Recruiting is Pattern Matching

Today we're going to tell you why job hunting is so horrible. Hiring managers and recruiters will never say this because it looks bad, but it's the truth, and understanding it will help you enormously as you navigate your career.

Recruiting is pattern-matching.

Pattern-matching is when companies favor certain applicants over others, not because they are objectively better, but because they look like other applicants who have been successful in the past. It's a way for them to minimize risk when making a hiring decision. They do this because they suck at recruiting.

Why Companies Suck at Recruiting

It turns out that crafting a sustainable method for hiring the best talent is an incredibly hard thing to do. Almost every company fails to do it, despite there being an enormous upside to figuring it out. To understand why, let us take a moment to appreciate the nuances of this challenge.

The average tenure for a full-time job involves roughly 8,500 hours of work. In other words, it takes an enormous amount of time for an employee's total contribution to unfold. Recruiters and hiring managers are tasked with estimating the quality of that contribution with only a few hours of exposure.

Four hours of interviews is about 0.04% of that total contribution. That's all the information you get to decide who to hire. It's like trying to guess where a road leads by only looking at the first foot of pavement. No matter how optimized you make those four hours, it's always a laughably uninformed decision.

So as a candidate, you can safely assume that the company you're applying to is dogshit at recruiting. And because they're dogshit at it, they're gonna try to hedge their bets by pattern-matching.

How Does Pattern-Matching Work?

With a pattern-matching technique, employers are basically saying "we don’t know what it takes to be successful in this role, but something about this person over here is working, so let’s just go get more people like that."

This is one of the reasons that recruiting processes are plagued with bias. Decision-makers opt to bring on folks who studied at the same universities, come from the same hometowns, and speak the same way.

And the thing is, it works.. kind of. But it's like selling your soul to the devil. Most companies are overly reliant on this strategy and won't realize the downside of this approach until it's far too late.

When left unchecked, pattern-matching methods create horrible diversity problems within an organization, which leads to reductions in productivity, creativity, and, of course, recruiting abilities. And by the time this chaos starts to unfold at a company, it's far too late for a simple fix.

What Does This Mean for Me?

Unfortunately we don't have time to wait around for these companies to get their shit together and make recruiting more fair. So we have to play the game. That doesn't mean you should misrepresent who you are - it just means that you should be diligent about the representation you choose. At Pearl, we call this your 5% story.

If you could only pick 5% of your full story to tell to the company, what bullet points would you cover? What narrative strikes the perfect balance of colorful authenticity and reliable familiarity? This is a topic we explore more in our free 30-Day Job Hunting Bootcamp. Check it out!

To conclude, recruiting is hard, and most companies suck at it. As a result, they rely on pattern-matching to make hiring decisions. Most orgs starting to realize the detriment of this method, but it's still a common practice at early stage companies, so we have to live with it for now, and starting with a full understanding of this reality and why it exists is a big step in counteracting its effects, for all of us involved.

Subscribe to Beneath the Waves

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.