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I had a bunch of experience with the hiring process of all-sized companies between about October 2013 and July 2014. I blogged about it a bunch of times: there was the moment I got rejected from a job ostensibly because of how my hair looked in negative-12 degree weather, and a couple of months after that, I think I started to realize the entire hiring process was a sale. (That’s not necessarily a bad thing: in reality, most everything is a sale at some level, including your relationships with your family.) Over time, I started to think about this concept: for years, the fear in hiring was that the job-seeker was lying. What if the real problem is that the hiring manager is lying?
Eventually I did get a job, then I got fired about 17 months into it. So now I’m back and looking. Of course, it’s the holiday season and the end of the year and most people aren’t really hiring, and/or are off the grid. So it’s a tough time. And when I do encounter job postings, oftentimes they’re of the good ol’ fashioned ATS (applicant tracking system) variety. If you’re unfamiliar with that, basically you upload a resume or give someone your LinkedIn profile URL — so, essentially, you are giving them all your work history and recommendations and tenure and responsibilities, right?
As soon as you do that, an ATS asks you to fill out all that same information in a 1990s-looking database entry form.
But it’s even more egregious than that.
The Dirty Little Secret Of Most Senior Leaders
The way most organizations are structured, rank-and-file employees are closest to the actual work and deliverables/projects. Senior leaders are typically closest to the perks and the financial metrics. This makes almost no sense at one level — how can you run a company if you’re unclear on what actually happens day-to-day, as many senior managers are? — but it makes perfect sense at another level, because (a) it’s how we’ve always done things and (b) you get a higher salary when you assume a greater slice of responsibility. If you’re a CMO and marketing tanks, that’s your ass. It’s not the ass of the guy writing the tweets.
Because of the way we structure organizations, most senior leaders care about financial metrics above all else. Again, this isn’t necessarily bad: they want to be seen as successful in their roles, and the No. 1 metric most companies use to define ‘success’ is growth, or CAGR, or something around financial targets being hit. Also, if there isn’t money, they don’t get paid and their colleagues don’t get paid. So, yes, we need a focus on financial metrics.
Problem is, for many senior leaders I’ve seen (in about six different industries and at 10-12 different companies), the focus on financial metrics is all-consuming. For example, most people abhor meetings — but senior leaders tend to love meetings where financial metrics are discussed. They love to breathlessly analyze how much is coming in — or, if not enough is coming in, they want to figure out ways to right the ship. Go-to-market strategy! Revenue plays! Etc.
There is nowhere you see a bigger disconnect between “what senior leaders say they care about” and “what senior leaders actually care about” than the hiring/recruiting space. A senior leader will almost assuredly tell anyone who will listen that they want “the best people” and “the best team possible” and quite possibly add that “people are everything!”
In reality, here’s what happens:
- Very few organizations think strategically about hiring or talent at all
- Everything is about headcount, which is a mess of a process at most places
- Most people rush to hire instead of thinking about what their team actually needs
The Customer vs. Potential Hire Schism
We should, logically, treat our customers the same way we treat our employees — it’s two sides of the same coin, honestly. No one really does this, though.
Liz Ryan of Human Workplace absolutely nails this concept in a recent article for Forbes:
I hope you don’t make your customers and prospects create their own records in Salesforce! You value your customers too much to make them unpaid clerical help, and you need to value job applicants that much or more.
Yep. Could you imagine if you went to a COO/CFO/CMO and said “Dynamics/Salesforce is going great, boss! I’ve got all our prospects entering their own info!” He/she would potentially fire you on the spot. And yet, we do this every hour with potential future employees.
How backwards is the hiring process?
Let’s say you have a real business need on a team in your organization. At most places, to fill that need, here are the rough series of steps the organization will go through:
- Get the headcount
- Revise/polish the job description (another major problem)
- Post the job
- Make candidates input data such as previous jobs, roles, responsibilities, and tenure — none of which is proven to be important in new hire selection
- Have HR do the first round of screenings, implying HR knows what each team truly needs better than the hiring manager does
- (To be clear: most of the time, HR exists as a CYA for the hiring manager. Nothing more/less.)
- A series of interviews where you almost never meet the actual team you’ll be working on, just your likely boss
Senior leaders often talk about things like intelligence, grit, perseverance, adaptability, leadership, etc. as qualities they want to get in the door. Does a process based on filling out automated boxes and doing a phone screen and 1-2 in-person interviews (mostly subjective and likely rewarding extroversion or narcissism, scientifically) actually do that?
Phrased another way: what do senior leaders worry about, typically? You’d assume financials, margins, and shifting business models and environments, yes? To succeed in the face of those challenges, you need people who are adaptable, self-aware, intelligent, curious, driven, etc.
How does the process above actually get those people?
It doesn’t — and that’s why we need to shift hiring and recruiting models in 2016 and beyond.
My name’s Ted Bauer; I blog here regularly and you can learn about hiring me for freelance and contract gigs as well. You can also subscribe to my newsletter.
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