March 29, 2019

Companies Suffering From Post-Recession Trauma Are Repelling All the Best Candidates


In the contemporary process of hiring and job searching, I’ve recently noticed a total lack of balance. I’ve also observed that a majority of companies are greatly dissatisfied with the quality of their candidates, yet they seem totally unaware of how their own behavior directly drives their dissatisfaction.

Interviewing resume writer and thought leader Virginia Franco helped me confirm these observations, as well as affirm some of the solutions I’ve been highlighting over the years in my books and articles. Franco also offered a solution I had not yet considered, which I’m excited to share here today.

First, however, we need to talk a little more about what is going on.

Asymmetrical Effort: Candidates Jump Through Hoops While Employers Barely Lift a Finger

As an example, 10 years ago it was fairly common for a corporate fitness chain to pay for the certification process of any personal trainer it decided to hire. These tests can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars, which makes it hard for the average person to pay for them, so it made sense that companies would pick up the tab. Today, however, the candidate is often expected to pay out of pocket for that test — without reimbursement.

This is just one example of the many ways in which employers are demanding more and more from candidates, including excessively long online applications, personality assessments, endless rounds of interviews, and more.

Essentially, the candidate is putting in a disproportionate amount of effort, jumping through every hoop the company puts in their way. Meanwhile, the employer barely lifts a finger to help.

The thing these companies fail to realize, however, is that it’s foolish to expect great candidates to put up with this treatment. Some might, but even if they take the job, they won’t reach their full potential in your company. When the tone is set from the beginning that candidates should bow down and submit to all the company’s demands, even the best employees will have no motivation to grow, develop, and become the best versions of themselves for your organization.

Healing the Post-Recession Trauma

If you run a company or are involved in the hiring process and had an aha moment while reading the above, please understand that I have deep compassion for what you’re experiencing. I don’t think you should be too hard on yourself about it, and here’s why: Having spent close to a decade now immersed in both sides of the hiring equation, I believe that many employers now are operating this way out of fear. This is due to what I call “post-recession trauma.”

Consider a dating analogy: When a person has gotten out of a particularly bad relationship or has had their heart broken one too many times in the past, they may begin to close themselves off to others. These people often set impossibly high standards for future romantic partners in order to shield themselves from being hurt again. This reaction is completely understandable, but it’s also not a great way to find love.

Organizations are doing a similar thing in the realm of hiring. The process of recruiting, hiring, and training an employee is very lengthy and costly, and employers don’t want to risk pouring all that effort and investment in only to have an employee walk out the door. So, they are behaving like the heartbroken person in the analogy, creating ever stricter standards to protect themselves from just that situation.

Given that 95 percent of organizations have hired a bad fit in the past year, it is no wonder employers are feeling so protective.

“I believe the trauma of all the past [hiring] mistakes, coupled with the recession, has created this fear and doubt in companies [about] their hiring decisions,” Franco says. “[It has] consequently created more problems in the process, such as relying too heavily on machines to filter people out and involving too many people [and] too many interviews in the process of deciding on a candidate. Companies really need to [empower] hiring managers and support them to trust their guts more.”

How can companies start empowering their hiring managers more and doubting their hiring decisions less?

According to Franco, one of the first things companies need to do is “get rid of their unicorn job postings” — that is, job ads demanding candidates meet completely unrealistic standards just for a shot at the gig.

The next thing employers need to do, Franco says, is streamline their hiring processes and ditch all the extra hoops they make candidates jump through: “It really is just too excessive, sometimes with 4-5 interviews topped onto all the other hoops. Quality candidates [who] have other options will often cut their losses and go with the companies that are … making the process simpler.”

Franco suggests organizations “go back to the basics of people hiring people.”

“Use machines such as applicant tracking systems more as tools than as filters,” she says. “Give hiring managers more weight and trust over machines. Make the human touch more [integral to] the hiring process and simplify the steps required.”

Scott Engler is the author of The Job Inner-View and Legends of the Recruiting and Career World. Read his latest, The Problem and the Solution, on his website.

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Scott Engler is an internationally recognized branding thought leader and LinkedIn specialist who has worked with Fortune 50 and 500 clients such as LinkedIn, BBVA, Hewlett-Packard, and Merck & Co. Along with a powerful and dynamic group of vetted specialists in different areas of marketing and branding (once referred to as the "LinkedIn A-Team), Scott now focuses on helping small to mid-sized companies build their brands. Any inquiries about the work he does can be sent directly through LinkedIn.
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