How Today’s Recruiters Are Missing the Mark

Recruiters have become too reliant on modern technology and methods that dilute their ability to be successful in finding the right talent for their organizations.

You’re losing access to talent and you may not even know it.

Every hour candidates are becoming fatigued and abandoning your recruiting workflow. Not only does that cost money, but the potential damage to your reputation as a company may cost you customers as well. Recruiters need to get out from behind the Applicant Tracking System and job boards and get on the phones. There are very few things that can differentiate a company to create a competitive advantage like recruitment. Gaining the best talent permeates every facet of the company.

Yet over the past two decades the tech-hype has been on full throttle, selling the C-suite on how to improve recruiting and replace headcount. The business case and return on investment to use an ATS was achieved quickly due to labor arbitrage, or the perceived ability to reduce recruiters or recruiting resources.

However, the transformation was less than complete.

Companies are still failing at the fundamentals, including:

  • Letting technology become a barrier between talent and recruiters.
  • Using job descriptions to find parity in placement.
  • Becoming dependent on résumés instead of recruiter conversations to engage candidates and influence hiring managers.
  • Overlooking transferable skills from one industry to another.
  • As well as long term unemployment or perceived job hopping.

It is a well-documented fact that more than half of the candidates abandon the application process if it is too long. And at least 1-in-10 will not re-engage if there are technical difficulties. I regularly go through these processes and find that more than 74 percent of organizations have a process that takes between 35-45 minutes. Typically, these organizations also have at least one error message or redirect causing confusion about the validity of the application.

This is not acceptable. While technology has automated the process, we have artificially created an arduous battlefront of requiring candidates to bare all before receiving little to nothing in return. Interestingly it is a company’s need for talent nowadays that outweighs a candidate’s need for a job in a market that has more positions per candidate than in recent history.

To be sure, technology can be very beneficial. It should enhance the process and elevate the experience of those engaged with it. What I am not an advocate of is the unintentional destruction of the candidate experience and reducing the recruitment skill set to pushing buttons.

Technology: The Barrier Between Talent, Recruiters

An ATS provides three things: forced workflow, compliance monitoring and data for reporting. It was the evolution to an efficient automated process of a terribly paper-burdened function. The same can be said for the advent of RPA, or robotic process automation, for onboarding, the outsourcing of candidate travel services and background checks.

Are we getting better? Yes. Improving the candidate experience has been a strong focus of leading companies for a number of years. The gains are increasing and some have been transforming. However, most companies are using their technology to unfortunately create a firewall between the recruiters and quality talent under the guise of efficiency and incorrect benchmarks for a recruiter-to-hire ratio. This is the first of five key mistakes many organizations make, leading them to miss out on some of the best talent available in the market.

Using Job Descriptions to Find Parity in Placement

The second mistake is the use of job descriptions as the guide to hiring talent. At best, if it is up to date, you’re trying to gain parity with your hire. A swap of, “I want you to do what you are doing over there — but over here.” That works for a small percentage of hires. And while the hiring manager gains the parity they were looking for, it creates issues of retention, growth expectations and other risks of the trade-off from the new hire.

Most job descriptions are outdated. This latency creates issues of incorrect titles, desired skills and corrupts the success profiles that recruiters use to hunt and attract talent. An inventory list of skills that indicate little of what the job’s outcomes and impact might be is ground zero for frustrated candidates submitting for jobs they believe they are a match for, overwhelming the recruiting team with mismatches as the hiring managers reject them.

This snowballs, reducing recruiters’ ability to engage the talent marketplace effectively and diminishes the candidate experience. The negative impact to the employment brand is expensive. A large part of the hiring community spends time looking for parity. The job description asks for a number of skills and the résumés need to match. The issue there is that you’re asking people to simply change companies for the same job.

Becoming Dependent on Résumés, Assessments, Not Recruiter Conversations

It doesn’t matter what generation you’re a part of, our life experiences show us that we enjoy personal contact. It can be a phone call, a text, LinkedIn in-mail, chat or any other outreach. But it has to be genuine, not just automated. Each interaction, to progress or stop the process, is an opportunity to engage talent for future opportunities and enhance your brand. You already paid to get them into your system so why not ensure you keep them engaged to lower costs and cycle time later?

Assessments are a great tool to help fill in part of the decision point. However, when they become the decision point, they’re narrowly focused on how to squeeze the candidate pool too tightly. It overrides what a skilled recruiter would instinctively know, such as a candidate being a better fit for an opportunistic hire elsewhere in the organization.

Overlooking Transferable Skills From One Industry to Another

We have an interesting dichotomy in the world today where there is tremendous talent available but a significant gap in skills. Driving this is the speed at which technology changes, how agile and adaptive design to prototype to manufacturing has evolved, and a two-decade focus on being a specialist instead of a multi-tooled professional. It is now incumbent upon organizations to do a better job at a workforce plan that yields a skills road map and to translate that to a recruiting blueprint that searches for skills regardless of industry or direct application.

Every Candidate Has a Story Behind the Résumé

Bias, like gaps in résumés, long-term unemployment and perceived job hopping isn’t only an issue for automation to unwind, but it is also an easy pass for recruiters who spend less than a minute reviewing résumés for their first review. This is nonsense. Each candidate has a story — one that is potentially profound and impactful. But the dated process of cover letters to explain the gap or move, that are never read, and the archaic résumé that doesn’t have all the keyword matches, are detriments to the process.

When a company hunts for talent, they spend time to review more details and engage in conversations. Somewhere in between is the correct balance. With the advent of video submissions and the appropriate blend of technology and people, the talent networks that are developed and leveraged for the future are invaluable.

The good news is that this is a relatively easy fix. It will require research, good data, a solid storyboard and some grit. Take each component and review what you need to do better. And then back up your required investment with how it impacts the business and return on investment.

Geoff Dubiski is an executive director in professional services firm EY’s Global People Advisory Practice. To comment, email