After seeing some of my friends and colleagues struggle during the past year and so months and listening to endless people call for the end of the recession (Really? All I hear is the spark of recovery, it’ll take longer to climb out of recession fully) I’ve been thinking… is everything going wrong at the hiring part of the process?

Those who know me, know that I’ve always had a foot in the creative and the drab technology sectors, it is who I am and it reflect in my work ethos, I can devise and create, be strategic and long term tactical, find quick solutions for problems and slowly rally up teams. And I know this causes more headaches than it should to prospective employers since I’m not really driven by career growth but by creativity and passion (Yes, this has also led me to choose poorly, we’re not immune to screwing up every now and then, in fact, it is a good thing)

I check the resumes of friends and colleagues and pick up great core skills, lots of knowledge and good hard working careers, yet they fail to be hired on a regular basis.

They tend to fall in three distinct groups:

Group 1 is the generalists: People who have had to constantly rise to the challenge, they excel at leading even if they don’t articulate that skill well, they have a depth of experience that most people wish they had.

Group 2 is the situation managers: People who have led teams, projects, even companies with different degrees of success, they are great at managing outcomes and deliver value.

Group 3 is the underqualified overachievers: People who have done much with little in terms of certifications or degrees, experienced but with stunted career paths due to their lack of official qualifications.

And without fail, they are being rejected in the market…

People I know in HR tend to put the blame on them, “They should get qualified, get more hands on experience or become specialists” but it’s hard not to notice that the problem is… HR itself.

If you are hiring an employee (Be it because you created a new role or because someone vacated the role) there’s a profile that HR matches candidates to, the 360 review process that ensues to make sure the candidate fits can be best described as: “4-5 people who only get to know you for 15 minutes making horrible assumptions over you, your experience and your expectations”

Doesn’t sound fair and certainly, doesn’t sound like either party is getting value out of the experience, for the candidate it’s not an particularly enlightening process, there’s no feedback beyond “Sorry, we found someone that fits the profile better” (Understandable, is it too hard to feed back to the candidate his/hers potential shortcomings for the role, after all, he’s invested time and money into meeting with you) and employers usually end up getting the equivalent of a mule in return, capable of carrying the load, very unremarkable and most of the time unable to jump into action without being prodded (Not always of course, but seems to be happening more and more often).

What triggers such levels of corporate fright is beyond me, but the state of the economy, a pervasive short-term mentality about how employees should fit (What the hell happened to developing corporate cultures, has it been relegated to an induction and maybe a document folder?) and a culture of thin value vs. long term sustainable value are definitely to blame.

Experience costs money, but also delivers more value per dollar.

Great people skills cost money, but they deliver a tighter more cohesive team.

The drive to succeed costs money, but they deliver constant inspiration and energy to the company.

I’m not by any means advocating that all hires have to be superstars, the problem I see, is that all companies and recruiters want superstars, end up hiring adequate performers and miss out on increasing value. And if you come to think of it, experienced, high value people will negotiate salary and job title in order to get satisfaction, so shouldn’t you, as a hiring manager evaluate how that satisfaction might benefit your organization?

If you are comparing a potential life-long partner to a list of requirements, chances are, that union won’t last long, people transform through time and not necessarily in the same way we initially envisioned.

By grinding people down to listed qualities, we miss out on the bigger picture, we hire for show, not for effect, we de-humanize the candidates and throw them into a bin, alongside 10 other people who are very different, but just happened to have a common listed criteria.

Recruitment has become a corporate dating site, you ask a lot of questions, put a few scenarios, and then spit out a match rating. Nothing there hints at long term plans or the effect of the past on that person, all domains of someone life are interconnected and it’s presumptuous to believe that we all react the same way to the same problems.

Can it be fixed? I’m absolutely sure of it, companies are reinventing themselves to emerge from this recession stronger, more humane and most importantly better equipped to create value, HR has to reinvent itself to bring in people who can create that value, not bodies to fill an office.

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