Recruiting Is A Problem of Perception

Hiring and Recruiting Challenges

While actively recruiting there were many aspects of the profession I truly enjoyed. The ability to make connections, find common ground with perfect strangers, and help people attain their dream jobs…awesome! There was, however, one byproduct of the profession that I was blindly unaware of: The Recruiter Prejudice.

If I had a dollar for every time at a social function (both personal and professional) that upon telling someone what I did for a living, I had them tell me how much they loathed recruiters and avoid calls like the plague, I would be writing this beach side rather than on my puppy-chewed coffee table. When first confronted with this, and still in possession of my new recruiter glow, I would futilely try to convince the person that “we’re not all the same!” “We aren’t all the plaid-jacket-wearing, email spamming, snake oil salesmen you think we are!”


Often they would politely nod and say things like “oh really?… how interesting… never knew that…etc.,” but their underlying perceptions didn’t even budge. After a few of these experiences I simply vowed to ignore their comments (which in all honesty are pretty rude to say to a new acquaintance about their chosen profession) and to never talk about my job unless directly and unavoidably asked.

These cumulative experiences were more than a little disheartening, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me question my profession. The general public views recruiters as the poisonous tool of what is commonly referred to as “in-human” resources. Now, this issue of perception within HR itself could fill a book, but after some reflection I began to try and determine the origin of these negative perceptions down within recruitment. This is the result of those ponderings.

What Exactly Do Recruiters Do?

One common area of misinterpretation by the job seeking public is what recruiters do, and who they work for. Candidates, especially those who are new to the game, sometimes think that recruiters work for the candidates rather than the company with the job listing. While there are some wonderful job search consultants available, recruiters are employed (whether internal or agency) by the company seeking candidates for a specific position. So as a rule of thumb, recruiters will prioritize their time by who pays them. While we don’t mind helping with a resume or trying to connect candidates with job opportunities outside of the role we initially reached out for, we are not going to run your job search, nor will we always prioritize and answer your daily emails.

Candidate Communication Black Holes

Too often candidates are left to float along or simply left hanging as an interview process progresses and closes. There are varying circumstances as to why this happens but it normally breaks down to one of two reasons.

  • Poor communication between recruiter and hiring manager regarding next steps or interest in a candidate.
  • Overworked recruiters letting this fall through the cracks.

The first challenge of poor communication during the hiring process can be exceptionally common and the person who suffers most is the candidate. More than 50% of candidates experience frustration with not knowing where they are in the process. It is during these lulls that a simple “ we will have news next week regarding next steps, you are still under consideration” email can go a long way. Number 2 normally happens most at the close of a job search. Since the recruiter is working a large number of positions at once, as soon a job closes they focus on the next one, and sending “thank you for your time and interest” emails slowly drops to the bottom of the to-do list. According to a study done by CareerBuilder 73% of candidates who interviewed said they weren’t given an explanation for why they didn’t get the job. Not getting that close out email or call (and if they interviewed they deserve a call) leaves a bad taste in the candidate’s mouth about recruiters and the employer who utilizes them.


Hiring Managers without Direction

We already discussed candidates getting strung along by hiring managers not communicating. The other side of that coin is the hiring manager who is highly communicative but who doesn’t have the slightest clue what they are really looking for. It happens too often that after three months of search, 10 phone interviews, eight onsite interviews, and four second round interviews later, that the hiring manger suddenly decides to reevaluate or reposition the role. While this discovery process is all good for the organization, it burns candidates, and leaves the recruiter with the fire extinguisher to put out the flames. Few things are more aggravating for a candidate than to find out they were taken for ride, and often it is the recruiter who faces the brunt of their aggravation.

Good recruiters need to spend time with hiring managers doing what is called an intake call. A recruiter intake call is a sit down conversation with a recruiter to better understand and discover what they are exactly hiring for. Recruiters must then follow up with a series of scheduled meetings to help the hiring manager discover or manage the process making sure the hiring manager is just as accountable as is the recruiter who is responsible for selecting and hiring.

Professionally Lacking

This discussion would not be honest, or complete, if we didn’t accept that there does exist a tribe of plaid jacket wearing recruiters out there. I like to think they are a holdover for a bygone era, soon to be eradicated, but until that happens it’s crucial for those within the profession to try and set a new standard. Also, for candidates a few warning signs to watch out for include: the recruiter not having an exact position to speak about, them utilizing your resume without your verbal/written consent, and them aggressively trying to talk you into a lower salary.

Pondering Forward

We hear the exclamation that “the hiring process is broken!” all the time, and us within a HR related fields do our best to manage expectations and outcomes. Unfortunately we can’t manage attitudes. Attitudes take time and repeated positive experiences to change.

Please discuss in the comments section what your experiences have been on all sides of this hiring equation.

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Sarah Lemmon

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