Why Getting a Job is So Hard, and Other Pet Hiring Peeves

Doing the wrong things faster does not make them the right things to do.

Stop writing boring ads! Suffice it to say, there is no requirement anywhere that you must post boring jobs. This means you shouldn’t post your skills-infested job descriptions.

Modify the job to fit the person, rather than find a perfect person to fit an imperfect job. A subjective list of skills and experiences is neither objective nor predictive of performance. Instead, why not start off by finding stronger people and modify the job to meet their needs? Most jobs are pretty fluid anyway, so it makes no sense to erect barriers-to-entry preventing some of the best people from applying.

Build a “Hub & Spoke” job board. Rather than post individual jobs, group all similar jobs into a single big posting. The only reason companies continue to post individual jobs is because job boards make money for every job a company posts. In the old days, companies would put a big display ad in the newspaper describing some of their big projects, new contracts, or their strategy and mission. Those that applied were then funneled to the appropriate job level if they were qualified.

Tie competency models to the real work and the real world. Every single company in the world has the same competencies. They’re all mashups of leadership, results-oriented, communications, technical, team, multitasking, organizational ability and being proactive. By asking, “How is this competency used on the job?” you’ll be able to better assess whether the person is a fit or not. Using this approach, “team player” might become, “Proactively coaches peers at every step in the sales process.”

Stop asking behavioral questions. Aside from the fact they can be faked, they don’t relate to the job, and they disrespect passive candidates. The big reasons good people underperform is not lack of behaviors, skills or competencies; it’s because the job was not clarified upfront and they don’t like the work assigned, they don’t get along with the manager, or the person was a cultural mismatch. Behavioral questions don’t address any of these factors, but captures them all.

How long does it take for a great person to apply? Who knows, maybe never. Time-to-fill is an important metric, but waiting is not the best way to minimize it. It’s far better for recruiters to ask their co-workers for recommendations of great people, whether they’re looking or not, and then call and recruit these people. Good recruiters can find great candidates in days this way.

Treat candidates as customers, not vendors. The new big thing for corporate HR is ensuring a great candidate experience. They even give out awards for this. I find this kind of stuff misguided. If you need to give out awards to treat people with respect, it tells me the company doesn’t consider talent all that important, or that the recruiters have too many requisitions to handle, or the hiring managers are disengaged.

Implement the 80/20 rule in reverse, at least for recruiting. If 80% of potential candidates are not looking for new jobs, why do companies spend 80% of their recruiting budget on the 20% who are? Making the 20/80 switch, companies will be able to hire the best person available, not just the best person who applies.

Implement the Volcker Rule for hiring managers. This is a stretch, but one of the provisions of the Volcker Rule is the need for CEOs to be held personally responsible for ensuring their bank is not speculating with their own capital. Similarly, if talent is number one, hiring managers should be held responsible for every person they hire and demoted if they aren’t good at it.

None of these ideas are too far-fetched. Most are just commonsense. Somehow, though, commonsense is not included in any competency model or asked during any behavioral interview. Maybe that should be number one on this list. But that’s too wild ‘n crazy an idea to even consider.

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Lou Adler, LinkedIn.com