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October 03, 2002
Crouching Candidate, Hidden Job Orders
by Sean Fitzgerald, Principal Talent Agent

There is a wealth of decision-making criteria that is used in making hiring decisions that is either screened for late in the interviewing process (after time, resources already been invested) or often not at all. Only after a candidate is rejected, if we are persistent and have a good relationship, will we discover such hidden decision-making criteria.

Wouldn’t it be preferable to have that information throughout the entire interview/hiring process on each candidate for each hiring authority? Better still, how would it be if the managers were re-trained to include ALL relevant information in job orders they give us, every bit of information that will be used by them in making the decision to hire someone?

This is the ever-illusive "Yes" criteria that seems random at times because it remains hidden; never brought to the surface, and worse yet, never qualified for, since it is not included in job descriptions.

The hiring manager(s) ideal candidate for a position may have a resume that's virtually identical to dozens of other candidates he/she was not interested in at all. This happens, I believe, because a hiring manager writes the job description (or verbalizes it to HR) just from HIS OWN PERSPECTIVE. This is natural of course, and everyone's natural tendency is to communicate from one's own perspective. The problem we run into with this is that the audience for the job description (job seekers, HR, recruiters) are each coming from their own perspectives too and we end up with this "iceberg" phenomenon where the explicit text of the job order is striped down and simplified to the point of being generic. People tend to assume that others share their thoughts and points-of-view a lot more than we really do. So we have managers with a significant amount of what they are thinking as important criteria not being explicitly included in the job description because they assume that its common knowledge. Well anthropologists have shown time and time again that there is no universal "common sense." And I would venture that there is probably no universally shared "common knowledge" either. So in assuming that everyone, or at least all potential candidates, HR staff, and recruiters are sharing a his/her frame of mind and thought processes, we get these simple descriptions from clients that do not capture many of the key decision-making factors or variables. Whenever I see jobs open for extended periods of time, with few or no interviews being conducted, I suspect such an over-simplification is the culprit.

So what can we do about it?

Beyond the job order as a textual description, the hidden job order, or "the job order as it is in the manager's mind" is the sub-text that often times makes-or-breaks offer decisions. As staffing professionals we should have all the variables we possibly can that impact our fulfillment of staffing/placement goals and have them as early on as possible in the process. We want to be pre-closing our candidate on the actual position, not preclosing him/her on an impersonal generic job description. In fact, I think it's safe to bet that the more detailed and complete the job descriptions we get, the easier our pre-closing and closing becomes.

What is hidden in the manager's head that we're not always getting?

The hidden job order criteria I'm referring to includes (but is not limited to):
What companies candidate should have worked at before and/or know people from, what universities, what Ph.D. program advisors ideal candidate will have had, Association memberships, Standards Committee memberships, Professional Organization Memberships, Foundry Company relationships, vendor relationships, specific tools not listed in job description, versions of specific tools used, foreign language fluency, Ability to travel overseas for business/training, relationships with particular other companies at particular levels (C-level, VP, depts., divisions, teams, mgmt), any certifications desired, any methodologies trained in/practiced, number of product development lifecycles in career, patents and patent applications filed, number of direct reports, number of manager reports, quotas: exceeded by how much in percent, and quotas: raw dollar amounts revenue generated, Profit and Losses responsibility (P&L) for particular dollar amounts, and many many more.

If you are the hiring manager, then take a few minutes to think about the following exercise yourself. If you are in HR and/or a recruiter you might want to have each of your hiring managers do this exercise to uncover the hidden implicit job order criteria that is going to be involved in their decision on who to extend an offer to...but that we will never know about until it's too late without taking action and yanking the information right out of them:

"Crouching Candidate, Hidden Job Order"
An Exercise for drilling down to the Implicit Job Order requirements

Okay, imagine for a second that there is one perfect candidate out there in the field for your open position. But you can't see that person, as he/she is crouching. The only way to get the candidate to emerge and be visible to you is for you to include all the hidden, implied, sub-text, subliminal things that are involved when you make the decision to hire a candidate in your job description. The more detailed the description is, the more it is a reflection of your personal vision of the ideal candidate (which is what you will be comparing applicants to mentally anyway) the more visible the ideal hire becomes to you...crouching to bending over, to leaning, to slouching, to standing.... and you've got your perfect hire!

I promise you that if given the answers to the above hidden evaluation criteria, combined with retraining hiring managers to include such information from the get-go (using the "Crouching Candidate, Hidden Job Order" exercise as one tool to develop managers’ inclusive-bias (err on the side of too much rather than too little info in job descriptions) so you are getting EVERY VARIABLE that will affect their decision-making) you will see a radical change in the resume response time, submission to interview ratios, and interview to offer ratios. No more 200+ candidates submitted to one job order and no interviews set up, You will instead have under a dozen Candidate profile submissions (with resumes but more in depth info from them too) that are direct-hit targeted matches on both the explicit and implicit decision-making criteria for that particular hiring manager. You hiring managers will come to think that you are either a closet-engineer or have some telepathic abilities...regardless the perceived value you have to them will go way up along with their respect for your work and efforts.

In fact, I am so confident that discovering the hidden decision-making criteria manager’s leave in their heads and including it in your job descriptions from now on will make a major difference in your time-to-hire for each position, that I am willing to offer you/your company a 30% discount on our fees for recruiting if this solution does not provide any added-value to you and your organization (as demonstrated by reduced time-to-hire, response time to resumes-average, and resume receipt/interview time between and also Number of resumes to interview ratio.

  About the Author
Sean Fitzgerald, Principal Talent Agent of Clear Source Technology
A Talent Acquisition Service Partner (TASP).

Sean can be reached at 408.248.1214

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