Posted On 24th June 2011

I have unearthed a secret shame that blights recruitment consultants at all levels of the profession.

It can ruin relationships, leave all concerned deeply dissatisfied, and potentially inflict untold damage on the sufferers, those they are supposed to care for, and the economy as a whole.

The recruitment profession is suffering an epidemic of premature evaluation.

It seems many recruiters have been suffering for a very long time, although the economic stress and pressure of today’s world is exacerbating the condition.  Consequently, premature evaluation is now reaching epidemic proportions.

Like most private, shameful syndromes, its sufferers are largely in denial about it.  In fact, some only feel free to discuss it in internet chat rooms, like LinkedIn. Many blame their partners. They lie to hide its existence, or say that premature evaluation is not a problem.

Let’s talk a little more about this condition.

Many recruiters sometimes last no longer than twenty seconds when presented with a candidate’s application before evaluating. Oh sure, they have their excuses. They don’t have time to be more considerate.  The pressures of work create stress and that aggravates the condition. Anyway, if an application prompts a premature evaluation it must be the candidate’s fault.

Premature evaluators are in fact more or less incapable of seeing the problem as theirs, and not the candidate’s. Length, untidiness, unattractive presentation and other ephemeral characteristics get the blame.  In fact, premature evaluators lack the patience, depth, knowledge and often the experience to build a more mature appreciation of a candidate’s application.

They just want to evaluate and move on quickly to the next application.

Premature evaluation would be less of a problem if the recruitment profession was more honest about its prevalence, and showed some interest in addressing it. Sadly, many, perhaps most, lie to protect their dark and secret predilection.

Anyone who has read a recruiter’s website, or had to listen to one of their pitches, will know the words they use. They tell their clients they have the most rigorous methods.  They talk about the care with which they treat candidates.  They attract both with a veneer of knowledge and sophistication, perhaps tarted-up a little but nevertheless promising nothing less than a first class performance.

Sadly, both clients and candidates discover too late they have been seduced by a premature evaluator. Great candidates are cast aside after an over-hasty encounter with their application. Wildly inappropriate job seekers are placed before hiring officers. Frustration, anger and shame are the result.

Many do not even know they have been let down, because premature evaluation does not require the physical presence of a candidate.  The CV alone is enough. Suspicion, however common, can rarely be proved, and the victim of a premature evaluator can live in twilight of half-knowing, and blame themselves.

The condition came to light a few days ago when I was busy reading discussions on various LinkedIn groups for recruiters – strictly research you understand. There you can find recruiters admitting just how little effort they put into evaluating CVs. I was shocked with the freedom many of these premature evaluators felt able to flaunt their condition. Twenty seconds, thirty seconds, anything longer than a minute was an unusual time to spend with an application.

Just as an experiment I looked up the websites of some of these recruiters and there are all the old lines about rigour, experience and care.

How can the rest of us protect ourselves from premature evaluators?  Until the sufferers are ready to abandon denial and start to grow out of their condition, we will have to take a few precautions. Premature evaluation is so widespread among recruiters you will rarely be able to spot someone with it in advance.

For now, the best prophylactic would seem to be a good application – one that is reasonably short, crisp, direct, and to the point. It should have some attractive features near the top, and punchy one liners that grab, and keep, their attention. You need to keep the recruiter fixed, delaying evaluation until a later session or at the very least until a more thorough evaluation has been performed.

Sadly, a cure seems a long way off. Those suffering from it have taken refuge in deceit and secrecy. It may be eventually the Government will be forced to act. Until that day the best thing we can do is protect ourselves using the techniques I prescribe above.

David Welsh

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