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Last Friday, I had one of the most pleasant conversations with a stranger I’ve ever had.  That’s the beauty of the Internet I guess.  Most of the time I’m a listener, but in this case, out of pure instinct, I entered into the conversations.  What follows is a conversation I had with Bob Bishop, a St. Louis job recruiter.  He’s got a very insightful blog that I’d recommend checking out.  I’ll start things off with his original post which I was immediately drawn to.

Are Employers “Paralyzed By Perfection” in the Hiring Process

This week I’ve started wondering if employers are literally unable to hire because of a need for “perfection” in candidates.  Some of the interviewing processes seem so complex with so many interviews, sometimes stretching out over weeks and including multiple senior executives, I don’t see how they actually can get anyone hired.  It’s like approval by committee, it never works!  There’s such a fear of hiring the wrong person, that the company is completely paralyzed by the search for (their perception of) perfection.  They end up not hiring anybody . . . imagine what that costs!

As an example, a candidate I’m working with sent me the following email.”Wanted to also let you know that I’ve made it to the fourth round of the interview process with a private company in St. Louis… a Director of Marketing position. After my resume made the cut, I’ve had three different telephone interviews (HR Director, interim Marketing Director and VP of Marketing). Got the call yesterday for a personal interview.  As far as I can tell, they’re down to 4-6 candidates so I’ve got my fingers crossed. If I can pass this phase, I think there’s one more round of interviews with the President for the last 2-3.

“It was about three days later, I received this note from the same candidate,  “So I made it through seven face-to-face interviews and five phone interviews in five different ‘phases’ with the same company, only to learn last week that they have renewed their search and still haven’t found “the right candidate.”  Said they’d received over 300 resumes.  Hard to believe they couldn’t find ONE candidate they believed could do the job. Oh well, live and learn.”  A total of 12 interviews before this company decided this isn’t the right candidate?  Wow!  How could it possibly have taken that long to make a “No” decision?  What was everyone talking about for all that time?   Imagine the time and expense in that many interviews with “4-6″ candidates?  Does that company have any idea what they’re looking for? I think not.

The same thought of “paralysis through perfection” comes to mind when I hear horror stories about putting candidates through “Personality Profile or Assessment Testing”.  You know, the kind of test that’s generally taken online (pr sometimes in person) by the candidate?  There are loads of them out there . . . Caliper, Wonderlick, DISC, Kolbe, Myers-Briggs.  Some companies have the candidate complete more than one!  In many cases the current employees of the hiring company haven’t even taken the tests, so there’s no benchmark for performance in their own culture.  It’s a very good idea for those involved in the hiring process to take the same test they’re asking candidates to take . . . or why bother?

Testing seems like just one more level of “CYA” on the part of the hiring authorities . . . one more hurdle in the search for candidate/employee perfection.  I understand how some in occupations, testing is a good idea . . . airline pilots jump to mind, but I’m skeptical about it’s value in many, many other functional roles.

Thoughts?  Have an interview or job search horror story to share?

I responded with this…

Bob,
It’s amazing how close this post comes to describing my personal feelings about the hiring process. I can see the potential for a more in-depth process at the senior level, but I’m a recent graduate applying for entry level positions, and I’m finding that the barriers to entry are almost outrageous. On one hand, I see the dilemma. For every one position out there, there’s essentially seven or eight individuals ready to snag it up. My complaint comes not only from a horror story related to a recent interview, but the fact that most of the time, individuals like myself can’t even get a chance to take part in the interview process before getting rejected on terms of “not meeting the qualifications.”

Obviously, all companies will remain anonymous here, but there’s multiple worth talking about. As a recent graduate looking at entry level positions/internships, the requirements usually involve traits such as “someone organized, a passion for industry, a great communicator, a writer, and someone who is fluent in social media.” For starters, I find it hard to believe that a resume can accurately describe how organized you are, how great of a communicator you are, and how passionate you are about the industry. For someone who has marketing experience through an internship (albeit through College, not an agency), real world experience marketing at a St. Louis company, a social media web presence (blog, twitter, facebook, linkedin), and a affiliation with some relative St. Louis networks, it becomes a little disappointing to continually “not meet qualifications” before a face to face connection (or even phone to phone) is established.

About two months ago, I finally got the chance to show, face to face, what I was all about. The company had seen my website, followed me on Twitter, and saw me for more than just a resume. It started with a phone interview, nothing serious. Two weeks later, I arrived at the company for a six-hour interview. I actually didn’t mind the length of the interview. Meeting with seven individuals gave me the chance to get the jitters out with the first two, and get more and more familiar with what the company was about. After the interview, I was told it would be about a week or two until I heard back. I sent the traditional Thank You notes and looked forward to hearing back. I figured, surely they wouldn’t have spent the whole day with me if they weren’t serious about me. Two and a half weeks later I was contacted to do a project. I was shocked because originally I was never told anything about this. I didn’t care, but I was confused because I was told to do a writing assignment, when, during the interview, all we did was talk about my blog and all of the recent articles that I had written. I was told to take a brand that I like and create a campaign using traditional and unconventional media. This was my chance to shine! I put on a great show for the company. Thought I’d hear back. Two weeks went by – nothing. I called them to ask where they were at in their decision. I got no answer. To this day, I have never heard one thing back.

I’m by no means a self-righteous person. I know I’m not the most qualified candidate, the most experienced, or the perfect person. I am however, very confident in my ability to meet and exceed the job requirements for each position that I apply for. The problem we face now, through websites such as Twitter, Linkedin, and Facebook, is that we can see who’s working at what company, who gets hired where, where they went to school, and what experience they have. When we’re rejected based on “not meeting qualifications,” it’s hard not to jump on these social networks and find out what qualifications the individuals have who are working there now. Most of the time, especially at the entry-level, there is nothing spectacular.

All in all, I have the same mindset as you. It’s good to know that I’m not the only one thinking about how perfect a person must be to get hired in today’s economy! I enjoy your posts. They keep me motivated in this never-ending job search. I appreciate the advice.

- Michael Buffa

He replied with this…

Hi Michael!

Thanks so much for taking the time to share your experience, I know that others will take some heart when they read it, realizing they’re not the only ones who are going through this (at any level).

Entry level positions are a whole issue of their own. I continually hear that an employer’s response at the entry level is “you don’t have enough experience”. The obvious question is, “How can I get experience when nobody will hire me because of a lack of it?”

The answer to the question is generally that the candidate should have thought of the “experience” issue sooner. They should have participated in work activities and/or internships in the field of their choice, thereby showing how serious they are about wanting to be successful in their career, and starting to get some experience while doing it. It sounds like you did that. Frankly it sounds to me like you did everything as well as you could. I agree with you that it’s outrageous that after asking you to spend time and effort for them, they don’t have the courtesy of responding. It’s annoying. If the repercussions weren’t so obvious, I’d tell you to let everyone know who the company is . . . they don’t seem to have much respect for candidates interested in working with them. You’re probably lucky you didn’t get the position, only to find out later what kinds of people you’d be working for (and/or with).

The only thing I can suggest to you is patient persistence. Network like crazy. Volunteer for causes that interest you and where you will be able to meet people who can help your career. You’re already blogging and tweeting, which should have given the employer a good idea of how you conduct yourself and how you think. I think those activities are very important . . . and fun!

You know you’re good and you know that you’re ready to bust your ass for your first (and every other) employer . . . all you need is a chance. You’ll get it. Your passion and effort are obvious. Some smart company is going to offer that opportunity you want (and need) so badly.

One other thing. I’m not finding you in our database. I suggest that you visit our website at http://www.Bishop-Partners.com and upload your resume. If you do that, I’ll respond.

Thank you once again for your comment. You’re helping others by making that sort of effort. I wish you all the best in your efforts for that first killer opportunity.


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In a time when there aren’t too many people out there lending a helping hand, this conversation with Bob definitely lifted my spirits.  There are jobs out there, they’re just looking for the most talented, most passionate people out there.  I’ve decided it just might take going that extra mile to get there.  Thanks for the inspiration Bob.

Check out the Marketing Recruiter blog here.

 


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