The hidden beauty of recruiting

Traditional recruiting loses something special: feedback. With few exceptions, external recruiters are an un-revered bunch. Among talented engineers they’re known for cold emails and little patience. Among hirers they’re known for high fees and fly-by-night service. But these middlemen of hiring are also in a unique position to dramatically improve candidates’ competitiveness. The problem is that neither external recruiters nor internal hiring managers are incentivized to do so.

If you talk to hiring managers you’ll hear that they wish there was a way to provide feedback to rejected job applicants. And when you talk with job applicants they would love to have coaching on how to improve their chances. Unfortunately, there is no moment in a traditional hiring process to provide this feedback. After rejecting a candidate, hiring managers fear they’ll be misunderstood, or worse. It’s one of the first lessons you learn as a hirer. It’s no one’s fault: When you’ve just been rejected, you don’t want to hear a list of your own shortcomings.

But hiring managers are by definition experts at hiring; this lost feedback is an obvious inefficiency in the hiring process. It’s kind of shocking, really. Normal hiring practice throws away expertise which good hiring managers want to provide (for free!) and that applicants want to receive.

Most recruiters, unfortunately, can’t afford the time necessary with each candidate to help them improve after each job interview. Recruiters are stuck in a numbers game: they race to find good candidates, shop them around, and hope they get a job. The hit rate of finding a candidate who wants to change jobs is low to begin with, and their chances of being the final link the in the chain that gets them placed are even smaller. Recruiters see the time this feedback would take to deliver as a risky investment. After all, job candidates don’t pay recruiting fees. As a result recruiters optimize their funnels for throughput.

At Thinkful, we facilitate hiring but don’t monetize it. With these changed incentives we  discovered how much feedback was being lost in the traditional recruiting model. Now, when a hiring manager gives us the feedback they wish they could directly tell our student, we listen. And because we are paid by our students we’re particularly incentivized to provide this feedback in a constructive, helpful way. In addition, through our one-on-one coaching we get to know our students’ strengths, weaknesses, and how they learn best. It’s this relationship that allows us to help them improve.

We didn’t plan or expect it, but throwing out the old rules of recruiting has allowed us to uncover something we didn’t expect: The beauty of being a middleman.