How Recruitment works: The other side of the fence

This piece was first posted on Careerizma

For every job-hunter out there, there is but one sworn enemy. The thorn in your side, your nemesis who stands between you and that dream job. The devil incarnate who stands between you and the salary you deserve, the designation you are suited for and the wonderful perks that come with it.

Yes, it’s your not-so-friendly neighborhood recruiter from the organization you’re trying to join, also known‘that HR person’, ‘hiring manager’ and ‘talent acquisition fellow’ amongst others. The Kancha Cheema to your honest Vijay Dinanath Chauhan or the Joker to your Batman depending on how you like your movies. But there is no escaping the recruiter and dealing with them is a crucial step in succeeding in your quest, so let us take a look at the other side of the fence!

The Hiring Process

Stage 1: Open Position!

Typically, on any working morning (and on many non-working mornings as well), a recruiter at any organization will be pulled in whenever there is a ‘manpower requirement’. This is HR jargon 101 for what the rest of the world terms as a ‘vacancy’ or an open position. This may arise due to multiple reasons such as:

  • The previous employee finally cracking his dream job at the bigger, fancier office down the street and exiting.
  • The job incumbent being given, what HR teams after watching too many Hollywood movies like to call, the ‘Pink Slip’ – even though there’s no concept like this in India! Essentially terminated or asked to leave.
  • Someone getting promoted, moving internally to a new location or role or just finally giving up and retiring.
  • A geographical or business expansion where even by organizational standards, it is not possible to give the existing employees any more ‘additional challenging work’ and more people or people with a very specific skill set need to be hired.

The rules of this piece do not apply for walk-ins, job fairs and campus hiring, which are separate ball games in themselves to be played another day!

Stage 2: Need Identification

In an ideal world, the recruiter’s first step will be to understand as much as he/she can about the position that is to be filled up. This involves getting expectations from managers and leaders about the kind of work which is to be done, the skills & experience the role-holder must possess and the qualifications and the background candidate should ideally have.

Also the all-important input on how quickly they need the replacement or new hire to be on board.

Now this may not seem very difficult. However if you have any experience in a corporate environment you will know every manager worth his salt will claim that almost every position is extremely critical and urgent and as important to the success of the organization as Tendulkar once was to India’s cricket fortunes!

Of course, every replacement must be a ‘potential future leader’, with every skill from the ability to crunch numbers on excel sheets to picking out the perfect set of flowers when the boss forgets his anniversary. Such is the expectation from the modern worker.

Scene 3: Sourcing

Armed with these inputs, the Recruiter now moves to what is commonly known as Sourcing. As the name may suggest, sourcing is identifying the right channels to procure the profiles of candidates with relevant skills and backgrounds.Typical sourcing channels today include:

Recruitment Consultants

These are independent third party organizations who work with multiple organizations – and will if one were to put it crudely – sell the candidate to the highest bidder. They maintain databases of job-seekers and when contacted by any organization, supply a pool of candidates who may have even remotely have similar profiles.

Earn revenue from organizations on a commission basis – either a fixed amount basis the level of the candidate or as a percentage of the offered CTC. This is therefore expensive, however recruiters always resort to consultants because they hope to get a shorter and more relevant list of candidates, since they have a reputation to uphold.

Their real advantage is that over the years, they have built their databases and hence also have links to passive candidates who may not otherwise be in the job market.

Official websites

Most organizations have a dedicated careers section on their website where they put up open positions which are in public knowledge (sometimes hiring happens on a hush-hush basis due to which openings can’t be shared openly).

Interested candidates can directly apply here with the other couple of thousand candidates who think their profile is a perfect fit for the role!

Along with filling up the CV there is also a complicated form which needs to be filled which will make you respect the entire IT returns process and the tatkal railway booking process amongst others.

This is generally linked to an even more complex recruitment system, known as Applicant Tracking Systems which thankfully as a job seeker you probably don’t have to see.

Social Media

Today, whether they use it effectively or not, every organization will have a careers page on social media. By social media of course, we refer to the Holy Trinity or Big 3 of LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter.

Recruiters believe this is an excellent way to communicate or spread the word free of cost using crowd-sourcing and appear hep and new age at the same time.

It has the advantage of going beyond the active job-seekers to the passive ones as well since people can share this, tag relevant potential candidates and basically bring to use a phrase – Muhammed to the Mountain.

It also however brings everyone else from Ali to Zaheer to the mountain as well, so doesn’t solve anything for the recruiter.

Job Portals

This is the modern equivalent of advertisements in newspapers from a generation ago. Today portals such as Naukri, Monster, BabaJobs are the first place recruiters run towards to put in a job-posting.

These have the advantage of a huge pool of potential candidates, and the equivalent disadvantage of allowing anyone to apply to anything they want to.

Just like matrimonial websites, these are now diversifying into more niche target audiences from iimjobs to iipmjobs, however the anyone-can-apply-for-anything rule still remains!

Referrals

Organizations look at employee referrals as a way of leveraging their existing employee base to get a pool of vetted candidates, without a significant expense.

Employees however look at this as an opportunity to finally send the CV of their neighbor’s son and that annoying second cousin who keep hounding you to help in their job hunt.

Stage 4 : Screening

From sourcing we move to screening. For reasons which may now be obvious, sourcing does not always provide a quick list of suitable candidates. Whatever the requirements are, a job-hunters always have the nothing-to-lose or let-me-at-least-apply tendency which leads to a huge number of original applications anyways.

Most job portals and applicant tracking systems shortlist or suggest relevant profiles on the basis of certain keywords, which an experienced candidate has ways of including in his CV whether relevant or not.

The end result is more often than not a mountain of 50 ‘excellent’ candidates from the consultants, around 200 notifications on Facebook and maybe even a 1000 applications on Naukri – a good deal of which are unsuitable.

Thus despite technology, most recruiters eventually fold up their sleeves and end up screening candidate applications manually.

The first stage is to weed out the extremely irrelevant applications based on their profiles and CVs. This pruned list would then be screened by quick telephone calls to establish genuine interest and broad compatibility with the location, salary and designation offered.

The end result of this is a finally a short-list or a shorter long-list from the original set of profiles.

Stage 5: Evaluating

For most recruiters, scheduling an interview is often more difficult than conducting the interview! Organizations use multiple modes along with interviews such case-studies, psychometric or aptitude tests or other activities in the hope that candidates either do something exceptionally good or exceptionally bad to help them narrow down the pool.

These may or may not be elimination rounds depending upon the nature of the role as well as the level the candidate is applying to.

Interviews however (when they are finally scheduled at the convenience of both the interviewer and the candidate!) remain the most common method of doing so.

As a rule most organizations will look to check your technical skills or suitability for a job through a Functional Interview and then evaluate how well you will fit into the role and the organization through a competency based or behavioral interview (also known as an HR interview for the rest of the world’s population).

Interviews come in many forms and sizes – so these may be combined or scheduled independently, conducted by individuals or panels, all scheduled in a day or spread out over weeks, be telephonic, over web-cam or in person. There is only one rule for interviews – Murphy’s Law will prove its existence.

Stage 6: Closing

Once a candidate is deemed suitable, clears all the basic requirements and receives a go-ahead from all the stakeholders starts the process of offer-negotiation. Sometimes, organizations prefer to do this stage as part of the HR interview itself to save time.They don’t really, but that’s another story.

This is essentially where the candidate and the recruiter channelize their internal bargaining skills honed over the years in the bazaars and fish-markets. They go back and forth on the exact salary which will be offered, various bonuses, allowances and benefits which can be squeezed in, the exact role title and level and the all-important question of ‘how quickly can you join?’.

The process of arriving at a salary figure to be offered is more a science than an art taking in inputs from external market benchmarks, salary structures of internal employees etc.

Most recruiters expect candidates to negotiate and hence there is every chance the original offer would be 5-10% below what is the maximum that can be offered, however there is not much of a bank to pay with.

Organizations try to therefore throw in sweeteners such as joining bonuses and buy-outs of notice period which are one time payments without a long term impact!

Stage 7: Pre-joining

Once the offer is closed, the next stage of the recruitment process typically involves the recruiter waiting with a bated breath, chewing on finger-nails and hoping that the candidate actually does join on the agreed upon date!

A fun fact: most recruiters are more worried than candidates in the lead up to the date of joining.

Candidates do not join due to 2 major reasons – either they are retained by their current employers (many employees use an external offer as a bargaining chip internally) or by using the interim time and available job offer they look for a new better one.

Also most such candidates will not inform the recruiter of the decision either so it is only when they refuse to take any phone calls or respond to emails on the day of joining that the penny finally drops.

This illustrates where the power centers in these relationships, which is a good opportunity to segue into the nature of the Job Market.

The Job Market

Candidates typically look as the organization (and therefore, the recruiters) as always having the upper hand in a hiring relationship. However this is generally not true. Let us equate the job market to a marketplace, once again considering campus hiring and walk-ins as different markets in every way.

The recruiter is equivalent to the ‘seller’ selling a job while a job-applicant is the ‘buyer’ who is looking for a job. Every day a position is vacant is a set-back to the seller, it is a product or inventory which remains unsold and is not earning a profit.

Consider, yourself to be a job-seeker. Depending on your situation – you may be a very active or a passive one. And whichever end of the continuum you are at – with a few exceptional situations such as where you are out of a job because your previous company closed down, or you just happened to get the boot – you will definitely have a set series of expectations before you accept any new job-offer.

These may typically be the role offered, the organization brand, the salary, benefits, team, office location, feedback about culture etc. and how all of these things compare to your current job offer. The list may vary for every Amar, Akbar and Anthony -however there will be that minimum threshold expectation for each one of them before they accept an offer.

We all know of friends and colleagues who crib and complain around the clock on how bad their job is. Yet don’t take up any of the million referrals and opportunities which are passed on to them. In most of these cases, it is because they cannot say with certainty that the opportunity is meeting their expectations or is better than where they currently are placed.

The recruiter at any organization rarely has that luxury. He/she has a position which is open and for which someone needs to be hired. And whatever the reason for this may be, there is an urgency or definite need which cannot be postponed indefinitely.

Hence contrary to the popular perception of cowboy recruiters who throw their weight around with a swagger to boot, it will very rarely happen that a recruiter will reject a candidate because his he didn’t like the shirt he wore or she didn’t like the perfume she used. It’s too much of a risk to take. What if they couldn’t find another candidate?

Most existing candidates will serve a notice period (which may vary from 1 month to 3 months) before moving on. In an ideal situation, the New Hire should thus join before the existing candidate exits, and even that with a good buffer to get the all-important ‘handover’.

No pressure, especially when this is happening for multiple candidates with multiple open positions. So job-seekers be aware that you share the driving seat just as much as the recruiter. Now go get that job opportunity which is knocking on the door!

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