Ask The Headhunter is usually about Q&A, but we’re going to do something different this week. We’re going to eliminate job interviews.
I could write this column forever and not run out of material because you give me tons of great questions about job hunting and hiring, and each week I give you advice. But I have no delusion that it’s the best advice because the best advice surfaces in the discussions we have every week about whatever topic we’re covering.
You test everything I tell you, and that’s why I love doing Ask The Headhunter. But I’m going to suggest that you boldly start testing employers and the entire employment system that governs job hunting and hiring.
Question the employment system
What we do here every week is no-holds-barred evaluation and critique of whatever column we’re discussing. I like to think that’s what you come here for — for the candid, honest, respectful dialogue. I don’t think any other online public forum dares to do this.
So it occurred to me, why can’t you test the assumptions and methods employers use to match people to jobs?
- Why can’t you question the entire recruiting, interviewing and hiring process they subject you to?
- Why do employers dictate how this is done?
- Why are there no serious debates about the underpinnings of the employment system that employers and job seekers alike complain doesn’t deliver enough good matches — sometimes no matches at all?
That’s the Question of this edition: What should be done to dramatically change the employment system?
I want to hear about, and discuss, your ideas — because the employment system needs a major overhaul.
What if the employment system were illegal?
To motivate your thinking, I’ll propose a scenario: Resumes, job postings and job interviews are now illegal. They’re off limits.
The iconic emblems of our employment system have been vaporized by fiat. (Just like HR departments vaporize your job applications.) Employers and job seekers cannot use the machine any more — the machine that builds and sells shopping lists of your credentials and skills, that catalogs the “requirements” of jobs (as if jobs remain static once they are filled!), and that regulates the Top 10 Stupid Interview Questions that managers rely on to predict whether you can do a job.
In a world where vacant jobs supposedly outnumber unemployed people, where job seekers ghost the employers that used to ghost them (Rude Employers: Slam-Bam-Thank-You-Ma’m), and where none of 10,000 applicants have the necessary education, skills and experience to do an advertised job — we must figure out all over again, How should employers find and hire people?
Has Nick cracked up?
If this sounds like a fool’s errand, a waste of time, or a silly exercise that will change nothing, consider this example.
Several years ago I delivered the keynote at a conference of the National Resume Writers Association. (Yep — they hired a guy who says not to use resumes to give a speech to people who make their money writing resumes.) In the middle of my talk, I gave over 200 professional resume writers this exercise:
“Break yourselves up into groups of five. You have ten minutes to figure this out. What if resumes were illegal starting today? What would you sell to your clients instead?”
A few in the audience were visibly upset that they were paying to hear a guy tell them resumes were bad. They thought their association president must have cracked up — or that I was cracked for suggesting they stop selling resumes!
The rest of the audience lit up and went to work. They came up with some great ideas.
My favorite: One team suggested a new business model for themselves. They’d organize coffee hours or cocktail parties for groups of their job-seeking clients with hiring managers “to get them out of their business environment and bring them together in a social environment to loosen up a little and talk about their work.”
This group figured people might pay for a service like that. Done right, I think people would.
If a hall full of resume writers can smash their business model, surely we can upend the employment system and come up with good ideas to replace it.
Would you like to audition?
I’ll give you another example of startling ingenuity applied to fixing the employment system. In a comment he posted to a recent column (Weird Tales of Job Offers: The new hire who disappeared), reader Tim Cunningham suggested nobody should take a job without a no-fault audition.
“An employer and employee should have a short opportunity to judge the fit of the new situation for both parties with minimal risk. Just make a one-week mutual audition a part of the job offer.”
That is, an employer shouldn’t hire anyone, and no one should quit (or give notice at) their old job to take a new one, until both have had a try-out. Imagine how profoundly that would change things.
Job interviews are illegal
This is your chance to burn down the house and design a new one. And don’t feel guilty about it. None other than Laszlo Bock, the head of Human Resources at Google, told the New York Times that his company ran a big data analysis:
“We looked at tens of thousands of interviews, and everyone who had done the interviews and what they scored the candidate, and how that person ultimately performed in their job. We found zero relationship. It’s a complete random mess…”
Job interviews really should be illegal because Bock says they’re worthless as predictors of job success. Google announced this in 2013, and HR is still paying LinkedIn, ZipRecruiter and Indeed to schedule — what do we call them? — job interviews?
So please have at it, folks. Job interviews (and resumes and job postings) are illegal. So, what now?
- What’s the smartest thing to do to get paid for doing work?
- What should a manager do to get work done?
- Do people and work have to be “found?”
- How should we decide whether it’s a good idea to work together — and that it’s going to pay off?
- What’s the best way to assess a person’s fit to a job? Does that even really matter?
- If, as Tim Cunningham suggests, we should do auditions, how would that work?
- If, as the resume writers suggested, there’s a better way for employers and the talent to dispense with the formalities and get to know one another — what is it?
What should be done to dramatically change the employment system? All comers are welcome: Big ideas, little ideas, seemingly crazy ideas, and especially ideas that work better than the system that doesn’t.
I don’t want to be a downer, but a one-week “audition” means that most people can do up to exactly two interviews per year if they forgo all vacation. In tech, it’s already almost impossible to interview without taking a full day off from the job that is actually paying you. I would say that in general, any idea that requires even more of a time commitment is a non-starter.
I agree with this. I attended a design lab recently where people tried to do something similar – match employers up with career changers who have transferable skills but no direct experience – and one of the main things I saw was people creating really cool, interesting ideas… that require much much more time and effort on the part of the jobseeker than our current system. We should be reducing barriers to entry!
@Kim: I think we should be raising the barriers to entry. I mean, today a dog with a note in its mouth can apply for a job. Just teach it to press a key on LinkedIn. No kidding — it has gotten that bad and we all know it. To pretend otherwise is to willingly subject ourselves to being solicited by idiots with e-mail and LinkedIn accounts who blast out copies of job requirements to… puppies and guppies.
I’m not kidding. I think the standards — if not the barriers — should be higher, not lower.
I might have agreed with you a couple years ago, Nick, but no more! The last few hiring processes I’ve worked on have had barely a trickle of candidates. We don’t post on Indeed anymore because you get flooded with poor matches, but honestly, we’re seeing really, really small candidate pools (for lower-level operations and administrative positions!)
The information employers gather for the job should be limited to what actually helps you determine if they’re a good match. We agree (I think?) that most of what employers are doing now, like resumes and interviews, don’t really do that. A person’s qualifications aren’t measured by how much free time they have (in fact, the best folks, the ones that have options, are not going to waste their time). There are lots of incredible people who bypass postings because who has time for a resume, custom cover letter, writing sample, 5 short essay questions, and a half hour long personality test?
Part of hiring is knowing that you’re going to look at applications that aren’t a good match. It’s not hard to reject an “idiot” in an ATS. This isn’t a huge amount of time. If you’re selecting based on how much time on this earth your candidate is willing to dedicate to getting hired by you, you’re selecting for a whole lot that has little to do with how they operate on the job.
If your not getting candidate responses, then you are probably marketing to that demographic wrong.
You know that simply looking at resumes and “assessing” a candidate is worthless; it forces you to come up with assumptions of how that candidates “perfect advertisement to you” would be resulting in extremes of either over optimistic expectations of poor expectations (read as throw away resume): both bad.
As such I don’t understand why firms don’t do their own get job fairs in a way that it is a social cocktail setting. Have candidates bring in abridged resumes (aka business cards) and hand them out ONLY if the Hiring Manager wants it. By this time the HM and candidate have talked and felt each other out.
HR wanting to find good cultural& experience matches without having the decision makers involved (the candidate and the hiring manager) is a ludicrous approach.
I would agree with this sentiment only if and when companies start compensating prospective employees for their time during job interviews. I’ve been invited to 8 hour long marathon job interviews and declined every single one. It’s insulting to be told my time for an entire day is only worth a deli turkey sandwich for lunch. A week, uncompensated? No thanks, I’ve got better things to do with my time off.
So let’s play that problem out, Scott. Devil’s advocate: Every job you (proverbial you, not you personally) apply for should require more, not less, of a time commitment because that would force you to choose jobs and employers more carefully. Furthermore, it’s worth using up a week of vacation time (out of 2 or 3) if the job opportunity is truly worthwhile. Consider the magnitude of potential benefits. And you probably would not do this many times in your life. Only when it’s really worth it.
Of course, that’s a personal choice. Now let’s take a more structural kind of view. If all companies realize the huge benefit they would get when serious job applicants invest that week of try-out time, why wouldn’t they as a universe of companies hand out one or two more weeks’ vacation to all employees? It’s an investment with no certain return — very capitalist.
Maybe it would change things. Maybe it would make job seekers far more demanding of any company that wants to consider them for a job via try-out. Maybe it would make them smarter about evaluating opportunities and companies. Maybe it would completely change the standard.
I agree in theory but in practice I’m not working for free or taking a chance of working a week to be let go and then that getting back to a current employer.
I’m all for No Cause 3 mo probationary periods though (with pay). Honestly I’d actually prefer this to the current jump-through-hoops-looking-for-the-purple-squirrel mentality out thee
The gig economy is already eliminating interviews by eliminating the permanent job (and its benefits). For better and worse, interviews are now proposals for many senior executives and entry level jobs are now largely “internships” without much training or long term skill investment. This is the result of companies trying to reduce the economic cost of permanent employees more than an acknowledgement that the hiring process is broken; though I’ll admit that this approach quickly weeds out people who can’t explain how they will do the job in a first or second conversation.
@John: That’s a good argument against what I posted above to Scott and Kim. When employers take advantage of serious job applicants who are willing to invest time and effort to do what I suggest — show how you’ll do the work profitably — then we face another problem. Free work. Abuse of applicants AND of dogs with notes in their mouths.
Lowering “economic cost” is key and normally a good thing that leads to higher profits. But a good friend of mine refers to stupid cost controls as “junk profitability.” E.g., firing workers or underpaying good workers yields fake profits that cannot last. So, how do we get companies to view costs as they should — not as undesirable, but as investments in future profits? In other words, what happens when companies thoughtfully select interns and pay them decent money? I’d argue it would lower the company’s cost of hiring later on — just hire the interns full-time. The “cost” returns even more when you consider those new hires need less or no ramp-up time — they already know the biz and the work.
What do you think?
Keep interns to part-time (with a part-time rate) Maybe they work for a different company 1 day each week (or maybe they just work less hours) You then hire full-time the best(as long as you can compete against the other 4 companies that intern is working with) Agencies might actually be able to add value by running all the payroll end and consolidating the cost for each of these companies.
1) Contract out small jobs/tasks that are not time critical. Pay candidates for their time….at the mid range of the salary for the position.
2) Conduct evaluations/discussions/etc. at times that do not require candidates to take vacation or time off. Yes, that means evenings and on the weekends, if necessary.
3) Have open lunches/happy hours/dinners at the workplace…..*anybody* interested in the company is invited. Only announce the small jobs/tasks/open positions through these events. (In relation to #2, some of these should be done at times so candidates don’t have to take PTO/vacation to attend.) These should be very casual and limited in size so they’re not cattle calls.
4) Every position should have a recruiting budget (time and money) and a hard completion date. If the position is not filled within the budgeted time and on/under cost, it’s pulled from the organizational chart. If a manager wants that position filled, he or she has to start from scratch to request monies to fill the position. This information should be noted in managers’ performance reviews in the same way as “real” projects within the company would be. Failure to fill a position is the same as failure to complete a project on time and within budget.
5) Implement an anonymous feedback system that goes to the manager (and the manager’s manager) that allows candidates to provide honest feedback about everyone he or she interacted with. Aggregate data is sent the C-level suite….and becomes a significant factor in their compensation package.
6) Develop a system to keep in touch with every 2nd/3rd place runner up. Put them on the holiday card list. Call every 3-6 months and let them know about other positions that have opened up. Do a special #3 above where only these people are invited but allow them to each bring one colleague to these events.
7) If possible, hold fun/silly contests where people use your product/service to do something. Give people free/reduced cost access to your product/service to do this. Hand out cash prizes and swag at an awards ceremony. Assign current team members to provide support/help. Make note of who participates, even if they don’t win.
Note: This must not be something serious where people may think you’re just getting free work out of them. And don’t make it a “show us how smart you are and we might hire you” event either. It needs to be casual, low key, and fun.
RE: “Failure to fill a position is the same as failure to complete a project on time and within budget.” This makes sense! Nick, why don’t companies use this S.O.P. for hiring?
Ah, Chris, I love ya!
1) Try and buy! This lowers costs, provides training, yields hires!
2) What a concept — interview during off hours!! Jeepers, that’s rocket science! Disclosure: The best headhunters don’t bother people they want to recruit at work. They call/meet them in the evening and on weekends. I know IT folks who are on call 24X7. Hey, HR — step up to the plate! Set up that job interview for 10pm!
3) Tandem Computers was one of the 2-3 leading tech cos in Silicon Valley. They were notorious for Friday Beer Bashes around the company pool. Any employee was welcome to invite anyone they wanted to these bashes. Recruiting was friendly and natural. It worked. Isn’t there a fool in some company willing to try this???
4) Wowee! I know companies that facilitate urgency by embedding their best HR recruiters in individual departments. They live, work, breathe with the team and get to know the biz inside-out. They help with exactly this kind of recruiting, in the trenches. Every team member recruits. What a concept. You get to interview with a team member, not some personnel jockey in another building. Think that would motivate the best job applicants?
5) You reminded me of an article I wrote a million years ago that proves your concept with a counter-example — a company that went belly-up because the candidate feedback loop destroyed the company’s reputation in the professional community. No one would interview for jobs there. Imagine what positive feedback could do? See https://www.asktheheadhunter.com/halethalrep.htm
6) A company called MentorGraphics and another called Microsoft almost licensed private-branded editions of the Ask The Headhunter newsletter so subscriptions could be given to rejected job applicants the company would have hired if it could have. The idea was to embed tasty info about the company and future openings into Nick’s great weekly advice :-), so these companies could stay close to those candidates. Even if these companies never hired those people, the newsletter would potentially help them land jobs elsewhere — a professional benefit that demonstrated MG and MSFT care about good candidates. In MG’s case, HR squashed the initiative after the PR department tried to launch it. In MSFT’s case, the legal department sank it under tons of paper.
7) What an idea — bring people, any people, closer to your company, because everyone is either a potential hire or a source of referrals. Duh. “Employee referral system” X 1,000 anybody??
Chris, you win the prize so far! This is the kind of stuff I was looking for when I wrote this column. Come on, folks — this is easy if you take off the blinders the employment system has tied to our heads!
HR, hiring managers — what can you come up with? What are you actually willing to TRY?
The resume should be a new type of doc. Name, education, past employment dates. Thats it. Youd need something to verify data points, not something to judge whether a candidate can do the job. Think the size of a business card.
As for ideas: think ‘It’s Just Lunch’ for hiring. A company works with hiring managers to set up the lunch. No obligation on either side. No stupid questions, and no bs answers. When you share food there is the opportunity to form a connection and a conversation as opposed to the challenge:response of an interview setting. This model is hard to do with remote candidates. So we’d have to think of something for that.
There was a startup in San Francisco that was doing something similar to your suggestion. Catered lunch at the employer for the initial conversations. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the name of the startup.
@Rich: The Less Is More Resume! I never thought of that! Make it IMPOSSIBLE for an employer to pretend to judge a candidate’s abilities from a dopey piece of paper! NO DETAILS, just hard, documented facts. Apologies to worthy candidates who lack degrees — but that’s another issue. This is a clever and smart way to reduce friction in the process. Not perfect, but a great start.
I once knew an engineer who printed up his own business cards with his name, contact info, general areas of expertise. On the back, it said, “The answer is 37.”
I asked him about it and he told me he got loads of calls from people who wanted to know what that meant. “Then I’d ask them what their question or problem was. The answer is 37, I’d say. That always led to discussions about work and sometimes an interview and a job.”
Less is more. Love it!
I… I’m stealing this…
I don’t HATE the business card resume idea. The only problem is that I think employers are already way too dependent on equating years of experience to performance on the job, which our good friend Laszlo Bock has already told us doesn’t really correlate. I don’t think it would be *worse* than our resume format today, though.
The resume should be a new type of doc
How about just a business card. Like th eone Da vinci had but perhaps with QR codes to LinkedIn/websites etc and email/mobile number
I recruit at conferences. I also use college professors to recommend students to interview. The professors send their top students and the students are normally well prepared.
Jonathan: That’s the secret of great headhunters. We go where the talent hangs out to talk shop, not to job fairs. Conferences, trade shows, symposia. Places where nobody is recruiting but where the opinion makers are talking shop. That’s where you recruit. Well, it’s where a hiring manager can recruit, or a very good headhunter or HR person who actually knows enough about the work to talk shop intelligently. 50 points for that one, Dude!
I’ve always loved job boards, ATSes, job fairs because it’s where all my competition goes to waste their time and stay out of my way — while I go where the talent is talking shop. Any good headhunter will tell you that. Check out this old story about a great in-house recruiter – it’s a very old article: https://www.asktheheadhunter.com/gv990602a.htm
A few years ago a coworker from Brazil showed me her “job passport” booklet that the Brazilian government makes (if I remembered correctly). I call it a ‘passport’ because it looked like one; it has the person’s name, their picture, their education, their job history, etc. It’s like a mini resume in a VERIFIED document (just show it to the employer!).
I’d like to see something like that here in the US, in concept. I think it’d be nice to have a government document that acts as a verified source of identification, employment qualifications, and experience all rolled into one. It would (or, SHOULD) greatly reduce the time it takes for prospective employers to screen candidates.
Again, in concept…
The “passport” removes options for the employee. A worker needs to be able to take certain experiences and roll them into a narrative. If the goal is to get a job ASAP, they would choose certain jobs to highlight. If the goal is to keep working at an old job until they can get work at a start-up for better pay, then a worker might choose experiences that highlight their creativity, boldness, etc.
@K-Ster: You mean put LinkedIn out of business? I’ll bite. I like the concept.
Conceptually interesting, though my skin crawls when I think about some government “verified” document controlled by a bureaucratic organization replacing my own resume. Can you imagine how long it would take and how much documentation you would have to provide to add a Masters degree to your passport?
Conceptually interesting though, if you apply modern non-governmental controlled methods for updating and validating information – crowd sourcing. We all have recommendations and references we provide ahead of interviews. What if we crowd sourced our experiences from university professors, previous employers, colleagues, clergy, HR professionals, headhunters, etc…. Essentially, your qualifications becomes a crowd sourced and verified set of skills (your own wikipedia entry of sorts) that can be updated or modified as you progress throughout your career. You can update it, but employers would see it had been validated by ## of your colleagues which would yield a certain amount of credibility to your claim of that skill or experience. Upon completion of your degree, your university would actively validate your claim of completion and level of performance (GPA). This isn’t a perfect method, because we all know that every entry in Wikipedia is 100% accurate. However, over time the number of entries that are mostly correct have increased exponentially.
I would be remiss not to mention one additional unrelated thing I have not seen spoken about here. I wonder how many hiring managers have ever been through any training for how to evaluate candidates, or conduct interviews. In my experience, the percentage of hiring managers that have ever been trained (or re-trained within the last decade) is pretty small. Despite of all the good ideas regarding replacement of resumes and interviews, success will be elusive until training is a part of the overall solution. I would also question throwing out a system, just because no one is trained properly in its use. Simply replacing that system does not guarantee that everyone will be trained properly on the new system.
There was a company in Dallas that was using a software platform that not many programmers knew. The company had no programmers on staff that knew the software. They periodically advertised for a knowledgeable programmer to sign up to come to their offices for an “audition”.
The “audition” consisted of the candidate solving their latest problem with the software. They never hired anyone and did not pay the parking garage fee for the “audition” candidates.
Eventually word got around in the programming community that the advertised “auditions” were unpaid consulting engagements.
@Jim: Soliciting “free work” like that should earn an employer jail time. I knew a number of Silicon Valley companies that would interview engineers, give them a “sample project” to take home and work on for two weeks. The engineer would submit the work and never hear another word. But word got out quickly every time.
Agreeeed. If your project/exercise/work sample will take more than about an hour of a candidate’s time, you should pay them for that time (and retain the rights to use the work as a result).
@Kim: You’ll enjoy this.
Instead, let’s use a time machine. Go back 1 hundred years or so to 1900.
How did people get their jobs back then. Only a few went to college. It’s true that the types of jobs have changed. However, an antique typewriter was hi-tech back then. I think in perspective, there are a lot of similarities that can be pointed out.
What do you think?
@Tony: That’s something I talk about during almost ever live presentation I give. I talk about how a shoe maker in New York would get a job in Philadelphia. He’d make the long journey with a letter of transmittal in his pocket. That’s a signed letter from a respected shoe maker that introduces — transmits — you to every shoemaker in Philly whose shop you walk into to inquire about a job. It’s a kind of pre-emptive reference or referral that depended on a network of respected professionals. It’s still done in many fields, though it might not involve a letter.
Finding a job in the good old days: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IV_6RYVbNaw
I know this is not a place to talk about religion, but I belong to a religious organization that has an interesting way of placing settled ministers in congregations. The Unitarian Universalist Association (uua.org) has it set up so that search committees look at application packets of well vetted ministers. They select maybe 3 or 4 where they will go to that person’s church or to a neutral pulpit (where the candidate is guest minister that Sunday) – it is a confidential visit. The candidate is aware of the visit.
After that, if they find a viable candidate, they will call that minister up and ask, “Would you like to be our candidate?” If the answer is in the affirmative, the hiring congregation will set up a candidating week.
During candidating week, the candidate leads two services, and participates in activities with congregants all week. At the end of it, the candidate leaves and a meeting is called – people vote on the candidate. Then the committee calls the candidate – usually with good news.
Another example: I was a church organist for over 30 years, and every job I applied to always included an audition. They wanted to see what I could do on the organ, and how well I directed a choir.
I will say that working in religious organizations whether liberal, conservative, or in between is some of the hardest work ever. You are dealing with people at the core of their existence. For example, I have provided music for funeral services where someone committed suicide.
There are things I miss about that kind of work and things I don’t. Getting my master’s degree in music made me a better engineer, and that is the field where I excel today.
@Kevin A: Religions hire, too, and face the same challenges any other org does. So do schools. Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts operates kind of like that when it recruits new students. They submit their stuff, and the first cut of candidates are invited to visit for 3 days in early February, where they participate in real engineering projects outside in the courtyard.
The cool thing is, it’s casual and it’s “live” — and everyone gets a chance to meet and assess the candidates AND their work. Professors, administrators, other students — they all get a say in who gets admitted.
Try before you buy. Auditions beat interviews any time.
@John L: I keep hearing about the gig economy, yet most people I know are employed in regular jobs with benefits. Not contract. Not temporary. Either that, or people just don’t talk about it.
Set up a tax credit to companies for every job filled, after X hours of work/taxes withheld from employee’s paycheck. The employer would also need to verify that the job was not set up as a temp job. (This would work for hourly employees only.)
@Amy: Much cooler than getting check marks on an Equal Opportunity form that gets misused anyway. Your idea could be used for EO as well. I like it!
Hire x% of employees by random selection from the applicant pool. The applicant pool consists of people who think they can do the job, so a random hire might be correct in his/her assessment.
By hiring at random for some roles, people who would rarely or never get hired otherwise, get hired sometimes. Minorities, women, disabled people, ugly people, LGBTQ+, and people who suck at resume writing or interviewing or ATS keyword matching, would get hired sometimes.
I honestly kind of like this. Companies have spent decades pouring time and money into ways to evaluate candidates and, honestly, as far as any of us can tell, things are worse, not better. Hiring costs would be decimated, and while turnover would likely go up, it would also force companies to invest a bit of their recruitment budget into training (both for new hires and managers, who must step up their game if this is to work) and professional development.
This would be great for jobs at or near entry-level, which theoretically 90% of people could do with like a week of training and an internal desire to do well.
@Mike: I thought that was cute but silly… til I read Kim’s comment. Which reminded me what Laszlo Bock said. There’s zero correlation between the scoring of a candidate’s interview and success on the job. So, random might blow out a good “candidate chooser” giving us a few good hires, but random might also eliminate all the bad choices made by algorithms and bad choosers. Net it out and results really might be no worse than the status quo, except think of all the money we’d save and all the long-term vacant jobs that at least someone would be trying to do.
Then a factor that I think employers incorrectly discount will kick in — PEOPLE LEARN. Once a wrong candidate gets a job, s/he will bust their buns not to lose it. So they’ll probably improve because humans learn.
Companies forget that. So I’m with you both, now. It’s worth the experiment. What employer has the brass to try hiring randomly? What employer is willing to gamble that PEOPLE LEARN BETTER AND FASTER THAN ALGORITHMS WORK?
What would be really interesting is to run those systems in parallel as a double blind test. One HR reps, take typical approach to select X%, meanwhile monkey pulls names out of a hat at random. Both set of results are then presented to manager, candidate interviewed. If HR can’t outperform the random system, then just get rid of them and hire a bunch of people to pull names out of hats.
There is a long term relationship that doesn’t use resumes – marriage. There are also no interviews, unless you count dates as interviews.
The “It’s Just Lunch” comment above is along these lines, but it kind of limits hiring to be local, and lots of the hiring I did was national.
I could see small companies outsourcing this job to people who would spend all their time talking to prospective candidates. Just like in the old days. I can see it now, Yenta the Headhunter.
The downside is that while the current process tends to discriminate, a process based on personal networks might do so even more.
Auditions are fine, but in some cases you want to train someone, so you are looking for basic skills, not the exact skills you need.
In show business of course “resumes” are simple – just your characteristics and a list of your work, and there are no interviews but only auditions. And it is all mediated by agents, managers and casting directors.
YENTA THE HEADHUNTER!!!
I think you have something here. I’ll tell you a story. When I interviewed for my first headhunting job, the owner of the firm rejected me when it was over. (No waiting!) She walked me to the door and we got to talking about our hobbies for quite a while. I could tell she thought I was okay, other than that I’d probably suck at the job. So the next week her office manager called and told me she asked him to take me to lunch and have another go. (Small talk pays off!) I’d learned the drill from the first interview with the owner, so before lunch was over I asked the guy, “So are you gonna recommend she hire me or not?” He said, yep, he was going to recommend me. So I took the job and did very well.
But that’s not the story. About a year into it, I’d gotten pretty good at it. So I asked the office manager, “If I really want to do really well at this, what’s the secret?”
Honest, he said to me, “Well, spend every dime you make your first year taking people out to lunch and introducing them to one another. After a while, you’ll be the hub of a big network of people that like you because you connect them with one another whether you place them or get a search assignment from them or not. That’s the secret.”
So I did it and he was 100% right. So, Scott, I think you’re right. No recruiting or interviewing. Just do lunch, talk, hang out, introduce people. If you’re a job hunter, jobs will get introduced to you, and if you’re a manager, people will lead you to hires.
I don’t think it’s a problem that it would be local. So what? Besides, nothing is local any more because we’re all connected by the Net and we travel. I wouldn’t worry about that. There’s lots of people who are local who never get a shot that would, if you took them and their friends to lunch.
Yah, there would be some Yenta Headhunters, but they’ll always be around.
(BTW: This Greek grew up across the street from an Orthodox Rabbi, so I learned lots of Yiddish early. And this great joke, which you’ll likely get only if you have Jewish friends. What’s the plural of Yenta? Scroll down…
Love the joke.
I auditioned my hires through internships, mostly, and in some cases by seeing them present a paper at a conference. And I got these candidates by connections with professors. For some fields local doesn’t matter that much, since you network at professional events. When your company lets you go, that is.
If you hire one of a professor’s students, and she likes the job, it is a lot easier to hire the second one – and to get an honest evaluation also.
Oh, and we hired interns with phone interviews only. It worked out pretty well. They had resumes, but student resumes are not that important to the process.
What an interesting idea, and a splendid concept!
There have been hints about what the entertainment industry does, i.e., auditions. That concept could be extended to other industries. Sure, it’s like an interview, but an audition answers the question, “Can this person perform in the role we wish to fill?” I think that makes it a bit different. Also, auditions don’t usually touch on your background as far as education and certification is concerned. (I think; I’m not in the entertainment industry.)
I also like the idea, proposed by several readers, of an informal gathering. We already use this concept to vet others for social functions from the spectrum of friendship to marriage. People meet in clubs and organizations every day to make crafts, exercise, drink beer, or play chess. Job placement seems a natural extension of this concept.
I think there would naturally be a greater emphasis on placement if the traditional job recruitment process vanished. It’s likely that a common question would be, “Do you know anyone who can _____?” In other words, the networking we do now would become much more common if the whole world of resumes and interviews went up in a puff of smoke. It would be common to talk about employment along with current events, the weather, and, of course, cat videos.
Social media is already upending, well, everything. I can see that taking a prominent role in matching people with employers.
I think this has been touched on as well, but businesses could hold a weekly “open house” for job seekers. When nobody came by for weeks, it would tell the owners and management the word had gotten around about what kind of business they run.
Create the e-bay of job search where businesses stated their openings, and employees stated their desires.
Thanks again for the opportunity to think. And keep up the good work on your splendid column.
Thanks for your ruminations, Larry (and the compliment). I agree with you.
You know what Shakespeare wrote: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” In this case, we don’t need to eliminate all the headhunters and personnel jockeys. We need to eliminate all the database jockeys — the people who have convinced venture investors, HR execs and other database jockeys that recruiting and hiring are DATABASE PROBLEMS that database methods can solve.
We’d have to get rid of all the database jockeys who work in the employment industry first. (They could go work on some other “problem.”)
Then we could all do lunch and fill jobs.
My daughter was a professional actor when she was young. She worked in New York, and got some good roles before we moved.
What an actor goes in with is a head shot with a list of jobs on the back, and the contact info for the manager. No goals, no descriptions, just the facts. And that is really just to maybe give the casting director info on what roles the person has had, and some confidence maybe that she can do it.
The two big factors are the audition, and the network that the manager and agent have spun.
There is an audition, and then a callback for the finalists. That’s it. Any more auditions and SAG rules say the actor has to get paid. (That would handle the interview after interview some people have complained about.)
As for the importance of connections, my daughter got a continuing role on a series without doing the first audition. She was in camp, and when her manager heard about the role she decided my daughter would be perfect for it and got her invited to the callback. And she got the job.
So Nick’s dream works in one industry, at least.
@Scott: The problem with recruiting, interviewing and hiring is simple but everyone misses it. Interviews are free.
So employers place no value on them and are happy to do a million because HR is a fixed cost that is not measured for its profitability.
I posted this link to another reader above. You’ve got the idea about paying for interviews.
Where an experienced hire is needed, I’m cribbing a great idea from a past “Ask The Headhunter”: do some work together. Instead of an interview, grab a whiteboard and work on a problem, preferably a real-world one. Then have the candidate come back with a document that shows how he/she can bring value to the business. I’ve convinced two clients to do things this way, and it’s a touchdown with two point conversion.
BTW, I love this discussion.
So do I, Rob! This is great! I thought up this column as I was falling asleep. I knew I’d have to write my next column when I woke up. I had just finished a great novel (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay), which is about not doing what you normally do, and doing something you’d really like to do. So I figured I’d change up the column and ask a question rather than answer it. And then I thought, that would unleash all the wisdom I enjoy in people’s comments every week — and the whole point of smart hiring is not to find someone to “do the job” but to unleash unexpected wisdom on your business so you can REALLY have a successful business BY WORKING WITH OTHERS TO FIGURE OUT WHAT THE JOB REALLY OUGHTA BE.
I guess I was groggy, but I penciled the idea on an index card (I keep them on my nightstand), and the next morning it still appealed to me. So I figured let’s do a thread (not a column or Q&A) where we all work on a real-world problem.
Ta-da! You’re all the best! This works!!
I can remember when hiring was sane and pretty effective. It was still based on job postings, resumes, and interviews. The difference was that the people who wrote the job postings and gave the interviews knew the jobs. And web middlemen had not arisen with business models that needlessly complicate the communication between employers and job-seekers. In my own field, I could walk into a business cold, hand my resume to the person nearest the door, who would take it back to the boss. Often enough, the boss would come out to meet me, even if he didn’t have an opening at the moment.
The difference at the employer’s end is HR. More generally, HR is a hallmark of New-Age “professional management” ideology that divorces management from the work being done, and thereby divorces management from reality. No need for more New-Age solutions to replace New-Age perversions of simple, direct methods that have stood the test of time.
Like many more experienced, knowledgeable, and professional professional resume writers, I have many reservations about most of the people who claim to be my colleagues and competitors. Writing at a professional level is not like talking to a friend or writing a note to a co-worker. Professional-level writing is writing for a particular purpose so as to be clearly understood by the general run of people who do not have in their minds the facts and assumptions that the writer (or his client) have in theirs, and who do not take for granted the many things that the writer (or his client) normally take for granted. It also requires knowledge of the terms and syntax and linguistic strategies that are most widely understood–which may not be those that a particular amateur takes for granted. And it requires knowledge of the techniques needed to deal with situations when, for various reasons, it is not possible to communicate what has to be said using the methods that come first to the mind of the writer. (That happens a lot with resumes.) That knowledge can only come from a great deal of very miscellaneous reading of well-written communications, along with lots of practice at writing for an audience of strangers–not in blog post, but when there is something riding on your effectiveness, something like your client’s business, and your job. That kind of reading and practice have gotten a lot less common over the past generation–the same period that marks the degeneration of the hiring process.
Thus professional-level writing has long been recognized as a distinct professional skill set that requires specialized knowledge (including uncommon linguistic knowledge) and experience to the point that not everyone who wants to do it, or thinks they can do it, can actually do it even passably well. On the other hand, since the invention of printing, the knowledge and experience have always been very widely enough available, to those who will put in the effort and have the basic inclination and the right circumstances to apply them. So writing skills–like many other sets of the more generally applicable real-world skills–can be, and often are, obtained without formal training or certifications.
In addition to the lack of meaningful badges of competence, there’s the fact that writing and communication are things that everyone does to some extent. So people who don’t know better are apt to say to themselves, “After all, I can talk to my friends and even write notes to them, and I know English just like any so-called professional. I’ve even been to college. What else is there to communication?” And they think that anyone can be a professional at anything that involves writing. Thus the flood of awful manuscripts that publishers have to deal with. Thus also the flood of “professional resume writers” who, when they are numerous enough, form organizations to certify each other. Like HR people and professional managers, they’re all about certifications.
Professional-level writing has various specialties. To a large extent, however, if you have an old-fashioned professional-level grasp of the skills and concepts and wide range of detailed knowledge involved in professional-level communications, and you have mastered one of those specialties, you can easily enough master most others.
The specialty of resume writing, in some ways, is a peculiar one. (For instance, not many other writing practices get along without complete sentences. But writing effective incomplete sentences is even harder than writing effective complete ones.) There is a certain body of specialized knowledge related to resumes–knowledge of hiring practices, etc. But it’s not knowledge that is difficult to obtain. It’s not like learning to be a nurse, say, or an architect. You won’t obtain even that body of knowledge, however, if you think that research and learning consist of just parroting what you read somewhere. That, however, is what is done by most resume writers, and most writers on the subject of resumes. It’s not that simple. If it were, everyone who wants it would have it easily, and your “professional” specialty wouldn’t be very special.
So feedback on employment practices from the National Resume Writers Association is not like, say, feedback on engineering from a national association of engineers. It’s more like feedback on the treatment of disease from a national association of homeopaths.
Again, the solution to a problem caused by New-Age remedies is not another New-Age remedy. In this case, the solution is letting the basic process work the way it should: the employer, if he can’t fill a job from his personal network or word of mouth, posts it publicly. (He is not required by equal opportunity regulations to post it publicly regardless, enriching the middlemen. An HR person does not write the job posting.) Qualified people read it and respond with a summary of what they can do and have done. Unqualified people are deterred by the knowledge that qualified people will judge their resumes–not encouraged by all the HR and professional management fluff that obscures the real requirements for a job and often means that unqualified people really do get hired. Nobody’s time wasted with personal contacts at that stage. The employer–not an HR person, and not a professional manager–reads the resumes, calls the best candidates in for interviews, and makes a choice. That choice is much more likely to work out than is a choice made by HR or professional managers, and it will be that much longer before a new hire has to be made.
This is probably what is going to happen if, in the tighter times ahead, there is a general shakeout of the counterproductive business practices that proliferated during the many fat years that are now ending. The fact that candidates are increasingly blowing off employers is an omen. How many of those candidates will be willing to invest an evening or a week, much less work for free, just on the chance that someone will take a look at them? Raising the bar by making the hiring process more realistic and related to actual qualifications is one thing. Raising it by simply requiring people to invest more time is actually an old trick, used, for example by gig boards aimed at freelancers (including, now, LinkedIn’s ProFinder). But the purpose of the trick is to get the cheapest people, not the best ones. The best ones won’t bother–they’ve tried it once and learned better.
I take some issue with some of your remarks. I mean, hiring used to be easier because there were smaller candidate pools. It’s much easier to manage a hiring process (as a manager), and be both more rigorous and give more people a shot, when there are fewer applicants. People like to romanticize the days when you could walk in, give the receptionist a resume, and the manager would come out to meet you, but honestly, the “idiots” (as Nick so derisively calls them) that hit APPLY NOW on LinkedIn or Indeed are exactly the people that will come to your office and expect the manager to come talk to them. It’s not like the cream of the crop would do the door-to-door strategy today. (I have had people come to an office I worked in like this, and they were 100% not people we were interested in hiring).
I don’t think HR’s role in all of this is good. I think managers SHOULD be the primary drivers of building their own teams. But we live in a world where most managers are squeezed to an inch of their life! They are expected to run a 10 person team well while also doing 20 hours a week of individual contributions, and the math on that just doesn’t add up. But it’s the reality at most organizations, and it’s not one that those individual managers have any power to change.
(I also want to point out that the Good Ol Days you refer to are also times when there was even more dramatically rampant racism, sexism, and other discrimination in hiring. It’s a method of hiring that prizes personability, confidence, and ambition … mostly good traits, to be sure, but not necessary for the vast majority of jobs, and ones that our internal biases absolutely, statistically favor in men and not women, and in white people but not black or brown people. Discrimination in hiring is overwhelmingly not the product of a small number of bad actors being overtly racist, but in the institutions we’ve built around biases we’ve only started examining with any rigor.)
The manager came out and talked to me after the person at the front desk saw fit to send the resume back, and after he read the resume. There was screening involved, but it was by competent people and it was done very quickly and informally. It could be done quickly and informally because the receptionist or whoever was free to say, “Thanks. We’ll get in touch with you if we have an opening for your skill set.”
My point is that the screening was done by competent people, not by HR or professional managers. I am not proposing that everyone walk into an employer’s office and expect something to happen–that’s no more feasible or reasonable than than the kaffeeklatsch auditions or whatever is being proposed to raise the bar and replace resumes. In less geographically concentrated markets, I could (and have) have gotten the same result with a mailed or e-mailed resume and letter–as long as the recipients knew their own business. Job-seekers who know their business and market will select their targets carefully, and make inquiries only where those inquiries are welcome.
That’s not the equivalent of blasting your resume on a job board. It’s more like the creative digging that Nick advocates. But it only works if your skills really are competitive. If they’re not, it’s almost impossible to write a resume that will fool a manager who knows the job. That’s why it keeps the bar high, without imposing undue burdens on the person who evaluates the resumes. (A manager who knows the job can often weed out the fakes in much less than the proverbial 15 seconds each. So he accepts that weeding out the pile is a necessary, and not too onerous chore, like taking out the garbage.)
@Ken: That’s fair. I do think that if HR is gonna be involved in hiring, they should be more effective at it (which overwhelmingly involves learning much more deeply about the work they’re hiring for, as opposed to requiring any “HR” knowledge). I’ve gotten really good at doing first level screening for a lot of jobs, and it was through a deep alignment on what the hiring manager is looking for, and deep knowledge of how the nuts and bolts of the job & organization actually work, and that’s 1) hard to train in others, and 2) takes a lot of time and work that can’t be outsourced to an algorithm.
I think the most important thing for organizations in this case is to be deliberate about what kind of management culture you want to have. You can have hiring managers handle their own hiring, but you have to adjust their workload if you want that to work. You can outsource to HR, but then must dedicate time and training to teach HR what *exactly* this role is about. If a place wants to have a decentralized structure, honestly I think junior members of the team can help a lot in the hiring process as well – as in, folks who are also doing the job on the ground and thus understand it in a way HR doesn’t – and having a hiring committee of people also helps reduce bias. But, again, you have to get folks who don’t live and breathe hiring to invest and do the work, which is difficult if you’ve got a really full individual contributor plate.
I think any of those models *can* work, but they all have tradeoffs, and most organizations don’t seem to be willing to make any of those tradeoffs, instead settling for a system where hiring is expensive and only spottily effective but where they can squeeze as much direct work out of all levels of staff as possible.
There’s definitely a need for the kind of experimentation you’re suggesting. And you’ve put your finger on something important when you say “junior members of the team can help a lot in the hiring process as well.” That’s especially true when the hiring manager doesn’t have direct experience with the particular job being filled–but it can be valuable in all cases, since it adds another set of eyes, and reduces the burden on the hiring manager, whose time is presumably more valuable.
Here’s a suggested procedure:
A relatively junior person, experienced in the job, does the *first* screening of resumes, adding comments and starring top picks.
Then HR can screen the resumes passed by the experienced junior, looking for general employment-related red flags that HR may more aware of.
Then an administrative assistant assembles the resumes in folders as follows: 1) the resumes passed by the HR person, 2) the resumes passed by the experienced person but rejected by the HR person, 3) the resumes rejected by the experienced person. These are passed on to the hiring manager.
The hiring manager reviews the resumes passed by the HR person and, at will, spot-checks the rejects to make sure the experienced junior and the HR person aren’t playing games.
IMPORTANT: The HR person doesn’t get to check, or even see, the applicants rejected by the experienced junior. If they did, then at most companies HR would abuse this in an effort to take back the hiring process by discrediting any experienced reviewer.
NOTE: The time burden on the experienced junior and the hiring manager isn’t really a factor, for the following reasons. 1) Both, *if* they know their jobs, can screen applicants far, far faster than HR can. They know exactly the relative importance of various skills and experience. They’ll see red flags the HR person never imagined, which can often drastically reduce the time needed to screen and reject an unqualified applicant. They don’t have to stop and wonder about the many intersecting uncertainties that challenge the HR person due to lack of expert knowledge of the job in question. 2) Both, and especially the experienced junior, will be glad to take the time because, as long as they really are determining who gets hired… 3) the time spent reviewing applicants is nothing compared to the time, aggravation, and other losses that result from hires not made by experienced people.
I speak from experience as an extremely time-pressured hands-on production manager doing first screenings. (A good day was 9 hours. A bad day was 20.) It never even occurred to me to regret the time spent. About 95% of the applicants were only nominally qualified, but I doubt I gave those even 5 seconds each. HR, in that field, would have deliberated over almost all of them–and then rejected the ones with the least experience under the job title in question and made bad choices from the rest. One highly successful hire had zero experience under the job title, but years of impressive experience on his resume that told people who knew the job that he could learn it easily. An interview quickly confirmed this. His experience was in officially outdated technology that most HR people–and many nominally qualified people–would have rejected on sight as irrelevant.
I’m not too enthusiastic about committees, though, for hiring or most other things. It’s too easy for office politicians to abuse group dynamics to override the intended purpose of the committee. Hiring is much too important to leave to committees.
@Ken: “But it only works if your skills really are competitive.
That’s the problem. In today’s employment system, job boards, and ATSes, your skills don’t have to be competitive. They just have to show up on a list. Thus skills are devalued and largely ignored as a selection criterion.
Sounds goofy, I know, but I think it explains what Bock found at Google. Interviews do not correlate with success on the job because today’s employment system does not really test for skills, only nominally. So of course all those people who get hired because they list a required skill don’t work out. They don’t really have the skill or, worse, the skill turns out not to be critical to succeeding at the job.
Skills. WTF are they? There’s really only one skill: The ability to ride a fast learning curve without falling off. Humans learn. Why do employers pretend they don’t?
That’s the problem in the present system. But it’s precisely why the old system worked. A system based on ATSs and meddling job boards like Indeed and LinkedIn won’t work for anyone at all, but no hiring system will work unless the people who make all the hiring decisions can do the jobs they’re filling. If they can, you don’t need much of a system. It’s just a matter of simple communication connecting employers who have openings with candidates who have skills. Plus a little help from recruiters and headhunters who can seek out the hard-to-find people (who may not be looking for work) that busy managers don’t have time to hunt. All you need is resumes, interviews, and simple online classifieds that DON’T insert themselves into the application process. And, as long as we’re wishing, a government that doesn’t insert itself into the hiring system. (By the way, if you think LinkedIn is bad, take a look at the federal on-line hiring system.)
See David’s comment below (5:20 pm on August 1, 2018): “There are studies out there that have looked at various interviewing techniques and found that if the interview is testing job specific attributes, or the aptitude to pick up the duties, that these generally yield the best results.” No-one can conduct such an interview unless they know the job themselves.
Employers are indeed wacky about learning. I’m big on learning, myself, but I learned the hard way, and tell my clients, that when it comes to hiring, “learn” is a four-letter word. This is under the present system, of course. When HR people and professional managers (who typically have never learned much) hear the phrase “I can learn”, it means to them only “doesn’t know.” And that means, “reject him to cover your ass!”
But it’s just as wacky to substitute ability to learn for actual skills. There’s a limit to what any human can learn in a given time. In jobs that involve a lot of concrete detail–real-world jobs–detail takes time to acquire. For demanding real-world jobs, years are the benchmarks, not weeks or months, though a well-organized industry may get suitably trained beginners to the minimal threshold of productivity in weeks or months. As long as you keep learning, each year makes a difference. In one field I know well, I’ve seen capable and mentally active people become experts in five years. (They did their learning in shops full of outspoken, sought-after trade veterans producing high volumes of demanding work on an overnight basis.) But what those five-year experts knew was far less than those same people knew after 20 years. Much less 50 years. Especially if they read about their trade.
The fact that other people in the same field might spend 20 or 40 years and not learn much at all is irrelevant. They couldn’t work at the same places or types of places the top people worked at. If they got in out of their depth, they were fired, or laid off when the busy season ended. Knowledgeable hiring managers could look at a resume and generally tell who was who. An interview of about five minutes was enough to confirm a top person. Perhaps ten to detect a plausible faker or an unqualified out-of-towner. Perhaps 15 or 20 to decide if a rookie was capable of learning–and if he was, he would get hired somewhere and start working his way up–rapidly. (He, she, or it, even 40 years ago. If you could do the work, they weren’t too picky. If you ran into a bigot, or someone you didn’t like, you just went to the next place. People who made hiring decisions weren’t stamped out with cookie cutters, as they generally are now. Which is one reason, perhaps the reason, why the suicide rate among older highly-qualified people is so high. You can’t just go to the next place any more.)
Why do employers dictate how this is done?
Because, *IN THIS COUNTRY*, it currently is an employers market, and will for the foreseeable future always be an employers market. Because it’s getting harder and harder and harder to do business in this country.
American employees, frankly, cost too much. The median income in the U.S. for a mechanical engineer last year was $93,600. The median income in China for a mechanical engineer last year was $24,368. That’s nearly 75% cheaper than the American worker.
So, with the World Trade Organization and Free Trade in existence, there’s little incentive to hire American. We’ve been priced out of the market. Companies that do hire American want The Moon for nothing.
This is why, after I graduate next December with my Master’s in Applied Geospatial Science, I plan to expatriate out, to a country that has a good standard of living index, a high ratio of jobs to job seekers, and a decent trade balance with the U.S.
@Joe: I get what you’re saying, but I don’t agree with it. You’re missing a step. When programming jobs went overseas because big U.S. tech companies learned they could “outsource” and pay lower wages and salaries, mini programming cities sprouted up in places like India. Thousands of locals with good educations took low-paying jobs (by U.S. standards) doing programming. Things didn’t go well because the managers back in the States realized there were communication and project management problems due to the distance… so they dispatched managers to places like India. The managers showed up and, being far more well-heeled than the local programmers, and being rather paranoid in their new locales, they ensconced themselves in “zones” of other American managers. Well, you can’t keep ’em down on the farm after they see Paris — even in India. So the local programmers who were really good at their work really liked the “zones” and wanted to live there, too. So they did what all top talent does – they bid up their wages and salaries so they could move.
Well, you know the rest. Pay started to equalize because everybody likes a bigger kitchen and appliances. Suddenly American managers back home realized they had the same quality problems with work done in India (and Indonesia and Philippines, etc.) if not worse – and now they were spending more than they’d expected. So they brought the work back home. And the Indian job-shops followed. Everybody wants to live closer to the mall.
So that higher American salary isn’t higher for long. The American standard of life doesn’t tend to GO DOWN to that of the rest of the world — and neither does our pay. Our American standard of life RAISES the standards elsewhere. And everybody makes more money.
So I don’t agree with you at all. There are no boundaries any more, just fear of “the other.” Until the other becomes your customer and you become his customer. You both like quality stuff, so you make better products for one another, which cost more, so you raise your prices, which pushes up wages. So the disparity gradually (not quickly) disappears.
While all that’s happening, some people can’t deal with change, progress, or with waiting. Fear consumes them.
They decide to nuke their customers. When the alarm goes up that somebody wants to nuke everybody’s customers and vendors, those visions of nicer kitchens and appliances kick in. “If you nuke the guys that make better appliances I can afford now, what then? Nah, we can’t let you go around nuking our vendors — or our customers. We’re voting you out — you can’t hold The Button any more.”
You can move where it seems better, but the world is gonna be more interconnected, not less. Prices and wages will seek equilibrium. That’s the step I think you’re missing. Equilibrium isn’t a state — it’s a trend. Of course, you can arbitrage your way through life for a while. But I get what you’re saying in the short term. I’d pick a place because you’d really like to live there — not for the stats you refer to. I think you’ll be disappointed soon. Pick a place because you like it and it won’t matter.
I just hope some idiot doesn’t push the button and nuke the people that make my appliances and buy what I make in the meantime.
To figure out how to redo the employment system, we’d have to figure out why people still keep using the bad one despite the complaints on both sides.
I think in the case of employees, they know that there are enough dupes out there who will believe what they are fed about having to go through the system, so that anyone taking some of your advice (the part where you suggest showing WHY employers should hire you and how you will PROFIT the company by being hired or by getting a raise should work out, but, as you’ve stated your doubts about the “shortage” of workers, if there are enough fools that will go along, people who try your other advice like not putting up with ridiculous screening processes or HR tactics will just get bypassed in favor of some sucker who will.) So a better route would be to find some way to get hired or get a job by going around the system. The problem isn’t so much resumes, in that how they go about hiring. In the past, maybe the biggest companies might have advertised more nationally and perhaps even internationally, but now loads of people are able to search for more candidates that ever thanks to the web. This had brought about the algorithms they never used to use. And since they need to sort through candidates, they picked up all of these weird practices to “weed out” people. One solution to some of this is try try and convince employers to start hiring locally again. I’ve seen some job ads saying “Local Candidates Only”. Limiting the hiring to more locally means that you have a smaller pool of candidates applying.
Another strategy would be to try and change the employment system to be more like it is for authors. You see, in most of the system, it’s a bunch of guys competing to try and get the best skills for the cheapest price. However, with authors, instead of having JRR Tolkien competing with JK Rowling, you could sell both Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter and make even more profit than trying to sell one or the other and make the most out of it. Of course, with books and other creative entities like movies, you literally can create new jobs out of thin air. It’s not like websites or construction where you can’t make new websites or build new houses if there is nobody asking or no houses going up. The idea would be to make it so that you’re hiring the most people that you can that can make you the most profit, instead of trying to maximize profit by getting the fewest people with the best skills at the best prices (for the employer anyway). Another field that I can think of, besides books and movies, is sales. As long as you keep hiring good salesmen, it makes sense to keep hiring MORE as that will mean MORE sales. Granted, in the cases of authors, movie makers, and sales departments, you do have to try and make sure you aren’t getting people that suck at sales or that are terrible authors or movie makers where you’d incur a loss (or try and minimize the amount of times that you end up having a loss.) Again, this might not work in all fields, but where it can be done, it would help both getting more people hired as well as increasing long term profitability. Problem is, many employers are afraid of taking a lot more time to invest now and reap later and want the profits NOW without the investment and then are shocked that things aren’t quite working out so well.
Bingo, Paul. But employers regard employees as a cost, not as a source of profit. If they were viewed as a profit source, and treated as a profit source, employers would hire lots more. But you can’t produce profit from an asset — any asset — unless you know what to do with it. Do you think many employers actually know how to leverage employees?
Wharton’s Peter Cappelli has pointed out something profound that nobody’s hearing: Modern corporate accounting systems do not track the cost of leaving a job vacant. They only track the savings when jobs are left vacant. Thus, it’s more “profitable” to leave a job empty. What a good buddy of mine refers to as junk profitability.
This thread is better than watching TV at night!
When I fell into clinical depression after losing my job circa 2010, there were three things that I did for six months to aid in my recovery (four, if you include receiving unemployment insurance benefits): receive weekly outpatient psychotherapy, take daily antidepressant medication, and attend a “job club”.
Before I could attend the job club, which was a half-hour drive away, I had to demonstrate to my wife and daughter that I could safely drive alone. Once that established, I made it a point to attend every week. My shrink concurred.
To this day, circa 2018, even though I had a locally famous shrink at the time, I’m not sure which helped me more, the club, or the shrink.
Of the meds, of this I’m certain: contrary to popular belief, antidepressants are not “happy pills”. All they do is slow one’s descent into hell. For that, I am grateful. While the medical establishment may disagree on many aspects of depression, they agree on one thing for certain, and this is backed by empirical evidence: a combination of meds and talk therapy seem to be the quickest road to recovery, or at least stability.
It was only in 2017 that I came across a study that showed people in my age group (born circa 1950) that indicated a suicide rate exceeding teens, and most definitely caused by the “economic downturns” in recent history, with an upswing circa 2007.
We never talked about this in job club, and I never talked about it with my shrink (depression carries the highest risk of suicide of all the mental illnesses, but not all, or even necessarily most depressed people are suicidal).
There was one thing, however, that came up almost every week.
Our resumes falling into black holes.
Whether online, snail mail, or delivered at the company door, there was absolutely no confirmation that the companies we applied to received our resumes or letters of inquiry.
We all agreed that no response was worse than a negative response. If they would have emailed, or called, or just sent a postcard saying, “We got your stuff, but the economy has totally tanked, and we’re scared out of our minds, too, so we are absolutely not hiring at this time, but we’ll hang onto your stuff and give you a call if a recovery seems at hand”, would have at least given us a slender thread of hope to hang onto.
Another thing the medical profession generally agrees on, also, is that a slender thread of hope is better than no hope.
I am totally curious how the mindset developed during the 2007 “correction” that companies should never respond to any resumes that were submitted.
If I could make a law, it would be that “non-response” to job inquiries from any legally registered company is totally not allowed.
I’m certain that further studies into economically influenced suicide will show the lack of visible hope created by this corporate/company behavior resulted in a lot of unnecessary deaths.
Which brings us to an idea that formed while I was recovering from depression circa 2010.
I called my idea “Neutral Ground”, and was simply a place job seekers could go and just talk.
The agent they would talk to would not necessarily be connected to any company, or have any authority to hire.
But they would be able to forward information to companies that they thought would be a good “match”. At least the job seeker wouldn’t have to feel totally abandoned while being without work.
There would be no promises or expectations on either side. The agent couldn’t promise an interview, and the seeker would not expect one anytime soon.
But not expecting an interview anytime soon is far more hopeful than expecting one on the twelfth of never.
All 40 or 50 in my job club would agree on this.
And just to make note of the capabilities of the people in this club, the guy on my left held 7 patents, and the guy on my right held one. The guy sitting across the room from me had directed projects worthy of NASA. MBA’s, Masters, and Ph. D’s dotted the peoplescape.
I felt like the underachiever in the group.
“I’m certain that further studies into economically influenced suicide will show the lack of visible hope created by this corporate/company behavior resulted in a lot of unnecessary deaths.”
You know, I think of this every time some employer tries to give their “advice” to candidates/employees, which generally boils down to “it’s just the way it is.” It’s not like these people/organizations are the paragon of virtue, as I bet we could share stories of employer activity causing various forms of mental or physical illness in people.
The latest round of articles I have read have been candidates accepting job offers but not showing up on their start date without letting anyone know. Yes, this is quite a bad thing to do, I wouldn’t do it nor would I suggest anyone else do it. However, lets not act like this has never happened before or that an employer has yanked a job offer (or similar). In the grand scheme of things, perhaps this is a minor inconvenience.
We are definitely onto something here.
There are studies out there that have looked at various interviewing techniques and found that if the interview is testing job specific attributes, or the aptitude to pick up the duties, that these generally yield the best results.
Subjective things like asking “what is your greatest weakness?” or looking at “years of experience in X” or even GPA aren’t necessarily the best predictors of success.
@David: A quote from leading cognitive scientist Arnold L. Glass:
“It has been known since Binet and Henri constructed the original IQ test in 1905 that the best predictor of job (or academic) performance is a test composed of the tasks that will be performed on the job. Therefore, the idea that collecting tons of extraneous facts about a person (big data!) and including them in some monster regression equation will improve its predictive value is laughable.”
My candidates have had great success using an interview presentation. An interview is a sales call so an interview presentation gives the candidate the opportunity to “sell” themselves into the position. Hiring Managers like it because it takes the pressure off of having to “fish’ around for the information they need to make a hiring decision. In addition, the Hiring Manager gets to see the candidate assemble a presentation, use the presentation to create a conversation, and engage in meaningful dialogue.
An interview presentation consists of
-The critical job requirements (as the candidate understands them)
-How the candidate matches the requirements (using examples and stories)
-Additional areas of expertise the candidate brings to the job (differentiators)
-Personal Success Factors (soft skills with examples)
-30/60 day Strategic Action Plan
-Why Hire Me Summation (Based on benefits not features)
-Questions (Questions with the goal of creating conversations and displaying knowledge)
The presentation serves as both a great interview preparation and an interview “guide”. It also shift the entire dynamic of the interview and turns an verbal exchange into a verbal and visual exchange.
Sales call is exactly the way to view it. Though I’d prefer the candidate to be able to go over all the points you mention without PowerPoint, but to do it from memory.
And I’d add that the hiring manager, if he or she likes the candidate, should do sales also. It is a two way street. We had to compete with other groups interviewing the candidate, some with sexier jobs. I had to sell the candidate that she would really enjoy working with us. I suspect the other groups didn’t bother to do this, since my success rate was pretty good.
The challenge is that employment turned into an administrative task supported by big data and the job seekers are responding. But you knew that.
Perhaps too many years of high unemployment has conditioned the workforce and employers. While entry level and low skilled jobs will always be handled like commodities, the skill positions and senior positions will finally become one of attitude, character and chemistry.
What I have learned:
You learn more about a person in an hour of play than a lifetime of work.
The first year my prior company started a softball team, it was very obvious who the star employees were verse those who were just participating. I wish I could require some sort of pe-employment softball game but were not there yet.
Also found value in having dinner or lunch with candidates and their spouses. I learned more from the body language and response of a spouse then an artful and well trained candidate would reveal.
I have also learned that the worst employees in my past had the best resumes.
Yes, there has to be a better way!
John, what about folks like me who hate any kind of sports? One can’t assume that everyone is interested in playing softball.
That’s part of the problem with the fad of ‘team building’, i.e. often something like team(s) playing a certain sport. Even worse are the activities that are childish: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhZCLGM8v4g
Have to agree with you here.
The idea that someone has to be a “cultural fit,” i.e. you are willing to have a beer with them, does not necessarily yield the best employee.
After an interview, I have sometimes had the manager say, “I need to discuss this with the team,” that is not good news.
On the other hand, if the manager says at the end of the interview, “I have a couple more people to interview, but I am definitely interested in you.” My current boss said that. I have gotten very good reviews.
My boss before that offered me the job on the spot.
This is not a formula – it just seems like recently that if the interview went well, there is no question. I have only been called back for more interviews if they are not sure.
I agree with this entire post. Employers are hiring just anyone based on if they find that person likable instead of ask me themselves if that person is capable of handeling the role well and professionally and that leads to toxic work environments where you have cliques and individuals who have never been in leadership roles that shouldn’t be in leadership roles while these employers are missing out on what their company really needs.
It is known that many Silicon Valley companies tend to favor young employees. Even so, many of these companies are working hard to not practice age discrimination. Earlier this year, two such iconic companies reached out to me. (I am 52)
In one particular case, they made it clear they expected me to prepare very well even for phone interviews. It came down to this: Do I concentrate on my current employer, or on a potential employer? I decided in the end I was not going to jump through the potential employer’s hoops anymore – my thought was that maybe a young person wouldn’t mind for a chance to work there. So I politely canceled remaining interviews and received a rave performance review at my current employer.
My brother in law works in some management position for one of the semiconductor makers. His thoughts on the potential employer where I had canceled interviews? He said they treat their employees very badly. Make one mistake and you are fired. He said I made the right decision. He also said that people don’t really innovate there anymore.
So why do people put up with that kind of treatment? Keep in mind there are a lot of employers doing interesting work that may not be an iconic brand. The work is meaningful.
Maybe many of these companies don’t hire older workers because older workers will not put up with the abuse.
> what about folks like me who hate any kind of sports?
Board games and massively multiplayer online games have the same team building characteristics.
The latter are built for remote participation and training people to lead and participate in remote teams.