February 4, 2011   view past issues

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The American Staffing Association called it the “Zagat of online recruiting.” Published every other year since 1999, WEDDLE’s Guide to Employment Sites on the Internet is the Gold Standard of guidebooks to the 100,000+ job boards, social media sites and career portals now operating on the Web.

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The Recruiter Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

The third novel in Stieg Larsson’s global blockbuster of a trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is the story of unintended consequences. In trying to come to grips with her own past, the heroine unintentionally rips off the cover on governmental crime and puts herself in danger. While the situation is obviously not nearly as dramatic, recruiters too have kicked a hornet’s nest, not of government officials but of job seekers and their reaction can be just as stinging.

Put 100 job seekers in a room today and ask them how they feel about the way they’ve been treated by recruiters, and ninety-nine will say they’ve been abused. They’ll cite several reasons for their view, but two will predominate. Time and time again, they’ll point to:

  • job postings that are uninformative or out of date
  • and

  • applications that aren’t answered or even acknowledged.
  • They are buzzing with anger about what they perceive to be the disrespect and outright rudeness they’ve had to endure. And, that leaves employers stung with unattractive employment brands and inadequate yields of top talent.

    There is, of course, another side to the story. In this economy with few openings to fill and many people in transition, recruiting teams and their applicant tracking systems have been all but overwhelmed with applications. There aren’t enough hours or hands to do what most recruiters truly want to do; they simply don’t have the resources to treat every candidate with the dignity and respect they deserve.

    Does that mean that recruiters are doomed to be swarmed? No not at all. In fact, by solving the first issue above – inadequate job postings – recruiters can also solve the second problem – the perception of employers as unresponsive – and, as a result, hush the hornet’s nest altogether.

    Hushing the Hornet’s Nest

    The typical job posting today permits anyone to apply. It relies on job seekers to use the information that’s provided in the ad to assess their own qualifications for the opening and apply only if they are a good match. In today’s job market, that’s like asking a person in the middle of the desert to decide whether to drink from the first oasis they reach or wait for another they may (or may not) come across that’s more suited to their taste.

    Compounding this situation is the fact that many ads aren’t especially informative, at least from the job seeker’s perspective. They describe openings using a vocabulary only employers could love. They rail on about “requirements and responsibilities” and leave candidates guessing about what they want to know:

  • What will they get to do?
  • What will they get to learn?
  • What will they get to accomplish?
  • Who will they get to work with?
  • How will they be supported in their work?
  • So, the first step in hushing the hornet’s nest is to write a job posting that communicates what it will be like to work in a position in the employer’s organization and to do so in the language job seekers are most likely to understand – their own. The more exact and clearly articulated that description, the greater the propensity for job seekers to self select (in or out of applying) appropriately.

    The second and final step has two parts, both of which will help to quiet the buzzing about ignored applications.

  • Part 1 is a new but small addition to the traditional content in a job posting. It is a statement prominently featured at the beginning and the end of the ad and similar to the following: YourCo greatly appreciates every application for employment it receives and will acknowledge each submission by email. Please add to your ‘safe list’ so that this communication isn’t inadvertently caught in your spam filter. Most employers today do, in fact, acknowledge the receipt of applications (using an auto-responder) so this statement helps to ensure their messages get through and, even if they don’t, that they get credit for that effort in the eyes of job seekers.
  • Part 2 expands that email acknowledgement of an application to include a qualifying test. After thanking the applicant for their submission, the message would continue with a statement similar to the following: YourCo focuses its recruiting effort on finding the best qualified candidates for each of its openings. In order to do that, we ask every applicant to reply to this message with their answers to the following three questions. The questions should focus on key competencies or experience and thus enable recruiters to tell quickly and accurately which applicants should be processed for further evaluation and which should be politely informed (using an auto-responder) that they not among the strongest candidates for the opening.
  • More than a few recruiters are inadvertently kicking the hornet’s nest these days with painful results. Emailboxes may be overflowing with applications, but top talent is still hard to recruit, especially when they’re buzzing mad. It’s important, therefore, that recruiters write job postings in the language of job seekers and that they both promote and use a follow up message that will placate job seekers even as it identifies the best among them.

    Thanks for reading,


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