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Ask the Headhunter: Why do employers play ‘telephone’ with our lives?

Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979 and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community over the past decade.

In this special Making Sen$e edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.


Question: In a recent article, you discussed how employers demand our salary information before they interview us. We give employers way too much power over us when we apply for a job. Another example of this is those smarmy “people search” and “background check” companies that employers use to “investigate” us. These companies profit off of putting your privacy and reputation at risk. And they don’t just make themselves available to employers; they unabashedly advertise to the public, hoping that your neighbor, blind date and head of your high school reunion committee will pay to get the skinny on you. What’s up with all this?

Nick Corcodilos: I don’t think you realize what this really means. Walk it back.

These questionable “investigations” businesses thrive, because HR outsources the candidate review process to them. Rather than identify and talk with references, HR hands the task of reference checking off to a third party and pays for the service. They outsource it — though what this is, is actually an abrogation of responsibility. (See “Automated Reference Checks: You should be very worried.”)

Walk it back some more. Managers in a company don’t want to bother with identifying and recruiting the people they need to hire. They outsource recruiting to HR — which in turn outsources it to recruiting firms. It’s another abrogation of duty.

Ever hear of the age-old kids’ game called “telephone?” Kids sit in a big circle. One whispers something in another’s ear, who in turn whispers it to the next and so on around the circle. The last listener stands up and reports what she was told. Then the first kid tells what he originally said. And everyone cracks up laughing, because virtually the entire meaning of the message got garbled along the way.

See where this is going? Employers are playing telephone. Only the hiring manager knows what he really needs in a new hire. He tells HR, which writes up a job description as best it can. And the telephone game begins.

READ MORE: Why do employers hide the benefits?

When we add in new telephone circles — third parties checking your background and your references — the junk that comes out of the process is compounded. Each step along the way, the manager (the actual employer) becomes further removed from the person to be hired. In between the manager and the job candidate are inserted umpteen processes, which someone, somewhere defines. (I think we just discovered how HR was invented!)

By the time we’re done, the employer has the wrong candidates, candidates waste their time, and — worst of all — the wrong information is digested, and lousy decisions are made (if they’re made at all). Everyone loses.

The result is what employers call a talent shortage — because they have perverted recruiting and hiring beyond recognition. (See “News Flash! HR Causes Talent Shortage!”)

So the “people searches” and “background checks” and “investigations” are just more symptoms of lousy management practices. In place of people meeting and talking with one another, we have an entire industry — the employment industry — that’s gone totally haywire. This industry is profiting from playing “telephone” with people’s lives.

READ MORE: Women don’t cause the pay gap. Employers do​

I don’t expect this will make you feel any better. But if you can see what this problem really means, you may be better able to deal with what we call hiring. (See “Systemic Recruitment Fraud: How employers fund America’s jobs crisis.”)

Dear Readers: Have you gotten lost in the game of “telephone” that hiring has become? What kinds of crazy “third party” outsourcing of the hiring process have you been subjected to?


Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps,” “How Can I Change Careers?” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

Copyright © 2016 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.

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