Friday, June 26, 2009

Corporate Recruiting Is Broken

From my first post, you know that I am looking for a new job. I have to admit it's been quite a while since I last looked for a job (ie. the previous century). However, I have now been on both sides of this story - I have been a hiring manager trying desperately to find great employees, and I am now a employee desperately looking for a great company. One of the big changes since I was last in the job market is the use of 3rd party "talent management" systems to allow the corporate HR departments to manage job postings and collect information from applicants. These systems are typically integrated into the corporate web sites and allow the applicant to search and apply for the current opportunities at that company. Sounds good so far, right?

I'm here to tell you this system is broken. With very few exceptions it is an excellent example of technology in search of a purpose and of a process that the majority of the users will not complain about - because they are all desperately trying to get a job, and it is unlikely that telling the HR department their process stinks is a good opening gambit. Sounds like a job for a devil may care cynic...

Let's start with step one - many of the companies use the same 3rd party providers. A couple of the largest vendors are taleo and kenexa (apparently, having a meaningless name is a prerequisite). I see these two quite often and each time I do I *cringe*. Each company is a completely separate instance of the talent management system - which means I am required to create a new profile for every company. Yes, I know that's more secure, data segregation & protection, yada-yada - but please, couldn't they have allowed me to create ONE user profile that could be reused at each of the companies I visit that use taleo? I have typed my name, contact information, job history and education into taleo dozens of times. It's a huge waste of time. Ironically, taleo & it's ilk are most often used by the largest companies. Smaller companies tend to stick to the large job boards, like Monster, Hot Jobs, etc - and at those sites I *can* create a reusable profile.

OK, that one I hang on the talent management system vendors. Time to move on to the hiring companies themselves. The information they collect from each applicant just for the slim chance they may *possibly* give the applicant a call back is bewildering. You need the name and phone number of all my previous supervisors? Really? You need my salary from a job I left 10 years ago? Really? Why? I'm a firm believer that information that isn't actually used shouldn't be collected - not because of any privacy concerns, but simply because it's a waste of time for the user to type it in and a waste of server resources to hold on to it. If it isn't needed to decide whether to call me back, then don't collect the information! They are collecting data from hundreds of applicants and actually using 10% of the data from maybe 4 or 5 candidates. Madness.

Finally, I need to state what is perhaps obvious to job seekers, but not often discussed within the company. The HR recruiter's primary focus is NOT to find the best candidates. Every job seeker knows the truth - the HR recruiter's primary job is to eliminate candidates such that whoever is left, must (by definition) be the right candidate. The overly-complex talent management system and the pile of collected data is all part of that truth. The more data that is collected, the more likely it is that something will be noticed that eliminates that applicant from further consideration. Hmm, does that mean the candidate with the best chances is the one who provides the least information? I think this is especially true when non-high tech companies are trying to recruit high tech employees. The in-house recruiters are simply not knowledgeable enough on technology topics to evaluate the candidates any other way.

As a hiring manager, I was always frustrated by the lack of qualified candidates being forwarded to me by my internal HR recruiters. A common practice of desperate hiring managers is to get outside recruiters to send them resumes, and to then forward those resumes to the internal recruiters. Of course, the internal HR recruiters hate that - they don't want to deal with outside recruiters and placement fees. But think about it - what this really means is that the huge fees paid to taleo and the other talent management vendors aren't actually working at all - that entire system is a waste of time and money for *everyone* - job seekers, HR departments & hiring managers. It all sounds good, and I'm sure the sales teams do a masterful job of showing the value of the solution during impressive demos - but does anyone stop and actually consider whether the technology has made the process better?

When good candidates can't get to the hiring managers, and the hiring managers can't find good candidates - that is a broken process!

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