State of the Disunion: Has the hiring process become dysfunctional?


David L. Reitman, Esq.
Phone: 914-693-9165

I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up (still don’t!), so I took the LSATs, went to law school and became an attorney. I quickly realized I would have been a great lawyer if it wasn’t for all that darned fine print!



Some of us like to work with blinders on, to shut out the myriad distractions that present themselves to us in this age of (dis)information.  I know I’m not the only legal and compliance recruiter in the financial services sector, but I sometimes pretend I am, so that I don’t get off track and lose my focus.  Nevertheless, I know the value of checking out what the competition is up to, it’s one way to gauge what’s happening in the industry, and you might get some good ideas for your own practice.  So, every now and then, I take a look.  WOW!  The website of this one particular legal and compliance recruiter lists over 60 current jobs.  Way to go!  But wait- before I started my own firm, I worked for several others and learned that the majority of those postings were either expired or worse, created out of whole cloth.  But I’m not here to discuss morals and ethics. 

It seems, from what I see, that the hiring process is geared towards quantity over quality.  If we post enough jobs, we will attract the most candidates; if we just collect enough resumes, we will find the needle in the haystack.  The object is to get as many resumes into the funnel as possible, if not for now, then for the future.  Recruiters may be exacerbating the problem, intentionally or not, by trying to attract as many candidates as possible.  (Larger firms with their own in-house recruiting teams may face their own particular issues.  The “wish list” of the hiring manager may be at odds with the more practical view of the in-house recruiter, and may involve a back-and-forth between the two in order to reach a realistic set of qualifications). 

This “quantity” approach can be time consuming and inefficient.  Concentrating on fewer, but more appropriate and targeted resumes is much more effective in terms of opportunity costs.  Employing the services of a knowledgeable and experienced outside recruiter is an excellent way of getting maximum bang for your buck (I have, and will continue to address this issue in past and future articles).  Using tactics such as phony or expired job listings may get resumes into your funnel, but what do you say to a high-level, quality candidate who submits her resume under those circumstances?  Just being rhetorical. 

I have also noticed great amounts of time and energy expended on trying to lure passive candidates (those who are basically happy where they are, but like to “keep their eyes and ears open”) into applying for a job that is being worked on by a recruiter.  Generally speaking, the passive candidate will be motivated primarily by more money, where the active candidate (one who has decided to seek employment elsewhere) is often moved by other factors:  better working conditions, a more suitable cultural fit, challenging opportunities, and the possibility of promotion that may not exist under current circumstances). 

This brings me to the next topic:  internal versus external hiring.  Certain statistics show that the vast majority of open roles are being filled externally, as opposed to promoting or shifting from within.  Yet, these statistics also show that outside hires take three years longer to perform at the level of an internal move, and internal hires take seven years to earn as much as an external would earn upon being hired!  The upshot is that external hires are much more expensive, and the learning curve is longer.  This makes sense, as internals already know how their divisions operate.  It’s understandable that managers would be reluctant to lose a good team member to promotion or department shift.  We also like things to remain familiar; if the current team is working well, why would we want to make a change?  Because, in the long run, it will be better for the department, the firm, and the people who work there.  The manager’s desire to keep things as they are may come at a cost:  your team members may end up feeling constrained and unfulfilled. 

Finally (almost), we are increasingly at the mercy of the almighty algorithm.  There are a multitude of products designed to help automate and make more efficient the hiring process, and no shortage of companies willing to promote these products.  It used to be that resumes were submitted (either directly from the candidate, or through a recruiter) via fax or email, either to a department or to an actual individual.  Today, the vast majority of resumes are submitted online, through a portal or platform.  I don’t know exactly what goes on in there, but I suspect that these resumes are first put through the algorithm and sorted.  Those that pass get through, and those that don’t, don’t.  I do not know about other recruiters, but I can tell you that I have often been flabbergasted when a resume I submitted, a resume that I believed to be bullet proof, was rejected.  Fragile ego aside, I like to think that, for whatever reason, the resume was rejected due to a thoughtful, human process.  But what if it was just the algorithm?  It’s entirely possible that a great candidate was rejected due to some quirk in the computer program, and no human eyes ever gazed upon that resume.  If so, what a terrible waste of time and talent! 

The statistics I have been going over state that while companies are eager to use these algorithms and products, very few companies are AUDITING these products and processes to determine how successful the results are.  Companies are paying top dollar for products and services that may or may not be adding value, and, in fact, may be having a negative impact on the hiring process. 

Finally (yes!), the interview process itself needs to be addressed and audited.  I remember, several centuries ago, when I was looking for work.  Sometimes I was hired, sometimes not.  One thing I remembered was how many seemingly irrelevant, vague and new-agey questions I was asked.  (If you were on a desert island…/What do you think your number one best…(you get the drift, and, sorry if I’m offending any of you question askers).  I have had the feeling that the majority of people who interviewed me did not really prepare.  Maybe they had one or two questions, and then just winged it.  For my money, not a great way to attract and hire top talent. 

In my world, legal and compliance, there are “best practices” and “policies and procedures” in place to assure that what transpires does so in an orderly, efficient and somewhat predictable way.  Why does the interview process feel like the wild west?  Yes, we get references, but we all know that no candidate is going to provide a reference that is less than glowing.  I am acquainted with someone who had their wife pose as their former boss!  Not that hard to do.  So why take the candidate’s word that he/she is great at this or that?  We give people tests to determine if they get into a school or a program, right?  Why don’t we give the interviewee some kind of objective test to determine their actual abilities?  I recently read about a company that decided to standardize their interview processes.  They convened a group of hiring managers and internal talent acquisition to create their version of “best practices” and procedures for the interview process.  They now have a script in use (yes, some improvisation is allowed) so that the interview process is streamlined, and, like the Big Mac, the same no matter where you go.  By having a standard interview protocol, the company is in a great position to audit and analyze the results.  Maybe it’s time to get back to basics.  The machines are here, but are they our friends?  Which choice would YOU make:  1,000 generic, or 50 on-point resumes?  Chasing reluctant passive candidates or reaching out to those who are currently ready to make a move?  Whatever you decide, the future beckons

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DLR Associates Recruiting

David L. Reitman, Esq.
Phone: 914-693-9165

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