Many people come to me frustrated when they can’t find a job. They take it very personally. And so they should in many cases. It may mean their resume needs work, they annoy people on the phone, or they have put little thought into why someone should hire them.
Often, though, someone’s difficulty in finding a job is not about them. The recruitment systems many organisations have set up can actually make the odds stacked against job seekers. They make it hard to find out why someone should apply for a role, what the role is about and then put in a decent application. What is ironic in this scenario, is that many recruitment consultants and HR professionals will often complain about the poor quality of applications and resumes, without realising how hard their systems make it for people.
What I’m about to say is typical of what happens in a large corporation. OK it’s the worst case scenario. But all or some of what I say does happen. This is what goes on before an advertisement hits an online job board or a career site.
A job is born when someone leaves, someone gets promoted, there’s a restructure or the business grows. A line manager then gets approval to hire someone, and off they go. If they are new, they cast around for what to do. So they look up the intranet click on recruitment and call their HR or recruitment contact.
Typically HR/ recruitment are set up two ways. They may be “partnered up” with the business and offer coaching and consulting services, and help the line manager with their people issues. Or they may be an internal service provider of recruitment services. So they handle it all, just passing a person over, for the final interview. The internal specialist recruiter may be an employee of the organisation, or a specialist from an agency who works for the organisation within the organisation.
If the business is large the line manager may have never met their HR/internal recruitment consultant. They could be in another office, another state, or in some cases, not even in the country.
This all might sound fine. Many things can be done over email, skype, IM or over the phone. But face to face contact means something. It means that the HR /internal recruitment consultant can truly understand the business they support. They can get a feel for the “vibe” of the place. They can build up a better relationship with a line manager perhaps challenge them even, about what the manager requires.
But that may never happen. Everyone’s too busy. There’s not enough time or people for such personal contact. Instead the HR/ internal recruitment consultant gives the line manager a list of competencies that form the position description. HR’s put a lot of work into these. They’ve hired their own consultants, run a few “climate” or feedback surveys. They’ve worked hard to understand the culture of the organisation, the skills they need now, and the skills that will take the organisation into the future. They ask the business to hire around these, in fact, they often give a line manager very little choice.
The HR/internal recruitment consultant instructs the line manager to write an advertisement including all the competencies. You’ve probably seen these sorts of words: “supporting strategic direction,” “developing productive working relationships,” “demonstrating integrity and alignment with values.” These competencies sound pretty desirable, sexy even. But the problem is that the line manager doesn’t really understand how these competencies relate to the job at hand. If the HR/internal recruitment consultant hasn’t spent any time in the business they support, they have limited idea what’s really needed, only that this fits nicely into an HR culture agenda – recruit with the right values, and the rest of people management is so much easier.
The line manager writes the advertisement, including all the competencies they think they should. HR tweaks it, unchallenged and lists it on an online job board or their own site. Just for good measure, if they suspect it will be hard to fill, they farm it out to an agency or two. Typically if the organisation is large enough, they will have a preferred supplier panel. This is industry jargon for a select group of recruitment consultants who service the organisation.
Within the recruitment industry, these preferred supplier panel agreements are really not that popular. Often an agency is asked to compete on price. The lowest bid for the business often wins. The successful agencies on the panel may have sent their best sales people out to secure the organisation as a client, but after that, for many reasons, may have not actually visited the organisation again. The organisation may not even want the agency to visit. So the agency consultant is detached. But an agreement is an agreement the agency get to work and advertise the role under their banner. They put a junior consultant on the case as there is not that much money to be made. The big billers and sales people who may have secured the contract, who know what they are doing, are out securing clients, to make the real money.
This is where you come in. A job pops up on your email job alert. It kind of looks like a match to what you want to do, but there’s a long list of competencies, which you have no idea about how to address. You can’t relate them to the role. So you call the HR consultant, or recruitment agency, if there is a contact number, that is. Sometimes there is a very clear message, don’t call us, we’ll call you. If you are lucky and you get to speak to the consultant you contact, it is likely from this scenario that they don’t know much about the client, or the job at hand. So they refer you back to the website to apply for the role.
So what happens from here? You can’t speak with anyone who knows anything to find out whether you should apply for the role. The message from what was a poorly put together job description in the first place, is further distorted. So you can’t put in a decent application. You’re three steps away from the line manager who could tell you what the job is about, but you have no idea who he or she is. It’s all very hands off.You send off your application, and receive an automated reply saying thank you, we’ll be in touch if you’re successful. And then you wait, and wait, and wait.
Sound familiar? I think so. This is the story I hear from my clients time and time again. This is why your struggle to find a job is not personal. The system means you can’t get to the heart of what’s required, and the organisation can’t see the heart in you.
If you are struggling to find a job, there are much better ways than putting yourself through this system. I’ll talk through some of these future posts.
In the meantime, happy hunting.