A company is made by its employees and thus making the right hiring decisions is crucial. With high unemployment rates resulting in more applications coming in, the time spent on a single application is often non-existant. But what if we found the time and money to read through each application with thought and care? I believe in hidden gems and that these tips could help us spot them.
Great experience ≠ great work
The other day I was shopping for some audiobooks on Audible’s marketplace, reading through the summaries and listeners’ reviews. Many of them praised the book and stated that they would’ve given five stars — if it weren’t for the narrator. On many books written by well-known authors, some of them even classics, the reviewers said that their experience was ruined by the boring or even depressing reader. One was described as “like a text-to-speech engine”. That’s exactly what you’d want to listen for six hours straight, right?
In order to get to do a reading for a reputable book, you usually need to have an impressive portfolio of previous narrations. That was the case with at least one of these dreadful narrators, whose list of earlier readings was indeed impressive. But each of the books had numerous reviews complaining about the reader.
Who chose this dull narrator that is causing negative — sometimes as low as one star— reviews? Probably someone impressed by their CV and not by their voice.
Who’s the one asking for too much?
The job of an hiring manager can be hectic, with hundreds, if not thousands of applications to process for each position — and all of them within a timely manner. That’s why many companies have these automated systems filtering the CVs and applications by certain keywords. Up to 75% of them don’t make it to the recruiter. And even if your documents make their way to the hands of the recruiter, the average time for them to read your résumé is ~7,4 seconds.
If your CV is something like Da Vinci’s would’ve been, your application is likely to be read, and you’ll get to an interview. But if your previous experience and skills don’t impress them or aren’t exactly what the company is looking for, chances are that you can say your goodbyes to that job.
That is by far the most effective method. Cost-effective and time-efficient, that is. But is it the best? I don’t think so.
This half-automated process focuses on the technicalities and leaves out the humane side of it. People are usually chosen based on their prior experience and a wide range of skills, not taking into account how well they have performed on those previous jobs or measuring how amazing and capable individuals they actually are. In interviews a closer look is taken on the candidates, but after that previously mentioned process to filter the candidates, only the crème de la crème make it so far. That is, the ones with the best CV, usually.
In the web development field the new trend that companies are looking for is Full-Stack Developers (someone who knows both client and server-side coding). The more markup, scripting and programming languages you know, the better. It’s a 2-for-1 deal for the employer, since they only have one more salary to pay instead of two.
But the fact is that you can either be “good” or mediocre at everything, but you can be great at only one thing. Mastering your craft requires as much of your focus as possible. You can build a castle and walls to surround it, but if you want your castle to be the greatest of them all, you have to compromise with the size of the walls, since some are not building them at all (although you shouldn’t specialize too early).
Multitasking is another skill that tickles the ears of an employer, but in reality, it’s not any more effective than completing tasks one at a time — in fact, it can be quite the opposite, as a divided focus can lead to mistakes, often costly — sometimes fatal. (I recommend reading Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things, which has a whole chapter explaining how and why we make mistakes)
My intention is not to mock on the HRs or hiring managers. Their work isn’t easy and often they have skills such as a good knowledge of human nature, that allows them to make the right decisions even in a fast pace. It is the leaders of those companies who call the shots to make those quick, often faulty, picks in order to save time and money. But at what cost?
A Better, More Human-Centric Way
How about slowing down the recruiting process? Let’s focus more on the persons rather than their own-written list of accomplishments and self-praise. It might take longer, but the chances, that you would need to go through the process again anytime soon to re-fill that position, would be lower when you find the best possible candidate for it.
Ideas to make the hiring process better
- Don’t trust their CV blindly
“The candidate has worked at X Corp in a senior position for years, they must be qualified!”. But what if, in the end, they were terrible at their job and eventually got fired because of it? Don’t just trust the praise of how amazing they were at their previous job from the candidate themself. Ask their former employers, and possibly even colleagues and customers they worked with, what the candidate was like at their job.
- Read the applications with care
Someone just spent up to hours writing the best application possible for you to read. It would be a shame, if it never even made its way to the recruiter’s hands, because they forgot to include certain keywords or if it was discarded by the who-it-may-concern after reading just the first paragraph.
To interview everyone face-to-face is an unrealistic wish for bigger companies, but at least read the cover letters with care. How about starting with the cover letter and if it seems good, move on to the CV and not vice versa? The résumé tells more about the candidate’s work experience, but the cover/application letter lets them tell about themselves in more detail using their own words.
- Consider the newbies
Often those new to the industry are more motivated and willing to learn than those who have been working in the field for decades. The old saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” has a point. Someone who’s an expert in what they do might get the job done well, but they might think that they know better and rather use the tricks that have worked so far, rather than be willing to adjust to the company’s ways and learn new.
But someone without experience, maybe fresh out of university or vocational school, still has that motivation and hopefully a burning passion for the job. They are less likely to have a superiority-complex or question your ways, but rather do as they’re told and are willing to learn anything needed to succeed in the job. And though their training takes more time, they ask for less salary than an expert.
Why not consider interns?
- Look for the motivated ones
Much related to the previous point, the recruiter should try to tell apart the motivated applicants from the less-motivated ones. “Of course, that’s what the whole recruiting process is for” — not quite. I’m talking about long-term motivation. You could ask a candidate to describe their real dream job and see if you can tell if they’re honest or full of manure, when they tell you that they want to work for your company in this or similar, but higher position in the future. Someone might confess, that they’ve always dreamed of being a movie director, but if the position is for a pizza chef, thank them for their time and wish them the best of luck achieving their dreams. But if someone tells you — with innocent puppy eyes and burning passion in their voice — that it is this job that they have waiting for their whole lives and they would imagine themselves working there in the future as well — that sounds like match. Someone who actually lives and breathes for the job in question, even if they’d lack in experience and skills, might just be a better pick than a person who would constantly be dreaming of a better life — outside your company — and is likely to either get depressed or quit and follow their dreams in the near future.
A few examples
Want to hire a narrator for your audiobook? Listen to not only their demos, but also some of their previous works. Read the reviews of those — what are the listeners saying about the reader? Make potential customers, like your friends, listen to the demo and hear their unbiased feedback on it.
Want to hire a bartender? Ask their previous employers to describe the candidate with their own words. Maybe even interview his colleagues and the regulars of the last bar where he worked and ask them what did they think of him or her.
Note: All claims and tips that I haven’t mentioned a source for, are based purely on my own opinions.