I will do my best to make this a constructive commentary. The punchline is that you should read “Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions” and pay special attention to the chapters on framing and the difference between social and market transactions.
Most recruitment pipelines inadvertently blur the lines between social and market frames. Sometimes things are so incoherent that even the job description itself will start in one frame and end in another. Here’s a made up job description that is an amalgam of stuff I’ve seen and keep seeing over and over again
We are an awesome and friendly place to work. We treat everyone like people and everyone makes a difference. Our employees are empowered to make decisions because they are grown ups and we trust them to make the right decisions. Our organization is as flat as possible and hierarchy is a taboo word. You will definitely like working with us because we are nice and friendly people.
The ideal candidate will have 5 years of experience in framework FiddlyD and programming language Proparadigm. Your duties will include doing awesome things within very strict creative confines according to a schedule set by someone higher up in the hierarchy. Business needs will usually trump everything else and there will be strict separation between all layers of the technology stack according to how someone higher up the hierarchy has decided to slice and dice things. We pay market rates or lower if we can get away with it.
So what happened? The job description makes everyone at the company sounds like they want to be my friend by putting everything in a social frame and then bam! 180 degree turn to a market frame. Here’s tip number 1. Don’t do this. If you start in one frame then finish in that frame and don’t switch in the middle. Here’s what it looks like if you stick to the social frame
We are an awesome and friendly place to work. We treat everyone like people and not like cogs in a giant machine. Our employees are empowered to make decisions because they are grown ups and we trust them to make the right decisions. Our organization is as flat as possible and hierarchy is a taboo word. You will definitely like working with us because we are nice and friendly people. If that sounds like a place you’d like to work then please get in touch with us at email@example.com. Since this is an engineering position one of our engineers will get in touch with you directly and start the process.
Here’s what it looks like if you stick to the market frame
We are strictly driven by business needs. Everything we do is designed to streamline and optimize business processes. The ideal candidate will have 5 years of experience in framework FiddlyD and programming language Proparadigm. Your duties will include doing awesome things within very strict creative confines according to a schedule. Business needs will trump technology decisions and there will be strict separation between all layers of the technology stack to mitigate the risk of inevitable employee churn. We pay market rates but are willing to negotiate. If you’re interested then get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our recruiters will start the process.
Neither approach is inherently good or bad. I’ve met and worked with engineers that would enjoy working at either company if given the opportunity but I’ve never met anyone that would enjoy being tricked into thinking the company was something other than what it appeared to be on the brochure.
I wish the incoherent job description was the end of it but it’s not. The kind of frame switching that happens in a job advert happens during the actual interview process as well.
The most common switch is from a social frame to a market frame. The job advert will be in the social frame but the very first person that contacts you is someone from staffing and recruiting who then proceeds to read a script to you. How do I know it’s a script? Because after the fifth phone call with a recruiter you kinda notice they’re all asking the same questions. The script has a pretty simple outline. It starts with an overview of the company followed by some generic questions on why you’re interested in the company and then closes with some Q&A about what you expect to get paid. If the staffing and recruiting department deems you worthy, which by the way has nothing to do with your ability to do the work you are applying for, then you proceed to the next stage which is usually an engineering interview.
Please note that I’m not trying to make recruiters look bad. They’re not engineers so I don’t expect them to do anything more than read a script and check some boxes. A recruiter's job is to sell and negotiate prices and that’s what they do. The problem is that the job description was in a social frame and so the people you attracted wanted a social interaction but you put a recruiter on the phone and switched everything to a market frame. Most good engineers notice the dissonance even if they can’t quite articulate it and it ruins the first impression and leaves a bad taste in their mouth. So anything that happens after that point is going to be less than optimal both for you and the person you are going to hire because neither party is going to get what they expected which is going to lead to frustration and consequently decreased productivity. So here’s tip number 2. Make sure you have a consistently framed recruitment pipeline. This by the way is the same as tip 1.
There is no tip 3.