Recruiter, heal thyself… and write a better job spec

I spoke to an organisation recently that was taking an average of 8% of candidates through from first interview to the next stage. This means the company interviews around 140 people a month. Let that number sink in for a moment. The word ‘horrible’ doesn’t begin to cover it.

In our game, you’d think recruiters who are hiring talent management professionals would know what they were looking for. Apparently not. Speak to anyone who has been interviewed recently for a talent acquisition role and you’ll typically hear comments like:  ‘The actual role didn’t match the description’; ‘The job was described as being strategic but really they wanted an operator’ or’ The head of talent job title was great, but they were only offering a salary of £30k’.


Well, a few things. First of all, let’s use language that is realistic. Second, let’s not write a list of ‘must dos’ and ‘must-haves’. Third, let’s write a person spec and describe what the role really looks like, day-to-day. Finally, let’s apply the same expectations that we have for hiring managers to ourselves, and be honest about what we really want in a candidate.

Most of us would like recruitment to make a meaningful contribution to our organisation’s success. But consistently exaggerating the scale of a position and overplaying the ‘strategy’ element is one of the great frustrations of recruiting professionals.
Let’s bring some honesty into describing what recruitment teams actually do.

Often, the successful candidate will find that the interesting elements of the job outlined in the spec are missing from the day-to-day, which can push them into seeking a new role.

These ‘teasers’ can be thrown into job descriptions to attract great candidates. But their failure to transpire is often the reason candidates disengage with the interview processes and leave roles early.


We should strive to be clear about what we need and write down what we want from a recruiter. Avoid simply describing who you are supposed to hire because someone has pre-defined it.

Be clear about the scope of the role and careful in your use of language. For example:

  • If the main goal is to deliver hires, be clear about that and make that role compelling for who should want it
  • If direct sourcing is critical, explain what that means in the way you ask candidates to be clear about how they are going to source on their CVs; it will help them shape their candidacy
  • Finally, dare I say it, let’s put some salary information out there to save everyone’s time as well. If the budget is £30k and you want a head of talent, your advert is probably going to attract the wrong person – that’s a problem for the recruiting strategy and will cost you time and money

So here’s to doing better by our own and, hopefully, all the jobseekers out there right now.

By Andrew Mountney

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