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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Other Side of the Desk

As a corporate hiring professional, sometimes I felt like a cog in a wheel with unlimited spokes facing a vast centipede of arms reaching out to snag me.

I date myself here, but back in the day, so to speak, when hiring was conducted via newspaper advertisements resulting in paper resumes and walk-in applications; we received piles of mail each day. We fielded phone calls from candidates who had applied for jobs as well as from third party recruitment firms hungering to “help” us to fill positions we had just advertised. Our internal hiring managers contacted us, seeking updates on their openings; and advertising agencies got into the game, requesting face to face meetings wherein they could pitch their services. In between all that, we read resumes to determine which were valid for our open positions, contacted candidates, screened for skills and if appropriate scheduled them to meet us in person. If they didn’t make the cut, we followed up with sensitive phone calls apprising them of that, deftly fielding the oft asked question, “Why?” Once we identified viable candidates, we set up additional interviews, and subsequent follow-up meetings, conducted references, extended offers, negotiated salaries and start dates. In a full on hiring mode, suffice to say, the days were busy. But compared to the employment environment today, that paper era was prehistoric.

In the Internet based talent acquisition world in which we now live, the volume is positioned at full blast with a knob that sits on maximum level, and receives constant tinkering to nudge the capacity higher. In the primitive days, a job search meant printing resumes and cover letters, licking a stamp and driving to the post office. This bit of required effort and expense ensured that candidates completed at least a minimum of self screening. In today’s world though, everything is on-line and free, which has eliminated that modicum of restraint. The time it takes to submit a resume is condensed to nano-seconds, so candidates feel no concern in applying for a job for which they have no qualification. Add search engines that use key word methodology to send “appropriate” job postings to the candidate’s desk top, “email this job to a friend” features, and web crawlers that farm out postings farther into the web netherworld, and the integers grow exponentially. Blend this ease of application with distressing unemployment levels and I would hazard to say that any corporation with openings has an overwhelming surplus of candidates. But we’re not done yet. Sales representatives from an ever growing industry of on line employment resources call and email repeatedly. Truly many of them offer valid tools with which to manage this insurmountable flow of information, but you could spend a year speaking to them all, and when you are done a whole crop of new ones will have sprung up. Honestly, it’s a wonder any one has time to conduct a simple interview these days. Corporate hiring specialists have mere seconds to spend reviewing each resume and if there is no critical phrase or experience that induces a more concentrated read, a mouse click transports them to the next one.

Knowing this, is it any wonder that today was the first day that I actually looked at an on-line hiring resource? And that when I did, I shuddered? I don’t have a resume yet or clear career goals, as those of you reading know. But after three weeks, given all the delightfully positive press related to our recession, I was curious to see what was “out there,” intrigued if anyone is actually seeking talented professionals.

Here is the good news. There are a lot of companies advertising. Now, I have zero interest in throwing my background out there for a 20 second review, but within ten minutes, I discovered a company I hadn’t heard of marketing a fascinating product that I never imagined existed. Searching the corporate website, I targeted, to some degree, the skills I need to develop in order to pursue employment somewhere similar. It’s one of the upsides of this on-line world we live in. Rather than tossing out a zillion resumes to job boards hoping that one will stick, you can peruse career sites, conducting methodical research designed to unwind the threads of a potential career. Hmmm—this is good stuff. It's the learning to sew that will be a challenge.

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