Blog Post

SHRM Recruiter Study Shows What’s Still Not Working in Frontline Talent Acquisition Processes

I’m sure you have read an article, attended a panel, or perused a LinkedIn post about how the world of talent acquisition is transforming to be more skills-first, inclusive to nontraditional candidates, and responsive to the value of “transferable skills.” A recent study by SHRM, Matching Applicants & Role: Finding the Right Fit, provides evidence that the stated leadership intentions to do it “differently” simply aren’t changing the behavior of frontline internal/corporate recruiters. 

Typically the gatekeepers to any hiring manager, recruiters continue to rely on an antiquated yet simple method of candidate evaluation – what I like to call the Goldilocks Approach.  And it doesn’t make for a happy ending to the story for many high-potential hires who also happen to be career changers, relaunchers, and diverse candidates with nontraditional backgrounds.

What is the Recruiter “Goldilocks Approach”?  

The SHRM study is incredibly clear that recruiters by and large are using years of what they deem “relevant” experience as the penultimate criteria for deciding whether a candidate is “a just-right fit”.  Too little “relevant experience” makes you underqualified and too much “relevant experience” makes you overqualified – somewhere in between, a very narrow and sometimes nonexistent band of candidates in a shallow labor pool – is JUST RIGHT.  

Just right means you don’t risk the hiring manager rejecting you. Just right means you “believe” the candidate will be just fit enough to learn the job but not leave too soon. Just right is safe; Just right is easy to discern from a resume.  Just right is the path of least resistance. 

How Can You Confront the Goldilocks Approach?

While the Goldilocks approach is most evident in large corporate settings, it can take hold in any size organization so all should beware!  Here are a few ways you as a leader can confront and correct the practice.

1. Clearly define what broader set of experiences are relevant and valuable for each position – go beyond years of experience doing xyz somewhere else, so now you can do xyz for us. 

2. Identify competencies that a recruiter should be looking for and provide training on how to assess these competencies holistically throughout the application and initial screening process.

3. Include questions in your job application that will provide evidence beyond the resume of applicable skills and experience.  Example: Tell us what skills and capabilities you bring to this role that set you apart from other candidates.  Share experience not on your resume that demonstrates your success in other roles and potential to succeed in this role. 

4. Don’t reject candidates outright who look “overqualified.”  Work is different things for different people at different phases and stages of life.  You should of course ask someone why they are looking at this type of role given their background. But presume that more qualified candidates are less driven and will contribute less to the organization.  

5. Reverse the Recruiting Paradigm from Top to Bottom.  Ensure your broad leadership assertions are translated into specific actions and behaviors at every stage of the talent acquisition process. This will enable you to reverse the desire to “eliminate’ candidates from the pool and instead look to broaden the target pool for further consideration. This may include introducing a third-party competency or strengths assessment early in the process.