JOB Candidates as customers?

Source: MorningBrew, Unsplash

Remember the last time you were looking for that new exciting career opportunity? You might’ve networked yourself into a fever, spent oodles of time carefully crafting a thoughtful “about me” pitch, and even customized all your materials to each of your dream opportunities. You took a lot of care to make sure you, the product, were going to answer what you saw as the main ‘broken features’ of the org you wished to join in order to make it apparent how quickly your ‘features’ were going to solve Problems A-C when you started.

Here’s the rub.

The other side isn’t doing nearly that much homework. I’ll highlight one example in this post. Sometimes, companies are hoping the candidates will help THEM figure out what they need. This is like running a Free trial of a product you think you need, but you’re not really sure. Only thing is it costs a lot more (no such thing as a free lunch, time = $) and those add up once the hire is brought on board.

The company may be experiencing some lack of strategic thinking or decision-making, and so people think the answer to we-can’t-get-enough-done-here is to grow headcount quickly. Then they start going through the onslaught of resumes and scheduling calls that end up revealing how little they know about the role’s key requirements and the company’s strategic reason for the hire. So sometimes, they switch their human capital needs mid-stream, after doing homework with / on candidates (time = $).

I like thinking about these various processes as products because it’s a forcing function on a business’s decision making around strategic priorities. How hard have the leaders been thinking about this before they considered the tactical step of getting candidates in a pipeline?

Since leaders agree to spend $50,000 – $250,000 for new hires, I wonder if they think about that cost in their decision to ‘buy’ a new product (person for hire). Those $$ numbers aren’t made up. I’ve written about this before and I’m clearly still fired up about it. If you make a bad hire, within the context of your organization’s systems and culture, you’ll pay between $50 – 250K for that blunder. Talk about #epicfail. Next time you buy a new SaaS tool for your company, compare the kind of due diligence and strategic thinking you put in for that vs what your teams are doing for their sourcing and hiring.

Okay, back to it.

Borrowing from the customer pre-sale process, where customer acquisition costs (CAC) can reach into the thousands of dollars easily, I think the sourcing and recruiting function is an apt comparison. Managing CAC is a critical org responsibility and a carefully watched measure in B2C and B2B….any B, really. How long will you have the capital to subsidize a business model where CAC goes up without relief from larger revenues and negative churn? But in sourcing and recruiting, it seems CAC is a measure less important.

GOOGS (Google)

Example:  Google has traditionally over-indexed on formal education and credentials.

A few years ago, I was contacted by a Googs recruiter for a UX research role I wondered how my measly MA was going to stand up against a candidate pool with an alphabet-pool behind their names.

So I started the pre-sales process. I took a look at the JD (below) and figured, this is a pretty senior-level list of requirements, and decided it was worth an initial call with the recruiter.

Next up: Contact the recruiter and get a better understanding of this role. I dove in with my probing questions in order to discover if going deeper into this process would be worth the recruiter’s time, the hiring manager’s time and my time. Was I a product they were really interested in learning more about?

My recruiter struggled with his English (and yes, that’s relevant). He couldn’t speak to anything beyond what I saw on the JD and he was clear that a “pre screening assignment” was required to be considered. My questions about the team’s strategic goals, their relevance to this role, and level of experience for the candidate went unresolved in that call.

Now, the role description was interesting and c’mon, it is Googs. Since the recruiter didn’t disqualify me based on my experience outlined in my resume, or the hiring manager’s needs, I decided to go through the paces.  

In product-parlance, my motivation was high to give this a shot, I was willing to walk over the broken glass in my way to get through.
The assignment was four questions, and my response to those, are below.

My Response:

A few days later, I hadn’t heard back from the recruiter yet. Thinking that was odd given the urgency he had described (they wanted a hire in short order, and that was barely two weeks away), I thought I’d initiate call to find out where my candidacy stood. (see broken glass reference earlier)

The recruiter’s response was that he ‘ was just about to email me that afternoon’, (why are recruiters still using that to excuse poor follow through?).
His ultimate answer: You’re too senior for this role.
Now, to be honest, these are three words I never ever expected to hear from a hiring manager at Googs. Like, Ever.

Let’s speed forward to the #epicfail. Where was it?

It really starts with googs. And the recruiter they use to serve their customer-candidate pool. Basic answers about a candidate’s level of experience can be found in resumes, LinkedIn, and a host of other places to infer a candidate’s seniority. Fail #1: Be respectful of your customer’s time, and do some homework.

Recruiters should come with some basic knowledge of the role, the attributes required for success, and the skills the hiring manager and company need. Recruiting more senior level roles requires a more advanced recruiter; in their communication skill and their understanding of the business they represent. In this case, a basic understanding of the role was absent, and at this role’s level, that is a fail on both the recruiter and the hiring manager. Fail #2: Echoing Fail #1, do your homework. Press the hiring manager for details and from your widely cast net, narrow the pool to a more targeted audience based on your hard and fast requirements/skillset for success.

The final lowdown:

Knowledge workers and technology-specific roles are in such high demand that 60 deans and CEO’s had to send a letter to President Trump asking him to ease the H-1B visas cap due to the US’s inability to train enough people to realize the demand. Sure, that is one lever to pull. But this is also a complicated ecosystem of levers with reinforcing loops and balancing loops. And if it’s excellence we’re striving for, we should be looking at how each part of the customer [job candidate] journey can be improved. There is no time like the present to take a hard look at these recruiting practices, in terms of how they serve the people who, as candidates, are both potential company customers and employees.


Tanya Maslach Written by: