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Why The Undercover Boss Should Be An Undercover Job Seeker Part 3 Of 3

This is Part 3 of a 3 part series on how a VP Marketing at a Minneapolis company became an Undercover Jobseeker to apply for a job at her own company.

Part 1: Why The Undercover Boss Should Be An Undercover Job Seeker Part 1 Of 3

Part 2: Why The Undercover Boss Should Be An Undercover Job Seeker Part 2 Of 3

Julia calls a management and HR/Recruiter meeting for Friday morning that in hind sight should have been done in another way. Rumors of a layoff were all over the place.

The following is a summary of the meeting:

Julia started the presentation with a slide deck that documented what she had done the previous six weeks during which she did not pause, stop or take any questions.

At the end of the 20 minute presentation she asked if anyone had a comment to make but the room was eerily silent to the point that no on had yet shifted in their chair.

Julia then brought up a spreadsheet documenting the estimated “cost” of the open position along with a scenario if the employee with the offer had left along with if contractors were brought in. The numbers were really big. Julia then showed a spreadsheet of a conservative estimate of the total cost to the company if this was happening with one out of ten jobs.

This is when the shifting in the chairs started.

The rest of the meeting along with subsequent department meetings highlighted issues within their hiring process which you will find below along with action items that have or will soon take place.

Company career page

This was the one part of the process that all agreed was working. It ranks well with the search engines, sees a lot of traffic and analytics show a good number of visitors start the application process.

Applicant Tracking System (ATS)

This was found to be a complete failure in all aspects.

  • The online form repeatedly timed out or had other tech issues
  • While the applicant screen showed a resume was received the auto reply email did not go out
  • The ATS was not as customized as promised so many HR/Recruiters were using it their own way causing major confusion
  • The staff was not receiving updates to the ATS
  • A few HR/Recruiters had stopped entering information into the ATS causing all sorts of reporting issues

Action item

  • The ATS is still in use although the contract has been cancelled. The provider has been allowed to submit a proposal along with four other vendors.



  • Short staffed – too many openings per recruiter
  • Little or no relationships with the hiring managers
  • A less experienced staff generally speaking
  • Just in Time recruiting with no talent pool or passive candidate database development
  • Because the ATS was so horrible to use most would “start over” rather than first look at the ATS


  • Staff wants to be in their positions, like working for the company and see a long term career path
  • Very eager to learn new ways to recruit
  • Internet and tool savvy

Action item

  • In house training and outside consultants will be brought in to help the team
  • Upon completion of training salaries will be increased
  • Two contractors have been brought in for short term relief
  • A couple of new positions will be created if the training does not make the group more efficient



  • Saw little benefit in speaking with HR/Recruiters
  • Created really bad job descriptions or had not updated them
  • Persistently ignored interview requests or cancelled at the last minute
  • Were actually too busy in many cases to be part of the process
  • “Squeaky wheels” were getting all the HR/Recruiter attention and in most cases were the biggest time wasters


  • All agreed that they needed to be more proactive, more involved

Action item

  • Managers are receiving some recruiter 101 training
  • HR/Recruiters on a monthly basis review the Managers

Surveys are being conducted of current/former employees, those who were interviewed and not hired and those who were never interviewed to learn from them directly the good and bad news.

Preliminary results show that once an interview takes place the rest of the process including offers/rejections, on boarding, etc is very favorable.

One major revelation was the employee referral program was a “canary in the mine” of sorts. The program had been very successful in large part because the front door (ATS and resume@xxx.com) were such an awful experience that job seekers would network in the back door to employees.

At some point employees referred fewer candidates because they were annoyed with how slow the process was and they would look bad to their friends and connections.

Remember that open position?

It was filled 10 calendar days from the Friday meeting because a Recruiter met with the Hiring Manager to talk about the position. The Recruiter went to the ATS and realized there were qualified candidates and a great hire was quickly made.

My question to those in a management role is this, if/when the War for Talent comes back will you be ready? Is your staff ready? Is the process smooth? Is the experience job seeker friendly?

Are you willing to find out?



Fabulous story and great work on behalf of this manager to understand the candidate experience. Thank you for sharing!


This is great stuff and it truly does reflect the recruiting process at a lot of companies. I'd be willing to bet that even when an internal applicant applies online, the process is still pretty rocky. Thanks for sharing!


Wow, thank you for taking the time to see things from the "other" side! I had both good and bad experiences looking for jobs, but so many companies turn people away permanently with their lack of response or poor recruiting practices, hurting both sides in the long run. Great story!

Matthew Heusser

The HR/Recruiters claim they were understaffed. I dunno. I wonder if you look at how many open positions there were, how many recruiters, and how many applications, and consider a 40-hour work week, if the recruiters were actually understaffed at all. I /suspect/ what's going on is that the recruiters have compliance work, meetings, "special projects", etc that take up > 50% of their time.

In my work with technology team, I find it's common for the team to spend less than 50% of it's time actually doing the work that is espoused to be the purpose of the group - or even work /around/ the theme.

I'd suggest asking the recruiters to mark how they are spending their time for a week, then see what can be flat out slashed out.

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