Monday, August 13, 2012

Why Being A "Quick Learner" Doesn't Matter

If I had a dollar for every time I've heard "but I'm a quick-learner" in my recruitment career I could retire right now.  It seems to be a theme when someone is told that they do not have the right qualifications for the role they have applied for.
Now I'm not completely lacking compassion.  It is certainly understandable that in the current job market some people are stuck between a rock and a hard place.  Over-qualified for many roles and also under-qualified for many roles, so when they don't match certain specifications they are eager to point out that they could learn quickly - hoping to score an interview and convince the potential employer to take a risk on them.
While that might work when a candidate is dealing directly with their potential employer, it will not work when applying for a position through a staffing firm or consulting firm.  Both staffing and consulting firms are retained by their clients to find very experienced people with very specific qualifications.  Either the client has tried to find someone matching their desires without success or possibly they don't have a dedicated recruiter and need outside assistance to fill their open positions. The firm is then provided a list of the client's requirements and those requirements must be adhered to when submitting candidates for consideration.
This is an important reason why the resume you submit to the firm should be a good representation of your qualifications as they pertain to the job listing.  If you are reading a job posting and you feel you are well qualified, before you click "send" ... make sure that your experience with each of the requirements is clearly stated in your resume and in your cover letter! 
If you are on the phone with a recruiter from a firm and they ask you if you have experience with a certain EMR system [or other requirement] and you express that you do not... and they tell you they are sorry but you are not a fit for the position, there is no point in arguing with them or expressing that you are a "quick learner".  Their client has given them that list and if you are not a match for the items on that list they are not able to present your resume.  All recruiters know which items on that list are negotiable with their client and which aren't.  If a recruiter is expressing to you during or after your discussion with them that your qualifications are not a fit, don't take offense, just understand that according to the specifications of their client, your experience and skills do not match the requirements.
While there are always exceptions to the rule, most  recruiters have a firm understanding of their client's needs.  Rest assured that recruiters want to fill the position as badly as you want to fill the position.  If they felt there was any possibility that your qualifications might be of interest to their client, they would submit your resume.  If you have been told you are not a fit, feel free to inquire why and if you are lacking specific qualifications, thank the recruiter for their time and let them know what type of position you are seeking and you hope to speak to them again in the future. 
If you have had issues with Recruiters that lack understanding of your qualifications or are calling you on positions that are unrelated to your area of expertise, please see my previous blog about those topics.


  1. Thank you for your article. I do understand that recruiters have their challenges in this regard.

    However, this was not always the case. For many years, I made my living as a technical writer, and then later as a trainer and instructional designer. The only requirement was that I had trained business applications or designed and developed training for business applications. During these years, I trained in the transportation, financial, investment, marketing and many other industries. I taught general business accounting, customer service, marketing campaigns, fleet management, among other business applications. I was a generalist and I WAS known as a quick learner, as were many of my colleagues. This is how I made my living for many years.

    In 2004, I got my first Electronic Medical Records (EMR) project, something that would never happen today with the steep requirements EMR projects demand. With a few exceptions, I have been in that niche since. I love the work, but I miss the days when I could truly call myself a generalist. You are correct in that there is a detailed list of specifications that we now must meet to get the project, but with my history, one can't help wonder why this is necessary. After all, not all hospitals work the same, and we need to learn their configurations, which can vary a lot. There's still a learning curve, although, granted, it may not be as steep. The longest I ever took to get up to speed on a project was 90 hours. A week to 2 weeks was more typical. And I was placed on these projects by recruiters who sold me on my general training and ID skills.

    Projects today often seem to run on adrenaline, with people displaying a rather frantic air about them, as if everything were due yesterday. Maybe that's the case, but it doesn't usually help the project and the implementation date still is usually months away. On a well-planned, thought-out project, there IS time to allow a seasoned trainer, instructional designer, or any other IT person to learn a client's particular system and configuration, just like time is needed for a new person to learn a client's culture, processes, and way of getting work done. What you describe may be the way business is done today (and, yes, we need to adapt), but it's history is short, and it's not necessarily a reflection of the best way of doing business. Much has been written, as recently as the last few months in an EMR newsletter, about the need for major IT initiatives to utilize the wide skills of creative thinkers and problem-solvers and to avoid getting too caught up in the niche trap.

    I know that recruiters are told to find people who can jump in with both feet and work independently, but that's not going to happen without an orientation of some kind, anyway. So, yes, I see your hands are tied, but I do wish recruiters had more leeway to enlighten their clients.

    Thank you for the opportunity to leave this comment.

  2. I completely agree with you!!! I have never claimed that this current process was correct, just that it is what it is. :)
    In my previous post that was directed to Hiring Mgrs, I address your concerns... please read it.
    Thanks so much for taking the time to respond to my post!