Inside the Head of a Recruiter | Foundation 3 – Lesson 1

Go back to Job Search Prep Syllabus.

What’s Constraining Your Job Search?

As we just saw, the brain sometimes needs constraints in order to foster creativity. As we also just saw, it can sometimes be difficult to invent constraints for yourself. Jason touched on how to constrain your thinking in the last Foundation, though he didn’t call it that, and before this program is over, you’ll be a master at it. But right now, let’s assume that you need outside help: where can you get yourself some creativity-breeding constraints? Why, from the people who will make the decision to hire you or not hire you, of course! If you understand how that person works and why she makes the decisions she does — in other words, what constraints she’s working with — then you will have a clearer picture of how creative you can be in your job search.

The Recruiter’s Constraints

There’s a common misunderstanding among job seekers that most jobs get posted online.

Not true.

“But all jobs have to get posted! It’s the law!”

Right… For many companies, that’s exactly true. But there’s “posted,” and there’s posted.

Now before you start crying, “Foul! Unfair! Glass ceiling!” clamp your mouth and climb off your high horse, Tex. You employ the same tactics in every facet of your life.

Here are three examples to illustrate the point:

Hiring a Babysitter

You may not have kids, but you can almost certainly relate to the idea of trusting someone to take full responsibility for your cherished offspring. Maybe you yourself have baby… sitted.

If you need a babysitter for your kids, what do you do?

First, you “post” the job internally. You ask:

  1. Is there someone in my family who can watch the kids? No?
  2. Do I have any friends who love spending time with my adorable kids? No?
  3. Can any of my friends with kids recommend a responsible babysitter? No?
  4. Do I know know anyone with a responsible teenager? No?

No? OK, that didn’t work… but Friday is date night and it’s still fast approaching, so now you post the position… Craigslist, here you come!

Need a shortstop for your softball team?

Maybe you think that entrusting kids to someone is a unique situation.


How do you field a sports team for the city league or intramural college league?

Once again, you “post” internally first. Roommates. Friends. Their friends. Their friends’ friends. And if you’re still short, then you post a tear-off flyer down at the Union/Quad/Starbuck’s/gym. In that order.

How do you find your soul mate?

Most people start by “posting” their intentions to the people directly around them – classmates and co-workers. From there they branch out to friends of friends and acquaintances. Then there’s the hottie at the coffee shop or the crush at your gym. Eventually you get down to the random hookups and bar pickups. When none of those work, then you go online, and post.

We realize that most people these days don’t marry people they’ve known for years and years. We also know that a huge portion of marriages don’t last very long. Interestingly, most CEOs hired from the outside don’t last very long either – ones that grow up inside the company have better track records and longer tenures.

Yes, we think there is a cause-and-effect thing going on here. See where we’re heading with all this?

How Jobs Get Posted

For most jobs, a lot happens before a company puts a job up on its website or a 3rd party job board. By the time a job gets posted, the manager has probably “posted” the job internally – meaning she has talked with her team for referrals, and asked her peers for the names of up-and-comers. In many cases, the posting that an outside job candidate sees is nothing more than a gut-check for the manager – a process to affirm the decision that the manager has already made to hire someone she already knows. When you go in on that interview, you’re just like a stand-is in a police line up – there’s almost no way that you’re getting picked.

The process varies widely by company, but you should understand that a job posting is typically a last ditch attempt to find someone. (At higher levels, this step may be replaced with engagement of an expensive recruiter.) If you’re on the outside, and you want to be on the inside, you need to be able to insert yourself into the hiring process after the job is “posted,” not after the job is posted.

Good jobs get snapped up first before they make it to the outside world. Just like $20 an hour babysitting jobs at houses with 72″ inch TVs and stocked cupboards.

To some of you, this may sound unethical. While we don’t think it is, we do recognize that we could have a rich debate over where the line is between “filling jobs with capable internal candidates first” and “unfairly shutting out capable outsiders.” But we’re not here to have that debate right now. We’re here to help you understand the constraints your potential hirer is facing so that you can get creative in your job search.

Two key takeaways:

1. Companies are nearing desperation when they get to the point of posting jobs. The hiring process is much more onerous for them when they have to wade through 1000s of resumes.

2. There’s an opportunity to sneak into the process before jobs get posted.

How Does This Make Me Creative?

While the text of the lesson has focused mostly on the procedural constraints that most recruiters use to control the hiring process, we can’t ignore understanding the emotional state of recruiters too. You may still be a little confused about how getting inside the head of a recruiter will lead to creativity, but I think that this video will clear it up.

I should also note that when I gave that recruiter from the story some feedback on how obvious it was that she didn’t like a candidate by the tone of her voice, she was pissed. She got really mad at me and never treated me the same again. Looks like she missed the opportunity for a Clarifying Event.


After today’s lesson, I want you to take action to better understand recruiters. Here’s what I need you to do. If you’re courageous enough, find a recruiter to interview. Ask him or her about the process and the mindset of evaluating people’s fit to a job. If that’s asking too much, find some recruiters who are blogging or are on Twitter and start reading up on them. Report back in the comments on who you’re following and what they’re saying.

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6 responses to “Inside the Head of a Recruiter | Foundation 3 – Lesson 1”

  1. annamonster says:

    This post is definately an eye-opener. I suppose from experience I should have realized that organizations would rather and do hire from within. Everyone always says ‘It’s all who you know.” I never wanted to believe that though.

    For homework, I will research job recruiters and post my findings.

    Question: Once I find an organization through non-job posting research; how do make initial contact in a creative and acceptable manner?

  2. Willy Franzen says:

    We’re getting there. You’re asking all of the right questions.

  3. samanthabrie says:

    Twitter is a great resource for understanding recruiters! It makes it possible to see them as people and not just “Hiring Manager.” For anyone having trouble with this assignment, I found this list of recruiters actively using Twitter:

    Hope it helps.

  4. mdabhi says:

    I hope this helps as well, she’s a recruiting manager @ KPMG, twitters about the harsh truth about recruitment, offers insider tips about the job-hunt and candidate sourcing.

  5. sherryfm says:

    Reinforcement for the premise that innovation comes from constraint. Long, but cool observations, from a smart guy:

  6. ebilly says:

    i had trouble finding any valuable information out of those twitter accounts, so I decided to ask my uncle who is in charge of hiring people at his firm. maybe thats twisting the homework assignment, but i found it helpful because he described the process of multiple interviews and bringing in several people from the firm to sense what the candidate is like. companies are made of people at the end of the day and the human component is so important.

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