When company leaders are asked about their greatest asset, most declare that it’s their people.
If that’s the case, maybe it’s time to take a hard look at the direction of hiring practices. The latest technology platforms promise to lure 10x as many applicants, use sophisticated AI to match “qualified” professionals to relevant jobs, and engage texting to interview hundreds simultaneously, and “disqualify [candidates] in 52 seconds,” saving 922 hours annually.
Is this really how we want to attract our talent?
I believe we can do better. And simply enhancing what’s already broken is likely not the best, or at least only, solution. Here’s why:
It’s a vicious cycle
While social media advertising promises to lure 10x as many applicants, we then need to download new Apps with secret algorithms to weed out 99% of those job seekers who aren’t a match for our desired qualifications. Do we really end up with more qualified candidates through this process or is it just optics that convince us we’ve found the best talent because we’ve processed more resumes?
Humans are biased, especially when it comes to hiring. However, Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and other “matching” software is programmed by, wait for it…humans. This means that career switchers, highly skilled professionals without a specific qualification, individuals who’ve stepped out of the workforce, or even stellar applicants whose documents are not formatted properly are often excluded from getting reviewed.
Sloppy job descriptions
In a perfect world, the information on a job requisition is vetted and tied to a company performance measure. Yet in reality, many are created without much rigor or validation. For example, most corporate job descriptions include the need for a college degree, yet few hiring managers can defend the reasoning for this resulting in several seasoned candidates being overlooked. So, let’s hurry and get 10x as many applicants, then use invalid qualifiers to weed the list down to a reasonable amount with the same tired list of skills? The irony is that many new college graduates can’t get hired because they lack “real-world experience.”
“Qualified” overlooks potential
AI technology is progressing rapidly, however, a robot is still unable to analyze intangibles such as if a candidate will be a fit for the culture, or if the candidate’s career story demonstrates the type of motivation and curiosity that will make him a high-potential. The argument can be made that many humans aren’t well-trained at assessing these qualities either, so there’s work to be done. But we need to understand the roles for which relationships, resourcefulness, and attitude are more important to success than skills, which in certain cases can be taught. If an applicant gets eliminated by a machine early in the process, those with a few missing qualifications and great potential may be overlooked.
As someone who has been a recruiter with over 60 open roles to fill, as well as a hiring manager with a demanding job that didn’t include extra time for hiring, I understand that resources are limited. There isn’t an easy answer, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t brainstorm new solutions.
Nearly all managers have experienced the fallout of a poor hire – they quit and leave within a short period of time after we’ve invested significantly in them. Or worse, they quit and STAY, producing sub par results and bringing down the morale of the team. Both of these situations cost time and money in the long run.
WHAT MIGHT WE DO INSTEAD?
I’m not claiming to have all of the answers, but rather am opening the door for further discussion. Certainly technology has its place, but the hiring process seems to be getting more impersonal and companies are asking for bigger investments from candidates before they’re even given a chance to interact with a human to determine if there’s a potential win-win.
If it’s been a while since you’ve gone through the process, I suggest investing time to fully understand what external candidates are experiencing as applicants to your organization. You might be surprised at how detached the process is. Here are some other ideas:
Crush the box
Enhance your employee referral program – send employees to conferences or universities to meet new talent and give them time to do informational interviews on site. Hire without a specific opening when you come across a purple squirrel. Scan for potential hires at conferences, association meetings or when traveling to client locations. Attend reunions, host industry events, speak on panels, and get creative with incentives for bringing in successful referrals. No, these methods are not faster, easier or even cheaper, but if those are your metrics for hiring your greatest asset, then maybe you’re getting what you pay for.
Practice what you preach.
As career coach, I advise professionals to always be networking. The same philosophy should be the case for company leaders with hiring. Always be assessing your environment for stellar people. In addition, we expect job seekers to do research, take assessments, complete one-way video bios, obtain references, fill out forms and submit cover letters. In turn, we as hirers ignore applicants, leave them hanging, or send impersonal rejection emails. We need to put in the work, too. Candidates who may not work out for one role may be perfect for another, but if they’re treated with disrespect, they’ll move on.
Integrate hiring and performance
Online job descriptions rarely include how qualifications are tied to performance outcomes once hired. A listing may ask for “5 years of relevant sales experience” when what a company really needs is someone who is able to sell a complicated technical product in a declining market. “MBA preferred” elevates the job status, however, we overlook deeply qualified individuals with 20 years of corporate and entrepreneurial experience since the correct box wasn’t ticked on the application. Often, the mavericks who’ve skipped the box-ticking in life are the ones we’re seeking.
Create an environment where people want to stay
You don’t need Foosball tables and nap pods to retain employees. Instead, the basics need to change. For example, most professionals feel they need to leave a company to get a significant pay increase. Others have bosses that block them from pursuing jobs in other jobs departments because they don’t want to be stuck with the work. There are silly rules about how long you must be in a role before being promoted, why it’s unfair to give to one and not another regardless of performance, and blah, blah. Yes, policies have their place, but some are outdated and managers use them to hide behind instead of having open conversations. Rigid practices that thwart the retention of A players cost a company more in the end.
Stellar candidates who are forward thinkers, driven to innovate and able to produce results in ambiguous situations won’t suffer through endless assessments, online gymnastics and video-robot interviews to get to speak with a human. They’re in demand and realize the hiring process is an indication of how they’ll be treated if they join the company.
There’s no way to guarantee that a hire will work out, even with the best methods, but when relationships are such a critical part of business, it may not be best to leave the heavy lifting to machines.
Please share your ideas in the comments.