The admissions essay—a.k.a. Lazy Recruiting

person at computerThe numbers are out. The job market is hot. Top candidates are in high demand. The current market is one in which Lazy Recruiting—a top peeve of mine—has no place. And yet, it continues to be SOP at many hiring companies. Lazy Recruiting has many facets. In its most common form, Lazy Recruiting is when a hiring company posts an open position and sits back and lets the applications roll in. After a few weeks, said hiring company whines and complains about the lack of qualified applicants; they are surprised that top talent is not out there, trolling job boards looking for openings at their companies.

Of course, Lazy Recruiting has many components, and lazy companies are always looking for new ways to irritate candidates and repel talent. A few leading lazy employers have taken a cue from the college admissions process, and are requiring written responses to interview questions, prior to even speaking with candidates. Yes, I’m serious. This is now A Thing. A client recently applied for a position with a tech behemoth. He received a request asking him to submit an essay in support of his application before moving forward in the process. Here is the actual prompt:

What is the most inventive or innovative thing you’ve done? It doesn’t have to be something that’s patented. It could be a process change, product idea, a new metric or customer facing interface – something that was your idea. It cannot be anything your current or previous employer would deem confidential information. Please provide us with context to understand the invention/innovation. What problem were you seeking to solve? Why was it important? What was the result? Why or how did it make a difference and change things? 

To say this is absurd is to overstate the obvious. What’s next, job applicants writing essays on How Soccer Made Me a Better Leader? This is not only a huge imposition on a candidate’s time, but it is also infantilizing. It creates an inherent imbalance of power and one in which the employer holds all the cards.

Another client sent me this request, which she received after she applied to a position with a major competitor of her current employer:

  • Will you now, or at any time in the future, require sponsorship to work in the United States? (If restrictions, please specify.)
  • We sell real-time data access technology and professional services to financial services. Can you please list the names and value propositions of the SAAS/technology products you have marketed?
  • In which roles did you market for an audience in the banking or insurance sector? 
  • Elaborate on your expertise of banking/insurance use cases, customers, and buying behaviors.
  • What are your salary needs?

We look forward to reviewing your responses and potentially continuing the dialogue!

Handshaking after negotiationQuestions about applicants’ work authorization should be addressed in the employer application, as should those about candidates’ salary expectations. As far as the remaining three inane questions go, they are, well, inane. These are questions that can be answered very easily by picking up the phone and talking with candidates.

When we take into consideration the exorbitant cost of a bad hire, we have to wonder why employers don’t put more effort and process around their recruiting efforts. Demanding admissions essays from your applicant pool will have one definite effect—it will winnow the field of qualified applicants. Top employers know that recruiting is an active process, not a passive one. They also know that in-demand candidates need to be courted and wooed, and not required to perform parlor tricks or engage in adolescent selection activities! Top employers engage applicants in meaningful conversations about their experiences and perspectives. They know that top talent has their pick of employers and that it’s incumbent upon hiring companies to be competitive. Do you want to be an employer of choice? Or does that require too much effort?

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