The Recruitment Process is Broken: Where Do We Go From Here?

the recruitment process is broken: where do we go from here?

I started in HR as a Recruiting Coordinator in the days before ATS, smart phones, and any of the tools we think we needed to be effective in talent acquisition. Back then, I scored most of my gigs through staffing agencies, including my first job in HR. I worked with (and sometimes for) various staffing agencies and headhunters for several years. I started as a Silicon Valley recruiting coordinator and worked my way up to HR Manager/Recruiter. During that time, I screened a lot of resumes, made a lot of calls, and scheduled hundreds of interviews (including informational interviews), all while handling the day-to-day HR responsibilities and employee services such as benefits, employee relations, training, payroll, etc.

The Recruitment Process is Broken: Where Do We Go From Here?

After a couple of years spent learning the ropes, I was introduced to the concept of an ATS. The first one I test drove was Resumix, which allowed us to keep “track” of the recruiting process, flag candidates based on qualifications, and document where they were in the process. It was a basic repository for resumes and candidates’ basic information, education, experience and other qualifications). This allowed us to follow up, follow through, and it was something we used to source candidates whenever we had new job openings. If we were unable to find the candidates, that was the only time we advertised the job. It was a time and cost saver.

Fast Forward to Today…

As systems like Resumix have gone from bit players to the main stage, the world of recruitment has transformed. Technology that was supposed to streamline the process has become a cumbersome, much-hated impediment.

What Happened?

Too much reliance on ATS has made in-person connection almost nonexistent.

No one wants to talk to their candidates anymore, unless the machine thinks they’re a great match. The problem with this is that a badly configured ATS can essentially reject all your qualified candidates. I know this first hand; I’ve seen it happened with a few clients repeatedly.

Recruiters lost the human touch! They don’t want to connect to the candidates.

They don’t want them to call, do a follow up, or take any action that requires a voice or email. They expect candidates to spend hours applying for jobs and customizing their resumes but then turn around and brag about glancing at resumes and taking less than a minute to review. Why is that? If you’re a candidate, is that how you would like to be treated?

We’re stuck in the past, but not the distant past!

It’s 2018, but many recruiting practices are from 2008-2010 and were adopted during the recession. Back then, candidates were abundant, and jobs were scarce! Recruiters ghosted candidates: no call, no feedback, no email. Employers had “upcredentialed” their job requirements, requiring pointless degrees and certifications; and downcredentialed their compensation, paying peanuts and offering barebones benefits. These were never sustainable practices, and a receding tide shows you who is swimming naked.

The economic pendulum has swung, but many recruitment practices haven’t changed, or even been challenged! So many articles are written about the skills gap, the pay gap, a low unemployment rate, and labor shortage reaching a critical point. Candidates are accepting multiple offers, ghosting recruiters, and generally exact payback for the poor way they were treated in the past. How has the recruiting community reacted—with adaptability, flexibility, and a willingness to cast aside irrational assumptions? NO! All we hear is whining and complaining!

Where Do We Go From Here?

It’s time to fix recruitment, and there is no better time than now! If you’re a recruiter/hiring manager, rebuild those relationships. Build another bridge, if the old one is burned.

Reevaluate Requirements and Compensation

Review and renew those job requirements to be more realistic. Update your salary ranges based on cutting-edge research that unveils the latest trends. The minimum wage is not the benchmark for determining compensation (and anyone who thinks these assertions are overly obvious hasn’t spent enough time studying recruiting boards).

Offer Generation-Specific Benefits

Review those benefits and see how you can meet the varying needs of workers from different generations. It’s doable, and there are companies doing this now, including small and medium organizations. Let’s put the paragons on a pedestal and follow their lead (what’s the opposite of internet “shaming”?)

Fix or Ditch Your ATS

It should take less than 5 minutes to complete an application, not 4 hours! Stop asking for reams of information when you haven’t even decided whether or not the candidate is moving to a step in the process that would require that information. Start filling the gaps in your recruitment process. You don’t need to bring the candidates to a 4th interview.

Stop Labeling

Change your mind set when it comes to slapping pointless labels on candidates, and wriggle out of the crippling mental straight-jacket that insists that every other candidate is:

– Overqualified (Really? Does it matter? Says who!?)

– Underqualified (What about training? Not offered? Why?!?!?) Job titles are not enough to gauge someone’s experience and expertise. Just because I never had an official title of “Recruiter”, “Total Rewards”, etc. doesn’t mean I don’t have the full experience of that position. As a former department-of-one it just meant I was in-charge of it all. As much as we’re changing job titles (Recruiting = Talent Acquisition), why use titles in qualifying candidates?

– Unemployed (Relevance, your honor?)

– Lacking enough salary history (So the F what?)

– Has a criminal history (Not all criminal records are created equal, and some convictions are frivolous or unjust!)

– Lacking culture fit (I call BS)

– Too old/too young (Before you scream “But my organization isn’t ageist!” look around and make really, really sure that demographic reality is represented)

View Experience More Holistically

Learn how to map out transferrable skills within your organization. Being too rigid about industry experience could be hurting you. Experience in another industry experience can give your team a fresher set of eyes to give and a valuable external perspective (Where did Alan Mulally work before tearing it up at Ford?) Offer on-the-job training if you’re unable to perfect skill-set matches. Stop the upcredentialing and start looking at candidates holistically. Lose the ineffectual, intellectually bankrupt, cookie-cutter approach!

To say recruitment is broken is stating the obvious. The fixes are also obvious if we’re willing to acknowledge them.

Gemma Toth

Gemma Toth has 20+ years of combined experience in Human Resources as a Chief HR Consultant, HR Generalist, and HRIS Project Manager with top companies in various industries. Gemma is a certified HR professional with a proven history of implementing HR infrastructures, policies, procedures, and highly effective human capital strategies.

Reader Interactions


  1. Nan Marchello says

    Love this article! Right on the spot! I don’t know if the trend of ATS is what has broken recruitment or the mindset of human resources (human right?) is part of the problem. HR or recruitment who think it is crazy to review every resume themselves probably haven’t had to look for a job in years. Put yourself in the job seekers shoes, be open minded and you just might uncover the ideal candidate for your open jobs.

  2. Kevin Richardson says

    Thank goodness someone out there is starting to state the obvious. Well done, and hopefully the autometons have a sufficient skill set to read this.

  3. Sue says

    Fantastic article, it is very accurate. With an extensive career & many lay-offs, I often wish I was a recruiter & change the hiring process. I never minded the job search process, until now. What is my favorite TV show? What is your favorite tech game app? You will work out your lunch time w/co-workers (some take 2 hr. Lunches & no one in mgmt. cares), sorry we’re late for the interview, excuse me, I don’t have your resume w/me ( I gave them copies). When u check on the status of the candidate decision,
    After a week or so (meanwhile dinner is late after composing a prompt thank your for the interview), only to be curtly told not to call. Online assessment? Robotic online/phone interviews?? Group interviews? Government survey? There’s much more, I want to share. Maybe my diligent, respectful, appreciative work ethic is outdated., I’m technically savvy, enjoy working with my younger colleagues, I would appreciate the same respect. We could create an enjoyable work atmosphere.

  4. Mike Smith says

    Brilliant article! The missing art of touch in corporate recruiting environments. Relying on
    Cumbersome workflow and system generated metrics to show effort. Yet still not hitting the
    Targets to hire. Slow death by broken process.
    There should be an element of sales in every phone call the recruiters make (assuming they pick up the phone) to get to know the candidates
    closing them on the opportunity. Basic and reliable, should be a best practice.
    Cheers, Mike

  5. Jonathan Pugh says

    Well said! I can speak from personal experience that ageism is very prevalent.

  6. Frank Bennett says

    I am not actively looking for work but I know people who are and I try to assist when I can. You have nailed it. Maybe the recruitment industry needs a professional make-over? Better qualified, smarter people, proven hiring manger experience, demonstrable Emotional Intelligence, and perhaps even make available their own CV and personal statement to candidates so they can judge if they can rely on the person to support them in one of life’s most important decisions.

  7. Jim Daniel says

    Great article. It echoes some of the things that I have heard among job applicants. Thanks for saying what needs to be heard.

  8. Iain @ ISL says

    As someone, like you, who began in recruitment in the days before even mobile phones, I agree totally with @KevinRichardson.

    It’s about time people began to state the flippin’ obvious and woke up to the fact we’re in a much busier marketplace nowadays, where old skool agencies are far from the only game in town.

    Once recruiters realise they are no longer the kingmakers they once were, we’ll be able to begin serving both the people who pay our wages – client companies – and our commodity – well qualified candidates who trust us to help them find work.


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