In the Hiring Process, Communication Shortcuts Don’t Work

Recruiters have always known that good communication with hiring managers throughout the entire hiring process is necessary in order to get a position filled. It is not enough to just have a job description and an initial conversation. It is equally important to get feedback on individual resumes as they are submitted and on candidates as they are interviewed. But do hiring managers value communication with recruiters?

Recruiters submit candidates who they think are qualified for the position and need to know specifically why a particular candidate is being passed over by the hiring manager. Frequently job specs change over the course of the hiring process and all this information needs to be communicated to recruiters. Recruiters also should let hiring managers know about the current job market for the positions they are trying to fill. Often a hiring manager will simply not know current pay ranges or how much in demand certain skills are in their location.

So why do some companies decide they can fill jobs without ever having to talk to a recruiter?

Instead of having hiring managers work directly with recruiters (and actually have to employ them), many large companies use a VMS (vendor management system) process to fill their open positions. A company that uses a VMS will contract with one of the large franchise-style staffing firms (VMS provider) to take over the hiring function for the designated jobs.

The VMS provider has employees who work onsite at the client site, and they have direct access to hiring managers. They do not (typically) do any recruiting for the open positions and often do not have the ability to find out even the most basic information about the reqs they have been assigned. The VMS provider relies on a vendor list of staffing firms that are granted access to an online software program that contains a list of open jobs. The vendors submit resumes for those jobs into a database but are not allowed to send the resumes directly to hiring managers.

All contact between recruiters or anyone else at the staffing firm and the hiring managers is forbidden. Any questions about the jobs must be directed to the VMS provider. Any contact with a hiring manager by anyone at the staffing firm and the staffing firm will be thrown off the vendor list. Almost all communication is done through emails or messages generated by the VMS software system. Rejecting candidates, requesting interviews, and interview feedback are communicated through the VMS software.

So how does a recruiter get information from a hiring manager who is using a VMS? Every question from a recruiter goes from the vendor to the VMS provider who (hopefully) passes it to the hiring manager who (hopefully) responds to the VMS provider who (hopefully) responds back to the vendor.

Occasionally there will be a conference call between the vendors and the hiring manager, and recruiters will be allowed to ask questions. Recruiters on those calls are only allowed to ask questions about the job order and are not allowed to ask questions about specific resumes to find out exactly why a particular candidate was rejected for the position.

Aren’t shortcuts wonderful? No need for a hiring manager to talk directly to a recruiter about their candidates ever again! All they have to do is click a box on a computer screen to reject a candidate and not have to bother giving an explanation! No more pesky phone calls from recruiters wanting to take up valuable time to talk about candidates! Surely such an efficient system does a great job quickly filling jobs! No? Really?

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I know it is not just my imagination that VMS processes don’t work well. Very often a VMS job will open and then halt and there will be interviews and then the position will open and halt again and again and still no one gets hired. There is sometimes information from the VMS provider as to why the position has not been filled, but usually not.

The whole VMS process is slow, frustrating, and irritating for recruiters and candidates alike. I can only guess that the reason companies use a VMS is to save money. I must admit I don’t understand at all how a VMS could possibly save money. Having jobs stay open for extended periods of time must hurt the bottom line at some point. Do hiring managers prefer using a VMS? Doesn’t it bother them when it takes so long to fill their jobs and none of the recruiters are sending them the right candidates?

Recruiting is supposed to be all about relationships, and communication is a huge part of that. There is no shortcut.


image from Shutterstock

Charlene Long is a corporate recruiter with RPO and agency experience who specializes in IT and engineering positions. She lives in Dallas, Texas, and has over 20 years of technical recruiting experience. Previously she was an analytical chemist for environmental labs in Florida and Texas and then for Texas Instruments in Dallas for four years.


1 Comment on “In the Hiring Process, Communication Shortcuts Don’t Work

  1. “Very often a VMS job will open and then halt and there will be interviews and then the position will open and halt again and again and still no one gets hired. There is sometimes information from the VMS provider as to why the position has not been filled, but usually not.”

    That’s generally how it works whether a VMS is involved or not.

    “Do hiring managers prefer using a VMS?”

    Yes. For one, using one recruiter is never enough. Even if the HM is willing to hire, their superiors will usually demand to see some form of ‘work,’ often defined by how many people were interviewed. Find the perfect person right off the bat? Doesn’t matter, you need at least three interviews and two candidates, and then they’re allowed to choose one. Often times though, it’ll be the HM themselves who want to see several thousand applicants (slight exaggeration…) before making a decision, if ever. There is a small incentive to hire, but there is a MASSIVE incentive to avoid a bad hire, which is why various reasons and justifications are offered to interview in perpetuity and reject people with minimal to no justification. No one recruiter can satisfy that demand without pouring resources into that client with little hope of payback, so multiple recruiters are engaged. This leads to the second problem, managing all these ‘high touch’ Sales! twits who think a 3 hour phone call once a day every day of the week is no big deal, each of which will be spent pushing candidates, some of which might be worth pushing, but many of which will be losers. Also most recruiters will send you the same two or three people initially, which are usually people you’ve already seen via your own internal recruiting effort.

    Bottom line, the hiring process at most companies is absolutely and utterly broken, and they hope to overcome that problem with sheer volume. Fixing it would require they give a damn about the process, their employees, and the candidates. They don’t, and since most firms operate on spec anyway it costs them nothing to engage every agency possible and then wait to see if any of them get lucky.

    “Doesn’t it bother them when it takes so long to fill their jobs and none of the recruiters are sending them the right candidates?”

    To some degree, yes, but not to the degree it would bother them to manage the process themselves. It should be a priority, however most hiring managers are holding on by the skin of their teeth as it is. They are often expected to do their old job and manage a department, almost never being given the time, resources, or training to actually manage anything or anyone. For most, being promoted into a management position means they do everything they used to do AND handle management duties. The hands on, tangible work is what always takes priority in such cases. And recruiters say they want to alleviate this problem, however are usually dense as lead as to how to do that, if it’s even possible, which most times it’s not. Persistent phone calls do not ‘help’ hiring managers, they’re more a form of low grade harassment that further suck their already incredibly limited time and stretched resources.

    So it all boils down to this: most managers have little to no time to devote to hiring new people; most companies insist on volume over quality; it’s impossible for most managers to manage the volume level they want via individual contacts; most managers honestly have no clue what they want, neither do their bosses; most companies barely tolerate their employees, much less value them, and couldn’t care less about candidates; and, recruiting agencies are dominated by Sales! twits who think they can ‘solve’ this problem by talking on the phone for endless hours with hiring managers. This frustrates the living hell out of those HMs who are not in a position to fix the process, but it’s their ass if it goes wrong, and at the end of the day it’s much easier for them to not make a hire despite a hundred interviews than risk a bad hire, because ‘No’ is always the safe vote in hiring. Everyone assumes it’s correct, no one looks for anyone to justify it, but say ‘Yes’ to a candidate and they stick a probe up both your ass and the candidate’s, and woe to the person who gets that decision wrong.

    Hiring managers are just people, they often have no training in how to hire or how to manage, and the majority of them work for companies who would happily toss them and their families into a volcano if it meant better profit margins. Why would they want to invest any more time and effort into hiring someone than the minimal amount necessary? That’s what a VMS offers you, and that’s what they want. Someone else do the work for free, overcome a crappy process with sheer volume and force of will, and with a little time and luck a candidate good enough to hire comes through and then you invest energy in getting that person on board and ignore the rest. And if you don’t hire anyone, you have a ton of resumes reviewed and some interviews under your belt to show you weren’t just dilly dallying. And it works well for quite a few recruiters too, the ones who have clued in to reality and realize most companies don’t give a damn, and a successful hire is a numbers game. The Sales! oriented recruiters who still think recruiting is about ‘relationships’ and free lunches on the expense account are the ones who get lost in this situation.

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