I Think We Have a Hiring Problem

Over the past few years, as I’ve been working with more and more big businesses, I noticed a trend: when companies have turnover, they don’t make changes. They don’t change their hiring practices to prevent further turnover. They don’t assess whether or not the job description changed. They don’t analyze the current personalities and skill set within the department to see what they truly need. And they use the same, frustratingly antiquated hiring software to pilfer through candidates. Any one of these spell trouble for a brand looking to grow, and many companies suffer from all of them. That said, I think we have a hiring problem.

When I started consulting, I didn’t set out to understand hiring or culture. I didn’t study or have interest in consulting on human resources matters, but when I started analyzing why companies failed to move ideas forward and couldn’t build innovative teams, it all came back to their hiring practices.

Let’s start with the initial part of hiring: the job description. In order to attract great talent, you have to have a job description that spells out what the job entails, company history, and basic benefits. If you’re a large company with dozens, or even hundreds of job openings, you likely automate this process. You select the job you need to fill, and maybe the location, and the data goes into the want ad automatically from the previous similar listing. Nevermind that this same job has been listed three times in the past two years because the hired candidate “didn’t work out” — companies streamline this process based on what was done before because it’s easy.

Next, the resume. Raise your hand if your company has a candidate upload their resume into a system, which them scrapes it and populates fields with their information. Does that system then ask them to update the information and then verify that it’s filled out properly? Then, does that same system give them a score based on their results, which you then use to interview candidates? The fact is, systems like these filter out talented individuals because it asks them to duplicate their efforts in a redundant way, making them feel undervalued as soon as they engage with that part of the hiring process. This is the first step in getting hired, and already they are frustrated by a system that doesn’t work in their favor — if they are the least bit creative with their resume (the document we are told to prepare to get a job), then the scraping system erroneous pulls, or doesn’t pull, information. If feeding rote information into a system that grades potential hirees based on those answers is how candidates are analyzed, then we should ditch the resume altogether and standardize the form fields so that candidates can automate the application process — but this doesn’t fix the problem.

A handful of candidates were picked by the system as the best! Congratulations company, even though your method was broken, you still have people who, on paper, might work. They tailored their answers to game your system, and they get a call. So, what next? You interview them, narrow down to two or three candidates, give them a skills assessment project, then pick the lucky hiree. You bring them in, you train them to do work (which is another problem in the process, a blog post for another day), and then you let them do the thing you hired them for. And sometimes they don’t fit in to the team. And sometimes their skills don’t actually match up to what they thought the job was based on the description. And sometimes they get so frustrated with the misalignments, they leave. Then the cycle continues.

Let’s say, for the sake of this conversation, that there is a better process to hiring qualified candidates. Did you know that an interested candidate is willing to spend up to five times as long filling out an application that asks paragraph style questions instead of updating forms with information that can be found on their resume? Candidate that can read items like your company handbook, perks packages, and what to expect day-to-day on your website will either not apply due to lack of interest, or will put their heart and soul into answering long-form questions because the individuality makes them feel valued.

Does your application process allow for tailored responses? Does it ask real-world questions to test their understanding of the role? Do you give them a chance to show their personality, their experience, and what they bring to the team? Are they given a chance to show how they could solve problems that you have?

What about the existing team? Have you asked them what would make a good complementary teammate? How would the new hire fit into their job? What qualities they would look for if they were hiring the new candidate? It’s one thing to consider culture fit, and another to consider team fit.

Lastly, have you considered why, if this isn’t a new position, the last person left? Did you ask them? Did you compare their day-to-day activities to the actual job description to see if there was misinformation on your part?

If you aren’t asking yourself these questions, then you likely have a hiring problem.


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