Recruiting’s Dirty Little Secrets

What Corporate Headhunters Don’t Tell You

THE web is cluttered with how-to advice about writing resumes: what words to use (or not), layout, headings, how long, how short, free templates,point-and-click resume builders, et al. Yet even using all the tools and applying expert advice, your resume may still miss the mark!

Just ‘HOW’ and WHY’ this happens is widely known to insiders, but seldom understood by job applicants and business reporters (thus we call them ‘secrets’).Don’t get me wrong, many recruiters are ethical, hard working and caring, but they too are under pressure and hitting their targets is an imperative.Here then are the full 15 ‘secrets’ you won’t be told about:

1) Gone in 30 seconds: The volume of applicants (at all levels)means you will initially be ruled in or out by a quick 20-40 second skim through your resume to check qualifications, technical skills, location and experience. AND if you pass, you’ll be rated by an overall ‘feel test’ of your resume. This ‘feel test’ is a killer, simply because it relies on the reader’s subjectivity, mood, the time of day and personal feelings.

2) Outsourced screening: Those responsible for screening your resume are usually the most junior, or least experienced (low cost) member of the HR or recruiting team.Their judgment and experience in selection matters may be negligible and they will have sparse knowledge of the job in question. It is interesting to note this year that firms are being offered ‘offshore’ screening services (for hundreds of resumes a day) for as little as $6.98 per hour.

3) We have got our shortlist: Adding to the game of chance, if a quota of applicants is being sought (i.e. the target is to interview is 5 or 10) and the list has already been filled with credible candidates, shortcuts by the person doing the screening may mean if your resume arrives ‘late’ it is not read at all!

4) Any excuse will do: The entire screening process is focused on eliminating anyone from the deep pool of candidates: thus a single error, a distant postcode, any lack of “fit”, gaps or current unemployment, a suggestion of job-hopping (even though this may be easily explained), in fact any categorization, a dodgy facebook photos and perhaps, a poor Klout score,will rule you out. Those who negotiate this process ‘mistake free’ (rather than the best candidate) have the greatest likelihood of making the shortlist.

5) You don’t know the odds: There is a distinct lack of transparency (causing frustration) at many levels of the recruitment process. Not knowing where you stand is a major bug-bear for applicants. You can buy a lotto ticket and know the odds of winning, but apply for a job and you’ll have no idea. For some jobs your chances may be more than 1 in 1000!

6) Most applications are filtered by technology aimed at eliminating you. If you fail to use appropriate keywords or phrases or you are not specific about experience, the chances are high that less-than-perfect ‘matching’ systems will ensure human eyes never read your resume. Even perfectly written resumes (where 100% should get through) when tested, fail to be selected half the time (or higher)!

7) Hidden selection criteria: Very often the true selection criteria are not revealed (for fear of legal challenge). These include meeting diversity quotas, hiring from competitors, industry specific selection or testing the ‘external market’ when a predetermined internal candidate is already selected. Applying is almost certainly a waste of your time.

8) The Job simply doesn’t exist: Less scrupulous recruitment companies (who get paid on contingency) run blind advertisements to garner candidates for reverse-marketing; a real job doesn’t even exist. Others run advertising similar to their competitors (and could-be clients) hoping to draw better candidates to win a fee.

9) Black Holes: Large career sites and corporations handling many online applications stand a good chance of ‘losing’ your application –caused by either human (overloaded recruiters), technology (problems)or the sheer volume of competing applications. If ‘lost’ your resume doesn’t get reviewed. Follow up, and if you are asked to re-submit, there is a good chance you never entered the system. Many high-volume businesses these days don’t acknowledge resumes so either way you never hear from them again.

10) It’s on our database: It may be true that your resume can be “put on file” for the future … but the odds of a recruiter scanning through thousands of names to revisit a resume than was previously rejected are at best minimal. Better to assume (unless they recognise you by name or you have an established personal connection) that your resume has dropped in to another corporate black hole.

11) Blocked Companies: if you work for a company where an informal ‘agreement’ or ‘understanding’ exits not to poach or hire each other’s staff (such as between competitors or with a supplier or customer) your chances of getting hired are next to zero. Such arrangements may be illegal but they are secret, so you will never be considered, and never be told.

12) Busy (overworked) Managers take shortcuts: They make snap judgments based on feelings rather than facts - especially if there are a lot of well qualified candidates to sort through. Shortcuts – like making decisions based on responses to 1 or 2 tricky questions - seldom involve rationality, any more than relying on past success, the previous incumbent, or some kind of personality typing.

13) Prejudice: Even though prejudice (especially around age) clearly exists,it is hidden by a lack of transparency and openness to the outside world, and so is hard discern and difficult to prove.In most cases the rejected candidate may be told there was “a change of direction” or a decision to “not to proceed” (i.e. something outside ‘my’ control) rather than be told the truth.

14) Stereotyping: is also common (and a shortcut) and another form of prejudice. Thinking such as ‘you have had the same job for 7 years and therefore won’t be able to handle change’) is quite common and most happens unconsciously! These preferences might include someone with common interests for example, who went to same school, attended the same university, or grew up in the same town, etc.

15) Feedback is rarely open, or totally truthful: The disappointment of not getting an interview(or job) is difficult for most people to countenance.An enquiry for feedback can quickly lead to argument (even litigation). To deal with this,the recruitment industry has for years geared itself to avoiding complaints (and confrontation) with well-worn, lawyer-approved phrases designed appease, but not explain. However without real feedback it is impossible for candidates to know how, or what, to change or avoid.

This complexity of reasons as to why your resume might miss the mark,has nothing, or very little, to do with you!! Yet there are many situations described here can be avoided or eliminated through careful planning and execution. And by working with a skilled, experienced career coach who is knowledgeable about recruitment.

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