Monday, July 21, 2014

What Kind of People Do Companies Want?

My blog is focused on empowering the individual job seeker; that is my stated goal. My aim is not one-sided, I am not anti-corporate or anti-management. For many years, I conduct my work on behalf of both job seekers and company managers who all seek the same objective -- but view it from their own perspective. In the case of this blog entry I want to focus on the company, the hiring side of the process. That which companies claim they want is increasingly at variance with what they do or, more appropriately, the manner and conduct of the interview process is often a clear contradiction – the result of which can leave both sides frustrated and dissatisfied with the end result, or lack thereof.
It is repeated so often we don’t even notice it because it should be obvious and it is confirmed in company marketing materials. What they claim in adverts, at job fairs, on their websites and from the lips of hiring managers themselves, throughout the company, is that they want the best and brightest to join them. They seek to hire the best available talent on the market to join their ranks, but somewhere along the line the reality tells a different story.
In an attempt to better manage the deluge of resumes submitted online, many overwhelmed company HR departments have sought ways to better manage and sort through and thereby reduce down to a manageable number of resumes. Then they further reduce the pool of candidates they interview for further consideration – they simply must. But I contend by doing so they employ practices which actually discourage the innovative and impact players they claim they want, instead producing an opposite effect.
Many companies have determined that inserting psychological profiling into the hiring process is good  and the most direct way to quickly assess and narrow down those most suitable for consideration. For example, an employer might select a group of employees who they think possess the traits representing what they’d like to identify in those seeking employment. This can be a helpful tool but sadly companies have come to over-rely on and ultimately depend on it during the hiring process. So it is inevitable they are predominantly focused on selecting those who walk and talk and most of all think the same. But there is an unintended consequence, in that they miss out on the innovators the company propaganda suggests they want to attract.
Increasingly, psychobabble is more a focus than actual suitability. Yeah, they’ll claim it is all about suitability but that is just a marketing ploy to convince companies that software can do a better job of selection or that psychometric behavioral-based questions are a better measure than to simply meet someone and ask applicants directly, “Okay, I see what you have on your resume, but can you do the job? Tell me your qualifications and why we should hire you and we’ll compare you to other applicants and make a determination.”  Instead, you’ll get a formulaic question as was asked of applicants during a recent assessment center interview with a large international corporation, “If you could choose, what kind of animal would you be?” One applicant for example answered, “A panda”. Their answer was then challenged by the interviewer who said, “Well, that is a lazy animal, isn’t it?” and then sat back to watch and evaluate the applicant who was now on the defensive to explain themselves. Perhaps my reaction is a bit harsh, but I find that exchange as a purposeful attempt meant to degrade and humiliate, with no good purpose other than to ensure an applicant will submit to the interviewer, who is the face of the company. While I am sure there is some pointy-headed academic who can opine about the relevance of that question and how it relates to behavior and the workplace; the reality is that it hasn’t an ounce of value in determining a person’s qualifications for a job – zero. Or another recent trend, fawned over by people who don’t want to be bothered with first-round screening interviews; proclaiming the benefits of video resumes – again, dumb and worthless unless, of course, you are a bureaucrat who seeks to streamline your responsibilities and reduce your exposure to people (even if it is a function of your job description and responsibilities). But I suppose everyone thinks they should be a celebrity and perhaps a video resume will get you your big moment! Sorry, but again, all fluff and no substance – and a lot of time wasted to make it just right.
It should be painfully obvious that the movers and shakers, those who companies claim they most want to attract, will not stand for being treated like a child or diminished by those who ask insipid questions, engaged in time-wasting psychobabble nonsense. To which company managers later scratch their heads wondering why the best and brightest are not banging down their doors.
Yes, there must be systems and procedures in place for companies to properly function but many have gone waaaay overboard, while they rule over their little fiefdoms, more concerned with galvanizing their own job security than acting in a manner that best serves their company. And while some HR “experts” would disagree, wanting to ensure all of those who apply and interview for jobs don’t step out of line and do follow their rituals in an orderly fashion, I’d like to speak about innovation. Without it, nothing evolves or improves; a lack of innovation means stagnation. Innovations are accomplished by straying from convention, by rejecting that which is accepted. People who nervously stand in lines without asking questions, those who worry more about the rules than the objective, are not innovators – nor will they be leaders of any significance - DUH!
If companies are serious about attracting those who can offer the most impact, especially in this current economic malaise as they try to do more with less, they should get involved and witness first-hand those processes the gatekeepers are using to intentionally screen out all but those who they deem to be suitably obedient and fit a mediocre profile.

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