Downturn notwithstanding, employers are screaming for talented people. Yet you have only to review any large employer's recruiting process (and those of many smaller shops) to see a mind-numbing list of requirements, protocols, and hoops for job-seekers to jump through. Think that the smartest and most marketable candidates will take their brains and abilities elsewhere? Of course they will. They'll turn to consulting or find homes at nimble startups. Check out our list of the 10 most obnoxious, profit-killing recruiting practices.
1. The Black Hole
It's great to accept résumés via a Careers page on your site, but only if you intend to have someone review them and respond. Recruiting systems that force applicants to spend hours in front of a screen, only to hit the SUBMIT button and hear nothing again (ever) should come with posted warnings: "Caution: Check Your Self-Esteem Before Entering." Ignoring the talent pool is the world's worst way to win in the marketplace. What to do instead: Eighty-six your Black Hole system and force your managers to cultivate talent all the time, before a job opening arises.
2. Just Like the Government, Only More Bureaucratic
Application forms that require job-seekers to dig into old files, pull up college transcripts, or call their relatives ("Hey Mom, do you remember my supervisor's name from Pizza Hut (YUM) in '86?") irritate candidates and do nothing to help your cause. It's just these kinds of idiotic recruiting systems that trash employer brands from coast to coast. What to do instead: Rather than forcing applicants to cough up the titles, dates (including months!), supervisor names, and pay levels for every job they've ever held, ask them to upload a résumé to your site.
3. Say! Let's Get Someone Who Speaks Ancient Greek, Tap-Dances, and Has a Taxicab License
Six Sigma and lean processes are ubiquitous across organizations. Every management decision and process alteration is evaluated for efficiency. So how come hiring managers are allowed to throw umpteen random position requirements into a job requisition, without someone asking, "What's the business case for that requirement?" Each additional "bullet" costs a company money in the recruiting process—and often in salary as well. If we don't have a rock-solid justification for every certification, degree, year of work experience, and other job-req Must Have or Nice to Have, it shouldn't be included in the final spec. What to do instead: Stop dreaming up requirements for the Bionic Man or Woman we're hoping to hire (if, in fact, such a person is alive on Earth). Build your requisitions to look like the real-life résumés of the most successful people already in the job.
4. Mission Impossible: Get Through Our Company's Careers Site
If you sincerely wanted to attract talent to your company, you wouldn't greet job-seekers with a screen that requires them to supply a Social Security number, approval for a credit check, and all their references before you've even met them. If you really believed your employees were your greatest asset, you wouldn't force people to take online honesty and personality tests before even deciding whether you liked their résumés. These front-loaded recruiting systems scream, "We are the ones who get to choose; you, on the other hand, are dog meat." Some employers don't really value talent in the hiring process; they value compliance. Could your organization be one of them? What to do instead: Ditch the insulting front end of your recruiting system and get the information you need only when you really need it.
5. Where Are Your Manners?
Job-seekers are happy to hear from a company recruiter by phone, if the recruiter's questions run along the lines of "What questions can I answer for you?" and "Shall we talk about online marketing, our need, and your interests?" When the recruiter's first, unspeakably rude query is, "What were you earning at XYZ Scientific?" it's no surprise that the most desirable applicants suddenly hear a doorbell ringing in their heads—and bolt.
It is impolite to make personal inquiries such as "What were you earning somewhere else?" The analogous question from the applicant to the recruiter would be "What were you paying the last person in this job?" What to do instead? Value a candidate by his or her background, not by the amount some completely different employer was paying. Tell the candidate, "Our salary range for this job is $X-$Y. Will that work for you?"
6. Since You're Unemployed and All
Hiring managers and in-house recruiters are busy people, and job interviews can't always happen at ideal times or move along like clockwork. Still, there's no excuse for leaving applicants sitting for hours or canceling interviews at the last minute or allowing the job-seeker to arrive, only to be told, "That person is sick today, so we'll have to reschedule." You wouldn't treat a customer that way. What to do instead: If your esteem for the talent population is more than a slogan on the wall, find a way not to abuse the very people who can make your customers happy.
7. Radio Silence
How many stimulating, pleasant job interviews have been followed by weeks of radio silence on the employer's part? Organizations that leave job-seekers to stew, while taking weeks to mull over hiring decisions, deserve to hire the last candidate standing instead of the whip-smart guy or gal the marketplace requires. What to do instead: Abolish the Radio Silence culture by telling your HR staff that a manager who can't make a decision on every candidate within 72 hours loses the job opening, period.
8. If We Give You That, We'll Have To Kill You
A candidate wrote to me about his interview. "We were getting serious about the match between me and the job," he said, "and I asked for a copy of the company's employee handbook. They told me, 'That's only for employees,' so I bolted." What to do instead: Anyone who comes onto your payroll is going to be required to live by the handbook, so let your serious candidates have it when they want it, along with any bonus-plan details or other "rules of the road" your company employs. IF you're nervous about confidentiality, have candidates sign an NDA. (Word: Every employee handbook is a near-identical copy of every other employee handbook, anyway.)
9. Surprise! We Want You
It's bad enough for a job-seeker to suffer through weeks of interviews, stops and starts, reference checks, and the like. It's almost worse to receive a job offer out of the blue without a face-to-face or telephone conversation to walk through the proposed offer. I advise HR people to offer a "supposal"—a conversation that begins, "If we made you an offer, and the offer included X salary, Y title, and these other elements, how would that sound to you?" Preparing a job offer, with all its interdependent moving parts, without the candidate's participation, is unprofessional, tacky, and unwise. What to do instead: Have the supposal conversation and hash out the details before making a formal spoken or written offer.
10. No Pressure, But Six Other People Want This Job
It is reasonable to expect a candidate to say aye or nay to a job offer within a week, particularly if a detailed supposal conversation has already happened. But requiring the job-seeker to give you a yes or no on a job offer within 48 or 72 hours is heavy-handed, bullyish, and a big red flag. What discerning candidate wouldn't ask himself or herself, "What is this company afraid of, when they try to force me to give them an answer so quickly?" Job changes are major life decisions. Many candidates need to review their job offers with spouses or partners, or parents (if they're on the early end of their careers), or just to mull over the ramifications of a job change themselves. What to do instead: Rather than giving candidates unrealistically short time lines for deciding, offer a phone call to answer their questions and get them over any emotional or intellectual humps they're facing.
How does your organization fare on our 10 Worst list? If you're in a senior leadership role, you can pull one brick out of the wall at a time, opening up the possibility that the people you need in your shop may actually end up working for you. Did you score an epic fail in the smart-recruiting department? There's never a better time than today to overhaul your talent-repelling process and start over.