When I ask colleagues in the IT industry what they think about recruiters, responses range from studied ambivalence to outright contempt. Everyone seems to have at least one story about recruiters. It could be that they are hounded by unsolicited offers for jobs that have nothing to do with their skillset on LinkedIn, unrealistic position descriptions posted on job search sites, through to bad fit candidates put forward for positions that the recruiter has been asked to fill.

Recruiters are in a challenging position

Recruiters are in a challenging position for a number of reasons. They have to take a client’s description of the person that they want and parse that into something that fits into the schema available to various job advertisement channels. Often the client won’t know exactly what they want and has a mess of contradictory needs. Not only might the client not entirely be sure what skills they require now versus which skills they think might be required in the future, the client will also want the best person for the lowest salary.

A recruiter has to parse the morass of client requirements into some sort of meaningful description upon which to find candidates. In the best of all worlds, a truly accurate position description might run to several thousand words. Most job advertising channels allow for a candidate description to run to a few hundred words. Rather than a position being outlined in precise detail (already challenging because a client might not know exactly what they want), the position is described in necessarily general terms.

Some candidates will apply for the position based on the generalities and be unsuitable because they don’t meet the unwritten specifics. It might be that this is picked up when the recruiter screens the candidate, it might only be that the problems with the general description become apparent when the candidates are interviewed by the client seeking the employee.

Candidates aren’t always honest

Not all candidates are honest on their resumes. Many, especially those early on in their careers, inflate their expertise and understanding. While it might be possible to understand the obvious mendacities, it’s difficult for a non-expert to determine whether a person is misrepresenting their knowledge and experience.

There is also the Dunning-Kruger problem. Dunning-Kruger is a cognitive bias where low-ability individuals perceive their ability and experience to be much better than it actually is. A candidate may truly believe that they are an expert on a topic and may appear so to everyone except someone who is actually an expert on that topic.

Most IT recruiters don’t have experience in IT. Even if they did have experience in IT, the majority of the candidates that they would be dealing with would have skills in domains that were separate from the one that they had experience in. Even if a recruiter was telepathic, they wouldn’t be able to weed out the candidates suffering from the Dunning-Kruger effect because while they may be able to pick up whether someone is lying about their expertise, it’s much harder to pick up whether someone is mistaken in their perceptions about their expertise.

There’s a better way

One of the things that Gooroo is working on is trying to make the recruitment experience better for both recruiters, clients, and candidates. This means thinking differently about the process of recruitment, which is in its present form what one might politely term a bit of a mess and which even people most sympathetic with the current process might suggest doesn’t have a stellar record when it comes to locating the best candidate with the best fit for the right position. This not only requires recruiters to have a better idea of the specific attributes they want out of candidates, but also involves candidates having a much better and realistic understanding of their own specific attributes and what they can do to improve them.