Have you applied for a job at your company?

Many leaders complaining about the difficulty in finding talent should try applying for a job at their company. They may be surprised by what they discover.

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Image: Shutterstock/fizkes

The "talent crisis" is an ongoing theme in nearly every industry, and IT is no exception. As the world adjusts after the initial shocks of COVID, and organizations struggle to find the balance between remote and in-person work, employees are moving and changing jobs in droves. The job market has tilted decidedly in favor of the job-seeker, and companies are having difficulty filling open roles and attracting qualified candidates. As a tech leader, it's easy to shake your head and shrug your shoulders and assume the dearth of candidates coming across your desk is "just the way it is." However, your systems and processes may be holding your organization back from getting access to the best talent.

Find a new job (at your current employer)

As an experiment, I applied to a half-dozen jobs that LinkedIn suggested match my profile, attempting to include a selection of jobs for which I was slightly qualified to somewhat underqualified. These jobs were posted by companies ranging in size from Fortune 50 to smaller companies. Some "highlights" of the experience included:

  • Mandatory "account creation" processes to log into company job portals, asking for passwords that were at least 70 characters in length, including numbers, punctuation, two hieroglyphs, and an umlaut, all for an account I'd likely never use again
  • An embedded marketing tracking link in the job application at a Top 5 bank that caused the application process to simply fail when clicking "apply now"
  • Resume import tools that severely botched the import process on the three versions of my resume that I tested and my LinkedIn profile, requiring 10-30 minutes of rework and tedious copying and pasting to reenter my job history, which was already supplied in my resume and LinkedIn profile. One could be forgiven for thinking they were applying for a role in the Department of Redundancy Department.
  • A less than 50% response rate via automated email. Where my applications didn't disappear into the ether without any acknowledgment whatsoever, bot-written emails included candidate-friendly language like "DO NOT REPLY TO THIS EMAIL AS ALL RESPONSES ARE IGNORED."

During the two weeks of this experiment, I received only one human contact in the form of a 7 pm call shortly after completing the application. We arranged a time to speak the next day, and I quickly discovered that the job posting, which used heady words like "innovation" and "transformation," was essentially for an ERP (enterprise resource planning) software implementation program manager.

Just as tech leaders should occasionally spend the day in a line-level job at their company, call the tech support hotline and use the company's products where possible, so too should you occasionally apply for a job at your company. You might be surprised how clunky and difficult the process and technology are for what should be a simple task of expressing interest and submitting a resume.

If you're frustrated or unable to complete this simple task, imagine how a desirable candidate will feel, knowing that they are in high demand and have dozens of options available. Will they put up with your 20-minute "online intelligence assessment" merely to submit their resume, or worse yet, encounter a 404 or some other technical failure while trying to express an interest in your job? What tone do you set for the rest of the application process and the job itself when your systems constantly tell the candidate that they are not allowed to contact anyone and should not expect even the courtesy of a form letter rejection?

SEE: <strong>Should job seekers list their vaccine status on LinkedIn and resumes? HR specialists weigh in</strong> (TechRepublic)

Forget the better mousetrap; just build a working one

If you can't pierce the electronic wall you've helped erect between your open positions and someone who should be a perfect fit for the role, based on your position as a leader in the organization, imagine how other candidates will fare.

Consider for a moment the investment in time and resources that your organization has expended in implementing recruiting systems and creating and maintaining job postings. If these tools have had the exact opposite effect of their intended purpose, and they're actively preventing you from accessing qualified candidates, why would you continue to throw money at a toolset that's clearly not working?

If you can't even get a callback, or at least a "Sorry we're not interested" email from your own recruiting system, it's time for a sit-down with HR and a productive, although likely painful, conversation. Your team has created some combination of unrealistic, unclear or perhaps misrepresented job descriptions, and outsourced candidate acquisition to HR, which in turn has "outsourced" its job to some keyword-based search tool that's completely and utterly ineffective.

SEE: Wellness at work: How to support your team's mental health (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The idea that some software will magically rank and filter candidates based on its ability to read and interpret a document that uses highly technical and specific language, with formatting that's wonderful for human eyes and woeful for machines, is clearly a fool's errand that's readily demonstrated by the inability of most companies to connect qualified candidates to open positions.

Next time you find yourself complaining about the difficulties of filling an open position, take a moment to apply for the role yourself. While you may be shocked at the result, at least you'll realize that it's not the economy, virus or government preventing you from finding the right people; it's probably the systems and processes you've helped create and implement.

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