Friday, 6 April 2007

The job spec isn't up to the job

I often get invitations from recruitment agencies that want me to apply for jobs entirely outside my experience, and that makes me worry about the competency of some of the people who work for recruitment agencies, particularly in the high-volume hi-tech sector. But what worries me more is the inability of recruiters, and by implication the inability of the companies that hire them, to recognise that they need technical writers and information designers to do certain kinds of jobs. The job specs they write just aren't up to the job.

The recruitment industry relies more and more on automation which results in anomalies that intelligent human intervention would avoid. For example, a keyword search finds something without understanding the context, so I am invited to apply for a job as a "SharePoint Developer" because my CV mentions that I once "published documents to a SharePoint portal".

Earlier this week I had an experience which reminded me that the key distinction between good recruitment companies and poor ones is not just "human intervention" in the process, but "intelligent human intervention". I nearly deleted an email inviting me to appy for a role as a "Business Analyst" when I noticed what were some indicatiors thatthe job might not be irrelevant to me after all: "RoboHelp" and "training material". It was actually a contract role at an investment bank, developing training material and delivering training, which is something I could definitely do.

So I wrote back to the recruiter, and said I could do this, told them when I was next available, and what my fee would be. To my surprise, the recruiter phoned me back 5 minutes later. Don't get your hopes up, however, as here's the conversation we had:

Recruiter: "Do you have experience in investment banking?"
Me: "I have done a short project for [well-known bank], but the fact that I know how to develop and deliver training material is surely much more important?"

Recruiter: "Oh no, the client only wants people with a background in banking"
Me: "I think I would be far better for this job than a banker, because I know how to analyse tasks, and therefore learn people's training needs, I know how to write tutorials and training manuals, and I know how to teach a training course. I don't need to be a banker to do that, even in a bank!"

Recruiter: "But have you worked in banking?"
Me: "No, but why don't you send them my CV and let them decide?"

Recruiter: "Oh no, I couldn't do that, my client won't look at it."

As you can see, the human was there, but there was no sign of intelligence!