Archives for category: Recruiting Concepts

Fortune recently put out an interesting piece listing “the most ridiculous” job interview questions. And, to be sure, they are ridiculous.

But are they completely out of left field?

At the outset, sure, they seem like insane questions (“What’s your fastball?”). Yet if you note the companies that are asking them, we think it makes sense. All the queries require clever – if not extremely intelligent – responses, answers that will no doubt exercise the candidate’s critical thinking skills. The questions also require the candidate to think on their feet, all while keeping their cool.

Consider that these could be the same people operating nuclear reactors, building the hardware, software and essential devices of tomorrow, and keeping our personal records secured. So, wacky as they may seem, there’s a method to the interviewers’ madness. Some of our faves, along with the answers that we found by a simple Google searc…er, I mean, we figured them out without any help.

From Apple: “You have three boxes. One contains only apples, one contains only oranges, and one contains both apples and oranges. The boxes have been incorrectly labeled so that no label accurately identifies the contents of any of the boxes. Opening just one box, and without looking inside, you take out one piece of fruit. By looking at the fruit, how can you immediately label all of the boxes correctly?” (Answer.)

From Facebook: “Given the numbers 1 to 1,000, what is the minimum number of guesses needed to find a specific number, if you are given the hint ‘higher’ or ‘lower’ for each guess you make?” (Answer.)

From Intel: “Explain quantum electrodynamics in two minutes, starting now.” (Answer.)

Goofy or good? Leave your thoughts in the comments.


I recently read an article by Dr. John Sullivan titled, Refusing Applications from the Unemployed: Best Practice or Madness? The article addresses a huge trend in the job market in regards to companies discounting candidates based on the fact that they are not currently employed.  I think as recruiters we are all guilty of this practice at times.  We make the assumption that hiring managers only want to look at candidates that are currently working because they hold stronger value over someone that is unemployed.  Red flags start to waive and we convince ourselves that something has to be wrong with this person. In reality, the job market is very competitive and there is a large group of sharp candidates unable to find work because they are fighting for the same job as 5-10 other people.  With the unemployment rate hovering around 10% no one is debating that the economy is still not where we all hope that it should be.  Companies that are using this practice are really doing themselves a disservice because they are limiting the candidate pool and resources available that could be incredible employees.  Don’t be afraid to contact candidates that are unemployed because if you ask the right questions and figure out why they aren’t working you might find a diamond in the rough. Here’s the article:

Is it a good idea for firms hiring to purposely exclude the unemployed from consideration?

Now you may be scratching your head and thinking to yourself, “That’s crazy.” But it’s a growing practice.

For those who follow hiring trends and deal with job postings daily, it’s clear that postings increasingly contain some variation of the phrase “you must be currently employed in order to be considered.” A position I saw posted last week by an Alabama restaurant chain made the requirements crystal clear by putting the word “currently” in all caps.

“Must be CURRENTLY employed as a restaurant manager.” Sounds almost scary.

Finding examples of the phrase in use is not difficult; postings can be found on all of the major job posting sites including Monster, CareerBuilder, and craigslist. The increased usage of this practice is most likely be attributed to a growing percentage of unemployed persons who have remained unemployed for more than 18 months. While not a proven fact, many assume that prolonged unemployment leads to deterioration in skills and knowledge, or obsolescence in roles where knowledge fades quickly. Refusing to consider the unemployed is not a practice limited to a few professions. In my research, I found ads for manufacturing roles, medical provider roles, and law firms.

Still, this practice raises a great deal of emotion among both the unemployed and advocates of social responsibility. While I’ve never recommended this practice, corporate recruiting managers should examine both sides and understand the benefits and drawbacks prior to dismissing or adopting it.

There are more negative arguments associated with the practice than positive ones, including:

  • A smaller talent pool. In some cases, layoffs are designed to eliminate poor performers and those with obsolete skills first. However, facility closings also contribute to unemployment, and this hiring restriction would cause you to miss former top performers who were released due to a closing. If skill obsolescence is the issue driving the restriction, managers need to remember that it is possible for the unemployed to maintain/improve their skills through classes, reading, and self-directed learning. Is also true that some skills like customer service do not deteriorate a great deal during long periods of unemployment.
  • Potential legal issues. Although the practice is not illegal (unemployed people are not a protected class under U.S. law), it may certainly result in an adverse impact if the unemployed population is disproportionately made up of protected individuals.
  • Employer brand image. This practice may result in a barrage of negative comments and questions from the media, your socially conscious customers, and even your employees. Most firms remove the restriction when the press begins to call.
  • Lost sales. If the unemployed have been, are currently, or will be future customers, you can expect your sales to be negatively impacted if there is a large amount of negative publicity.
  • Desperate people will ignore it. Because unemployed people are “hungry,” it is highly likely that they will work hard and be loyal to your business. That hunger and desperation will lead many job seekers to simply ignore your limitation and apply anyway. As a result, you may still have to sort through almost as many applications.
  • It runs counter corporate social responsibility “talk.” While many firms that claim to be socially responsible rarely move past talking about it, if your firm truly tries to be socially responsible, this practice would most definitely violate all adopted standards.
  • Missed tax breaks. If you refuse to hire the unemployed, you will miss out on some significant tax breaks.
  • Lost wage rightsizing opportunity. Skills increase and decrease in value, but rarely do firms adjust wages downward. Refusing to hire the unemployed, who would be more likely to accept a reduced wage, ignores an opportunity to help adjust real wages to actual market value.

Obviously the ability to adopt this hiring practice and the impact it would have varies around the world and from organization to organization. Government agencies and non-profit organizations would never consider such policy, and firms that count the unemployed among their key customers would suffer more economically post adoption.

Still, there are benefits in refusing to consider the unemployed (gosh, that sounds evil, doesn’t it?)

The primary driver of refusing to consider the unemployed is a desire not to hire someone whose skills have grown rusty, who has lost their contacts, or that possesses outdated knowledge. It’s a pure play on the bottom line, but consider:

  • Reduced new hire time to productivity. Hiring individuals who are sharp and “not rusty” means that the new hires will reach their “minimum productivity levels” much faster.
  • Reduced training costs. If new hires have obsolete skills and outdated knowledge because of their long period of unemployment, the organization would need to invest more in training (compared to currently up-to-speed individuals), thus raising costs and lowering the ROI of the hire.
  • Current contacts are needed. In some jobs, contacts and continuing relationships are essential. Although it is unfair to assume that all unemployed fail to maintain their contacts, it is also sometimes true that key individuals don’t have the same interest in maintaining relationships once someone loses their title and power.
  • Knowledge of current technology is needed. In jobs where large enterprise-wide technology (both hardware and software) is continually updated, working knowledge of the latest generation of technology is required. Unfortunately, unemployed individuals cannot easily maintain their fluency on technology that is not available to someone outside of a corporation.
  • Reduced recruiter workloads. Reducing the number of applicants (because of recruiter or hiring manager bias against the unemployed) lightens the workload of both recruiters and hiring managers. Because every applicant has the right to file a complaint or to sue, reducing the number of applications could conceivably reduce your legal risk. For resource managers who must calculate the likelihood of success, the question must instead be “what percentage of the unemployed are top performers and is the ratio high enough to justify the cost and time involved.” In a resource-limited process, probabilities must rule over emotion.
  • Increased learning from competitors. Hiring exclusively from among those currently employed increases the chance that you will learn about a competitor’s current best practices during interviews and upon hire. If you want to proactively “hurt” or learn from a competitor, hiring its best current employees is clearly superior to hiring individuals who may not have worked at a competitor previously.
  • An abundant talent pool. Even if firms exclude the unemployed, in most states 90% of the population is still available to them as potential hires.
  • Lower turnover rates. Currently employed individuals are at least theoretically more likely to take a job and stay in it for a while. The unemployed, because of their weak economic situation, may be “forced” to accept any job initially, then may trade up the moment better opportunities arise.

All good recruiters should know what the competition is doing. Whether you agree or disagree with this hiring particular practice, the concept of restricting applications to save time, money, and to avoid legal issues is here to stay.

Organizations have begun to adapt to the most effective and legally viable methods to reduce applications from applicants who have no real probability of reaching the interview stage. Restricting applications from the unemployed is a controversial approach, but others do exist. Realistic job previews, more distinct job descriptions, discouraging text on the application, and requiring applicants to pass a preliminary assessment screening are options for reducing non-qualified applicant volume.

Jeff Bonniwell
Technical Recruiter, UDig

13 percent.

That’s how much U.S. staffing employment – American workers placed by staffing agencies – increased from February 2010 to February 2011. It’s a solid figure and a leading employment indicator – particularly as our country moves out of the recession.

Staffing agencies and recruiters work for our nation. And they work for you. If you’re scared off by recruiters, you’re not alone. But it’s our opinion, of course, that you should always maintain a relationship with a recruiter who specializes in the industry you’re in. Here’s why:

  • Believe it or not, there are Recruiters out there that sincerely find what they do to be gratifying. If you can identify one, a relationship with that person will prove invaluable to your career. A recruiter who takes the time to get to know you and your career goals does not see you as a dollar sign, but rather, someone they would find great pleasure in finding a dream opportunity for.
  • If you are looking for a better opportunity but don’t want the world to know, a recruiter who knows you can make sure you’re exposed to opportunities while maintaining confidentiality. With more and more companies hiring Internal Recruiters and delegating recruiting responsibilities to HR, posting your resume on job boards can be risky. Having your resume fall into the wrong hands may not be a can of worms you want to open.
  • Market rates and salaries frequently change depending on skill set and demand. A recruiter you have a relationship with, who deals with these jobs and candidates daily can help keep you stay at the forefront of the state of your particular industry. Even if you don’t want to make a career change, your recruiter can help you achieve obtaining a well deserved raise.

Bottom line: identify a trustworthy recruiter and make it a point to build a relationship. Once the relationship and trust is established, your recruiter will constantly be working behind the scenes to make sure you are exposed to opportunities that you most likely would not have found otherwise.

Wahid Osmani
Technical Account Manager, UDig

Once you reach a certain age, you’ve most certainly experienced some “interesting” interviews. We’ve all at least heard stories – someone once told me about an interview in which the interviewer sat behind her the entire time asking questions twelve or so inches from the back of her head. In a recent Harvard Business Review post, one thing is clear, preparation is always key – whether you are asked the best interview question or the worst.

Can you think of your best and worst interviews?

The obvious answer might look like yes, everyone is busy doing other things.

Wrong, experts say.

A company that has a gap in its workforce may need you even more this time of year. Slack off during November and December, and you might miss one of the best times of the year to find a job. As full-time employees go on break or vacation, the number of people left to run the office gets stretched even thinner.

Keep that billboard on throughout the holidays.

For a job seeker, it’s a great time to step in and help out. Companies with needs don’t need to take vacations. It may be harder to meet with decision-makers, but make yourself available. If business see that you are flexible and can help when they need you this could be the decision that gets you hired.

Here’s a list of advantages to job-shopping during the holidays:

A reduction in competition. By keeping your search going at a time when others have slowed down or stopped, you have a greater chance of being noticed. Also, job seeking during the holidays can show prospective employers your seriousness about landing a position.

Managers have year-end deadlines, and the new year brings a new budget. Toward the end of the fiscal year, hiring managers may have a number of new positions to fill. They will be evaluated on whether they get the job done.”

Holiday activities often put managers in a more receptive mood. When people are focused on family and fun through the holidays, they often are more open and receptive to conversation – even from job seekers.

Holiday events are a natural networking environment. Professional associations often have free holiday events. Job seekers should take advantage of parties given by associations, chambers and clubs that are of interest.

Holiday greetings by mail, e-mail and telephone keep you connected. People searching for jobs should harness the spirit of the season to amp up gratitude. Thank former clients, vendors and co-workers. Thank bosses and mentors. Thank everyone who has helped.

So as tempting as taking a holiday break sounds, making the extra effort at this time of year may bring in a great new position for the new year. Ring in the new year with a new job and resolve to make the most out of it!


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