Something is rotting in the state of recruiting.
You know when people go out of their way to shit on recruiters, something is profoundly wrong with the system. When service is bad, most just put up with it – it’s only when something hits a certain level of unbearable that you see stuff like this. And this. And another one. Here again.
We need to be honest about the biggest problem in recruiting today: the candidate experience is abysmal.
The average developer will receive multiple solicitations per day. Often jobs are hidden from her until she meets a recruiter in person. The recruiter then tries to muscle her into taking an interview. Or does a bait and switch with two different jobs. Often, communication just ends, as the candidate wonders what happened. Then several months later, the recruiter will start the process over again.
We are racing to the bottom. We have learned that 1000 emails = 20 calls = 5 meetings = 1 placement. That is a destructive equation. It doesn’t take into account the collateral damage. Linkedin Inmails are arguably the laziest form of communication ever devised, and are losing their value faster than the Venezuelan Bolivar.
And hardly anybody seems to care. Go to most recruiting agencies, and scratch a bit beyond the glossy marketing surface. What you’ll find is pure apathy.
Check out this small interaction. See how quickly it descends into troll level taunts. The “I don’t give a fuck about you” is lurking so closely to the surface, it takes but one email to bring it out.
Numbers, Inmails, quotas, emails, all these are things are a barriers between the recruiter and the humanity of somebody who is considering a new job. It’s the same distance that you feel when you are on United Airlines, and you can see in the steward’s eyes that he doesn’t want to be there, that he just wants to go home.
This affliction affects not only agency recruiters but internal ones as well. Once their hiring manager says “pass”, then they often cut communication with the candidate and let them fall into the abyss.
The contingency model is fucked
Imagine you needed somebody to build you an iPhone app. You get a handful of developers and tell them: “I want you each to build me an app, and I’ll pay the guy who makes me the version I end up going with.” Sounds nuts, right? Well, that is how recruiting works, and that is why it encourages “spray and pray”, race-to-the-bottom stuff.
You would imagine that those app developers would begin mass producing garbage in the hope that something sticks somewhere. And you’d be right! In fact, something sort of like this happened in the design/logo world with a company named 99 Designs. And look what happened.
But for some reason, recruiting is the great exception. Clients expect recruiters to do an incredible amount of work upfront and get paid only if the client decides to go with their find. Never mind that there is a huge value for the client in terms of meeting tons of people, understanding the market, testing their interviewing process – a recruiter will never see any of that unless a placement is made.
Using retained search services (payment upfront) with a proven recruiting firm is much healthier approach. But then again, it requires much more courage on the client’s side, so don’t count on that soon.
Tech won’t solve all problems
Someone from Silicon Valley would take a look at all this nonsense and say “this is ripe for some disruption!” Of course they would. A SaaS app that leverages fancy algorithms will obviously put top talent in companies. Of course one of the most personal and emotional decisions people make every few years can be solved by a machine.
There are some interesting companies that are helping the process though. Entelo and Talentbin do a good job of finding and organizing candidate info. DeveloperAuction flips the model, and puts the power in the developer’s hands (although I would argue that that fans the flames of diva culture amongst developers).
But ultimately, technology solutionism is a fool’s errand when it comes to something as complex and human as somebody’s career.
Diamonds in the rough
There are some great recruiters out there. Ones who do all the important stuff, who’ll email a candidate just to see what’s up, not necessarily because he has a “great opportunity”. Just as there are a handful of awesome people at United Airlines who just happen to love what they do. But the problem is – that attitude and corresponding behavior is not systematized across an agency. We need a Trader Joe’s or a Virgin America of recruiting, if you will.
An agency that commits to creating a stellar candidate experience, placement or not, will ultimately win. They will have influence over the best candidates – they will be able to charge a pretty penny for that, and they will finally be able to force clients to accept another model than contingency recruiting.
Its a shame that one of the most important roles in any company is being performed so poorly.