The Hiring Black Hole HR Doesn't Want to Talk About
I was talking to an old friend last week who's immersed in state-of-the-art hiring technology. I've known him for more than 20 years, having met him just after the job boards came into their own and corporations built their own internal recruiting teams. Prior to that, most jobs were filled by HR generalists posting jobs in the newspaper or working with staffing firms for the harder to fill positions. The purpose of our conversation was to review his latest tech creation designed to solve HR's greatest problem.
He told me he had just talked to 30 or more talent leaders to discover their biggest hiring challenge. It turned out to be the handling of resumes of candidates the companies weren't going to hire. Imagine that? This is hiring's current black hole. It has nothing to do with improving quality of hire but solving a problem that shouldn't even exist.
My friend developed a unique solution that allows the company to retain a positive relationship with these millions of people in order to not offend them. I thought this was unbelievable. And a waste of time. The unbelievable part was that this was their biggest problem and it's a waste of time since there are far better ways to solve the problem.
I told my now former friend his solution was useless despite the fact he would make a lot of money selling it. Instead I suggested he eliminate the problem at its source: Prevent unqualified people from applying to jobs they are not qualified to handle in the first place.
He then went into puppet mode espousing the traditional HR speak of compliance, the requirement to allow anyone to apply, the need to list all of the skills and experience requirements for the job and the need to track everyone. "Hogwash," I loudly replied!
I then asked if he had ever talked to a real labor attorney. He said while he hadn't he was sure all of the talent leaders obviously had or they wouldn't be trying to solve the problem. I suggest he read this white paper by one of the top labor attorneys in the country at Littler Mendelson (the top labor law firm in the country) discrediting all of these common myths about hiring. I told him I had this report prepared as part of my recent book, The Essential Guide for Hiring and Getting Hired, since I advocate an entirely different hiring process. I then gave him this quick summary of the white paper:
- There is no law requiring neither boring job postings nor the listing of every skill and experience requirement.
- While objective criteria is essential, "Building a team of accountants to prepare the international consolidated financial reports," is more objective and more predictive of success than, "Must have a Big 4 CPA, 10 years of international reporting experience and 5 years of supervisory experience."
- There is NO requirement that everyone who responds to a job posting needs to directly apply and be considered an applicant. You can have a multi-step process that requires a person to do a few things before being considered an official applicant. One way is to include a major objective in the job posting and say that the first step in your hiring process is for all interested candidates to submit a short 1-2 paragraph summary of something they've accomplished that's most comparable. This step alone will quickly eliminate 90% of the unqualified and uninterested.
The bigger point of all this is to suggest that HR and corporate talent leaders are using a follow-the-leader strategy technology has created: Too much volume and not enough quality. By making jobs too visible and making applying too easy, new technology needs to be developed to solve this self-induced "hiring at scale" problem. The only way to get out of this rat race is to rethink the problem at its source. Developing a series of never-ending solutions for being more efficient chasing one's tail is a flawed approach.
Here's a simple A vs. B test you can try to test out the new idea. Start by writing an adhighlighting the importance of the job emphasizing the two or three biggest challenges. Don't list any skills and eliminate any "apply now" option. Instead ask interested candidates to submit a two paragraph write-up of something comparable the person accomplished with a link to the person's LinkedIn profile. Say you'll arrange a preliminary call with those who have the most significant accomplishments. If the job is compelling enough, you'll get a few takers. Then compare those who respond to this approach to those who respond to the more traditional posting. If the quality of the people responding isn't any better, redo the job posting until it is. This is called marketing. And, as you'll discover, being inefficient doing the right things is how you discover what the right things are. It's certainly better than chasing your tail or someone else's.