Don't want, don't know, can't find

My experiences with formal recruitment processes involving anyone other than the people I would come to work with as a go between is that they have been a waste of everyone’s time. I avoid them, regardless of whether I am looking for work, or have work that I am looking for someone to do.

The last time I was in a formal process of this kind was in 2010 when a recruiter got in touch with me on behalf of a tech multinational. I should have dropped out of the process when the person asked me for a CV in spite of having found me on Linkedin. But at the time I was so ready to leave the job and sector I was in and it felt like a gift from the universe so I played along. I was very careful to point out that I am not a programmer as this company is known for being developer run and that I have a pretty odd professional profile (including having worked as a cook on a Viking Ship). They asked me to submit a portfolio as well do a creative test developing a concept based on a scenario all the way down to designing the interfaces (the say sketch and don’t spend more than 3 hrs but knowing designers…).

The material was supposedly for people to look at, who would then decide on that basis whether I would move on to the next round which was a series of phone interviews. When I did do the phone interviews with those people it was clear they hadn’t even looked at the material. I was asked questions to gauge my proficiency in a number of areas and was straightforward about not being interested in them. After almost six months of this I was flown over to another country for face to face interviews with loads of people. I asked the recruiter if we could do video-conferencing instead and she said no, can’t remember what the reason was. On arrival it was pretty clear to me that this was not somewhere I wanted to work, it felt like Dilbertspace…cubicles etc. and I lost interest in the whole thing. Especially after having an honest conversation with one of the employees; it turns out alot of the information I had been told about the role, dynamics and corporate culture was to put it charitably, fluff.

There were rounds and round of interviews and meetings with loads of people, including a whole day of awkward sessions where up to more than four people would be asking me all kinds of questions that gave the impression that the work was a lot more interesting that it really is. And when I feigned lack of knowledge to test their claims that it was “potential”, and not specialised tech skills they were looking for- they flunked. In the end what came out of it was that I met some nice people, with some of whom I have stayed in touch. However, it is likely I would have met them anyway as our paths have crossed for other reasons. So the whole thing was a massive waste of everyone’s time.

The last time I looked for people to do some work I thought about posting an ad on one of the job sites. I started writing the description and quickly realised that what I was looking for was someone intelligent, who could figure stuff out and get the job done (i.e. deliver results) without much hand-holding. And that formal qualifications would tell me very little about how the candidates would perform. So I took the easy way out and just asked my social network to recommend someone. It worked out really well, smooth sailing. But I do recognise a number of shortcomings with this way of doing things, the main one being that you miss an opportunity to be surprised by lot of the talent you didn’t know you needed! Plus working with new people is an opportunity to learn new kinds of things and meet interesting people that can enrich your experience of being in the world.

Today I came across an article in which the author explores the difficulties of matching work and talent or skills. The article itself I think is less interesting than  the discussions in the comments from both recruiters, hiring managers and people who are or have been looking for employment.  I wonder if there are any points in there that you think are worth highlighting or exploring further in the context of figuring out how to get better matching between work and diverse talents ?

Some points I see in popping up in the discussion highlighted by the quotes:

1.  Automated matching:

" Last year (or the year before?) the employment system spent $1.3B on alone. Until employers stop pretending that algorithms find talent, talent will appear to be in short supply. Meanwhile, a small handful of very smart companies are hiring great workers at a discount. "

I’ve come to understand is that finding a job through database matches is a complete waste of time. You have better chances winning the lottery than popping up as a good match in an HR database query. Using automated tools to sort through the data may sound like a good idea, but, unless the recruiters are also exceptionally talented, it will just provide an excuse for poor hiring decisions to mediocre medium-level staff who try to not hire others for a living. It is, after all, much safer to claim that you could not find anyone to fill a position, rather than take a decision which may at some point in the future come to haunt you.

" Lchanio: You raise a very important point. “Poor automated matches, combined with a rigorous selection process” …  is what everyone is hiding behind. HR knows the matches are poor, but emphasizes the “rigorous” process they use to scour the databases. They debate which databases are the best. But they fail to get their butts up from the chair behind the pc screen to actually go out and recruit. (Remember recruiting? I once did an entire workshop for an association of HR recruiters titled, “Recruit Is A Verb.”).

The rigor of “the process” hides the total failure of the process. Older professionals face a double whammy. It’s easy to discriminate out of ignorance when you can blame the lack of a match on the database. No need to interview anyone and make a judgment.

I don’t like to sound like a total cynic, but the recruiting and hiring process is overwhelmingly corrupted. When you’re spending billions of HR dollars on just one job board, it’s already too late. Your infrastructure has been swallowed whole. There is no way out. "

  1. People hiring focusing on potential vs. exactly matching experience:
  " This is the first time that I have looked for a job in 34 years. Now there is a "Berlin Wall" of HR that must be satisfied before an applicant gets exposed to the person they will be working for. In order to be thorough, HR looks for someone who has actually performed the exact task that the company needs filled.  They also make sure that the applicants education is exactly what the position requires. IMHO, we don't hire people based on their potential. "
" In fact, any time a technical skill is required for a job I'm willing to bet hr will forward all resumes that have some of the keywords in it. When I have an open position hr sends me every resume they get it seems. I'm the one turning down the ones I don't like. I'm more inclined to believe hiring managers are to blame. They need to be willing to think creatively about candidate potential. If there's an exact fit for a job, you're hiring for yesterday's job opening instead of tomorrow's. I want the guy/gal who can take me someplace better, rather than do exactly the same thing he last employee did before they quit. "
  1. More?

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A disruptive approach which matches disruptive technology

Like you said, this procedure eats a lot of time and energy on the part of candidates and the employer. Especially because the employer did not seem to do its bit of the way, by requiring deliverables, but does not analyzing them. A simple meeting on Skype could do the trick, instead of air travel.

Avaaz announced lately a large number of new positions, but they invited everyone to send their application, even if they did not really fit the descriptions. They said that they wanted to ‘see’ what talent was out there, have an overview of possibilities, by not necessarily sticking to a rigid job description. I thought that was cool…

Also, the US State Department does not have job descriptions for its e-diplomacy team, explained Lovisa Wiliams, about a year ago. A team of people is in charge of a number of tasks, and everyone puts hands on to manage the various tasks and projects. She spoke about 'removing the floor beneath the feet, in order to have a disruptive approach of work, which eventually would end up matching the disruptive nature of new technologies and the younger generations using them. This approach was also recommandable in a muticultural context, it allows for encouraging diversification and for diversity to exist.

Hmm I wonder how they worked out the legals

I know a lot of organisations go to great lengths to comply with all kinds of laws regulating recruitment and that includes specifying the details of selection criteria up front… Do you have any idea how they went about making this happen internally?

I had a recent similar experience as you, Nadia. I applied for a position in an agency that I thought I could fit. I filled the application which took me almost 3 days to complete (it consisted by around 30 demanding questions…) and I sent it with my CV. A month later they asked me on an interview (they didn’t accept a Skype meeting… - so I needed to fly there), where I realised they haven’t taken any look neither at my cv or the application. We spent around 10-15 minutes to read my application during the interview time and then I had the feeling that they expected something completely different of me. The questions were asked had nothing to do with the position I was applying and at the end both sides, specially myself realise that we could never match. Then I was so furious that I wanted to ask to fund my flight and all expenses I did for something completely meaningless.

My question is: do you think that job agencies could solve this problem between employee and employer or it is something that only both sides should work on?

It would be too expensive I think…

I don’t know, I doubt it. Unless they know you and the person or people making decisions about recruiting very well, have hands on experience of the work itself and coach both parties to realistic expectations based on what the person knows about your skillset and the needs of the employer. I don’t know maybe rewarding staff members who bring in great new additions to teams might be a better option? Does anyone know of anything like this that works?