Management

Why HR Can't Innovate


Why HR Can't Innovate

Photograph by Julian Winslow/Corbis

With unemployment still so high, it’s amazing to hear that employers are clamoring for talent. The so-called talent shortage is a major topic at human resources and recruiting conferences, and the balance of messages on my answering machine has shifted over the past year from inquiries by job seekers to contacts by HR folks seeking referrals to talented job candidates. It is strange that even though every hiring manager knows that the sharpest candidates don’t stay on the market long, corporate recruiting processes don’t change. They don’t get nimbler or faster. They don’t get less burdensome or bureaucratic. You’d think that employers hungry for talent would innovate, making their recruiting processes easier and more human.

The worst part about effectively useless corporate recruiting is the notion that the best-qualified candidate for a job is the one willing to climb over the most piles of broken glass to get the job. No wonder hiring managers take a person who is more likely to be the most-compliant—rather than the most-talented—candidate. We could call this person the Last Candidate Standing.

The whole encrusted recruiting process (not to mention unfriendly, robotic auto-responders and the unending stream of honesty tests, writing tests, and other recruiting hurdles) makes it easy for organizations to hire drones, and it makes it hard for them to hire the brilliant and complex people they need to solve their problems. Here’s our list of six ways that recruiting processes conspire to keep great people out while pulling in docile and wan candidates.

How to Hire an Empty Suit:

• Compose job descriptions that list all the tasks the new hire will perform, plus the long list of qualifications the ideal candidate must possess. (Don’t talk about the mission; make the job description as bland as possible.)

• Write a job description that insults the reader from the start, using such language as: “Only applicants with “Blah, Blah, Blah” will be considered. Make sure the tone is such that readers know your company rules the roost—and that he or she will be lucky to get a word in reply.

• Send interested applicants to a horrendously slow-moving and tedious recruiting website and require them to spend two hours or so filling out forms and uploading documents. For extra points, blow up the application two or three times while candidates are working on submissions.

• Throw screening tests and extra requirements at candidates throughout the process, just to keep them guessing.

• Take weeks or months to get back to people to schedule job interviews. At the interviews, keep them waiting in the lobby, ask them idiotic questions like “What is your greatest weakness?” and get offended when they inquire about the actual state of the team and the company.

• Finally, leave candidates in the dark while you prepare low-ball offers, and then send the offers via e-mail with a message that says “We must receive your acceptance within 12 hours, or this offer will be null and void.”

The off-putting legalese is the final touch that will come close to guaranteeing that any job-seeker with an ounce of backbone or self-esteem will flee, leaving you free to hire the most docile and compliant person, aka the Last Candidate Standing.

Liz_ryan_2
Liz Ryan is an expert on the new-millennium workplace and a former Fortune 500 HR executive.

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