Why Recruiting at Your Organization Might Be Doomed

LinkedIn just released their annual report, Small and Mid-Sized Business Recruiting Trends 2017. This report is a survey of about 2,600 small to mid-sized companies that includes data about what they're planning to do in recruiting for the next year. I'll give you some of the highlights of the report:

  • 57% of small and mid-sized (SMB) businesses plan to increase hiring next year
  • Most SMBs are focused on leveraging automation (those applicant tracking systems where you upload your resume) to speed things up and "decrease human bias"
  • SMBs report they're most focused on "quality of hire," which is measured by how long the new hire stays with the company, satisfaction of the hiring manager, and the time to fill (which they report should be <2 months, ideally)
  • 50% of SMBs will not increase their budgets
  • Their top concern: competition with other firms

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantSo, if I had to sum this all up in one sentence, it's this:

Businesses want to hire more people that are a good fit faster than they have before, but with even less human interaction. (Oh, and they're all planning on doing the same thing and are, rightfully, worried about competition).

The authors of the report wrote all of this without irony, but I felt confounded and sad while reading it.

When are organizations going to learn that the answer to hiring the right people doesn't lie in the old "pump and dump" recruiting model? 

I guess I can see why there's a wish to leverage automation - human bias is real and pervasive, and most candidates agree the process should be faster - but increased computer interaction is not the answer.

The need to hire for fit in an organization conflicts with our obsession with speed and efficiency.

Until companies think outside the old model of hiring, we will continue to hear about how there's "no talent," and amazing, gifted candidates will keep getting screened out because their resumes don't have all the right words in them.

The companies that will win "the war for talent" are the ones that make the effort to focus on human connection.

They will create people-centered recruiting practices that might take four months instead of two but will result in wildly better results.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantThese are the organizations willing to look beyond the resume, invest in training their managers to limit hiring bias instead of outsourcing the problem to software, and who treat their current employees - and candidates - like people.

The "war for talent" is a farce created by organizations that don't want to change how they treat people.

Like Seth Godin wrote, "it's a lie because many organizations only pretend that they’re looking for talent."

Many organizations are just looking for someone who checks off the right boxes, follows instructions, and will keep their head down. For those people, maybe the transactional nature of recruiting today is the right fit.

But if you're looking for the imaginative people who will pour their heart into the work and up-level your organization, things have to change.

You already have everything you need to transform this empty, deathbed hiring game: you have real humans on your recruiting team who are capable of empathy, intuition, and relating to potential hires.

There are real people working at the company who can tell it like it is and, if they're treated well, will recruit their friends for you. There's money to pay the company's bills that can cover the cost of a lunch or coffee date with someone you hope will join the team one day.

You've got everything you need...you just have to choose to be different.

Choose to be different from all the other firms and recruiters who will continue to automate and scramble for the few qualified candidates who are still willing to play their tired old game.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantI work with individuals every day who are bright, creative, and ready to put the work in, but who get stalled by applicant tracking systems or recruiters who are programmed to look only for the people who have done the same work before.

The game is rigged, I tell them, and it is. If you're a recruiter or have anything to do with hiring in your organization, my guess is that you're frustrated with the game, too.

No one is pleased, but we keep playing it, even though it feels fake and doomed.

No matter whether you're someone who wants to be hired or someone looking to hire, I want to leave you with a nugget of advice:

Do whatever you can to make the process feel more authentic to you.

If you're recruiting for a company that totally sucks and that you can't honestly recommend to the candidates you're talking to, dial down the enthusiasm a little and find ways to have integrity while you're doing your job. Or leave - that company doesn't deserve you, anyway.

If you're applying for jobs and are discouraged by the black hole job search approach, find a new one. Talk to real people via informational interviews. Quit sending your resume out cold. Hire an innovative career coach. Do what you need to in order to do this with integrity.

If enough of us stop playing the game, the game will have to change and become human again.