Service of Recommendations That Make it Easy on Recruiters

August 24th, 2017

Categories: Jobs, Recommendation, Recruiting, Technology

Recently headhunters have sent me electronic forms to fill out on behalf of a job-seeking colleague. One reminded me of what CVS sends after I’ve visited a branch or used the online ordering system. To answer questions I graded the candidate from 1 to 10. I was appalled. The recruiter got numbers from the program all neat and collated in seconds but learned little about my colleague. Sometimes my answer didn’t fit any number without explanation. I grade the effectiveness of this system 2 out of 10.

A second one took me longer to do but I felt gave me a chance to describe the candidate. It also took the reader longer to absorb but the information was more valuable. I imagine that some of the copy, if well written, is used by the headhunter to describe a candidate to prospective employers, saving him/her time in the end.

My colleague said she met one of these recruiters and filled out forms for the company. She spoke to the other on the phone, no forms required.

I posit that some recruiters will learn the most from a phone call interview as inefficient and time consuming as that is for them. The New York Women in Communications scholarship vetting process includes phone and in-person interviews for finalists. The phone interviews require time to prepare for, conduct and write up but the results tell plenty about a candidate.

Francesca Fontana wrote about recommendation letters requested of MBA candidates’ friends this summer by NYU’s Stern School of Business. They are “trying to get a better sense of what its applicants are really like.” Where most such letters “focus on analytic acumen or leadership skills,” they expect a pal or co-workers letters will “comment on the applicant’s social skills or emotional intelligence.”

She reported in “Dear Friend, Tell Us More” that “about 40% of MBA applicants said at least one manager asked them to draft their own recommendation letter.” This statistic came from an Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants 2014 survey. I believe it. Another job-seeking colleague is often asked to write letters about herself by former managers and bosses.

Fontana reported that 24 business schools “collaborated with the Graduate Management Admission Council to create a common recommendation form.” This is easier on recommenders and as they are asked to keep their answers short, means that readers don’t have to pour through pages of copy.

One of the questions was smart: “Describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant.”

Can you learn much from a recommender you’ve not spoken with? Have you been asked to write your own recommendation by a boss or colleague? How secure would you be in evaluating whether you wanted to meet or interview a candidate by phone based largely on responses to a 1 to 10 system? Are there valid shortcuts in the recruiting process?

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8 Responses to “Service of Recommendations That Make it Easy on Recruiters”

  1. hb Said:

    A feeling of sheer horror came over me as I read your blog. I spent a lifetime reading resumes, writing recommendations and doing all the other things which go into the process of hiring, managing and firing people.

    This is something which should not be done by computer. People are not cyphers. Figuring out whether or not they will work out well in any given job is an art, not a science.

    Were I to be faced with a multiple choice test as a way to recommend someone for a job, I would have to decline to answer as I am sure the way I would answer the questions, were I to answer honestly, would result in creating a misleading and inaccurate impression of the individual.

    The best I could do, which is tantamount to nothing, is to try to find the name of someone to whom I could speak of the individual.

    I realize this would do nobody any good, and that makes me feel depressingly useless.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    If enough people refused to respond to the 1 to 10 survey, the company would have to use another program. I was chicken as I didn’t want to mess it up for my colleague so I played along, kicking and screaming inside.

    In the second instance, where I had to write answers, that recruiter expected respondents to take THEIR time to do a good job of it. It saved the recruiter a whole lot of time.

    I belong to an organization that bought an expensive program that was to allow members to mentor students in a flash. I said that this is not the way to mentor anyone and refused to participate. It didn’t take too long for the organization to revert to the traditional one-on-one mentoring model.

    There a some tasks that try to take the place of people but they can’t and don’t–at least, not yet.

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    Just suppose the candidate has the “right” connections and gets an “impeccable” recommendation from a seemingly sterling source? Then an innocent employer realizes too late he’s hired a thug or worse. It doesn’t happen too often, but the consequences may be severe.

  4. Nancy Farrell Said:

    hb: I’d hire you in a NY minute over someone who can’t even be bothered to read resumes and letters. What would I be paying them for? I’m not a big fan of electronic forms because they often just don’t do the job. I know someone who recently applied online and got turned down for a bank loan. He got turned down in spite of the fact that he had a perfect credit rating, a long relationship with the bank, and 7 times the amount he wanted to borrow in easily liquidated accounts (something the form didn’t ask). A month after he paid off his credit card debt the same bank raised his credit limit.

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Although I’ve mentioned it often here and elsewhere, I can’t forget the interior designer who was sued, and LOST, when she told a prospective employer that her former employee had stolen from her firm. You aren’t allowed to offer this kind of information, leading to the potentially severe consequences to which you refer.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    What a sad state of affairs you described. It reminds me of a person I once knew who was a genius at generating numbers and statistics but a zero at interpreting them and translating them into an effective marketing plan. Numbers tell a lot but not the whole story, especially if you haven’t asked the right questions!

    Scary about the bank which clearly doesn’t know what it is doing. I’ve long heard that a relationship with a bank, unless you are a member of a Gates, Bloomberg, Buffet or equivalent family of wealth, is worthless. The sharp bank is the one that uses the form to confirm name spelling, address, phone number and social security number as well as basic financial information–including the missing question you mentioned re. liquid assets–and has a person review the “no” decisions spit out by the program. You don’t want to lose a client such as your acquaintance.

  7. Martha Takayama Said:

    I am as distressed as he by the essentially baseless criteria supposed to constitute a manner in which to evaluate and hire personnel. It seems to be a set of variations on a package loaded with meaningless ingredients.

    I was asked to compose my own letter of recommendation many years ago, but my boss as the employee of a foreign government with rigid formats for all correspondence relied on me for editing communications so that they sounded correctly “American”, he did review the letter for content, however.

    At the risk of sounding very passé, I still think a phone or Skype exchange or a brief interview can be a big help for evaluating a candidate

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I don’t think that something that is effective is out of date. Counting on the result of a one to 10 survey that a recommender whips through to give you a good idea of a candidate is a waste of time. Hoping that someone will take the time to write a bunch of stuff in response to a survey is impractical. Most don’t have the time. Headhunters and employment agencies are PAID to vet candidates. A company that hires an agency more interested in whizzing through a batch of candidates than on finding the right one for the job gets what it deserves.

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