If you spend two minutes on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter or watch main stream news media, you quickly recognize that previously accepted social norms of decency are gone, and have been replaced by acrimony, yelling, inappropriate comments, hostility, foul language, anger and rage.
Offline, in the real world, we literally had Nazis march down the main streets of a large city spewing hate. We also saw several instances of masked anarchistic thugs, clad in black garb wielding sticks and firing pepper spray, violently attacking invited speakers at major Universities accusing the guests of being Nazis, and preventing free speech.
While not nearly as atrocious, I have noticed a trend within the recruiting, interviewing, and hiring area that follows our national trend towards incivility and the breakdown in polite social interactions.
When I started recruiting 20 years ago (we sent resumes by fax not email – does that make me old?), it was vastly different then today. We would receive a job order from a Human Resources professional. She was usually very experienced and would take her time to offer the reasons for the job being available, why the person left their position, and offer color around the team and offer helpful information for us to share with prospective candidates. The HR person would also set-up a meeting with the hiring manager to learn in greater detail what she required above and beyond what was written in the job description.
After an interview was completed there would be feedback provided, both positive and negative, to either help the candidate do better in the next round of interviews or if the firm was not interested, the feedback was designed to help the person for their future interviews with other companies.
Throughout all the facets of the interview process continuing into the offer stage and on-boarding there was constant human interaction designed to make the interviewing process, which could be very stressful and intimidating, a more pleasant experience.
Over the last several years, this process has drastically changed due to a number of events. Please understand, I am not casting any blame or judgment but simply sharing the new norm which may provide some clarity for experiences that you may be going through.
Technology has been deployed in HR as it has in all parts of corporate and daily life. Almost every company now has an IT system in which resumes are directed into a portal and screened by algorithms, rather than by people. Most often there is not even an acknowledgment sent to the applicant informing him that his resume was received.
Many corporations, in an effort to save money, have outsourced human resources and recruiting responsibilities to third parties. These outside companies, while very good and reputable, need to keep their costs down to be profitable. The third parties will then hire younger (cheaper) people with less experience then those who previously worked in HR. The representatives are deployed to the firm but may later be switched to other companies which makes it challenging for them to get a real feel of the people and culture and develop strong ties to the organization.
Similar to other divisions, well experienced HR professionals have been replaced by less seasoned individuals to save money on salaries and bonuses. The loss of HR people with a deep historical knowledge of a firm, it’s culture and people has a deleterious effect. Veteran HR professionals are a terrific source of knowledge, understanding and wisdom and the absence is deeply felt.
The ascension of LinkedIn, job boards, and job aggregators such as Indeed, have made it exceedingly easy for people to apply for a job. This may seem good for a job seeker, however it has unseen adverse consequences. Everybody is either on their phone or in front of a computer all day long. Job postings are ubiquitous and the result is that companies are overwhelmed with a deluge of resumes. The volume of resumes are too much for HR people to reasonably handle (which interestingly created the surge in technology solutions). It becomes impossible, even for the most dedicated HR person, to provide individual attention to the voluminous hordes of resumes received. That is why you will hear people complain that their resume fell into the black hole of the internet.
In addition to posting a job on the various job sites and social media platforms, an HR person may share the listing with four or five recruiters. Recruiters usually work on a contingency basis. This means, like real estate sales, you only get paid if you make a placement. There is no prize for second place. When you have this infrastructure in place, there is not a high incentive for some not-so-ethical recruiters to be thoughtful and caring towards candidates that they believe do not have a chance to get the job. If you are a strong contender they will lavish you with attention, if you don’t, they have little or no interest in you. It sounds very cold, and it is.
To save costs, many companies, especially within the financial sector, have relocated thousands of people to lower cost regions within the US outside of New York and other expensive cities. The salaries are significantly lower in places such as Salt Lake City, Utah compared to Manhattan. This puts downward pricing pressure on those remaining in places such as New York. “Why should we pay you $200,000.00 when we could move the job to Jacksonville, Florida and pay someone $85,000?” is their philosophy. This makes it harder to negotiate a better salary offer and discourages hiring in high-cost centers.
Additionally, due to intense global political and economic tensions, there is a high level of worry and anxiety about our future prospects as a nation. Whenever there is uncertainty, there is a tendency to avoid taking action. A let’s wait and see what happens mindset takes over which makes everything move tortuously slow. The average time period to hire a mid to senior level professional could take three to over six months. A candidate may need to meet with up to a dozen people during this time period. Often certain seasonal periods like summer or during the Thanksgiving to Christmas and New Year’s time period, the interview process moves in jerky starts and stops. It becomes hard to keep all parties engaged and motivated with halts in interviewing and it could unravel quickly.
Due to the current climate, hiring managers have become cautious because they are afraid to make a bad hiring decision, which may affect their own job. There is a tendency not to stick you head out for someone else as you would not like to expend personal capital on betting on the wrong person and it will be deemed your fault. It is easy to do nothing and let the hiring process drag on indefinitely.
With the frightening proliferation of lawsuits, hiring managers and HR professionals are scared to offer feedback, worried that it could be construed by the applicant as racist, sexist or some other prejudice, which could then lead to legal trouble for them. It’s easier to just not say anything.
Therefore, when you factor in the use of technology instead of real live people; outsourced hiring, the loss of experienced HR veterans, global economic and political uncertainties, the ease of flooding firms with resumes, litigation risks, as well as other factors, it becomes clear why the hiring process has become a challenging and frustrating endeavor.