I know from all of the comments I receive, the tweets on Twitter, and the comments on blogs and articles about recruiters, that one of the biggest frustrations with candidates is about recruiters. On a daily basis I read, how mean recruiters are, how people claim to be qualified for a job don’t get past the recruiter, how people with years of experience get weeded out by recruiters, and of course, the black hole resumes go in when candidates send them to recruiters.
First, let me clarify that I’m not trying to justify bad behavior by some and maybe even many recruiters. Every profession has them, some more than others. There are even bad doctors, engineers, pastors and so on. The purpose of this article is to clarify for candidates what recruiters do and why, to help reduce the frustration. I hope by understanding, although maybe not accepting, it will make it easier on candidates.
Recruiters don’t really care if you are qualified, have years of experience, or have all the right skills, knowledge, and certifications. Obviously these are required. You must recognize that many candidates have these for every job. Recruiters don’t get paid for finding candidates with these traits. I can tell you as a recruiter for 30 years, and one that still makes a living as a recruiter, how much I wish this was the case. If it were the case, I would be writing this article sitting on my yacht, instead of my patio. We get paid only for finding hireable candidates.
I learned this in my first year as a recruiter. I would ask the client if they liked the candidate and many times they would say they did. I would ask if they thought the candidate was qualified and they would reply, “Yes.” I would even ask if they thought the candidate could do the job and they would reply, “YES.” These were all good questions that lead me to believe the candidate was going to get hired, only to find out someone else got the job other than my candidate. Why? How could this be? I was just as mad, frustrated, and upset as the candidate.
The answer was simple. One day I was venting my frustration to a much more experienced recruiter who informed me that I wasn’t asking the right question. He said those are all nice things to know, but those aren’t what I care about. The question I should have asked was, “Is the candidate hireable?” Now that question has a completely different meaning. It is what I and the candidate really wanted to know.
So what is hireable? Well, as one justice on the Supreme Court once said, “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it.” So much of what is “hireable” is subjective by both the recruiter and the hiring team and is hard to define. The following is my best shot at trying to define it. This is by no means an all-inclusive list. Again, it is designed to simply help candidates better understand, with the idea that understanding helps reduce frustration.
- The candidate has all of the requirements to do the job. This is a given.
- The candidate is neither under qualified or over qualified. My experience is that candidates accept the under qualified, but rarely accept the concept of over qualified. Either one makes a candidate not hireable.
- Presentation. I have written extensively about this. Recruiters care a great deal about how you present yourself. I don’t just mean physical presentation. I mean the complete package of presentation skills. Your presentation skills start the minute you answer the phone for the first time.
- Communication skills must be appropriate for the position. This just happened to me recently. I was doing a search for a communications person in a PR firm. One candidate had all of the right qualifications on paper, a good background, good schools, but constantly used the word “like” in just about every sentence. One would expect a person in PR communications to know better. Sorry, but not hireable from my point of view. My client would question my judgment if I recommended them for a communications position and they couldn’t communicate properly.
- Style is important. Granted this is very subjective, but this is why companies are willing to pay recruiters thousands of dollars. They trust our judgment on this issue. If the style of the candidate doesn’t match that of the hiring manager then the candidate may not be hireable. It doesn’t mean that the person isn’t a good person, it just means that they aren’t the right person.
- Fit is another highly subjective characteristic that determines hireability. If your personality isn’t going to meld with that of the hiring manager or the company’s culture, then you aren’t hireable for this position. Not everyone is the right fit. I interview candidates all the time that tell me they left the company because it just wasn’t a good fit. I know recruiters do their best to make sure this is aligned. Nobody benefits if the candidate doesn’t work out because they can’t adjust to the company.
- Listening and answering the questions. This is part of communication, but needs special attention. Every recruiter is assessing how you listen and answer their questions. Recruiters know this is an indication of how you will perform in front of the client. This is the point at which most candidates eliminate themselves. They don’t answer the question asked, their answers are so vague it is impossible to know what THEY did, or they ramble on in hopes of covering everything. As a result, I would not only be embarrassed to present you to my client, but worse, my client would be upset with me for doing so.
From my position as an executive recruiter, these are just the top seven things a candidate must excel at to be hireable.
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