The complaint is familiar:
“Don’t waste your time applying for that job because everyone knows that the selection has already been made. They’re just going through the motions by recruiting.”
But employers say:
“Why should we waste our time as well as that of job applicants when we already know who is going to get the job? Why should we even recruit for the position?”
There are several reasons why an employer should solicit applications for a job that may already have a very strong contender:
1. It is difficult to reconcile a system that taps people for promotion with a policy of equal opportunity. People who may be interested in the job will legitimately wonder why they weren’t even permitted to apply. I’ve known people who applied for jobs they didn't think they’d get but wanted to raise their profile with the decision makers and increase their chances for landing future or related positions.
2. Human resource professionals may find it difficult to justify why there was no recruitment for one job but extensive outreach for an equivalent one. Once the exception is made, where do you draw the line?
3. A knowledge gap may cause an employer to think that Candidate A is the only choice. By opening recruitment and learning about the skills of other applicants, however, the employer is given a chance to determine if those assumptions about Candidate A’s abilities are correct. In some cases, the employer may learn that hitherto unknown Candidate E is really the best person for the job.
4. Closed systems are smug systems. Giving serious consideration to people who aren’t on the fast track or who are outside of the organization can bring in some sorely needed perspectives.
[See more job advice at U.S. News Careers.]
Even with the above in mind, it is easy to understand the reluctance of job seekers to invest uncompensated time applying for a job that may already be filled. The job seeker carries a heavier burden than the employer. Employers need to review the questions of when recruitment should be open and how they can avoid the pitfalls of greased selections. The selection process will always be imperfect, but that shouldn’t thwart efforts for improvement.
Michael Wade writes Execupundit.com, an eclectic combination of management advice, observations, and links. A partner with the Phoenix firm of Sanders Wade Rodarte Consulting Inc., he has advised private and public-sector organizations for more than 30 years.