Combating the Modern Recruiter’s Unrealistic Expectations

That's not a valid work email account. Please enter your work email (e.g.
Please enter your work email

SurfEverybody’s talking about the war for talent — but are recruiters and hiring managers really paying attention? The results of the fourth annual Job Preparedness Indicator  (JPI) from the Career Advisory Board  (CAB) suggest that, despite all the lip service, talent acquisition professionals are failing to heed their own warnings.

The latest JPI, a yearly survey that analyzes the gaps between what hiring managers are looking for and what candidates are bringing to the table, found that only 7 percent of hiring managers said that “nearly all” or “most” job seekers had the right skills, character traits, and qualifications to fill open positions. The vast majority of survey respondents, then, felt that most job seekers didn’t have what it takes to get hired.

CAB cofounder Alexandra Levit  says that such fussiness about job seeker qualifications is a worrisome trend the JPI has been tracking since its first iteration in 2011: “What we keep seeing each year is that the recruiters and the hiring managers are getting more and more picky.”

It isn’t that hiring managers and recruiters can’t find candidates who have the skills to perform the job — it’s that they can’t find candidates who perfectly fit the ideal candidate profile.

“There’s nobody that fits every single qualification, where they can check every box that they want,” Levit explains. “Therefore, what they might do is interview 20 or 30 people and not hire anybody.”

‘You’re Not Hiring a Cyborg; You’re Hiring a Human’

Levit believes that recruiters and hiring managers learned this increasingly picky behavior during the recession, when there were more available workers than open positions.

“They became accustomed to being able to command anything they wanted,” Levit says. “They could often get people with more and more experience to apply for jobs where they might not need that experience.”

According to Levit, organizations got complacent. They decided that, since there were so many candidates to choose from, they should simply hold out for perfection. Perversely enough, they’re still clinging to this attitude, even as the economy improves and the skills deficit grows.

Recruiters and hiring managers who wait for the ideal candidate damage their companies in a number of ways. The bar they set so obscenely high keeps out any and all of the talent that actually does exist.

“These recruiters and hiring managers have unrealistic expectations of human beings,” Levit says. “You’re not hiring a cyborg; you’re hiring a human.”

While positions stay open for tremendous lengths of time as recruiters and hiring managers reject candidate after candidate for what amount to trivial reasons, they’re also driving away the employees the company already has on hand.

“[Recruiters and hiring managers] are not hiring anybody, so the people who are left [in the company] are doing the jobs of two or three employees,” Levit says. “They’re getting burnt out, and they want to leave.”

Bringing Recruiters and Hiring Managers Back Down to Earth

Employers are in for a grim future if the people in charge of hiring don’t learn to approach candidates more reasonably.

“[Recruiters and hiring managers] may have become accustomed to a way of recruiting where they could have the perfect person, but such a person perfect doesn’t exist in the real world, and they need to recognize that,” Levit says. “You’re not going to get somebody who is perfect in every way, who you don’t have to train at all, who doesn’t need to acquire any skills, who is completely smooth around the edges, who doesn’t have any interpersonal skills they need to work on.”

In short: recruiters and hiring managers need to adjust their expectations a little bit.

Levit understands that the prospect of having train each and every new hire that walks through the door can be daunting, but she also points out that candidates don’t always require as much training as recruiters and hiring managers seem to think they do, especially when candidates come equipped with transferable skills.

“For example, if someone has a great work ethic, but they might not have mastered the particular software program you’re looking for – well, work ethic is hard to teach,” Levit explains. “If someone is really motivated to learn and grow and master what they need to master — and if they have some knowledge of computer science and technology already –how hard is it really going to be for them to pick up an additional software program?”

Levit suggests hiring managers and recruiters take some time to engage in self-reflection, as looking at the results of this year’s JPI should show them that the talent pool isn’t as bad as they seem to think it is. Across all job levels, hiring managers valued transferable skills and traits like strategic perspective, integrity, strong work ethic, accountability, and self-motivation above all else — and many survey respondents reported seeing these skills and traits in the majority of candidates.

“Instead of seeing every candidate as underqualified, they should see that, actually, [candidates] do have some really good skills that they can work with,” Levit says. “You don’t have to have the perfect person right off. There are inexpensive, low time commitment things that you can do for people to get them up to speed. Maybe they are a perfect candidate, but they have experience in a different industry. Can you give them some education so that they can transfer their skills and their knowledge to your industry, instead of expecting them to come in with everything right off the bat?”

By Matthew Kosinski