Archive for October, 2012

Scary Stories from the Dark Side

October 25, 2012

All I need to do is walk down my street to realize it’s that time of year.  As I duck from a low slung gargantuan spider web, my heart skips a beat when I suddenly set off a motion detecting battery powered skeleton, yelling something forewarning yet unintelligible.  Ah yes, Halloween.  The festival of shaving cream, poor manners and noise.  Actually, it’s not that bad.  Besides, the wide-eyed wonderment and innocence emanating from those little kids with their cute costumes more than makes up for any unsavory activity.

Do you like horror shows?  In the spirit of Halloween, let’s review several real world scary stories from the dark side of recruitment.

An ideally suited candidate interviewed at a boutique technology consulting firm.  The fit was quite apparent to everyone.  Indeed, the candidate fared well in the interview process and it was quickly on to the offer stage.  The hiring company was duly prepped on the candidate’s compensation level and what it would take to get him on board.  So what does the hiring company do?  They produce a low-ball offer that not only comes in considerably lower than the candidate’s current comp level, but also lower than the market currently commands for this specialized and in-demand skill set.  Needless to say, the candidate was sufficiently spooked and didn’t even bother coming back with a counteroffer.

Next up, a security company has been trying to hire a pre-sales engineer.  The internal recruiter functions as a gatekeeper, forbidding external recruiters from speaking with the hiring managers.  That’s enough to scare me away from working with them.  One of the recruiters in my network decides to work with them, only to find that the communications between the internal recruiter and the hiring managers is all too lacking.  In terms of the role and its responsibilities, compensation plan, and org structure, they can’t seem to get their story straight.  Thus, the job spec is a moving target.  As a result, several strong candidates were presented and interviewed, only to find that what was initially deemed a fit suddenly morphed into a role with different prerequisites.  Then, three weeks later, they change their tune and the candidates they mishandled and disposed would now make for potentially strong fits again.

Now it gets ugly and frustrating.  Two sales candidates go into the same software company for interviews.  One did all the research and preparation you could imagine.  Yet, for some inexplicable reason, he apparently drank a witch’s brew and transformed from a confident sales professional to a spineless apologist.  The other candidate went into the interview with plenty of confidence, but hardly spent any time researching the company, figuring the topic of discussion would be himself.  I’ll bet he does 10 times the research investigating which front load washer to buy.  Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!  Put these two candidates into a blender and switch it to high!

Another candidate did very well in the initial interview.  He came off as articulate, professional and engaged.  Unfortunately, he had one too many skeletons in his closet.  The hiring manager called a few contacts in common, including one the candidate brought up.  Unfortunately, these back-channel references painted a Jekyll & Hyde scenario – seemingly impressive on the surface, but with a less than stellar performance, suspect work ethic and negative attitude.

Ready to scream?  The hiring manager of a software company has finally found the right candidate for his team and decides to move forward with reference checks and an offer.  His HR organization denies him the ability to move forward with this hard to find candidate because it was sourced through an external recruiter.  They suddenly institute a new rule, proclaiming that hiring managers can only go with candidates sourced externally after 60 days of working with candidates sourced from the HR team’s internal recruiters.  According to the extremely frustrated hiring manager, this position has already been open for months and none of the candidates presented by the internal team came close to fitting the spec.

Please change the channel.  This show gives me nightmares!

What do all these scary recruitment stories tell us?  Myopic decisions, mixed up priorities and inconsistent approaches aside, the common thread is we’re dealing with human beings.  Qualified candidates are not akin to commodities on the store shelf that are easily replaceable, readily substituted, or able to wait three months for it to go on sale even though it’s needed now.  In a similar light, prioritizing protocol and stringently budgeted headcount over progress does not make for a sustainable growth strategy that centers on building teams with top talent.

These recruitment stories are scary because they’re real.  And what makes matters even more terrifying is the thought that those at the center of these stories will likely repeat their errant ways, producing more tricks than treats.


Action items:

1.  As a hiring company, what message are you sending out to the talent pool when you mishandle the interview and offer stages on a regular basis?  What does that say about your company’s communications, organization, priorities, and value placed on people?

2.  It’s true that hiring companies shouldn’t treat candidates as commodities.  Yet, candidates shouldn’t treat themselves as commodities, either.  Your resume is not a soup can label, providing ingredients and nutritional information.  Go into an interview with the mindset that you are special.  And special candidates go the extra mile, such as conducting extensive research about the company and its market, preparing salient questions to ask each interviewer and drawing upon prior experience to demonstrate the fit and value to the organization you’d bring.

3.  Everyone’s their own worst enemy when it comes to both hiring and job hunting.  Take a good introspective look in the mirror and be afraid of what you see.  Be very afraid.  And use that fear to be honest with yourself while seeking input to become better.