Our hiring problem is a relevance problem

Image for post
Image for post

In my mind, which is admittedly pretty feeble, work is largely about two concepts:

  • Control
  • A quest for relevance

If you think about the worst places you’ve ever worked, probably these two elements are largely in play. You try to do things one way, or work from home one day. You get popped in the face by a supervisor. Why? He/she is trying to control a situation.

In the best places, it’s more about the quality of the output. The process is important, of course, but process can be moved to the side if the output is there. If you want to be in Aruba, so long as you’re responding to the right emails, be in Aruba.

In short: good workplaces are about some freedom and less ego development and protection. Bad workplaces are about control and relevance.

I’ve hot-taked both of these before: control and relevance.

This is big in hiring too

Hiring exists at a weird intersection. See:

  • It usually resides in HR.
  • HR is not cared about by executives.
  • HR is one of the first functional areas where automation is coming in pretty hot.
  • Recruiters are worried about losing their jobs in 5–10 years.
  • When your back is up against the wall, the main thing you do is try to assert your relevance.
  • So even though your organization might be buying tools for “predictive analytics” and “AI-driven hiring,” you are not going to do that, damnit!

Instead, here’s what will happen:

Currently, many organizations that use digital interviews do not leverage these types of powerful AI analytics, as their recruiters are often unwilling to accept the algorithm’s recommendations, and continue to rely on their own naïve judgement. Sadly, this ignorance is harming both the candidate and the organization. The HR departments that realize that science and data, and not intuition or instinct, should be the basis for decisions will attract and retain the best talent.

The last sentence here is right, but “realizing that science and data should be the basis for decisions” makes humans think “OH GOD I’M LOSING MY JOB TO A MACHINE,” so … do you think humans are going to consistently use the advice of the recently-purchased hiring algorithm?

That would be a no.

But see, hiring is a subjective, sloppy mess

You have two human beings, at different points in their own careers, having a discussion with each other. The question set one is using is flawed, and both candidate and interviewer have imperfect information about the other. Plus: there’s politics. I met a recruiter from Home Depot last May who said she once had to interview a VP’s daughter’s boyfriend for a software role — when he had no software experience at all. Obviously the interview is a crock, but he’s sleeping with a VP’s daughter, so there’s a better than 50 percent chance he’s getting the job. That’s not a common situation, but it also still happens more than we admit.

Human-to-human stuff is inherently emotional and subjective, which is partially why the modern economy confuses and terrifies so many people. Hiring is a place where technology would help. It wouldn’t fix everything, no, because humans still need to evaluate other humans or else we’re living in a bad Apple ad. But it could help, at least with mundane tasks around sourcing and screening. Do I think a machine should make a hire? No. Absolutely not. But I think we can clean up a little bit of the hiring mess with technology.

The problem being…

Execs are trying to go all-in with the technology, probably in a mid-term desire to eliminate the human recruiters and their salaries/health insurance needs. But the tech ain’t there yet, and humans don’t want to think “My chances of getting a job now reside with a robot.” So execs are pushing hard, as are investors, but the entire human psychology of the marketplace, as well as how advanced the technology actually is, isn’t ready yet for that push.

That’s a chasm.

What up now?

First up: realize what the real problems in hiring often are. Hint: they’re all about human-to-human connection.

Second: work on the relationships between recruiters and hiring managers. Work on a mutual understanding of role, context, deliverables, timing, etc.

Third: move recruiting to business development so that there are more legitimate metrics and executives start having to care about a talent strategy.

Fourth: Involve the team a little bit. You don’t work with your direct boss as much as we think. You work with your team/silo every day. Shouldn’t they help hire you, then?

Fifth: Do not throw tech at hiring until your processes are ready to use tech, and do not try to get too advanced with it. Just do what you can relative to where you are with processes and tech now.

Sixth: Care about diversity. (This should be first.)

Seventh: It ain’t all about pre-existing competence, boy.

Could go on and on but that’s a start.

In short → The reason hiring isn’t maximizing tech is essentially three-fold:

  • The tech isn’t there yet.
  • Execs are pushing for it to be.
  • Humans want to be seen as relevant and thus downplay what the tech is saying/recommending.

Heady psychological issues there, which is to say … work is made of people, so why would that surprise anyone?

Written by

Blogging, largely about work and how to improve it. How I make (some) money: http://thecontextofthings.com/hire-freelance-writer-ted-bauer/

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store