, the candidate will be seen as a good skills and experience match by the multiple audiences that screen thousands of applicants down to the dozen or so who gain an interview slot.

In the rare situation that you’re interviewing with a talk show host who can guess words inside a sealed envelope, your old strategy of using the same resume will work fine.

Please share your stories - Have any readers run into roadblocks, non-telepathic recruiters or hiring managers? Or overlooked for a position you were obviously qualified for?

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