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by Lois C. Ambash | March 10, 2009


Belinda Plutz is a principal in Career Mentors Inc., a New York careerdevelopment consulting firm.

We spoke with Belinda recently about the challenges of recruiting andhiring in a tight labor market.

Lois Ambash: How does the recruiting and hiring process in atight labor market compare to the same process during times of higher unemployment?

Belinda Plutz: I know from personal experience that recruitingand hiring in a tight labor market is a very hard job. HR professionalsare under pressure to fill more jobs more quickly. And, with morechoices available to them, candidates whose skills are in high demand mayact as though they ought to be wooed. Sometimes this combinationresults in a failure to view the recruiting and hiring process from theother person's point of view. During hard economic times, bothcompanies and candidates seem to behave more professionally, because thereare fewer opportunities to hire or be hired. Also, in a tight labormarket, employers make greater use of search firms. One impact ofthis practice is to increase the stress on candidates. Now, insteadof dealing with at least two information-filtering layers within a company(the HR office and the hiring manager), candidates must contend with anadditional upfront filter: the recruiter.

LA: What have you been hearing lately from your clientsabout their experiences in the current job market?

BP: Unfortunately, I've been hearing about too many negativeexperiences. Hiring decisions take too long. Candidates areleft hanging -- sometimes forever. Candidates are forced to choosebetween getting an interview and meeting their current job responsibilities.I call these employer behaviors "candidate abuse".~

LA: Can you tell us a little more about "candidate abuse"and give us some specific examples?

BP: "Candidate abuse" means failing to treat prospectiveemployees with consideration, respect, and empathy. I'm not suggestingthat candidate abuse is malicious. After all, HR professionals areresponding to organizational pressures that are often beyond their control.But the outcomes are negative, sometimes for the company as well as forthe candidate. For example, one of my clients was being consideredby a major New York law firm. She spent a full day at the firm, movingfrom one interview to another. During the entire day, she said, "Noone offered me a break, let alone offered to buy me lunch."When my client got the job offer, her reply was, "Not if you were the lastlaw firm on earth!" And then she told them why. Another client,after three or four interviews with a prospective employer, was broughtin for a full day of psychological testing. The employer refusedhis request for a weekend appointment, insisting that he take a vacationday to accommodate the process. In the end, he wasn't hired.My advice to him, by the way, was not to undergo the testing unless hewas promised a copy of the results. Although no one had previouslymade such a request, the company agreed. That was the one savingelement of this situation. A third client was applying for a positionas a clinical social worker. During the process, she was asked tomeet with a group of employees. They badmouthed the company and toldher, "You don't want to work here," effectively sabotaging any possibilityof a mutually successful outcome.

LA: Have you observed any sort of pattern in these behaviors?Are they more prevalent in some industries than others?

BP: No, these things seem to happen across the board.I believe that they are a function of the corporate culture, as well asthe skill and workload of the company's HR department.

LA: Do you have any suggestions for HR professionals abouthow and why to avoid candidate abuse?

BP: Yes, I certainly do: (1) Treat candidates asyou would clients. Be considerate of their time and physicalcomfort. (2) Don't keep candidates waiting, Start interviews on time.Provide timely feedback. (3) Avoid setting up conflicts between candidatescurrent work situations and their interest in working for your company.People who demonstrate a strong work ethic and sense of responsibilityto their current employers will bring those qualities with them.(4) Assure candidates of confidentiality, then keep that promise.(5) Try to insure that everyone the candidate meets during the processreflects a positive, professional image of your company. (6) If acolleague or professional acquaintance refers candidates for open positions,contact those people promptly, for your sake as well as theirs. Ifyou wait, by the time you call, they may have taken other positions.(7) At the end of the process, share information (such as test results)that may be valuable to candidates within your company or outside it.~

LA: What can candidates themselves do to discourage candidateabuse?

BP: If the recruitment and hiring process is too onerous,if you are asked illegal or intrusive questions, if you are not treatedwith hospitality and respect, my suggestion to you as a candidate is notto take the job if it is offered. And be sure to explain why.

LA: If you could offer one piece of advice to HR professionalsfor making a positive impression on top job candidates, what would it be?

BP: I fully recognize that HR people are the ultimate middlemenand often can't change company traditions or the behavior of hiring managers.But if you want to recruit and retain the best people, do all you can tosee that your company treats its potential employees as though theywere its most valued clients.

Lois C. Ambash, PhD, is President of Metaforix Incorporated. Through planning, communications, and learning services,Metaforix helps clients meet the challenges of a rapidly changing workplaceby integrating the Internet into the way they work. Contact Lois at atwork@metaforix.comor subscribe to her e-letter, Metaforix Mail, by sending an e-mail messageto


Filed Under: Workplace Issues

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