About a week ago, I got a call from a former colleague and friend of mine who happens to be a recruiter. “Todd, we just opened up a great position. I just left the hiring manager’s office from qualifying the opportunity. This is your dream job. You need to get me your resume, and fast.”
This friend is one of the most competent and seasoned recruiters I have ever known. He’s a good friend, as well. Were he not so solid a recruiter, I would probably have said “No thanks, I’m pretty happy where I am.”
I tidied up my resume and promptly sent if off; you never know what the future holds. He e-mails me back saying it looks good and that he would like me to complete a “candidate data sheet.”
I receive a four-page, nicely formatted Word attachment in response. The document seeks to collect a lot of information. It would have taken me nearly an hour to complete. Much of the material it asks for was easily available to me, as I have kept close tabs on my work history and have complete documents like this one in the past. But to assemble it, check it for perfection, and then send it off without any sense of return, well, I’m not so sure it was going to be a good use of my time. But, out of respect for my friend, I did read it thoroughly.
Midway through this task, it occurred to me that if the recruiter was not also a close friend, I would have promptly e-mailed back a “you’ve got to be kidding me, are you out of your mind?” response. But he is a good friend, and thus, I am up for the task of at least reading and considering it.
Now that I think of it, I have been asked, and have asked others, more than a couple of times to complete some kind of datasheet which is quite thorough, as a prerequisite to being considered for a job. I’ve taken several psychological assessments as pre-requisites to be considered for jobs.
From the employer’s perch, these devices seem to have the best intentions for making good selections and they act as a means to streamline the process, all of which pass muster of “well and good.”
Trickle those interests down to the recruiter’s level and these instruments translate in to a few positives, at least on the surface, that is. To be sure, they appear to make a process move more quickly.
With a datasheet, for instance, a recruiter can simply send over a document and have the candidate fill it out as opposed to getting him or her on the phone and asking the questions. It’s a streamlining technique. These tools can make the process less emotional and confrontational, as well.
If the document seeks the right information, when it comes time to bargain for compensation, if the datasheet covers it, and we assume the candidate has told the truth, we’re in a fine position to negotiate with our own or our client’s best interests at heart. We can also avoid having one of those uncomfortable conversations in the process.
With assessments, it’s a whole different story. I was contacted once by a recruiter who had a “terrific opportunity” with a Fortune 500 company who shall remain nameless for the moment. He gave me the pitch about the opportunity and the company and I was intrigued. I would be receiving an e-mail from them in the next 24 hours asking me to complete an online assessment.
Upon starting the assessment, I was informed that I would need approximately 50 minutes to complete the task. I later determined that it would take the company about 40 minutes of my time to determine that I was not psychologically qualified for them. Of course, I got no return on my time.
Nevertheless, there I went, answering all sorts of questions about whether some diametrically opposed set of options was more like me, less like me, or neutral. Twenty minutes after I completed the assessment, I received word that I would no longer be considered.
Wow, summary judgment! I didn’t even get a chance to plead my case to his honor.
An Alternative Reality
Consider the case of a company that contacts an individual who is rumored to be pretty good at discipline “X.” They call and initiate a recruiting relationship. He responds positively but declares that before anything else happens, he wants the company’s CEO to complete a brief datasheet and take an assessment. Such is the hegemony of a company versus the status of an employee.
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But it’s not always going to be that way, so say the statistics of the Baby-Boomer era. We all talk about it: the numbers are black and white. Pretty soon, there are going to be a lot more jobs than there are people.
By the looks of it, the circa 1999 days of hiring anyone with a heartbeat to simply show up are not far off again. So, if we assume that the numbers are correct, pretty soon it’s once again going to be a candidate’s market; some would argue it already is, however, I am not one of them.
When it becomes a candidate’s market, this practice of putting someone through the rigors of a thorough psychoanalysis or a lengthy candidate datasheet will go by the wayside. Keep it up and you’re soon to find fewer returned phone calls.
In the not too far-off future, there will one day be a full standardized profile each person has of himself. It will be a dynamic tool that captures significantly more information than just what we see on a resume. It will display not only work history and education, but a heck of a lot more, much of which is extracted by today’s pre-employment screening.
If you must use questionnaires, which I do not suggest abandoning entirely, at least keep them short. Ten minutes is about as much time as a candidate wants to spend before getting a chance to interview.
If the first interview goes well, then use a more thorough data sheet. If your company is one who uses psychoanalysis, then perhaps it is better to introduce these tools later on in the process. Doing so too soon can surely raise red flags in the mind of the job seeker. Or, at least, it will cause some of the higher-caliber professionals to think twice about coming to work for you.
The very purpose of pre-employment screening and or evaluation/assessments is to increase the quality of the hire. It’s also to eliminate a lot of folks, too. Suffice it to say, this assumes that there is a higher caliber person out there, prima facie. As an employer, you obviously want as many of those people on your team as possible.
Unless you have a monopoly on reputation like few companies do, hotshots are not standing in line to get a chance to interview with your company. Those people who excel at what they do (i.e. the best of the best) are enjoying it immensely. As an employer, in attempting to attract these people to, remember that you are:
- Disrupting them while they are in the midst of doing what they love
- Challenging their contentment with status-quo and asking them to take a risk which if discovered, could cost them their job
- Placing time-consuming hurdles in front of them before they are allowed to show up for the race
What does this add up to? It adds up to exactly what employers are trying so desperately to avoid: hiring bottom feeders. I have a news flash for those of you who are not convinced: resumes are filled with embellishments, distortions, and in many cases, outright lies.
When it comes to assessments, no matter how good the tool is that’s being used, people can still lie their way past it. Heck, I went to college with a guy who presently makes over $300,000 as a salesperson for a very well-known medical device company. He brags about how he carries synthetic urine in his car in the event that he has to provide a sample. To date, he’s been tested twice. He smokes more pot than a Dutch hippie. But yet, he’s never failed a drug test. He figured out a way to beat the system.
Like my college acquaintance, bottom feeders will figure out a way to beat a system; it’s part of how they get a job.