“Everyone emphasizes humility in interviews, and though people can talk about it, it’s not always the case in execution.” This observation by Ryan Verner, 8th Light’s Director of Education and Software Developer has been playing over and over in my mind like the Netflix previews that loop and repeat. It led to a much deeper conversation with Verner about the gap that exists between people on either side of the hiring process.
The conversation about this gap seems like a hamster wheel of blame with too many fingers pointing at who’s at fault. The blame typically falls on the recruiter or the job seeker. But there is so much misinformation, miscommunication, and a misalignment of expectations that it doesn’t come down to just one group of people that need to change or fix their mindset.
In actuality, there are a lot of factors that impact and perpetuate the problem.
The impact of technology.
The recruiting industry has made a hard shift in recruitment practices. It’s gone from a people-first craft to gaming the system and streamlining the process with computers and AI. We should be using the latest technology to help us do our jobs better and make more informed decisions, but technology should never replace the human component.
Sites like CareerBuilder, Indeed, and LinkedIn are designed to close the gaps between hiring teams and job seekers, but they are actually also a big part of the problem. Sites like these give both sides a free pass for practicing lazy habits.
For example, instead of using LinkedIn as a platform to share valuable information and to personally connect with the right people, features like “apply with a click”, encourage a mindless and dehumanizing application process. That means people don’t invest the time to craft an application, cover letter, or resume that is specific to that job or company. And while the time invested is less intensive, it gives job seekers the misconception that they invested an appropriate amount of time applying to jobs.
I hear this all the time: job seekers expressing frustration in applying to 100+ jobs and getting nowhere. Well, sorry, but no surprise there. There’s no real investment. It’s clicking buttons and feeling like there’s a sufficient output to get desirable outcomes — but it’s not.
It’s all so generic. No one wants generic, but applicants are doing generic things.
What about the hiring side? These technologies also encourage teams and managers to exhibit lazy habits, which creates a cyclical process that widens the hiring gap even more. Companies post generic wish lists in the form of a job posting that attract groups of people that sound the same with few to no differentiators. Sometimes candidates aren’t even qualified.
Cue all the recruiter headaches.
Complaints about these types of resumes fill our LinkedIn feeds. But if you’re not clear on what you need for the role or how you want information in the application process, this is what you’ll get. You get a gap. And, when you took out the human element, you should have seen it coming. No room for complaining from where I see it.
The bottom line here is that sites like these tend to remove the human connection out of a process that so desperately needs it.
Hiring managers and teams on the technical side
Be realistic. If you look for unicorns, there’s gonna be a gap. (psst… fantasy always produces gaps.) Do the work upfront and break down the skills needed, like absolutely need, on day one. From there, break down the skills the new hire will need, but maybe could develop or learn on the job. This can be a challenging process because you have to determine how you’ll help them learn on the job, but mostly it’s challenging because it is a time consuming process. However, if the time is invested up front to build out the framework for skills-based hiring, you can save time in the future as you help grow and retain this person. But it takes clarity in the hiring needs and expectations in order for the people in HR and recruiting to do their job well, as well as for job seekers to engage in the hiring process appropriately. Narrow the gap on the front end. All of this work is meant to set you up for finding the right fit.
Gaps in education & experience: it’s not what you think
Stop blocking your team from quality candidates by using credentials like specific degrees or years of experience in a specific role. People evolve and progress at different speeds by way of different pathways. So just stop dictating what that pathway has to look like. Instead, spend time really digging into the specific skills you need the person to demonstrate and look for that.
By collaborating with the team on thinking through the HOW you’re going to help them learn their future skills, you help the interviewers flip from gatekeepers to problem solvers. They start looking at candidates as people that they could grow and gauge how fast they’d get there rather than resources that fill an immediate need.
Recruiters on the HR side
Okay, I know a lot of complaints fall in the laps of recruiters and unfortunately recruiters are not always set up for success. BUT that doesn’t mean you should rely on that excuse or use it as a crutch when things get messy. You are in a unique position to impact people in an incredible way. Remember what it’s like to be on both sides, and bridge that gap
Yes, the company is paying you, so you do have to fill their needs, but consider taking on more of a mentor or coach relationship with the people you are recruiting. Your role has the potential to change people’s lives. Before getting frustrated with people you’re recruiting, coach them to know their skills gaps and how to better talk about their value.
Think about it this way. On a day-to-day basis, you’ll interact with more people than you will with companies. You don’t know when the roles will reverse. Helping people is good karma at the very least, but also consider if you can really afford to create a bad candidate experience for a company. My guess is probably not because it can be costly.
Coaching people can also give you the context you need to help hiring managers stretch or rebalance expectations when someone could be great but isn’t what was expected. You are a facilitator and have context that people on either side may be missing. Be the person that helps everyone communicate better.
You have a responsibility to not place blame on the job seeker for having a shitty resume or terribly generic cover letter. You also have a responsibility to help guide the teams you’re working with to clearly communicate their needs and improve the hiring process for better results. Sure, it’s not always easy, actually it’s rarely easy, but this is your opportunity to make real impactful change. I encourage you to go beyond the call of duty and be the advocate for both sides, get creative, and figure out a path for hiring someone who will be the best fit.
You are not innocent here either. This whole frustration in the hiring process is not the time to just throw your hands up and proclaim, “Job searching sucks! The hiring process is the worst! I hate this part! There has to be a better way!” You have way more control in this process than you may realize. Own your search. Make cold outreaches to people doing things that interest you. Go to coffee with them. Ask for advice from people at all stages and seniority levels. Ask about next steps. Ask for clarification. Know your story and how to communicate it to your audience (and if you don’t, ask for help!). Ask what you should learn to be successful and then tell them how you plan to learn it!
When you get hired, never forget what it felt like to be on the side of job searching. Share your experience and use it to make change in whatever organization you go to work with.
In summary: meet people and learn how to talk to them. Be mindful of the filters being created. Yes it’s frustrating to get a bunch of resumes that look the same. Yes, it’s also frustrating to apply to a bunch of jobs and hear no response. But, you can contribute to solving the problem.
Compassion, empathy, and patience could not be more important during this process. Stop accepting “close, but no” as the decision and start closing the gaps to get both sides to “Yes!” What are you doing to improve the process?