Sunday, July 10, 2011

Hiring: Do You Really Know What You Are Looking For?

I have been doing a lot of research in regards to jobs and hiring methods.  I notice that there is a big focus on keywords and applicant tracking software such as Jobvite, Jobscore, to name a just a few.  These are awesome tools, but in regards to the concept of "social hiring" and or whatever promises made in regards to isolating the ideal candidate for a position, that is absurd; that is where our faith in technology can blind us.

The best manager of customer service I ever had the honor of working with was a lady whom I originally interviewed for the position of Daycare Director.  She had never worked in an office, had never worked in a manufacturing environment, and had little to no computer skills whatsoever.  But, she had supervised people and obviously had worked with the public, and I cannot imagine a more demanding public than parents who are entrusting you with their child/children.

I would never have found her focusing on just keywords, nor would she have been even remotely considered if I had focused on direct experience; if you just focus on the 'tasks' of a job rather than the 'skills' inherent in the tasks, or the job titles of the "previous experience" section of a resume you are going to miss the potential that great people represent because you are focusing on experience rather than potential.

I guess this would be called a career change but the reality was while the job description did change the skills necessary for success did not.

Once I interviewed an accountant for a position that she was very overqualified for, and I told her that she was overqualified but that I would save her resume and contact her when we had an opening better suited for her qualifications:  Yes, I actually did save her resume!  In fact less than six months later I did call her and offer her a job.  She brought a degree of professionalism to part of our administration that was in need of it.  The only issue was that she had always worked in small offices where she was in charge and now she found herself in a position where she was in charge of a department that was one of many departments; and she always had issues working with other people as a team; and I told her on her first day on the job that would be her "Achilles heel....".

I once hired a young college student to work part time, on 2nd shift, in our payroll department; after a short interview I realized that he had the perfect thought process to be in IT.  He was majoring in Philosophy of all things, but every single question I asked he broke it down and responded with answers that were like bullet points.  Within a year he was our tech support and with Microsoft and IBM training he basically took over the IT department and replaced the existing staff of two.  To this day I still have not found anyone, even among the local companies that provide IT services as a business that could match the ability of this young man.

The best production clerk I ever saw I met in a truck stop where she was a waitress!  It was a hectic fast paced environment where you had to think on your feet and watching her coordinate the efforts of the kitchen with the demands of the customers was quite a sight!  Twenty-five years later she is still putting out fires and coordinating activities that change constantly.

How exactly do you match skill sets and personalities to jobs?  Some people have built careers, that look impressive on a resume, but what if that career was built not on a conscious decision of what they enjoy and or are good at but rather because it was the first job they could find?

The whole concept of "keywords" just really gives you insight into what a person has done, not what they are good at, and it definitely tells you nothing about how good of a fit the candidate will be for the position that you are trying to fill.

I love the term, "overqualified"  I mean think about it, why wouldn't you want to get the most for your money?  Is it that a candidate is overqualified or are you just over awed?  Now, if you believe that the individual would be bored or not challenged by a job then you might want to review your job description and figure out what made that position attractive to someone who you deem "overqualified" you might have dramatically overstated the position.

In regards to the concept of "social hiring" or the idea that everyone within an organization has input in the hiring decision for a position.  I always looked to hire people who challenged me, you forced me to be better, but I cannot see a group having the same desire, because they are looking for someone that "fits in;" group decision making is more apt to create mental inbreeding, and conformity, rather than diversity and growth.

When companies define their work environment as "competitive and challenging" and then leave hiring to a popularity contest via social hiring, then you have a contradiction; group decisions are always protective and no one in a group is going to say, "...lets hire this person because they are going to really challenge us and make us achieve more...."

I cannot help but realize that what we attempt to do when hiring a person for a position is to really avoid a hard decision!  We do not want to hire anyone over 50 because......well, because that puts a limit on the applicant pool.  We do not want to consider anyone who is unemployed because....well, because that puts a limit on the applicant pool.  We use keywords today, for no other reason than it allows a software to scan through resumes.....well, just to cut down on the applicant pool.  Only look for those applicants with industry experience, or who have prior job titles that match.  Or, lord forbid, didn't major in the right subject matter in college, or forgot to seek some particular certification so to have the right "codes" after their name.

If we could devise a software that would pick that one resume, that one applicant out of hundreds, and then flash "THIS ONE" across our computer screen, then we could escape from having to make a decision in regards to people and hide forever from the fact that maybe we really don't have a clue what the "ideal" candidate for a job actually is because job descriptions define a static relationship, or the engineering of an organization, and the interaction of people is dynamic which in turns changes anything static.

Hint, for those of you who are developing this applicant tracking software, why not include a simple personality test, or have some questions drawn up that would give the applicant a chance to give answers to questions that would give readers a glimpse of the social aspect of the applicant.  It would assist companies to relate to applicants and you could add an additional fee for these additional screening tools!

I also think that College2Startup is a great concept and I think every college should create a website for their seniors and recent graduates that would allow employers to surf this pool of talent; lots of jobs are "created" this way and with the unemployment rate being what it is, we are going to be in a "buyers" market for talent for quite sometime. 

4 comments:

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