As a general rule, companies tend to strive to hire good workers. Many companies still seem to complain about not being able to find them. Given the current supply of workforce, which greatly exceeds the demand, if you have trouble finding employees – you are probably doing something wrong.
This article does not deal with the particularities of ‘Reputation Hiring’, the process when companies, mainly banks, keep hiring people to maintain the illusion of resilience, despite the fact that employees are not actually needed.
This article is for the employers who do need people.
Here are some of the issues that might be present in your hiring process and potential solutions.
1. A poor job description. Read it after you are done writing it
Job descriptions often include incredibly long lists of required attributes. The “perfect candidate” must possess an impossibly broad set of skills, qualities and experiences. Looking for someone aged 25-30 with 30 years of experience is not a mere anecdote. I have read a job ad of a consultancy requiring 4-5 years work experience from 21-22 year old graduates. Very convenient if you are just pretending to be advertising the job, ‘reputation hiring’ or honestly expect to get someone who started working full time when they were still a sperm. Not really good for anything else.
2. Unclear requirements
Building on the previous point, many of the requirements on the list are meaningless. Good workers like precision. You are looking for someone who is greatly ambitious, a true leader and a team player? Unfortunately, these words mean as much as ‘good man’ does. Such criteria are irreducibly imprecise, subjective and lack informative value. The best candidates tend to avoid employers with such job descriptions.
3. You require irrelevant qualifications
Employers tend to take a qualification or experience as a proxy for a skill, trait or attribute. For example, what does a degree prove? If you need an engineer or a medical consultant a degree is likely to indicate a certain level of professional ability. In many other areas, like customer service, you are merely excluding some good candidates.
The same is even true for years of experience. Specifying a certain time spent working is counterproductive. Years of service indicate nothing. It is the results that matter. Smart companies care about what candidates have done and how well they did it.
4. Not valuing important degrees
With that being said, in some industries degrees are important, and employers tend to forget that. Yes, degrees are not fully representative of one’s skill or potential. But they are still more representative than your 2000 word application form, two generic tests and a phone interview. Do not forget that. Beware of one-year ‘degrees’ turning history students into lawyers or economists. Such studies are forced and memory-based.
A recent and rather unfortunate trend is to ignore the degrees and the areas of study where they matter. A physicist or a mathematician with a great numerical ability is not yet a financial analyst. A historian is likely to develop great skills in a particular area of law, but is equally likely to lack contextual knowledge of other areas, and that can make or break your case. If you choose to make such hiring decision, be sure to provide extra training.
5. Pay due attention to the degree, not just the grade average
A degree can tell you a lot. Do not limit your perspective to the grades. A 1st in psychology is good for a psychologist, but if you are hiring a lawyer – a strong second in law might be better. Different universities and different subjects have different grading particularities. If you really care about who you are hiring – have a look at them. Look at the highest grades of the student, not lowest. Low grades might have been a result of health condition, a night out or a badly phrased question. The top grades, on the other hand – reveal their actual potential.
6. Looking for big names on a CV
Big names are cool. You know them. That is about the end of the list of the arguments in favour of them. The candidate did not make that name big by doing an internship there. Smaller businesses tend to be more selective in their hiring practices. Also, a smaller business is more likely to entrust a young specialist with responsible tasks. If you are going to trust somebody else’s decision (which you should not do in the first place) – trust one of the company that actually feels the pain when they make a bad hiring decision.
7. Needless administrative steps
I already have a job offer or even a job. I like it. I decided to keep my options open checked the ads. I found yours. And I see a job I am interested in. I decide to apply.
I go to your online application system. After one screen I am still interested. After the second screen I’m just doing what needs to be done. After the fourth or fifth screen I already hate your application. Now you want me to answer six 500-word questions? And do a numerical test? By this point I know very well where you can stick that form and that job.
Keep the application form short and simple.
8. Cumbersome testing
Well, you are hiring a graduate. Someone who spent the past 3, 4, 5, maybe 8 years being constantly tested. You honestly think that the verbal and numerical tests provided by the recruiter (to you and 700 other companies) is a more accurate measurement of your candidate’s value than the feedback of world-class professors given over the course of half a decade? Seriously? Not only you are serious, you are going to re-test them at the assessment centre. Generic testing tends to favour those that practice these particular tests more than anybody else. Know who they are? The most desperate. Those already got rejected by several employers!
The best approach is to order a customised test system specific to your industry, with unique questions. It needs to be updated yearly. Generic tests do not work. They belong in the trash bin.
9. Do not rely on recruitment agencies
Despite all the smooth-talk, the recruiters simply lack the knowledge to hire a specialist in skill-specific industries. The use of their services is known to be counterproductive. If you cannot afford your managers dealing with recruitment and do not have the HR department, use the recruiters that have professional expertise in your field.