The Desk

July 27, 2007

Recruiting Tip: Learning the Qualifications

Throughout the past ten years, we’ve been talking about the war for talent and the lack of qualified candidates. At least, the rhetoric is that they’re so sparse that they come at a premium. To get that prize is the same as churning because you simply keep going through the same spare number who are already in the marketplace and seem to be very satisfied with where they are and with what they’re doing. And all the others go to the waste can.

There have been many times that I’ve watched a conversation evolve and dissolve about screening applicants. There’s the perusal of the resume for the desired background and skills. Some things look interesting. Some things just don’t seem to be a match. Still, this “comer” seems as though they’re worth expending a little coaching time on in order to develop them for the next time. Some recruiters offer resume restructuring advice without disclosing the fact that the applicant’s qualifications (which are more than the minimum required) didn’t jump out and bite them. Other recruiters will ask leading questions in order to get the applicant to self-disqualify. I call this brainwashing into mediocrity (or less). Still other recruiters simply blast off a cursory email (does anyone still write letters?) saying the background was impressive but not a match, we’ll keep your resume on file . . . blah, blah, blah. And the last portion will simply toss the resume and keep looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack.

One thing all four of these types of recruiters have in common is that they need to know more about the particular industry in which they’re recruiting. Usually these are generalists who have a “soft” feel for what the position is about, the general requirements, a rhetorical stab at years of experience necessary. Since they have no background in that particular field, there is little to no familiarity with terms of the trade, steps involved in moving from one rung on the experience ladder to the next, matters involved in the execution of certain tasks and how those can translate into another field as lateral experience.

There are many reasons why the recruiter does not ask about these things. And time is the highest reason for not researching the position in order to learn about these matters. That is “time to fill” the order, “time to place” the candidate, time to get paid for doing the work, time to do this day’s cold calling. Therefore, the extremely qualified candidate gets passed over because their shorthand presentation of the junior steps toward being qualified for the opportunity are mere fluff to them.

Starting a conversation with this applicant about why they are not qualified is a bit like spitting in their face. No one wins. One walks away thoroughly insulted; the other with a false belief that they have done a good turn. In an industry where building relationships is premium, it is crucial to frame conversations with applicants so that the applicant can maintain their self esteem. No one wants their experience or their work to be minimized or discounted. And the last thing on a priority list is for the applicant to go away with the impression that the recruiter doesn’t know what they’re doing — or worse, are simply crude. That means not only is the contact lost but also any referrals they may have sent are vanished with them.

There are qualifications for a position. Those merits were earned in a particular way and made the person qualified for a reason. Find out what they are and why they’re important. Discover which tasks are not as important and which that are superfluous.

In other words when you’re doing the recruiting for this specialized position, become a specialist in the position that’s being recruited. Gain the extra knowledge. You will not only be doing your client a good service. You’ll also be helping yourself win the talent war because you took the time to learn the qualifications for the position, which skills are needed, and why they’re meaningful. Not only that, you’ll immediately (or very soon) recognize the qualified candidate.

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