Fixing Recruiting: ‘Make Me Not Want To Work For You’

An oldie but a goodie.

Designer Robert S. Donovan says the recruiting system is broken. He’s spent fifteen years hiring people and the system no longer works.

Back in the day (15 years ago), if I wanted to hire an entry-level designer I would start off by calling around to people I knew locally to see if they were interested or knew of anyone who was. I’d call the regional design schools and see if they knew of any recent grads that fit my needs that either lived in my area or were willing to relocate. If I ran up dry I would then run an ad in my local newspaper, usually requesting candidates apply in person with their portfolios. While this process typically only generated a few leads, I was always able to find good people with little wasted effort.

Fast-forward to 2007… I knew that placing an ad over the telephone with the local newspaper would result in my ad being visible on the newspaper’s local internet job board, what I didn’t know was that it would also get picked up by CareerBuilder.com, a world wide searchable internet job board. I was to be traveling at the time so I requested that candidates submit their resume and portfolio samples via e-mail. My e-mail locked up while I was in China after having received over 300 responses from all over the world, some with portfolio attachments as large as 50MB! All for an entry-level position targeted at local candidates.

Same story we’ve heard all over the country. Here’s Donovan’s suggestions, our emphasis added:

First, hiring companies need to remember that it is the candidates that are doing them the favor of trying to help fill their needs and not the other way around.

Second, if you post an ad on-line be sure that you give enough information about who you are and what you are looking for (beyond simple technical skills). I read way too many ads that I have no idea what the job is and/or what it would be like to work there. Make me want to work for you, not just apply because I fit the qualifications. Better yet, make me not want to work for you so I won’t bother applying.

Also, if you are going to put it out there and make me spend 30 minutes filling out your on-line application, respect my time investment in the process and at least send me a personalized rejection letter if you decide I’m not what you are looking for. A little feedback goes a long way, too.

You know what, that actually makes way too much sense. If you have a very specific person in mind—somebody with exactly X years of experience and exactly Y attitude—make that clear. The fewer applications a recruiter or hiring manager has to sift through, the more time s/he can spend with each. Which can’t possibly be a bad thing.