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4 Top Recruitment and Selection Myths Busted

Ameya JoshiThe entire hiring process is bubbling with potential for strong emotions come to the surface and boil very easily. With jobs becoming equivalent to identities, candidates – especially active seekers – look at every job opportunity with a level of seriousness only otherwise displayed by concerned Indian mothers in the matrimonial process.

Add to the mix managers and team leaders who have high expectations coupled with low patience levels, recruiters working under the pressures of deadlines in a buyer’s job market and various sourcing channels – each with their own agenda to push – and you have all the ingredients of a recipe which can leave a lot of people unsatisfied after the meal.

Recruitment Myth 1: I was perfect for the job but…

Not being selected for a job is not quite the same as rejection. However a candidate who’s not got the job he or she desires is not the easiest person to explain this thin line of difference to.

‘Science’ says that the easiest way to deal with rejection is to find a nice target to push the blame upon. And a lot of candidates may feel they were passed up because of biased recruiters, faulty interview processes and other candidates who played dirty.

The reality is – Are recruitment processes across organizations and industries completely, objectively fair? A loud no. The volumes dealt with are staggering, in most organizations one process does not talk to another, and selection is a subjective activity at the best of times. There are definitely situations where the best candidate does not get the best job s/he is suitable for.

However a vital point here: this is not by design. Most of the times, no one is likely to be ‘out to get you’ unless you’ve really rubbed someone the wrong way.

In any large organization there are enough stakeholders involved to make pushing a weak candidate because of a bias nearly impossible above a certain level. The best a determined ‘connection’ may be able to help with in most cases is a reference for an interview.

Unless it’s entry level campus hiring, the selection or even rejection of a candidate is very rarely a unilateral decision. It looks at role fitment on paper as well as in reality, scalability, culture fit, team fit etc. and is a decision made by at least the functional head, the interview panels and the HR team.

But there are lots of variable factors for luck to play a role. Sometimes, life is unfair – but there are other fish in the sea and sometimes there are more seas to explore!

Sometimes, even after multiple rounds of interviews some candidates don’t make it through. This may be due to a variety of reasons. Not all of them can be communicated – sometimes a candidate is right for the job but not a long term prospect.

At other times where everything seems perfect, there may be temporary constraints which can’t be worked around – such as an internal employee with some personal requirement who needs to be accommodated. Hell hath no fury like a candidate spurned in the last round and most of us don’t really want to accept any of the reasons provided to us.

Myth 2: I got the job but was screwed out of the compensation / corner office / designation I deserved

Tales of recruitment managers who don’t offer the right salaries or who screwed the candidates out of what they deserved are narrated with a frequency rivalled only by those of corrupt politicians.

Some gyaan to start off: Salary banding is a science in itself and not something left to the complete discretion of a recruiter. Typically, most organizations will have salary bands or ranges for each level and each department.

Each range thus has an entry point (minimum), an exit point (maximum) and indicative milestones (25th percentile, 50th percentile and so on).

These ranges are developed basis the market rate for hiring for similar positions and the compensation being currently offered to similar role-holders within the organization.

Internal parity (everyone who does a similar job inside the organization is paid more or less the same) and external benchmarks (anyone who does a similar job outside the organization is paid similarly) are thus the two inputs to a salary matrix.

Based on where the organization chooses to position itself in the marketplace, these ranges may vary. For example some organizations offer tremendous benefits and work-life balance, but pay slightly lower. Others may be big paymasters to compensate for the lack of an employer brand or to make up for the hectic/extreme pace of work.

The point of this background tale was to indicate that – as a recruiter, the ideal scenario would be to hire every candidate at a median salary. This way the internal parity is not disturbed and there is no threat of external market forces. It also ensures that a candidate once hired can be given a good growth within the system every year (some organizations even mandate this).

Recruitment Myths

This does not happen. Offering someone a low salary is no incentive to the recruiter.

It is not practical for a recruiters to offer a lower salary because

1. Candidates will be unhappy once they find out they’ve been offered a lower salary which makes them easy target for poaching from other organizations.

2. To ensure parity such low-entry pay candidates would then need to be offered larger hikes every year – this will create a lot of unhappy campers in the rest of the organization.

3. Systems & processes are built in to prevent recruiters from offering high salaries even within the band. Typically anything above the median percentile would require exceptions from senior management because:

– It again doesn’t make sense to hire an external candidate at a higher salary and antagonize the existing employee base.

– This will definitely impact the raise such a candidate can get in the near future – to stay within the range, even a fantastic performer would have to be given a nominal hike.

– Any anomaly is also likely to throw all your carefully configured pay ranges and analytics for a toss.

In addition, organizations which hire from campus also look to ensure ‘batch parity’. This means external lateral hires would always be given a compensation package and designation lesser than or equivalent to what internal employees with a similar tenure have.
Thus, once the level/designation has been identified, salary negotiation is a pretty constrained activity from any recruiter’s side. More effort or time in negotiation may be equivalent to squeezing out that extra bit of toothpaste from an already empty tube.

Of course, there are younger, new age organizations who’re still evolving their processes which may provide exceptional compensation to ensure they get the right kind of people on board with niche skills or emergencies.

But as a thumb rule the larger and more established the organization, the greater is the need to adhere to these salary bands.
Should candidates therefore negotiate? Most definitely yes. There’s every chance the initial offer would be slightly below par because most recruiters do expect candidates to negotiate.

Once the negotiations start, this buffer will probably be ceded easily enough. But beyond a point, it is unlikely to work and may actually end up counter-productive leaving the impression of you as mercenary rather than interested in the job.

Joining bonuses, notice period buyouts, relocation costs are areas which typically have a one-time impact and which organizations are more open to negotiate around.

Myth 3: “We’ll get back to you” is HR-speak for “You’re rejected”

Never returns calls, didn’t tell me what happened about the interview I gave last week, hasn’t yet confirmed what my joining date is – the litany of complaints is long and largely justified.

Recruiters and HR managers need to communicate with and respond to candidates better – there are no two ways around it. But then why is it so difficult to get a response (or as it is known in Indian corporate lingo – ‘a revert’) out of them? Here’s a list of reasons which may explain…
Genuine ‘bandwidth’ issue: Most corporate recruitment managers are working on multiple open positions, for each of which there are generally many candidates who are screened, interviewed, shortlisted and so on. This leads to an avalanche of paperwork, compliance and there are times where it may be impossible to get back to everyone. Amongst all other activities, this is something which organizations don’t focus on or ‘insist upon’ either.

So if you’re in doubt, drop in an email to the person you met or text. Most recruiters are on the phone all day so an email or text message may be a better way of ensuring your message will be noticed (and hopefully responded to!)
Avoiding unpleasant news: There are times where despite multiple reminders and hints there is still no response. Saying no or turning someone down is often an awkward conversation which involves confrontation – many people avoid these. Recruiters are despite what many believe – normal people as well which explains a great deal of such cases.

Generally as an interviewee, you have a fair sense of how an interview went. Repeatedly ignored messages are an indicator that it didn’t probably go your way (‘samajhdaar ko ishaara’ as they say) i.e. if you cleared the interview, someone would be definitely be following up with you at all hours of the day (remember: Buyer’s market, in the article How Recruitment works).

Another way may be to politely reach out or email someone else who may have interviewed with to say – ‘I’ve not heard back from the HR team – could you please help me know what the status of my application is?’
Internal delays:

Most commonly however, the recruiter doesn’t get back to you because his internal customers – the interviewers and the reporting managers don’t get back to him.

Interviews are often haphazard and spread over a period of time. It takes time after this to formally collate everyone’s inputs and have an agreement – at times interviewers are unable to make decisions till they see a sizable number of candidates.

Sometimes the answer is a No, but the recruitment manager still wants to have a conversation with the interviewers to ask them to reconsider. And sometimes, it has just been impossible to get all the panelists in the same room to have this discussion together.

Remember, the position you’ve applied for isn’t the only open position in the organization!

Myth 4: When I’m told to send my profile, it’s consigned to the Recycle Bin

Recruiters are employed by organizations (or in the case of independent ones, paid by organizations) and not by candidates. And therefore the crucial line of distinction then – recruiters find candidates for jobs, and not jobs for candidates.

In most cases if a candidate sends a profile which fits the requirements of a vacancy which exists, why would it not be used? If an application was made against a position which seems to be a perfect fit, but there was no further interview or contact – this is likely to be because of a fitment issue.

The number of candidates who clear an interview and then back out for various reasons is huge. Most internal recruiters therefore like to be very sure about issues such as location, designation, salary ceilings etc. which may come up later.

As mentioned above, no recruiter would ever risk not having a good candidate interviewed but their worst nightmare is a candidate who was selected after a long process but then has to back out at the last moment for an entirely avoidable reason.

The biggest problem candidates typically have is when a recruiter uses the ‘I’ll see what I can do’ which then doesn’t progress into anything.

Key insider info here: ‘I’ll see what I can do’, ‘We’ll get back to you shortly’ etc. are code language for – ‘We don’t have anything for you right now. However who knows what the future holds? Send us your CV, if something opens up and we remember you/ you’re still available/ or some other multiple permutations work- we may give you a call.’

You would notice the number of howevers, ifs and buts in the above line. The recruiter is hoping something may come up for which a certain profile might be suitable for. However this may just as easily ‘not come up’ in which case there is not much to be done.

There is merit in keeping your profile ‘warm’ and being in touch with a hiring manager. The occasional reminder, preferably over email or text – is however a good way to stay in his/her consideration set. However calling recruiters every week to see if new opportunities popped up is not a good idea, while it may not break your case it doesn’t help make it either!

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Ameya Joshi
About Ameya Joshi
Ameya is an MBA from XLRI who did not get into HR & Talent Acquisition just because he liked ‘working with people’. He enjoys reading, history, trivia and of course as an Indian worth his salt, is passionate about cricket and movies.

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