In January 2012, the unemployment rate was down year-over-year
in 345 of the 372 U.S. metropolitan areas the Labor Department
tracks. The number of metropolitan areas with unemployment over 10
percent nearly halved from 150 in January 2011 to just 86 in

A consensus of economists surveyed by Blue Chip Economic
Indicators last month projected the unemployment rate will be below
8 percent by the end of 2013. A recent report by a research
economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, however, showed
a series of scenarios in which unemployment could actually fall to
6 percent as soon as early next year. Either way, we are in a
period of recovery, and unless outside factors such as instability
in Asia or Europe slow the U.S. economy, the improvement is set to

Hiring activity continues to increase as the economy gains
speed. However, employers are finding fewer qualified applicants
for their top positions. Even when multiple qualified candidates
materialize, selecting among them is feeling more like gambling
than science. Hiring managers today are hungry for ways to
confidently screen out candidates.

In fact, while most job seekers spend hours crafting a perfect
resume, professional recruiters often don’t even look beyond the
contact information. Instead, they opt to take a professional
history through an interview.

“Resume and cover letter advice has become so ubiquitous that
candidates are following the same unwritten rules. Rejecting
resumes that fail to fit the mold exactly becomes an easy way for
hiring managers to trim a stack of resumes,” says Rob Romaine,
president of MRINetwork. “By the end, there is a
small pool of candidates who simply put the right polish on their
job search. But it’s a filtering process that doesn’t take into
account the qualities that actually cause someone to positively
contribute to an organization.”

The recent trend of interviewers requesting to see private
social media profiles of candidates doesn’t stem from an interest
in violating a candidate’s privacy. It’s the fallout of a talent
market that has been coached and homogenized to a point where
employers are desperate to find not just what makes one qualified
candidate better than the other, but even just what makes them

“Today, a social media profile that is clear of content that
gives an interviewer pause is as likely to mean the profile has
been sanitized as anything else, which makes looking at them
virtually meaningless,” says Romaine. “While even the most detailed
profile is going to provide little insight into how a candidate
solves problems, overcomes challenges, or would interact with a
team, these are the qualities that make A-players and they are
qualities that are infinitely harder to screen for.”

One important role outside recruiters can serve in the search
process is their ability to interact with candidates outside the
normal candidate-employer relationship. Agency recruiters will
often interact with a candidate for months or sometimes years
before sending them on an interview and will know many of their
colleagues in a similar way. It gives the recruiter a much broader
understanding of the candidate from which to evaluate how they will
fit with an organization.

“Going online for 15 minutes can help to eliminate a candidate,
but it does little to highlight the positive attributes a candidate
might bring. Conversely, interview techniques, like having
candidates participate in a long-form group meeting with several
members of a team might be time intensive, but can help to
highlight someone who would thrive in an organization,” notes
Romaine. “While moving quickly once a top candidate has been
identified is important, vetting a candidate using shortcuts that
don’t actually connect to performance or cultural fit is

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