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Annoyed at Job Candidates? Look in the Mirror

One of the ways my blog has shifted over the last 18 months is that it has become less about what job candidates and employees are doing wrong and more about what HR and management are doing wrong. It has been one of those funny evolutions of a blog that you never see coming when you start. Maybe that’s the progression of my HR career which has basically gone through four phases:

  1. The “For Pete’s sake, is every employee and job candidate a complete moron?” phase.
  2. The “This must be a joke. Look at how stupid our managers are acting” phase.
  3. The “Forget all of those other people, am I (and everyone in HR) really this stupid?” phase.
  4. The “I wonder if I can do something to improve all of these things” phase.

I’ve been a resident of stage four for a while and I have been coming to terms with it. Will a smart remark pop out of my mouth when I get a typewritten resume obviously photocopied and updated with white-out and handwriting? I’m not perfect but generally, I’ve been much more solutions oriented than mocking oriented.

What’s Wrong With This Applicant?

A common thing I hear people in HR complain about are applicants and job seekers. Everything from spelling mistakes on resumes to not pronouncing their name correctly, I’ve heard it. And listen, if you process hundreds of applicants daily, I’ll give you a bit of a break. It is tedious work. But if it is the first time in months you’ve processed a resume and you’re complaining, there’s probably a bigger issue there: maybe you shouldn’t be reviewing resumes. When you’re nitpicking on the second resume you see because a tab isn’t perfect, let’s just hope your company has some room for failure because that hiring process may not be the best place for you.

Besides that, it may not even be their fault. Most of the serious errors that job seekers make in the selection process are the fault of the process itself, not mass incompetence.

Don’t Tick Me Off And You Get The Job

Serious job seeking errors aside, if you think that the idea of eliminating candidates based on petty annoyances is a good practice, you should get out of talent selection immediately. Get over yourself already. I love the funny ways that people in selection like to play God a little bit. “Well, I liked them but they double space after each sentence. I can’t hire a person like that.” Good grief, are you hiring a reporter for the Washington Post?

Job seeker errors that happen repeatedly can almost always be traced back to the company posting the position. For example, I knew an HR guy who thought he was a big shot and thought that everyone that applied should know his name and should be addressing correspondence to him. If they didn’t? Junk.

The problem? His name wasn’t anywhere on the site. You could do some digging and find him but he wasn’t looking for internet researchers. He was looking for people to pick up the phone and be helpful. If he was so caught up in his name being brought up, why didn’t he list it on the site? More importantly, why was he constantly trying to hire people even though his area kept tightening their budget?

The major issues and the things that repeated themselves were actions within the control of the company but took no steps to alieviate or fix the issue. That’s a shift in responsibility, right?

Do You Want The Best People Or Just Survivors?

We are currently in an interview era where people no longer nail interviews, they just end up surviving all of the rounds until they are the last one standing. It is like watching the worst reality show ever*. Keep your answers bland, don’t upset the 15 interviewers and you can pass on to the next level. If you think candidate selection is about hiring interview process survivors, it is going to be a frustrating ride for you.

Your process should be built around how you can figure out if a person will thrive in the position you are hiring them for. By the way, about those positions? Usually they don’t involve getting grilled by her office co-workers for an hour and a half at a time. If you are hiring a marketing person, get them in the room with the marketing team and have them work on a problem for an hour or so and see how they interact. If you are hiring a programmer, get them with the IT group and start pouring through code that needs improvement. If you are hiring a mechanic, start going through blueprints and looking at disassembled machinery.

Our selection process is mired in tradition for tradition’s sake. Let’s get over it and figure out a better way to pick the people who will help our companies move forward.

* Actually, I take that back. Temptation Island? That may have been the worst.

By Lance Haun

Strategy for The Starr Conspiracy. Former HR pro. Portland guy (Go Blazers!) and WSU alum (Go Cougs!). I get to write about what I want here.

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