The wrong questions

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The whole hiring process is broken: ineffective job ads, inability to assess candidates, interviews that do not reveal what we need to know, hiring the wrong people and inability to keep employees. It’s not a surprise that we end up with disengaged people.

The problem is that you can’t know anything from the CV and often you even don’t interview the people you need. The problem is that those people do not apply for a job in your organisation. The problem is that you are offering a job to people, which in the best case scenario reject the offer, in worst – accept it, just to leave in several months. The problem is that after all tests and interviews you really don’t know how the person will perform on the job. In short, the problem is that you are asking the wrong questions.

It’s time to change the way we are hiring. The usual approach is: post a job ad, listing the requirements, invite to an interview those, whose CV match, try as hard as you can, trough questions and tests to verify if the person really has that experience, then you offer the job. It’s all wrong. Someone once said: We don’t care about the experience, because we hire people, not their CVs.  Another one: experience is what you’ve done, not how long you’ve done it. Sure, for many jobs experience in the field is really necessarily. Still you can’t tell how the person will perform.

For each of your candidates you have to answer 3 crucial questions. Before you offer a job or reject a candidate, you have to know those answers. The questions are really simple: where he is coming from, where he is now and where he is going to. While where he is coming from and where he is now is something you are, with no success, are guessing while you are writing your skills and experience requirements, virtually no job ad is addressing the last question. Sure, some posting say “career opportunities”, but that’s no-sense. This often means you can go up the ladder, which if don’t turn away the candidates, that don’t pursue management job, it does not attract them either.

Too often everything, that the person need to have as skills, is listed as requirement, and the job just don’t offer any new skills to be acquired. Learning new things however is one of the top motivators for knowledge workers!

Lets change the job ads. Lets leave in the requirements section only what is really required. Lets remove the number of years of experience as an requirement and define experience as what have been done, not for how long it was done. Lets remove the entire “experience in … will be considered as advantage”. Lets keep the requirements to the absolute minimum. And lets include what experience the candidate will acquire. If he has already some of that experience, he will tell us. If he want that experience, you are going to hire someone with much more motivation then if you hire someone who already have all of the experience and has nothing new to learn on the job. And don’t forget to tell what makes your company different – in the way you are working, in the product you’re building, in what it does for its employees.

When we receive a CV, our obligation is to understand why this person applies for the position. Where he is coming from? Why he has gone trough this exact path? Where is heading to? If we can’t help him get there, it’s better to leave him to search for opportunities elsewhere. And we can be honest about that.

If the company offers development of its employees, they will come to work for you!

2 thoughts on “The wrong questions

  1. HR has the responsibility to develop people, not just hire them and use them; but at the recruitment stage when we ask the candidate “where are you right now, where do you want to go, and how can we help you get there”, do you think that he or she will be sincere enough? Or are the HRs really the right people to take the responsibility to define the personal and professional goals of the candidate? Perhaps it would be best to be sincere about the job specifics and let the candidate decide themselves – if they choose to stay in the company for just a couple of months, let them do it. People managers also have the responsibility to develop and retain their people.

  2. I’m not saying that you have to ask the candidate. The fact that you won’t get sincere answer proves that the interview is useless in assessing the candidate. Still “where you see yourself in 5 years” is one of the most common interview questions – why is that? The answer always will be aligned with the position the candidate is applying for.

    You have to search for those answers for yourself, not to ask the candidate. Sure, the candidate may help. My point is, that while assessing the CV, performing the interview, testing the candidate – you should not seek to understand if the candidate is skilled enough for the position – usually you even don’t have a good metric for that! – but why he is in this process and what he will get out of the employment. There’s a good chance that the candidate don’t have a clear vision of his career, he may apply out of curiosity. But if you sit in the last interview and outline his careers goals – or at least – your guess about them – and how you are going to help him reach them, the chances that your job offer would be accepted would be much higher. That’s, of course, assuming that your guess is well-aligned with the reality.

    I had an interview when the CEO of the company has asked me to rate few roles I have in their importance – a broad technical specialist (generalist), the best one in one very narrow field (specialist) and a team lead. My answer was different from his perception, so we both know that we won’t get the maximum of this relationship and we opted-out.

    Allowing someone to come for just few months hurts your company culture. The employees to stay are not your best employees, but just the ones that no longer care. And I’m yet to see a manager or HR who can define development goals. Sure, some HR identify future leaders – what a non-sense! Does the HR participate in task assignments? And how could it develop people if it can’t get sincere answer about the career goals of the very same people?

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