Acknowledging the Elephant in the Room

Over the past few months there have been numerous articles, blogs and commentaries related to handling the increased volume of candidates applying for positions; the continued lack of response from companies once someone applies for a position and what if anything candidates can do; and suggested new “tools” for addressing these issues. Companies complain, candidates complain and vendors develop and market services and technology to address the complaints.

Meanwhile, the big elephant is still in the room and no one seems willing to acknowledge it. So what is the big elephant? It is the hiring process and more specifically, the piece that usually starts the process, the job posting.

HR Leaders, Talent Acquisition Managers and corporate recruiters should understand that you control the process, and thus the flow of candidates responding to open positions. Write and post a poorly written job description that has little or nothing to do with what the job actually is; write and post qualifications for the job that are often more wish-list than actual must haves to be successful in the job; require the candidate do nothing more than attach a cover letter and resume if interested and you have created a situation that is doomed to failure and will always produce a flood of candidates that you can continue to complain about. You have created busy work, not work that leads to a successful outcome, finding the best talent for your positions.

Too harsh? Not by a long shot. The truth is that candidates have no skin in the game. Candidates with a click or two of their mouse (and remember, elephants are deathly afraid of mice) can send their resume and cover letter, doing exactly what you asked them to do, and because so many of them do so, you are inundated with a flood of candidates that you can’t easily manage. You complain and because of the volume of applications, the candidates get very little or no attention and they complain.

And because both sides have issue with the process, the companies that provide technology or services come to market with solutions for the problem that should never have been a problem in the first place.

Here are some suggested steps to remove the elephant from the room.

  • Job postings should have more to do with the actual work the candidate will be expected to do, short term (first 90 days) and long term (see Lou Adler’s Performance Profiles). Candidates could read the posting and decide that they could or could not do that job.  
  • Job qualifications should be listed as must haves and nice to haves and the must haves should require the candidate to do something to demonstrate that he/she has it. If the job requires “good written communication skills” because the candidate will be writing and sending out proposals then have the candidate write a proposal. Some will decide not to apply at this point. If the job requires the ability to develop and deliver PowerPoint presentations to groups, have the candidate prepare a PowerPoint presentation around a topic related to what the company does.
  • Once the candidate has applied, have a system that allows the candidate to check the status of application, identifies where the application is in your pipeline and provides information on next steps, requirements and timeframes. (see Gerry Crispin’s April Fools Letter)

I am convinced that taking these steps will eliminate the volume of candidates applying (only those willing to put in the effort to apply will do so), will eliminate the complaints from neglected candidates and provide your company with a pool of qualified, interested candidates from which to interview and hire.

And, as for those service providers who have been developing products that address all the complaints some will go on to other problem areas, others, like our company will be there with you to help you manage a true well functioning talent acquisition and retention process.

Any one see an elephant in the room now?

Views: 1202

Comment by Sandra McCartt on April 11, 2011 at 3:51pm

I declined a candidate yesterday one hour after his resume came in.  This is the email i got back.


"You've got to be kidding Sandra. My background is the job description and it is a sad commentary you don't have the vision to see that. As far as dates of education are concerned, why would it matter given my depth of background. I think you need to re-evaluate your competency in reviewing candidates for the position."


Normally i would hit delete, write him off as just another arrogant jerk and go on down the road.  The wind was blowing 60 miles an hour in the Texas panhandle yesterday.  Wind pisses me off and makes me a little crazy.  Couldn't do anything outside except walk in a controlled fall so here is what i sent back.


Diet products and nutritional supplements were not food the last time I looked.  However given your personal attack on my ability to review a resume it seems I have saved my client from wasting time with a hostile personality.


To which he responded:

"Absolutely not hostile just some constructive criticism regarding your evaluative short comings."


About that time a big branch blew off an oak tree, knocked over the fountain in the front yard and broke two sprinkler heads.  So i thought , "do i ever want to interact with this ass ever again and do i care if he gets elected president of the United States in two years.\?  "Nope, he's an ass and i'm in the mood to kick one.  So my response went as follows:



Here is some constructive criticism for you for  future interaction.  Read the post.  Very clearly stated:  Industry background firm requirement.  Agriculture ,Food, Not for Profit - Charitable.


You have never been associated with anything even closely related to agriculture.  Most people do not regard diet pills as food or sports drinks as food.  None of the companies you have been associated with have been in the non profit vertical.


You have no indication of having done anything since 2009.  Many candidates have been out of permanent work since 09'.  They have done consulting, worked outside their field doing something or have taken over responsibilities at home while looking for a new position.  They say so on their resume.  Have you just been firing out resumes then throwing a Nellie Bitch fit when you are declined since 2009?


You do not provide a full resume of all career experience.  Employers are automatically dropping those resumes in file 13.  They don't care how old you are they simply want to know your career experience.  If only dates, companies and title on early career.


Employers are requiring dates of education as are recruiters because if a candidate puts a degree on a resume and a degree is required both recruiters and companies will verify the degree.  Recruiters verify before we submit a candidate who states they have a degree.  It does not matter if you have 50 years of experience if a degree is indicated it will be verified. Nobody not even God can verify a degree without the date.  A lot of people have graduated from your school in the past 20 years and some of them have the same name you have, unfortunately.


If a recruiter is courteous enough to respond to your application within a few hours of submittal even if it is to let you know that your background is not a fit.  Accept that we know what our clients want, have done you the courtesy of reviewing your resume and have bothered to respond rather than just hit delete and let it go into the black hole .  A lot of recruiters do not do so and your jackass attack is the reason why.


The reason I have been a successful recruiter for over 35 years is that I can and do evaluate resumes effectively.  As it seems you are having a problem finding something I would suggest that you might have better results if you evaluated the job description carefully.  Made your resume as complete as possible.  Wrote a cover letter addressed personally to the person posting the job correlating your experience to the industry and product that is required.  And above all it will be in your best interest to not attack someone who tells you your background is not a fit and why.


  It is highly possible that next week I will be looking for an SVP of marketing requiring the exact background you have indicated on your resume.

Due to your response your resume will not be considered for any future positions and will be deleted.  Our clients rely on us to screen out candidates who exhibit obnoxious, arrogant personality defects.

I have been doing just a tad bit of marketing of both people and professional services for about twice the time frame you bothered to include on your resume.  There is one thing i know for sure.  Responding to someone who doesn't want to buy what you are selling by telling them they don't know what they are doing does not an effective marketer make.  I would suspect that this is not the first time you have responded in this manner which might have something to do with the fact that nothing shows up on your resume since 2009. 

Your resume was one of over 300 i have reviewed for this position.  To give you more feedback yours fell in the bottom quadrant of the 300.  Of the 297 declines i have sent several have argued, they were managing fast food joints and did not understand the posting.  I consider myself fortunate that you are the only jackass who felt in necessary to tell me i don't know how to do my job because you can't read.

Have a lovely Sunday, i have wanted to tell a jerk they were a jerk for about the last five years so let me  assure you made my afternoon.   You might want to give some serious consideration to my response .  Any further communication will be deleted unread.


Comment by Paul Alfred on April 11, 2011 at 4:45pm
@ Sandra " It's a lovely idea right up there with world peace and enough food for everybody."  I am trying to leave the office but I am on the floor again Sandra I can't stop laughing U KILL ME ! ...   You should get into Comedy the funny and sad truth is You are so right LOL ....  Because of you Sandra I am going to prepare notes for my next Blog  The Recruiters - The Movie !
Comment by Luke Toland on April 11, 2011 at 4:52pm

Sandra, please write a book, short story, extended blog post, how-to guide or something of the sort. Your ability to cut through the crap and crazy is something people could benefit from. At the very least, they'd get a hearty laugh out of it.

Comment by Christopher Poreda on April 11, 2011 at 5:35pm
@ Jerry...I understand it's become cool and practicably an Olympic sport to bash job boards...but come on.  It's a tool like any other and should be used accordingly, as part of any total search strategy.  And we've all made some quick placements using the boards.  Truth is, it's the #2 source of hiring and for most has the highest ROI of any other tool.
Comment by Jerry Albright on April 11, 2011 at 5:50pm

@Chris - I realized that shortly after posting which is why I decided to delete it.  From time to time I post on Craigslist or other free boards.  Half the time though - I wish I wouldn't have after sorting through all the fork lift drivers, day care teachers and guys that have fixed PC's from time to time.....



Comment by Henning Seip on April 11, 2011 at 6:43pm

The job posting may be perceived as the problem but in reality it's not. There is no way to make people write job postings a certain way. Therfore it is useless to muse what if everyone would write the job postings in a specific format.


I believe it is more helpful to look at why job seekers apply for jobs that are poor matches for them. It starts with the keyword search. Any keyword search is a game of guessing some words. A typical job posting has 20 to 50 requirements. Nobody can guess the keywords for that. The keyword search leads to poor matches. Job seekers have to read many job postings and match the requirements manually. This is very time consuming and tedious hence the don't do it. You can get angry with them and complain about them but that does not solve the problem because you won't change their behavior.


What is needed is a job search mechnism that produces better matches between job seeker and job posting. Better matches lead to more qualified applications and less work load everyone.

Comment by Rayanne on April 11, 2011 at 7:27pm
Hmmm..., like maybe key word search or maybe even recruiters actually picking up the phone? Novel concept.
Comment by Sandra McCartt on April 11, 2011 at 7:46pm

@Paul @Luke.  At least i know who i can send the tear sheets of my book to for the first review.  I think the title is going to be, "Ya wanna REALLY know why they didn't hire you?" 


Henning, while i agree with you that it's a  terrible burden for all those job seekers to have to read all those job postings manually and it becomes tedious and time consuming.  I always thought that one person looking for one job might want to take the time to actually read the job ad.  I only get angry with the few who act like the jackdonkey i referenced above. Do you really think that there is some technology or any keywords other than "dont' do it dumbass",  that can keep a fork lift driver from applying for a position as a programmer. Or some dope from sending a resume for a  c level marketing position that starts out, "I am looking for a job in law enforcement"


I wish job boards would charge people $3.00 to apply for a job.  they spend that much on a beer, surely a job is worth a beer.  Or maybe they would decide they would rather have a beer than apply for something they can't belabor themselves to read.  I use the big boards and a lot of niche boards as well as direct recruiting.  I like to cast as wide a net as possible and i'm willing to do the work my client doesn't want to do.  It is however amazing the thought process that sparks some folks to just hit the send button.  Talk to me about the "Recruiter Experience"  I enjoy a lot of the "Candidate Experience"  It continues to strike horror in my heart that if they pay so little attention to something as important as a job that they vote.  Maybe we should have keywords on ballots so they don't have to read the paper or watch the news. 


Comment by Henning Seip on April 12, 2011 at 8:08am

Sandra, there is a technology possibility. A job board has to show job seekers only jobs that match their skills and education. Today this is not happening. When you post a job the job board takes it as is and publishes it. The job board needs to do more.


What I suggest to do is to index the requirements in every job before it gets posted to the job board. Job requirements are not unique. Example: If a recruiter is looking for people with "Finite Element Analysis (FEA)" skills, that recruiter is not the only one. There are many job postings where recruiters look for people with FEA skills. You can apply this approach to your requirements: "Agriculture ,Food, Not for Profit - Charitable". You are not the only one who is looking for people with "Agriculture" experience.


In the second step job seekers fill out a master index and store it as a profile on the job board. In this master index they select all requirements they can match (education, certifications, licences, skills, other assets like citizenship, drivers licence and so on). This is a one time effort for them. 


Finally, every day the new indexed job postings are matched to the profiles of job seekers. The job board sorts the job postings by best matches. Before job seekers start reading a job posting they review which of the requirements they match and which ones they don't. Based on that they decide to apply or not. 


This approach saves them considerable time. It focuses them on good matches and makes them more successful with their job application. They can use their matching requirements directly in their resume and cover letter which facilitates the work of the recruiter.


By using such an approach job seekers and recruiters spend more time interviewing and less time sifting through poor matching job postings and poor matching job applications.


Comment by Luke Toland on April 12, 2011 at 8:41am
Henning, I think that's a great idea. Jobs that match would save everyone time. I know a number of job boards allow users to search for jobs based on Experience, Education, etc. Think Monster, Indeed, etc. Why do you think they fail then to provide relevant results?


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