If you’re like most employers today, there’s a good chance that you’re spending a lot of money establishing your company’s recruitment marketing initiatives.

Whether that’s establishing an employer brand, replacing or enhancing your existing applicant tracking system, developing a killer career site or purchasing premium versions of sites like Glassdoor or LinkedIn, the costs associated with acquiring top talent today can often be steep (or even prohibitive) for many employers.

Factor in the price of posting on paid job boards, SEO/SEM, social media, content marketing, in person hiring events, direct sourcing and pipeline building activities, the right tools to obtain actionable analytics and the technologies required to effectively attract passive candidates (and convert them into active applicants for open requisitions), and you’ll see why employers spend an average of $140 billion every year on recruiting related activities alone.

Turns out, there’s a lot that goes into talent acquisition today, and success requires more resources, and more spend, than ever before. Companies are devoting an inordinate amount of money, resources and time into simply sourcing candidates.

Trust The Process.

Unfortunately, as companies invest in delivering the right talent for the right role at the right time, many employers are neglecting to consider that getting great candidates to hiring managers is only a small part of the hiring process.

Too many, however many spend far too much on acquiring and developing candidates (both passive and active), mostly to the neglect of the rest of the process – which is getting those candidates to accept an offer.

The best recruitment marketing in the world isn’t worth a dime if you can’t actually fill a req. All the sourcing and pipeline building in the world, similarly, is worthless if those leads can’t make it through the rest of the recruiting process and actually convert into actual hires.

This is why it might be time to take a step back and reconsider the relative costs and bottom line results of the entire recruiting process, not just the front end of the funnel.

For example, how much money and time has your talent team spent on training people on core recruiting competencies like phone screening, candidate relationship management and offer negotiation?

What kind of tools or tech do you have in place to streamline not only sourcing, but also to make candidate screening and selection more effective and efficient?

How much thought goes into establishing process improvements like structured interviewing, skills testing or optimizing onboarding?

You Get What You Pay For.

Employers spend a ton of time and money on making first impressions count with candidates through recruitment marketing and employer branding, but few focus on what that candidate will experience once they accept an offer and become an actual employee.

Maybe instead of equipping our candidates to succeed at getting through the recruiting gauntlet, we need to also consider giving our new hires the information and insight they need to make their first days and weeks as employees as smooth and productive as possible.

Remember, recruiting doesn’t stop with an accepted offer.

So why does our spend seemingly stop well before an offer is even extended?

It’s rare to find a company that invests in process improvement instead of simply pipelining candidates, so rare, in fact, that many employers simply neglect to consider what happens after an applicant becomes an candidate. Recruitment marketing is only as good as the recruiting process supporting it.

Inherently, employers know this, but neglect to focus on the fundamentals because marketing and sourcing are way sexier than the more mundane parts of the talent acquisition process.

Hiring is a marathon, but almost every employer spends like they’re sprinting, instead. Only the right process can companies truly find the right pace for winning the race for top talent.

So why do so many companies assume that recruiters – who have a tenuous connection to the role they’re recruiting for, little functional experience or specific expertise in screening for skills and finding candidates based not only on the position prerequisites, but success propensity and growth potential, too?

The problem starts at the same place as most searches: the job description.

The Root of All Recruiting Evil.

Let’s face it: job descriptions kind of suck.

These much maligned documents are not known for their utility or clarity, and are often ambiguous, misleading or incomplete, and yet, we’re reliant on these to shape our strategies, define our spend and dictate how and whom we hire.

The irony is that as much as we spend on recruitment advertising and marketing, we largely ignore the single most important component of those efforts.

In doing so, do a disservice to our hiring managers, our candidates and our own talent teams, too.

Occasionally, the hiring manager will either be open minded enough to let the recruiter look for personal potential over professional experience, but it’s rare that we hire for anything but skills, which is why job postings almost always play a bigger role in determining candidate fit than either the recruiter or the hiring manager.

This is why recruiters struggle with submissions, and hiring managers are rarely happy. What the recruiter is looking for and what the hiring manager really wants rarely matches what’s on the job description, which explains why so many hiring processes break down not during sourcing, but during screening and selection instead.

With the clearly established criteria constraining recruiters to more or less taking orders, talent acquisition practitioners tend to play it safe, delivering candidates who meet what the job description requires instead of what the real requirements of the hiring manager and the bigger business picture.

This leads to filtering out potential game changers and A Players who might be missing out on one or two preferred qualifications, but whose professional skills, attitude and potential might be far harder to find than the basic criteria listed on the job description.

Bad job descriptions aren’t written for great candidates, only minimally qualified ones. This is a huge loss for your candidates and clients alike.

Steal This Post.


By overemphasizing the job description, the hiring process is subordinate to the job posting. In this model, the JD drives the process rather than the recruiter or hiring manager. Sometimes, when an opening is created, the hiring stakeholders will take the time to edit and optimize these JDs for the type of talent the role really needs instead of the basic skills the opening requires, but this is exceedingly rare.

Too often, a JD is nothing more than a copy of a copy of a copy of some outdated and archaic compensation document that was written long enough ago where most of the requirements long ago rendered extraneous or irrelevant by changes in market conditions or business needs.

These should be dynamic documents, but too often, these remain static and stuck in a status quo that’s stuck in the past.

In fact, I’d wager that at least 25% of all job descriptions posted to the public steal entire sections from other companies wholesale, reflecting what other companies are looking for in a candidate instead of what your company and hiring team really need or want.

The more short cuts you take with a JD, the longer the hiring process will probably be; this is particularly true when a posting is approved and effectively locked in without any input from either the recruiter of record or the hiring manager; this leads to hiring managers screening and selecting candidates based off of someone else’s prerequisites rather than their personal preferences.

This disconnect is one reason recruiters have such a hard time keeping their hiring managers happy – and getting the JD right is an essential start to every search, not just a means to an end.

Most hiring managers see JDs as an obstacle to the goal, a hurdle that must be overcome in the hiring process. This means most don’t put the work in; instead, they’ve got their work cut out for them when it comes to recruiting.

Brand New Day.

When hiring managers overlook job descriptions, recruiters almost always play it safe, choosing cookie cutter candidates with similar skill sets and experience; this process is defensive and tactical, rather than strategic and opportunistic.

People who aren’t an exact fit are filtered out; instead, we choose the candidate who looks best on paper instead of the best looking candidate, period.

As any recruiter can tell you, there’s a big difference between the two.

In this model, hiring managers largely dictate the recruiting process, with the end results being inherently mixed. Recruiters review resumes that meet minimum qualifications, send stacks of these over to the hiring manager, and more or less make them pick between strikingly similar options.

Recruiters are tasked with delivering qualified, interested and available candidates, and hiring managers are left, largely, to do the rest. The core benefit here is that we can assume that the hiring manager has a better sense of what kind of candidate might be successful in the role.

They can be opportunistic and see the new skills a candidate might bring to the team and weigh the value of those new skills against someone who has exactly what was asked for and little else.

But there are areas for potential disaster here.  How does a hiring manager learn how to hire? We expect that someone who has achieved this station to have gone through the process as a candidate other places and can think clearly about what skills the new role requires.

That’s all. Raw experience and the hope that the hiring manager can see potential in new skills. You know how that story goes. In reality, hiring managers are incentivized, like recruiters, to make the safe choice instead of the best candidate.

Without anything other than a JD to distinguish good candidates from great ones, and without any training or support on standardized scoring, screening or selection, hiring managers’ choice is largely limited not to the best candidates, but the ones who look the best on paper.

Of course, resumes are almost as misleading as job descriptions, and trying to match these two documents and hope for the best is just wrong.

Hiring managers don’t generally have any specific expertise or training on how to hire, leading them to pick the candidate that’s the easiest to justify internally, both to their own teams and to their bosses and senior leadership.

Going With Your Gut Gets You Nowhere.

If we can assume that, on average, one hire out of every five doesn’t work, then it’s the hiring manager’s ass on the line for having made that decision; it’s far easier to justify making a safe pick who didn’t work out than taking a chance on a risky candidate and having that decision backfire.

As the old saying goes, “no one gets fired for picking IBM,” and no one ever got let go for going with the candidate who looked good on paper and met all the requirements, even if they weren’t the best fit for the role or the company culture.

The best choice isn’t always the safest, but in recruiting, the rewards of taking a chance are rarely worth the risk, at least as far as most hiring managers are concerned.

To make matters worse, that choice is largely influenced by hiring managers “going with their gut” in choosing one cookie cutter candidate over another who looks nearly identical on paper, and most of the time, that means opting for the candidate who’s the most like themselves, or who “looks” like a fit.

This destroys diversity, increases hiring bias, and can negatively impact a business and bottom line. . It doesn’t matter if you have invested in a diversity program if you haven’t trained your hiring managers to think through the entire process, determine quality metrics and spot internal biases before they start their phone screens.

So: who’s the boss? The recruiter or the hiring manager? If you’re like most companies, the actual answer is both are subordinate to whatever job description they’re stuck with. And all the recruitment marketing spend in the world can’t fix a broken JD.

Whether you’re a hiring manager or recruiter, that’s your job.

Remember: you’ve got to pay the costs to be the boss. And in this case, losing top talent to crap JDs is one cost no company can really afford.

About the Author:

James Ellis is currently Managing Consultant at BEX Consultants, which focuses on helping recruiting organizations develop and activate their employer brands while teaching hiring managers how to pick great candidates and radically improve hiring success.

Prior to joining BEX consultants, James most recently served as VP of Inbound Marketing at TMP Worldwide, where he was responsible for establishing TMP as the preeminent leader in recruiting content, tasked with developing and leading a global team dedicated to activating employer brand through content and media strategy. James started his career as a content consultant and commentator for SaltLab.

James currently lives in Chicago, where he hosts the Talent Cast podcast, and spends his time partnering with Fortune 1000 clients to develop recruitment marketing, digital and content strategies to find and attract the best talent.

Follow James on Twitter @TheWarforTalent or connect with him on LinkedIn.

By James Ellis

James Ellis is an authority on employer branding, focusing on companies who think they have no choice but to post and pray for talent. He is the principal of Employer Brand Labs, a bestselling author, keynote speaker, practitioner, and podcaster with a wealth of experience across multiple industries for almost a decade. You can find him on LinkedIn or subscribe to his free weekly newsletter The Change Agents.