The Recruiting Nightmare #1 – The System is Broken

Let’s get this out of the way now – the entire system of recruiting, hiring, and placing people is terribly, terribly broken.  You probably noticed this, but I’m just going to confirm you’re right.

There’s specific ways that its broken – indeed I’ll be covering them – but it’s important to understand right now it does not work right.  People need work, there is at least some work out there, and a lot goes unfilled, goes wrongly filled, and good jobs and good people vanish into the either.

I base this on the fact that pretty much everyone I talk to about recruiting tells me this, often followed by a litany of reasons why.  There’s a weird, almost pathological consensus out there that things aren’t working in getting people into jobs.  What makes it weird is that by now we’re terribly used to it, despite it being a rather large social/economic malfunction.

Ever see companies with huge lists of online job postings and wonder why no one has taken those jobs?  I have.  I get calls for jobs I applied for months ago.  These positions aren’t getting filled despite a supposedly desperate population of job-seekers and some pretty good offers.

Ever hear someone talking about how they can’t find talent?  Are you able to resist screaming at them that there is talent?  Good, you’re ahead

Something is broken.  Oh, and that’s just the jobs you see publicly posted – if you ever had recruiters recruiting for unposted positions, then you know it’s worse.

I don’t mean to be insensitive, but in this era of economic meltdown and people willing to go far to take jobs, you think there’d be, well, less openings.  I think I’d get less spam on positions, do less networking, see less hiring.  I don’t.  If anything I keep hearing how people “can’t get folks,” which drives me to sympathy and occasionally glasses of sake.

Sure, this varies by region (says the guy living in Silicon Valley), but even in regions with openings, I hear the complaints and see the results.  It blows my mind and those of my contacts, friends, and fellows.

In the large, I think we have to accept that the social, cultural, economic, and educational changes in America, and indeed the world, have completely changed the hiring and the recruiting process.  We just didn’t keep up and in a few cases fell behind.

If you think about it, it makes sense – everything changed except how we hire people, and even our advanced technologies replicate old-school ways of doing things, such as job boards.  We’re not doing everything new while living in a time that would have looked like science fiction 30 years ago.

It’s not working.

As I go on I’ll be exploring the specific parts of the system that are broken, as well as specific problems in the system  But it’s important to realize that in the job search, the entire system isn’t working as intended – our economic, social, and technical changes have completely outstripped it.

No one is really trying to change it wholesale.


  • Accept that the system is entirely busted.
  • Pay attention to economic, career, and job search news – this is valuable as you have to rely more on what is going on than the job search system.  An example would be applying for work at a newsworthy company, where your awareness helps you connect and find an in as opposed to relying on the system itself.
  • Learn to think out of the box and work outside the systems – without being so radical no one can relate to your job search.  Doing something insanely creative to get attention may seem cool, but a lot of people will just focus on the “Insane” part.
  • Learn to repurpose the “broken” parts of the system in useful ways as you find them.


  • Be sympathetic – the system is broken and they have to cope with it.
  • Share your findings in navigating the system with recruiters.


  • How can we geeks come up with new methods of helping people find employment that most people can use?

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach for professional and potentially professional geeks, fans, and otaku. He can be reached at