Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Why the Job Hunt Process is so Broken

As someone so immersed in tech, I have to admit I'm stumped on this one.  How is it humanly possible that given all the cool tech we build - drones, VR / AR, Mobile apps, Bio Tech etc. that our recruiting process is stuck in the stone ages?
When you work in startups you go in and out of jobs.  That's just the name of the game.  So on a personal level I've found myself in between jobs more than once. However, I'm continuously amazed by how arcane our recruitment system is.
Why is our recruiting process so broken?
1.  Recruiters generally have to play it safe. Even when I was at Google, there was a generally accepted norm:  look inside Google first. The reason was simple: existing Googlers have the skills, know the culture, products, pace and processes. They'll get up to speed faster, require less on-boarding and pose less risk.  In startups it's very much the same thing once the company starts to really grow and get traction.  Whereas a bad hire at Google won't kill the company, if you hire the wrong head of sales in your startup and your revenues go "poof" then you could be out of business.  Most firms always look for people with experience (at least on paper).  To make things more complicated, external recruiters generally have to reimburse the company or find a replacement candidate if the candidate they put forward doesn't work out within a set time period.  So both internally and externally most organizations are incentivized to find the "safest" candidate which is not always the "best" candidate.  
2.  There's no money in helping consumers find jobs (yet).  This sounds harsh but the money in the recruitment business is on the enterprise side.  Linkedin, Executive Search Firms, Glassdoor, Monster and Co all make money from who? From companies looking to hire talent.  To date nobody has really done a good enough job to encourage job seekers to spend money on recruitment services. By default if you're looking for a job then you're probably cashflow negative (ie losing money each month) so forking over more money on job search tools / services will be a tough sell for job seekers (unless of course these can guarantee you find a job).  The good news is some people are trying to create marketplaces for both job seekers and companies that serve both.  Hired, which just announced it raised money today, is attempting to do just that.  Though the site only accepts resumes from candidates that they curate (ie - select) they will pay candidates a cash bonus if they find a job through the site.  They also focus more on "active" instead of passive candidates making it easier for firms to find people who are actually looking for a job instead of people who aren't looking to move.  
3.  Experience Trumps "passion".  Steve Jobs once said: "Do what you love and you'll never work another day in your life."  The literature is there to back it up too.  Survey after survey shows that passionate employees are significantly more productive than others with the same skills who aren't passionate.  In addition, passionate employees are often more motivated, have more energy, motivate those around them and lead healthier lives.  They even have a greater chance of having stronger personal relationships as an article in the Huffington Post pointed out last year.  When you're happy at work and feeling that what you do has purpose,  you're more likely to go home happy and treat those you love more kindly than you would otherwise.  But the reality is that measuring passion and assigning a value to it is really hard to do. Companies and recruiters can more easily point to actual skills, work experience and accomplishments to "predict" what a possible candidate will deliver for the company.  Passion and enthusiasm will rarely trump experience though the combination of the two is unbeatable.
 4.  The applicant review process is still manual and impersonal.  Have you ever gotten one of those emails that says: "Thanks for applying for the role of super duper cookie cutter.  Your application is important to us and we'll get back to you as soon as we've reviewed your profile."  6 months later you still have no reply from them.  Sound familiar?   At my last job I must have seen at least 150 different resumes for two roles I was recruiting for.  I answered every single applicant.  Granted I had various templates I'd created based on the applicant type, skills and length of experience so it's not like I customized every reply.  But the reaction even to these simple emails shocked me:  people wrote back.  I even got replies with people telling me how wonderful I was for my detailed and considerate feedback.  I actually had an email exchange with several candidates about the process in general.    One applicant, who initially sent me a slightly offensive, drunken rant by email, hearing I'd been laid off, actually invited me for dinner and drinks and offered me a consulting assignment.  
In today's day and age of tablets, smartphones and messaging apps its easy to forget people are human and deserve the courtesy of a response.  Software from companies like LeverJobviteGild and others are helping companies with better Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and even Linkedin has their own ATS if you use Recruiter or Recruiter Lite but as employers we still have to do a better job of getting back to people and showing people some respect.  
5.  People sometimes don't know what they want.  It's easy to bitch and moan that "company X never got back to me" or "I just don't have the skills for that job" but in 2 decades of hiring and managing teams I've also come across more than one candidate that simply didn't know what he / she wanted.  I recently interviewed a candidate for a role in the company I worked for who admitted to me: "Honestly, I'm not quite sure at this point of my career what I want.  I'm still trying to figure that out."  Respect has to go both ways.  In the same vein that candidates would like companies to get back to them and update them on the status of their applications they should also come prepared and have a really clear idea of what they are looking for, why their skills matter and what they have to offer the company in question.  Candidates should also spend more time understanding what they are good at, what careers match those strengths and connect the dots.  
OK great, so what can we do as applicants?
 One thing we can all do is get a better understanding of ourselves:  our skills, strengths, weaknesses, motivations and passions.  Knowing ourselves better will allow us to be more focused in our job search.  As a recruiting manager I found that often as many as 50% of the applicants I reviewed either didn't have the right skill set I was looking for or didn't have the right experience.  
Part of the challenge is that people simply aren't aware of the tools that can help them figure out what career paths are available for them.  For example,  one of the things that career coaches or college placement offices may have students do to identify a career path is called a Myers Briggs test or, in some cases a Jung Typology Test.  The test involves answering a series of questions about yourself. Once you've finished answering the questions the test will reveal your personality type formula.  Some sites will also provide you with various career paths that are suitable to your personality.  You can take the test here and it will even show you famous people who match your personality type.  I learned a lot about myself doing this. I don't like large organizations, hate bureaucracy, dislike corporate politics, love to write, enjoy public speaking and need to a lot of autonomy in what I do.   
Aside from the Jung Typology Test, Janet Scareborough Civitelli, a career coach, has a great post you can read on Vocationvillage.com that lists the 10 things you can do to identify the things you're good at.  They include the basics such as getting advice from friends, families and career coaches to skill matching websites and more advanced, in-depth testing that is available in major metropolitan areas if you have the time and money to pursue them.  She also has a number of interesting books worth having a look at.  
I've always been an optimist at heart and I truly believe that each one of us has unique gifts, abilities and talents that we can turn into something that not only helps us pay the rent but also taps into our passions.  We can wait for the system to change or for enterprising entrepreneurs to fix it for us (some will for sure) or we can get a grip on what we do well, find our purpose and set about finding a way to monetize our strengths and passions.  
Part of the answer lies within us.  The question is do we have the courage to pursue it.
The next time you're frustrated with the job hunt process have a look at this rejection of rejection letter and always remember: Keep smilin'
Mad Mork