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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Peril of Not Changing

Well, another year is upon us and I find myself reflecting on the year that was.  I spend a lot of time thinking about my job, talent acquisition, how I’m going to find that next “purple squirrel”, and how I can get better as a professional.  One of the things that I’ve thought about quite a bit recently is change.  As I look at Talent Acquisition and what it takes to be successful, there are some rudimentary ideas that will always be at the heart of my profession.  For example, it will always be a people-first business.  Every year we find new ways to find candidates and more creative ways to contact them.  I’ve seen people dedicate chunks of their lives developing the latest and greatest algorithm for identifying people with highly sought after skill sets.  Yet, despite all of their ingenuity, these people are rarely successful in their roles.  Technology can’t get in the way of what matters most – the fact that there is a living, breathing soul attached to that resume.  That individual that you are pursuing because of the keywords on their resume has dreams, goals, family to care for, and personal circumstances that have a direct influence on decisions they make.  This is at the heart of what we do and the faster we understand that the more results we will see. 

With that said and with the understanding that some things will never change, I think even more dangerous is the unwillingness to change at all.  I don’t want to shock anyone, but the world is constantly evolving.  The way that you do things today is not the way that your parents probably did them.  Heck, the way you do things now is probably different than how you did it 5 years ago.  I watch ESPN on my phone.  I get e-mails on my watch.  An application allows me to ask for a ride and someone shows up at my front door with their car.  I have bank accounts but haven’t been inside of a bank in probably 3 years.  You get the idea – times change and we must change with them.  One of the biggest things that I see as an obstacle to effective recruiting is an organization that is unwilling to change.  An organization that adopts the attitude that “we have always done it this way” and “it has worked for us in the past” puts themselves at a serious disadvantage.  I’ve seen this occur enough to know that it will always be a detriment to obtaining and retaining top talent. 
There are some things that it’s very important to understand.  According to LinkedIn, passive candidates represent 79% of the current workforce.  More importantly, the skills gap in this country is real.  Take this graphic from the Deloitte University Press:

These numbers are staggering when you take a closer look at them.  They are estimating that over the course of the next decade, 2 million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled due to a lack of qualified workers to fill those roles.  If you work in Talent Acquisition then you know that the impact of this is already being felt.  The fact is that the balance of power has shifted to the candidate.  Candidates have more options than ever and the ramifications are seen throughout various industries at the moment.  Progressive Talent Acquisition organizations will adapt and get in front of this.  They will understand what this shift in power means.  Every single qualified and skilled worker that is lost throughout the hiring process is a major loss that is becoming harder and harder to make up for.  The “old way” of doing things will not suffice anymore.  There are a number of topics that we could break down and delve into as we look at potential solutions.  In fact, I plan on writing about that in more detail in the near future.  However, I believe that it’s safe to say that speed, adapting to the idiosyncrasies’ of the current workforce, employment branding, and candidate experience are things that need to be taken to the forefront and examined closely. Here are some critical “watch outs” or things that I have seen be extremely detrimental to an organization’s ability to land the best of the best. 

·         Antiquated selection tools – This one will drive any talent acquisition professional crazy. We have all worked with a member of an interviewing team that is determined to utilize a test or pop quiz that they made up because they believe it’s the only way to evaluate an individual’s fit into their team.  Here are some things that you need to ask yourself before getting caught in this particular trap – “what is the goal of this exercise?”, “has it been validated?”, “Is it used consistently across hiring practices?”, “what kind of experience does it create for the candidate?”.  Those are just some examples.  The truth is that consistent, targeted, and validated tools are going to be the best ones to utilize.  Heck, even Google (famous for quirky questions) has gone to a more standardized, structured questions approach. 
·         Pride – Simply put, this one is all about an individuals or an organization’s ego. The “Hey, we’re ______, they should be beating down the doors to get in here” approach to hiring is well, it’s short sighted and is going to stand in the way of your hiring teams being effective.  Remember, the balance of power has shifted.  That’s not to say that as an interviewer that you can’t ask tough questions or thoroughly evaluate a candidate.  It means that in addition to evaluation, each interviewer needs to take a few moments to explain to a candidate why their opportunity is a great opportunity and what makes their company unique.  If extra time needs to be built into the interview process, then so be it.  Tell your story, share what motivates you.  Again, these candidates have options so it’s important to let them know why they should consider working as part of your team. 
·         Failing to pay attention to the candidate experience and social media – I know that if you have been in the workforce for a long time you may not be enamored or may even be annoyed with social media. Trust me, I get it.  I love utilizing it but I understand why some people can find it tedious or annoying.  However, the reality is that it has never been easier for us to share information and do it quickly.  This includes candidates sharing their experiences as they go through the hiring process.  Web Sites such as glass door allow people to see the thoughts and opinions of employees and candidates and this can have a powerful impact on someone’s opinion of a company and potential career opportunities within that company.  Social media content should be monitored and employees encouraged to participate.  Of course, the most important piece is that you do everything to ensure that the candidate has a good experience whether they are ultimately selected for a role within your company or not. 
·         Using 1970’s thinking in 2016 - As mentioned earlier, the world today is different. People are different.  The workforce is different.  According to an article by Jeanne Meister of Forbes entitled “Job hopping is the new normal for Millennials” the average worker today stays in each job for 4.4 years.  However, 91% of millennials expect to stay in each job less than 3 years.  In other words, employees today are becoming avid “job hoppers”.  Traditional thinking would tell you to immediately pass on these candidates but in doing so, you may be passing on a talented individual that can have a significant impact on your business.  That’s not to say that the concerns with job hopping aren’t valid.  There is a significant cost associated with losing an employee and when someone moves around that much you have to question their ability to function within teams.  However, I would argue that it’s worth the investment to dig into any areas of concern during the interview process and not just immediately discount someone based on a few lines on their resume.
 While we are talking about the new workforce, I think we should address proper interview apparel as well.  This has changed a great deal over the years.  Myself, I am still a bit of a traditionalist.  I think that you should put your best foot forward when interviewing for a job.  However as more and more companies move to a business casual dress model, you see the expectations of candidates change when it comes to what to wear to an interview.  The thing that I think can hold you back the most is looking away from someone with a unique and highly sought after skill set simply based on attire. 

Those are some of the pitfalls that I have encountered in my career.  There are more and we could certainly delve into a number of different areas.  The important thing to remember is that candidates have options and we need to be conscious of how we treat them. 

Will Maurer is an average guy with a passion for Talent Acquisition.  His opinions are strictly his own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of his employer.  You can find Will’s random thoughts at his blog


  1. i really like and agree with what you have written here. you are quite thoughtful which makes it all the more interesting to read your posts. this one makes me ponder on so many things

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