Hiring Process

Where are the Candidates?

Hiring Process

A few years ago, I wrote a post on the hiring process titled When do recruiters call back? The premise was that it is easy to get frustrated when it takes so long time to hear back from a recruiter once the interview process started. I wanted to shed some light on what is happening behind the scenes and why it can take so long to hear back. A good friend Lewis Linsent me a short essay of observations below. He is an ex hiring manager at Google and has written a couple of great books for Product Managers who are interviewing at Google. I read his observations and couldn’t help but bust out laughing at times, and crack a slight smile at others. I could see his frustration. As a executive with budget, a hiring manager looking at candidates and as a guy that does a fair share of recruiting of both individual contributors and executives, I could see exactly the disconnect was taking place. I could literally see the strategy behind the recruiter he was working with. I thought it would be a really interesting post if we could approach it as a tag team and he agreed. Lewis is asking questions from a hiring manager standpoint and I am answering questions from a recruiting standpoint. I think that both hiring managers AND candidates would gain a lot of insight from the points of view in their quest to fill positions and to land job offers.

Where the earlier post was for candidates wondering, “When do recruiters call back?” this post is for both hiring managers and candidates wondering “Why is the hiring process so F’d up?”

  • Lewis Lin is represented in Blue standing for freedom, justice, and the American way. A place that “anyone can make it”.
  • HRNasty is represent’n in Black, standing for the all-evil HR department, it’s red tape and political correctness cept’n I won’t be very pc.

LL: As a hiring manager, here are my biggest pain points:

HRN: Bring it dude

LL: (Hiring), It’s Not Shopping Mall Easy

If I need a computer, I go to Best Buy. If I need something to eat, I go to McDonald’s. Even if I need to buy a house, I can go to Redfin and see houses, either in-person or virtually, in less than 24 hours.

That’s not the case if I have an open role on my team. I have to lobby my boss to get my open head approved. This takes somewhere between 3-6 months and never.

HRN: I hear you. Especially with larger companies where financial planning can be taking place 1 – 3 years out, and in some cases 5 years out. With these timeframes there are a lot of variables in the hiring process. Although headcount is based on the departments needs, the hiring process is ultimately based on budget. If revenue doesn’t come in, or projects are cut, getting headcount can be an endeavor in itself.

LL: Once the open head gets approved, I need to write the job description. I’m busy. But nobody on my team can do it for me. They’re either not experienced enough, or it’s a sensitive topic. My recruiter can’t do it for me either. They’re either too busy, or they’re just not a mind reader. What ends up happening is this: if I have two hours, I’ll be thoughtful about writing the job description. If I don’t have two hours, I’ll probably cut and paste a job description that I find either internally or on the world wide web. Once a job description is created, it gets reviewed by the recruiter. That takes at least 24-48 hours. Then it gets posted to the external website. This could take 3-4 days. All in all, just get a job description posted takes 1-2 weeks.

HRN: You are not going to like this, but there are plenty of times where recruiters do not have the expertise needed to write the job description. We haven’t done the job and we don’t have your experience. If we had that level of expertise, we would be applying for the job instead of sifting through a pile of chaff. I completely agree, the hiring manager and employee that just left the position to be filled are probably the only folks qualified. FWIW, if you asked me to write the job description, unless it is for an account manager that I know intimately because we hire them by the dozen, I will probably go to existing job descriptions and cut and paste bullets from other job descriptions. This is why so many job descriptions read the same.  

LL: Then, I wait for resumes. Days and sometimes weeks go by, and I don’t get a single resume. Sometimes there’s a bug with the posting process. Other times, my recruiter insists on reviewing resumes with me. But my calendar is jam-packed. The earliest my admin can schedule a meeting for the two of us is sometime next week. Another week passes.

HRN: As a recruiter, I don’t want to hit you up every time I get a single resume worth talking about. Unless the candidate is SUPER qualified and I am excited, you probably won’t hear from me till I have a few candidates worth discussing. Don’t worry, in the mean time, I am moving the forward with these candidates and keeping the hiring process active. I am also moving forward on 15 other unrelated positions, but you are getting some love.

LL: When we have the meeting, I get only 5-7 resumes to look at. That’s it?!?  I was expecting somewhere between 100-150. And why does it take a one-hour meeting to look at 5-7 resumes? I can eyeball each one and decide whether they’re a fit or not in 6 seconds, sometimes 3 if need be. It’s been three weeks since we started the process. And yes, somewhere between 90-100% of them are duds. My recruiter tells me that our meeting is helpful, which I don’t understand because we’ve wasted three weeks already. The recruiter promises me that there will be more (and more qualified) resumes next week. The recruiter will try new things: post on job boards, do more LinkedIn outreach, and do a special employee referral program for me. And to help the recruiter understand my needs, the recruiter suggests sitting in on my staff meetings.

HRN: This is where I started to crack a smile. I saw the strategy the recruiter was using. As a recruiter, I do want to keep the reins on the hiring process. If I don’t, then I can have a wild horse on my hands and I don’t want to play rodeo rider on a bull named Hiring Manager. FWIW, we did get 100 – 150 resumes, but of these, only 5-7 are in the ball park and of that, probably only 2-3 are R-E-A-L-L-Y qualified. I don’t want to waste your time and I really don’t want to sit in the same room as you while you get frustrated throwing out 143 of the 150 resumes I already disqualified and taking your frustrations out on me. Yes, I am serious. Over qualified, under qualified and frankly, a good percentage are just applying so they can qualify for unemployment so they don’t care where or what they are applying for. They just want to say they applied and were declined to qualify for benefits. There are a number of applications that are purposeful about not being qualified.

When I consider a candidate, I don’t want under qualified and I don’t want over qualified. I am the hot blond Goldilocks and I want “just right”, because as the hiring manager YOU want “just right” as well. I only want what is best for you of course! If I were to send the hiring manager 100 resumes, I would probably be asked to call on 15- 20 of the candidates. It is very easy for the hiring manager to ask for 15- 20 phone screens because they are not doing the work. They are not sending the emails, they are not setting up the times, they are not getting declined or stood up, and they are not taking the notes and organizing everything into an Applicant Tracking System. They are definitely not working this process for the other 15 – 20 open positions I am working on. At the end of the day, we are ONLY going to hire 1 person. And it is very easy to go through 100 resumes and not see a single candidate that is eligible to go the distance. The hiring manager may like the candidate but based on experience, I know that another person in the interview loop will:

  • Give me a hard time about the college attended. (Not prestigious enough or to prestigious)
  • Will want more big company experience or less big company experience.
  • Look at the LinkedIn picture and give me the second degree because they look like a slob.

Very little of the above “feedback” will come off as “suggestions”. The feedback will come off as an “accusations”. “Are you serious? No more party schools please” with more than a hint of “What a dumbass, how hard can it be to find some resumes?” and a rolling of the eyes for good measure.  

When looking for a single candidate, I am not just taking into account the hiring mangers opinion. If that were the case, this job would be a piece of strawberry short cake. Finding a candidate for a single person is easy. I am taking into account the entire interview loop including the hiring managers boss. The more folks involved in the interviews, exponentially, the more complexity is introduced because we have schedules, personalities and frankly, every interviewer has their own personal goal with this hire.

  • The guy doing the on-boarding wants someone that will be easy to train. He won’t endorse someone that comes across like a “know-it-all”.
  • The candidate who is single will want a candidate that “cute” and a lot of fun.
  • There will be an interviewer who doesn’t want to be involved in the interview process. Getting buy-in from this interviewer IS pulling teeth.
  • There will be a fashionista involved who will want to see someone presentable. The most highly qualified candidate coming in with last years jeans will get me the neck roll from Mr. Shiny Shoes.
  • There will be a really smart interviewer with years of seniority and very little Emotional Intelligence. There is no way a junior candidate with very few interviews under their belt will measure up to this interviewer.

I am not taking a chance of the hiring manger liking the candidate and 3 interviewers thinking otherwise. When that happens I am playing middle man to both the hiring manager and the interviewing loop. I need to say it in a way that doesn’t sound like any of the following:

  • “Personally, I liked them a lot, talk to your hiring manager”.
  • “Who am I, I don’t understand how being well dressed makes a difference for this position”
  • “Well if your buddy could get his own dates and wasn’t using the HR department as his on personal SnapChat / Tinder, we might move this process forward.”

I need to be politically correct and am not going to throw any interviewer under the bus. That is heartache, and as much as it is heartache for the hiring manager, it is really all about me. I don’t want heartache so I am going with a candidate that I think can go the distance. This is not a battle of getting singles and doubles. This is a game of home runs. Getting to first base in this game isn’t going to cut it. Getting 3 candidates that make it half way through the interview process is a worthless and a waste of everyone’s time. I am swinging for home runs and I will strike out.  

For the candidate, this isn’t so much about being qualified to do the job. This is about NOT PISSING OFF THE INTERVIEWERS.

LL: I give up. 6 weeks have passed, and I’m more discouraged than ever. And it’s not due to a lack of trying. I spend 50% of my time trying to figure out how to fill an open position on my team. Time is ticking. If I don’t get the open head filled, my boss is going to assign the open head to someone else. So I start sourcing my own candidates. Emailing old co-workers. Going over LinkedIn over and over again. Trying to figure out whom I know that might be interested in joining.

HRN: LOL. It is about this time that I start getting emails from the hiring manager with a cc to my boss. “Hey, 5 weeks and only 3 candidates? What gives? Can we open this up to more recruiters? Can we post this on Monster.com? (Oh goddd!) Where are you posting this? How many candidates have you talked with? I want to see some reports.” More reports means more time spent on creating reports and less time sourcing candidates.

LL: The wine-and-dine process begins. If it’s a personal contact, I have to sell, sell, sell. If it’s someone I don’t know, I have to interview. The interview is such an inconsistent process. Rockstars on the phone interview are duds in-person. And everyone gets a different vibe about each person. There are no unanimous decisions. . Every candidate seems be split 4-3, 4 in favor and 3 against.

HRN: Welcome to my world and multiply that by 15 or 20 additional positions. I am going through the same process you are. I may have a few more tools at my disposal, but at the end of the day, this is a needle in a haystack and 6 different personalities not including the wildcard candidate. The candidate could be:

  • Using us for interview practice so when they get the interview they really want, they are back in fighting form. Like a champion boxer coming out of retirement, they will take a few minor league fights just to get the kinks worked out.
  • Just using us as BATNA so when they have our job offer, they can go to the company they really want to work for and get a higher offer.
  • We move the candidate successfully through 4 or 5 interviews and one of OUR interviewers comes off as the asshole. The candidate decides they don’t want to work on this team. (Trust me, there is an order to who interviews when, and if I think I am going to have a shot, I need this guy who lacks EI to go last. I can’t lead off with this interviewer or I have NO shot)
  • After 4 interviews, the candidate decides they want more money. They are suddenly out of our budget and we are back to square 1.

Remember, we are not just worrying about trying to fix the hiring managers problem, but appeasing the 5 others interviewers in the hiring process. But this isn’t just about appeasing 6 interviewers. I am REALLY worried about how this candidate will look in 6 months. If they are struggling in 6 months, it will be on the recruiter. If they are success in 6 months, the hiring manager will be the hero and they will be asking me to get me one more just like the last one.

LL: 75% of the time, I land a candidate from my own personal networks. That’s right, after all this agony, I could have skipped all this recruiting bureaucracy and found the candidate on my own.


So how can we avoid frustration with the hiring process? We can minimize it when the recruiter sits down with not just the hiring manager but the entire interview loop so both parties can set expectations. Expectations on the process, the number of candidates to be expected, and the priorities of the skill sets to name just a few. Do we really need someone to be not just presentable but with a high maintenance fashion attitude? Getting consensus on the following:

  • “This developer won’t be talking to customers, we don’t care how they are dressed”.
  • “We have a project starting in 6 weeks, if we don’t have a couple of viable candidates in 4 weeks, I recommend we get outside agency recruiters involved.”
  • “Our budget is X, no signing bonus, no relocation bonus, etc.”
  • “Are we looking for a specific amount of education?”

Being able to point back to pre set expectations will open a lot of eyes when the actual candidate is standing in front of interviewers with a price tag hanging around their neck. Setting expectations makes resetting them much easier.  

I wish I had had this conversation in my early years:

Hiring Manager: “We want skill sets X, Y, Z and A with large company experience and we want to pay 55K a year. They need to be able to assume a leadership position in the next 6 – 9 months.”

HRNasty: “I can get you 2 of the skill sets you are looking for at 55K a year in 6 weeks. I can get you 3 of the skills at 65K in 6 weeks or at 55K in 8 weeks. I can get you all 4 skill sets but it will cost you 80K which is 45% more than we budgeted. It will probably take 8 weeks. If you want them well dressed, we need to throw in a wardrobe bonus”.

Hopefully the above clarifies not only what happens behind the scenes for Hiring Managers and candidates, but how illusion of miscommunication can be reduced.

What methods are you using get hiring managers and recruiters on the same page in the hiring process?  Please share your secrets as either a hiring manager or a recruiter in the comments below.

See you at the after party,

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone that is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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No asshole rule

Posted: by HRNasty in Company Culture, Job Interview Tips, What Recruiters Really Think


no asshole rule

This is a no asshole zone

No Asshole Rule

The Company A**hole, we all know him or her, and every company has one. A blow hard, a know it all, someone who has all the answers and in their opinion is never wrong.  They think they are the life of the party and their shit doesn’t stink. I don’t think that most of these folks know they are a**holes and I don’t know how to help self identify if you are one. Half of the a**holes know they are asses and just won’t admit it to themselves and the other half wouldn’t believe it if they were told, so what is the use? I do know the effect they have on the rest of the team which is why so many companies have the self explanatory “no asshole rule”.  These people can make life miserable, demoralize teams and and in some cases make us want to quit. My advice for those of you that do work with one, (and we all do), is to try and not let it bother you. Easier said than done I know, but if Mr. BlowHard wins the lotto and leaves the company, or better, gets hit by a bus, another BlowPop will stick his head up and start the cycle all over again. If you think quitting your job and leaving will help, there will be a Dumb Ass at your next company or department. Trust me, I am a professional, I know a few things. 

If you are a reader of this blog, you know my other passion outside of HR is fly fishing for Steelhead in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia with a Spey rod. The other day, I was reminded of a actual story from last years fishing season when a good friend wanted to quit their job because of a DooFus that was making his life miserable. I thought it might resonate here as well.  

Every year I get together with a bunch of angler buddies in a large rented house we use as a base camp to go fly fish for Steelhead. Last year, I stayed there for about 5 days and during that time, anglers came and went. Some arrived before I got there, and anglers were coming and going after I left. Of course, the fishing picked up dramatically after I left but that is par for course. It was a revolving community, where everyone fished on their own or in small groups during the day, but every night, we all got together and sat around the dinner table family style to shared stories.  

I knew everyone there personally or by reputation and it was this way for everyone else. There were no strangers, and I went back a number of years with most of the guys. It was a pretty tight knit group. Till day 3 anyway.

Now granted, I was half sick because it was snowing, 24 degrees, and I didn’t get to eat my usual breakfast of country fried steak, gravy on the side, with hash browns and an over easy egg on the first day. Somehow, I started the morning of day one with only half of a toasted pop tart, a cup of coffee, and a bowl of fruit from a pull top can. No one else was complaining so I went with it, but my inside voice was screaming, “WTF? Who had grocery duty this week?”  We are on the water by 7:00 AM and by 9:00 AM I was feeling the effects of my empty stomach and low blood sugar.  I am sure that standing in a glacial melt river for the next two-days didn’t help, but that isn’t the point.

Doo-Dah arrived the third evening.  I was doing my best to relax in the bark-o-lounger in front of a big screen TV and a roaring fire watching some MMA. Life was as good as it can get fighting a cold after smoking 3-4 cigars a day with no fish to the hand.

I don’t know what it was, but I immediately didn’t like the guy. My recruiter Spidey sense went off. Within 10 seconds of him coming through the door, my internal Lights and Sirens were blinding and blaring. I wasn’t even facing the front door when he arrived. There was literally a “disturbance in the force”.  He was nice enough. He came around and introduced himself with the obligatory hand shake, but I just didn’t “feel right” about him and they way he announced himself. 

He was a guest of one of the veterans of our year traditional trip, and in the moment I just accepted it and went back to fight night. 

Not long after, I hear BlowHard explaining his fishing expertise to those that will listen. Thing is, he wasn’t just explaining, he was telling folks how good he was.  He was bragging how big his fish were and what exotic lands he had travelled to catch them. Most of us have been to all these places multiple times, so I wasn’t impressed. To the contrary, I was turned off.  I was actually asking myself, “Does this guy realize he is just a peanut in a house full of giants? Half these guys are published, and the other have have been written about.”   

During dinner our new guest dropped just a few too many F bombs. Again, I wasn’t just “un-impressed”, I was turned off. I am all for dropping an F bomb when appropriate, but as the new guy trying to make friends, I want to test the waters a bit first. Am I a prude???? Yes, there were a number of raised eye brows and some dirty glances shot in the direction of the guide that made the invite. 

After dinner, more of the same. “I am really good at this” and an “eff’n this and eff’n that”!

The next day, three of us are floating down the river in a drift boat. It is cold, the air is silent, and the mood is not just peaceful, it is Zen. There are a few inches of fresh snow on the tree branches, and the water is so flat, you can see the reflection of the shoreline in the waters edge. The moment of silence is broken with the single statement by Angler number 1.  “I didn’t like him as soon as I met him”, followed by a moment of silence and then Angler number 2. “I don’t think he will be invited back next year”. (Angler 2 happened to be in charge of the guest list). DOHHH!!!!

I thought this was all pretty interesting. As an HR guy, I always try to give the benefit of the doubt in any potential negative situation. Doo-Dah didn’t really do anything wrong. He had just driven for 6 straight hours by himself, was excited about the fishing and probably wanting to talk. He wasn’t that offensive. He swore a bit much for me, but in his defense, it is a fishing trip with 9 type A’s trying to put fish on the board and “me”, type B-. A couple of the guys are going through a divorce, about to get into a divorce or just coming out of a divorce and with this demographic I fully expect two things, toasts and F-Bombs.  

I couldn’t help but think if this were an interview (and it absolutely was), he wouldn’t have made it past round one. I don’t think he would have made it past reception. Obviously we shouldn’t come into the lobby of a company we are interviewing for and bust out with a “Fuckin’ great to be here folks, can’t wait to get this interview started.  Just got done interviewing down he street at Acme Publishing, and yeah, I nailed it!” But I wouldn’t have put it past this guy.  

It was an interview because in this small circle of anglers, this was a special group. I was stoked to be there because in this very niche circle, there were some heavy hitting anglers including professionals and published authors. In some very small circles they would be considered celebrities. (I don’t fall into either group, I hitched a ride on a buddy’s coat tails)  BlowHard somehow managed to piss off a number of folks in the first 20 minutes and I am confident he didn’t even know what effect he had on the group. 

So what is the lesson?  I am not sure.  All I can think of is “It is better to keep your mouth shut and let everyone think you are fool, than to open it and remove all doubt”.  It’s not a competition, and we don’t have to show everyone how much better we are.  Set the bar low and let everyone think you are a dumb ass then deliver some shock and awe of brilliance.

Whether it is a new group of people, a first date, or a job interview, try to avoid making it a competition where the goal is to show how you are better than everybody else. Approach it like a discussion where you are just as interested in finding out about everyone else rather than just showing the interviewer how over qualified you are. Everybody loves to talk about him or herself. We should also give the interviewers the opportunities to tell us how wonderful their company is and what they are looking for in a candidate. 

Don’t hire assholes and we’ll see you at the after party,

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone that is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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PS. I am proud to say that I work in an asshole free zone.