Is job searching a game?

The job search process is seemingly becoming more and more like a game. Candidates are realizing what on their resume isn’t getting them interviews and adjusting accordingly (for the worse – downplaying their skills) and hiring managers are wanting the best of the best talent, but their rigid hiring process and mediocre candidate experience doesn’t allow for that. In my opinion, recruiters are caught in the middle and have a responsibility for both coaching candidates and hiring managers to the best of their ability. (If you’re a recruiter, I know you’ve tried to provide feedback to both candidates and hiring managers and sometimes they just don’t want any of it. All we can do is try to influence change and know we had good intentions. Not everyone is open to the consultative approach)

I recently worked with an accounting candidate who was looking for a leadership position, but didn’t want to be the person in charge making all of the decisions for the department. She had been in that role before and didn’t want the stress. She was looking for an Assistant Manager or Assistant Director position. She had 15 years of both public and private accounting experience as well as her CPA. Based on the resume she sent into our firm, I had a good enough understanding of her background to make the decision that I was going to interview her. Turns out, I didn’t know I had a perfect position for her when I first looked at her resume, but by the end of our call I was certain I did! My client required public accounting experience and a CPA. This candidate had started off her career in public accounting but left the beginning of her experience off because she was getting feedback that she was overqualified for the roles she was interested in. So instead, she left a shorter stint in public accounting from later in her career on the resume. She also left her CPA off of the resume because she was getting feedback that her salary expectations must be too high for the position she was interested in (before even disclosing what her expectations were!)

Similarly, I met a candidate recently who has been consulting for the first few years of his career. He acquired a strong set of marketing skills early on and has been traveling the country to consult companies on their marketing strategies. His experience is amazing. He’s ready to spend more time in his hometown with his friends and family and is finding it difficult to find a full-time permanent position because he’s perceived as a job hopper. Each of us have our own motivations for why we want certain things in life and why we make the choices we do. We are all people trying to fulfill our needs. When I spoke with this person and learned more about his experience and what he’s looking for in a next position, I was shocked that a company hadn’t scooped him up yet based on the project work and results he had accomplished for his clients. So what did we do? Worked together to format his resume differently and explain his work in more detail, which cut down on the amount of job hopper comments he received.

Why do these situations happen? It’s so interesting to me to see this job search process become a difficult game to play. Resumes are tough since every candidate, recruiter, and hiring manager have their own preference of format and provided information. As recruiters, (good ones anyways) we have the responsibility to pull out the important information from the resume, or gather information that’s not even on it, by asking the right questions in our preliminary interviews. We are getting to know the candidate, as well as assessing their fit for our clients’ openings. Detailed notes can help the hiring manager move past a format of resume that they don’t like so a great person isn’t missed. Especially in the tight markets some of us work in – where there are a shortage of skills and people aren’t actively looking. Passive candidates give me what they have handy (sometimes a LinkedIn profile PDF, not a resume. Which I’m fine with, if it’s filled out/formatted correctly) and aren’t going to take time to write a resume or re-write their resume for the specific job/company. In my experience, passive candidates want to see what a potential employer’s process will be like, and I’m seeing an increasing desire for ease of process, flexibility/creativity when scheduling interviews and quick turnaround time for feedback. There can be such a disconnect between candidates and hiring managers in what they want to see during a hiring process, that I think a recruiter is really a helpful bridge between the two.

I’m not saying that the candidate has no responsibility here in this process – sometimes I have gotten applications and resumes that are not relevant at all to the position they applied for. If your skills/experiences are far off from the position you are seeking, then it may be best to include a cover letter explaining your transferrable skills and why you’re interested. Otherwise, it is very likely you will be passed over for the initial interview. I think good recruiters have a desire to help people, which is what makes them so successful. But the truth is we just cannot help everyone, so candidates do need to take the time to make sure their resumes are relevant to the role they’re applying to. I’ve talked to many job seekers who aren’t getting calls based on the resumes their putting in, but then we also look at their LinkedIn profiles and they are not easily searchable by recruiters because their profile lacks skills and key words. There are many different pieces that need to be working together to ensure you get to the next step, which is that initial interview with the recruiter or hiring manager.

I guess my point to all of this is – why can’t we all just be ourselves and bring all of our experiences and talents to the table when we are job searching? Why do we feel we have to leave off relevant information about ourselves for the fear of being judged as too old, too experienced (and therefore out of budget) Or on the flip side, be seen as too green even though there is a track record there of being a quick learner, being resourceful, and executing on given tasks. I think a recruiter/HR Pro really helps to connect the right talent to the right opportunity when sometimes it can’t be seen at first glance that the two are a match. When we do have the chance to connect with each other, we should be asking thoughtful questions, listening carefully and being open minded to uncover the true person behind the resume.


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