Is there any responsibility to educate or enlighten your hiring managers?

A friend and former colleague recently told me about a frustrating conversation with a recruiter. Come to think of it I rarely, if ever, hear from anyone telling me about a fantastic interaction with a recruiter. Why is that?

Anyway, my friend saw one of their connections “like” that recruiter’s LinkedIn status about a search they were working on. Thinking it looked appealing, my friend contacted the recruiter and expressed interest - provided the recruiter found their LI profile relevant. The recruiter replied with their email address and requested a resume.

A couple days later my friend received call from the recruiter who after exchanging “hellos” immediately blurted out: “my client is looking for someone with minimum X number of years experience as a ___ (specific job title). I don’t see that on your resume. Have you ever been a ___?”

Here’s the challenge in responding to a closed-ended question like that… My friend works in a field and is at a career level where titles are not necessarily indicative of actual scope of work and tend to have zero consistency from one company to the next. They have absolutely performed the work typically associated with the level requested, but inexplicably (not a reflection of their abilities) almost always with a more junior title.

Aside from that, (one of MY many pet peeves) number of years of experience almost never predicts actual competence. It baffles me that so many job postings contain lists of requirements stating “must have X number years of experience in Y, and must have X number years experience in Z” with no correlating explanation of how or why that would be applicable in accomplishing the goals of the job or the company’s business objectives.

Why not describe the outcomes that need to be achieved rather than require some arbitrary amount of experience that likely proves nothing? After an initial learning curve, mastery of most work-related responsibilities doesn’t necessarily increase exponentially year-over-year.

My friend attempted to explain their background including a brief stint with that specific title, but the recruiter was adamant that the client was firm on their requirement. This particular call was not scheduled and happened to come through about ten minutes after a separate call from a different recruiter that sourced them for a narrow niche job that would have been a fractional fit at best. That combination back-to-back left my friend a bit testy.

Not trying to change anyone’s mind, but simply stating the obvious flaws in the recruiter's client’s expectations, my frustrated friend said they weren’t shy in sharing their opinion. They informed the recruiter that their client is likely missing out on quality people by limiting their hiring criteria to such superficial information. That’s why they called me.

They were concerned they may have reacted too aggressively and burned a bridge. Hard to tell, but either way I’m frustrated on their behalf.

Apparently, the recruiter admitted agreement with my friend’s rationale, but took a “client’s always right” stance on the matter. Seems this recruiter, like many others, find taking the path of least resistance preferable to considering cumulative depth and breadth of experience beyond their own, hiring managers’ or clients’ shallow talent pool parameters.

The question is… At what point should a recruiter take advantage of the situation to educate their client or hiring manager about consequences of their limited preferences?

And, if that isn’t realistic for some reason, how about actually investing the time to understand the candidate’s potential to hit the mark and take a chance in “selling” the hiring manager on someone that very well could produce desired business results despite not checking all the boxes upon submittal? 

Why not be wild once in a while and stash a wildcard into the mix to see what happens? The response could be enlightening. 

Views: 430

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on July 16, 2013 at 9:48pm

the client is always right, huh?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

that is all.

no really. I actually had TWO really great meetings with clients today. These guys are smart, know their businesses inside and out, are committed to providing a positive candidate experience, and count on me to do the recruiting heavy lifting. They would no more think they should come in and start sending recruiting inmails than I would expect to sit at their desk and write code. They appreciate what I do for them and I respect that this is ultimately their problem I'm trying to sold. It's a PARTNERSHIP. I wonder how often this kind of "demand" from hiring managers is a result of a weak recruiting process leaving a void that the HM has no choice but to make up shit to fill.

Comment by Recruiting Animal on July 16, 2013 at 9:48pm

Call me stupid but I find it very confusing when you use the plural pronoun for a single person. I'm seeing they and their and you are eventually talking about two recruiters so why not make up a name and a job title so the discussion is not so abstract.

Point number two. Sally, your friend, had an opportunity to tell the Billy, the recruiter, that the titles in her office don't match the job very well. Then she could lay out her relevant experience.

If Billy didn't bite he's either narrow minded or he knows his client is narrow minded or Sally isn't really qualified for the job even though she thinks she is.

That never happens, right? The candidate is not a match and complains about the recruiter not being able to recognize her fantastic talent and experience.

Finally, people estimate the number of years it will take the average person to get the kind of experience required to do a job. When someone claims to be able to do the job with two years when they are asking for five they won't bite. It makes sense to me.

Lou Adler agrees with you, however. He says that job descriptions should be results-oriented and he also claims that really good people learn so fast they never stay in one job for more than two years so they seem to have a junior level of experience when in fact they are superstars. Right.

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on July 16, 2013 at 9:48pm

typo - that should be problem I'm trying to SOLVE

Comment by Kelly Blokdijk on July 17, 2013 at 1:29am

Amy - glad (actually, a bit jealous :D) that you get to work with intelligent people. Thanks for adding your take. I think there is some level of laziness, weak process and plain old narrow-minded thinking involved. It probably makes HMs feel better to have a recognizable title and measurable years experience criteria being met and nothing else matters. If so, might as well flip a coin to pick someone! 

Oh dear, Animal! Don't I at least get credit for telling a "story"? Sorry if my writing "their or they" instead of giving the characters names was tough to follow. I'll keep that in mind for next post. Regardless, I dig your comments and appreciate you tweeting & sharing the post. 

Anyway, from what I gathered the recruiter (Randy) simply jumped to the conclusion that absent a specific title demanded by Randy's client, my friend (Katrina) was not a qualified candidate.

Katrina only had the title and location to go on from the original LI status post along with her own industry awareness of what each title level may translate to in regards to specific qualifications. Not at all beyond the realm of possibility that she met those qualifications as she has been in the industry for quite some time and has a diverse set of experiences beyond what her (level below) title may reflect. 

Randy never bothered to elaborate on what the client specifically needed and didn't give Katrina a chance to address any perceived gaps. THAT'S why she was frustrated and reacted. 

Judging a job by a title or judging a candidate by a title is far too subjective and superficial in this particular category. 

For example: (different context) looking at title alone how do you determine capabilities between recruiter, senior recruiter, executive recruiter? If any of them claim 3 years experience at any level does that mean they are automatically qualified to hold the same title in a new environment? What if someone with recruiter title did recruiting for executive level positions exclusively, but someone like Randy assumed they hadn't because they were "just" a recruiter as opposed to an executive recruiter? Or the opposite... what if Randy deemed an inexperienced/incompetent person qualified based on their senior title? 

Another story: I once worked with a recruiter (Nancy) that kept demanding a promotion to senior recruiter solely based on being a recruiter for a number of years. Nancy sucked as a recruiter, had no business-sense, whined all of the time about anything deviating from her comfort-zone and complained anytime she was asked to "modernize" her methods - like using electronic files vs hard copy and cutting and pasting JDs (prior postings) rather than retyping into the ATS. Anyway, HMs routinely griped about Nancy being clueless, MIA and non-responsive to their needs. Her coworkers resented "negative Nancy" always expecting them to serve as her assistants and back-up coverage while she refused to take any initiative to be more productive. It was ugly. Unfortunately, Nancy eventually ended up with a senior title without ever becoming any more competent. On paper, a recruiter like Randy would probably find Nancy quite a catch. 

Related to your last point, while I agree with Lou, in theory, much of the time on how to attract top talent through performance oriented job opportunity descriptions, I don't necessarily share same opinions about how to evaluate competence and potential in the interview process. Some of his recommendations seem too rigid and subjective for my taste. 

Thanks again for taking the time to read and comment on my post. Hope to tune in to the show and hang with the Puppet Gallery this week. 

~KB @TalentTalks 

Comment by John Rose on July 17, 2013 at 9:32am

Are you sure either of the phone calls came from a 'Recruiter' and not someone who had that as a title!?  

Showing my age now - in my early days of recruiting and was tasked with finding and securing a designer for a key project - the accepted convention to measure level of experience was not years/months/minutes or ability to learn [sic], BUT hours operating/working with program/package or software [i.e. minimum 3000 hrs], additionally we would have the specific details of what the 3000 hrs should include...

Whether a client or a candidate - both have un-realistic expectations and only be drilling down and talking with them and getting clarification on the measurable/tangible qualities will the recruiter really know who fits requirement/company

Institutionalized recruiters (3rd party agencies/RPO/corporate) are not paid to challenge the clients position description that has been produced by a pre-formatted template - they are paid to feed candidates into a system and hopefully in-front of the hiring/hr manager and get someone hired.  Oh yeah and some 'recruiters' have a quota to meet of daily phone calls/touches/contacts/searches/presentations - to make the analytic's look good (whole different story line - don't you agree Animal/Lou?)   

Comment by Amber on July 17, 2013 at 11:09am

Agree 100% that a good recruiter would work to understand exactly what the client's looking for and also attempt to provide insights on the best type of candidate for those needs. BUT - from my HM experience back in the day, the corporation I worked for had a lot of standardized criteria. College degree required, but many of us "old timers" didn't have one. Now we knew darn well what made a good hire for the positions, but it was impossible to get an exception made. Unless the candidate was sent to us by upper management because of some personal relationship they had, and then we didn't get the option to say no. 

So the recruiter will need to:

1. Listen to what the client is saying.

2. Determine the reason for any specific requirements.

3. Ask and evaluate when and where there could be flexibility or "substitutions".

4. Use the gathered information to decide if it is a viable job order and/or client. Of course, most employees at a firm won't be able to decide whether or not to work certain jobs or clients.

There are a lot of factors that go into finding the right candidate for a client. I can only imagine that if you work for an agency, or are an internal recruiter, you also have to play by their rules and work in those parameters.

Comment by Amber on July 17, 2013 at 11:10am

@John Rose - analytics and assessments are pet peeves of mine!

Comment by Al Siano on July 17, 2013 at 2:05pm

For those who are able to build rapport with our clients and demonstrate success in recruiting, we can generally make more headway opening or changing minds and views.  In fact that is a key part of the job when you become experienced in our field. There are a lot of inexperienced or new people who work in our field. 

Those who have the authority, we can also kindly refuse the recruiting contract and sometimes we should; I have done so at times as there truly are situations that are unreasonable to those who have experience enough to know that.  Many in the broad range of the role we term as "recruiter" may have from less than a day of experience and training to decades of fitting experience.  Some recruiters learn how to be consultants to their clients and professional with their candidates, some perhaps never really learn enough and may justifiably leave our profession business for something else.  

We all reap what we sow and things are often not as they are perceived until you have the interaction and  experience to even rely on perception. Those recruiters with experience and the wisdom to listen, observe and learn generally are truly great people to interact with as you may become happy, wealthy and wiser in this business or working with someone who is an achiever in our business. To render some emotional-health wisdom, always try to leave the phone, written message or conversation on a positive and see some value in everyone. Everyone even the person that is not going to help you fill the open position at that all important moment in time. It is a small world and kindness comes back to us. We have a collection of contacts and they can turn to gold if we are good people, tactful and genuine.  Generally it cost the same to be kind with some wisdom as it may to be otherwise and we may all access wisdom with the effort.      

Comment by Kelly Blokdijk on July 18, 2013 at 12:24am

@John - love the 3000 hours requirement example. Reminds me of the hours of hands-on experience a beautician needs to have coloring hair before getting licensed. Of course there's always the fun conversation when HM demands 5 years of experience with a technology that's only existed for 3 years. I do believe experience matters, but strongly favor quality over quantity. I'd rather find someone that did something well 3 times than someone that did same for 30 years at a mediocre level. The problem with quantifying skills by time span is there is no distinction made between doing and doing right. Practice does not necessarily make perfect in all things. Even though I've only been on the internal corporate side, I don't understand people saying things like as a TPR you just take what client wants and find it no questions asked. That seems foolish on many levels. 

@Amber - good points. The college degree "requirement" seems to have loosened to "preference" over the years. I've been in many situations where the HM had unrealistic/unreasonable expectations. My approach is to ask questions about alternatives, must-haves, deal-breakers and offer suggestions about areas where compromise might make sense. For instance, one HM wanted a highly experienced person, but had a mid-level at best salary range. I told them how challenging it would be to find that, but looked anyway. After a few phone screens, went back and said everyone semi-decent is at least at (and wants) 50% higher pay rate. HM was shocked. I said do you want to expand budget or alter your experience level criteria. I know I can find people with sufficient experience at in that range. Though skeptical, they were at least open to seeing candidates with less experience. It worked out fine and a solid hire was made. 

@Al - thanks for the thoughtful comments. I agree, it is part of the job to be able to inquisitive, influential and insightful during the intake process with clients or HMs. Not doing that seems like an opportunity for a lot of wasted effort and misunderstanding. Also agree with establishing a connection with prospective candidates whether they fit current openings or not. So many internal and external recruiters fail to understand how the slightest sign or neglect can ruin the entire companies standing in that person's eyes. And, they won't hesitate to share their negative impressions and experiences. 

Thank-you ALL for taking the time to read and comment. I TRULY do appreciate the interactions. Yes. Even the person on twitter that asked why my friend didn't just change their job titles on their resume. DOH!!! 

~KB @TalentTalks. 

Comment by Kelly Blokdijk on July 18, 2013 at 12:27am

Typos galore up there. Sorry. Hope you all figured out what the heck I meant in the context of my ramblings ;/

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