Being self-employed, I don’t often have the ”pleasure” of applying for jobs online, but since I don’t have any active contracts right now (pretty typical in my industry this time of year, since very few companies want to hire instructional design contractors to start new work right before the holidays) I am searching actively, but how things have changed!
Back in the “Dark Ages” (you know, when we still rode dinosaurs to work), my first “grown-up” job was as a human resources assistant, which included recruiting, benefits administration, and other general human resources functions. Online applicant screening did not exist then and “keywords” had nothing to do with sprinkling “industry buzzwords” throughout resumes so a computer could find them. You applied for a job by sending a paper resume and well-written cover letter for someone from HR to review and decide whether you should be referred to the hiring manager for further consideration. A human – not a machine – made the decision whether to interview an applicant and figure out who would be the best candidate for a job.
Fast forward “a few years,” and it is a whole different world. Yes, I know that nearly all companies advertise on electronic jobs boards and may have hundreds or thousands of applicants and you need to screen somehow. I know that sometimes applicants apply for jobs they’re not qualified for (who’da thunk it?); and I know that companies want to hire only perfect employees who will love their jobs and not leave after 6 months. But this is getting a bit out of hand, and the sheer number of hoops a prospective employee (or contractor) has to jump through in order to even express their interest in working for your company is excessive to the point of insanity!
Can’t we just reconsider things from the applicant’s perspective for a few moments? Your applicants are presumably grown-ups, who are looking for good jobs, and their main objective is to find out whether what you have to offer is what they want to do, for what they want to make, and where they want to work. So why doesn’t the screening processes reflect that? Why is it such a one-way street now? Does it further your mission to required an applicant to spend 45 minutes to 2 hours of their valuable time filling out an application and telling you their entire life story (and do they really need to rewrite their resume so it fits into your little boxes and answer redundant questions when they have already provided you with a resume) before you will even consider talking with them? Isn’t YOUR goal to determine which applicant and you are most likely to work out a mutually beneficial arrangement that includes not only job qualifications, but also “fit?” Is there any possibility that making the process arduous and painful may be eliminating the very people you most need to hire? There’s got to be a better way!
I present to you examples three challenges that should be addressed (and all of which I have actually encountered lately) if we’re going to fix this!
Challenge #1: The Online Application Process
- Before applicant can enter any information or submit a resume, he or she must watch a 20 minute “talking head” video about the company’s vision, mission, and values – answering questions about his/her personal values after every topic section (e.g., “I would like to work for a company that believes being empathetic and caring about people is important”). This really does not help the applicant much, and it’s also pretty easy to guess the right answers that will advance them to the actual application form. Instead, the job poster should be directing people to their website or including it in their job description – and then reiterating it in the interview, not forcing every single applicant to view a video. So let’s skip that part, o.k.?
- Employment history entries must be selected using a drop-down list, but the list only includes a limited number of company names. If companies the applicant has worked for are not in the database, an error message “You must select a company from the list,” is generated. There is no way to write in other company names (error message just repeats); so after spending nearly an hour filling out all of the other information, applicant is prevented from continuing because their previous employers aren’t on their list. How about adding a new box that allows them to write in the names of companies they worked for that aren’t on your list?
- Software asks if it can access your LinkedIn information – and assuming that this will be a quick shortcut – applicant says yes. The result is a jumble of fields populated with dates and random words that don’t accurately list job titles or employment dates. In order to correct this problem, applicant must spend two hours correcting and reordering the information pulled from LinkedIn – while practicing their swearing and cursing skills! A little more intelligent design & integration, perhaps?
- Applicant already has a resume on file because he or she applied for a job with the same company 27 years ago. It finds your ancient resume in its database and automatically submits it – WITHOUT GIVING YOU THE OPTION OF UPLOADING AN UPDATED RESUME. If you try to undo it or go back and edit it to correct the problem, you are prevented from doing so by a helpful pop-up message which states, “You’ve already applied for this job.”
- Form requires you to enter the name, supervisor name, month-day-year dates worked, job duties, salary, degree earned, GPA, and reason for leaving for every job you’ve had since 1980 even if the jobs you had from 1980-1995 were irrelevant. Does not allow for any gaps in employment or overlaps between jobs; so contractors who work with several clients at the same time are kicked out because the dates don’t fit. In addition to taking several hours to complete screens full of pointless information, applicant may also have to fudge dates, remove critical jobs (because they overlap other jobs) and may give up because it’s just too complicated. And who cares about GPA’s from 20 years ago, anyway?
Challenge #2: Recruiters!
Back in the “Dark Ages,” skilled recruiters knew their clients, knew the industry they worked in, spent a lot of time wooing both clients and applicants, and often specialized in a particular area like “executive recruiting,” “technical recruiting,” or “sales recruiting.” Once an applicant passed muster, the recruiter would submit a written report of the reasons – along with applicants’ resumes and cover letters – to the hiring team with notes detailing why they believe the applicant would be a good fit.
But I’ve noticed that there is a new breed of recruiters, and they are completely clueless. Apparently, somewhere along the line the job description for “recruiter” changed from “professional human resources person” to “someone who knows how to create keyword searches on monster.com and make phone calls.” Also, speaking understandable English no longer seems to be a job requirement – but that’s another topic altogether. Not only does this “new breed” not understand the industry they work with, but they also lie about their relationship with the companies they are supposedly recruiting for (as in they refer to them as “my client” but they don’t even know what industry the client’s business is in, and have never actually spoken with anyone at the company they claim to be recruiting for). Their main goal is to turn it into a numbers game so they can hopefully make a quick, short-term buck and move on to the next target. They are giving professional recruiters a bad name!
- New Breed Recruiter #1: (The one that doesn’t know what they’re recruiting for). “I don’t know what ADDIE is, but this job requires it. Do you know what that is?” (Note: ADDIE is an acronym for a process that is the basis for everything instructional designers do. Asking that question is like asking a carpenter if he knows how to use a hammer).
- New Breed Recruiter #2: (The one that can’t read a resume). “I have a job as a Computer Systems Engineer that is a perfect fit for you. . .” Me: “I have no experience as a computer systems engineer. Why are you calling me?” (Note: The keywords in my resume say instructional SYSTEMS design – so there’s a keyword, but I am absolutely not qualified for, or interested in computer systems engineering). Some take it a step further and get mad at me because THEY called me and I apparently wasted their time by answering the phone. Others simply hang up.
- New Breed Recruiter #3: (Another version of #2 who doesn’t read the resume). “I have a contract position that looks like a good match for your skills. Are you willing to do contract work?” (Note: I am a contractor, and that is my main focus. It’s very clearly spelled out on my resume.). An alternate version is, “You last worked for XYZ Company and only stayed for 3 months. Why did you leave that position?” (Um. . .it was a 3-month contract, as it says on my resume?) Hello?
And finally, AFTER the hapless applicant successfully navigates the initial screening process, they must deal with Challenge #3: The “Not Quite Sure What I’m Supposed to Say on the Phone Interviewer:”
- Phone Interviewer: “What is your workplace?” Applicant: “Would you please be more specific?” Interviewer: “I mean, do you like to work in an office, or around other people, or what?” (Note: This was for a job in an office, working around other people.) Um. . .
- Phone Interviewer: “All screened applicants are required to take an online IQ test before proceeding to the next stage in the process.” Applicant spends 45 minutes doing so, then receives a call that they must now take the test again, this time with the “recruiter” watching remotely. When asked why, the response is: “Sometimes people get other people to take the test for them and we want to be sure you’re not doing that.” After a response like that, do you seriously think I want to come work for you? Oh, and BTW: IQ tests aren’t a good predictor of hire-ability. How about we consider things like EQ, passion, commitment, enthusiasm, team orientation, creativity. . .
Come on, folks! You’re HR professionals, and with your HR godlike powers, surely you can find better ways to find the employees of your dreams, increase retention, and start off the new relationship in a positive way! Let’s support our professional and knowledgeable recruiters and put the “Human” back into Human Resources!