There Has Got to Be A Better Way

In the beginning and the end, to create a career around work that you love to do takes self-development, an unrelenting positive attitude, and a lot of hard work. And that is just to set your foot on the path. Regardless of the outcome, it is the most enriching thing you will do; and the rewards are not what you think and hope they are.

Sometimes I get caught up in the positive and inspirational, and I write something that on reflection seems a little ridiculous. For example: Fortunately, think tanks, industry groups, and the government keep track of the current economic status, develop jobs projections, and make this information freely available. It is to everyone’s benefit to make getting employed as smooth a process as possible.

Why are these sentences ridiculous? Even with all of the information out there—job outlooks and projections, new jobs created, job postings, career advice—the probability of getting a job (let alone the right job) seems like it’s in the realm of winning the lottery. Dr. John Sullivan, a leading expert in talent management, says that the odds of getting hired can range from 0.004 percent to about 3.5 percent.

I’m pretty sure that it makes sense for employers to try to hire the very best people. And I’m pretty sure that it makes sense for people to find the very best job that they can. But the process on either end is not smooth.

Companies find more reasons to reject a person than they find to talk with a person, maybe because of the number of applicants—a minimum of 250—for a posted job. A lot of companies won’t even talk to a person who is unemployed, even if they are qualified. They tend to knock recent college graduates out of the screening process because they don’t have experience; a common belief among many hiring managers is that college graduates are not prepared for the workplace. People with non-white sounding surnames are invited for interviews about 50 percent less often. And rumor has it that companies don’t want to hire those over age 45.

Head hunting guru Lou Adler points out on his blog at LinkedIn that “there is only a 1 percent chance that a person who submits a resume will be invited for an interview.” And Dr. Sullivan points out that of the 1,000 people who might see a job posting, only about 20 percent will apply; the one person who is offered the job has only about a 33 percent chance of getting that offer; and there’s a 20 percent chance he or she will turn down the offer. Even though you must craft a resume targeted to the keywords that match a particular job, a recruiter will spend only about 6 seconds “reviewing” it; they visually scan for job titles, companies you worked at, start and end dates, and your education. That’s it. No one reads the impressive material that makes you special. And that cover letter you so carefully crafted? Those are read only about 17 percent of the time.

Companies doing the hiring think they are failing anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of the time. A large company (more than 1,000 employees) might spend a little over $4,000 to hire a new employee. Across the economy, large firms are spending anywhere from $10 billion to $22 billion a year hiring employees. That’s a lot of money to spend on a process that has a 30 to 50 percent failure rate.

Close to 28 million firms and the government sector in the United States provide jobs for a little over 155 million people. Still, the unemployment rate in June 2013 was 7.6 percent, and close to 12 million people were unemployed and looking for jobs.

Why does it take so long for people to match themselves with the right jobs, and why does it take companies so long to find the right employees? Human resources professionals and recruitment experts are aware of the problems—they live them. People looking to change jobs and the 11.8 million unemployed people are suffering too.

The latest jobs report says that 195,000 new jobs were added to the economy in June 2013. I wonder how long it will take and how much money will be spent to fill those jobs. And will they be filled by people doing what they love or by warm bodies?


  1. Sullivan, John. “Why You Can’t Get A Job … Recruiting Explained By the Numbers,” Advice (blog), Recruiting Intelligence Recruiting Community, May 20, 2013,
  2. Adler, Lou. “Despite Setbacks, the Future of Hiring Looks Promising,” LinkedIn (blog), July 5, 2013,

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