From August, 2013

Shortage of Workforce Talent or Just No Shortage of Discrimination

I have written a great deal about the shortage of talent within particular professions lately and I also have excessively discussed the prevalence of discrimination both in my blog posts and online.  I would prefer any week to write about one of these two subjects than regurgitate another “Six great tips for this” or “Ten Inspiring tips for that” post we see pop up daily online.

The shortage of talent in the global workforce specifically among engineers and sales horse and cowpeople is a huge problem as is discrimination among all industries.  As I ponder both of these subjects more frequently I realize they are not mutually exclusive.  On the one hand you have organizations repeatedly complaining they can’t find good talent and yet on the other many are saying or at least indicating through their hiring practices, that their primary decision to hire does not hinge on talent.  For instance according to a Gallup poll, eighty-eight percent of hiring organizations claim they will choose a candidate more for personality than for skills. Now wait a second, we can’t all complain about a lack of talent and simultaneously say talent isn’t the most important part of our hiring decision, can we?

Wharton Professor of Management Peter Capelli often relates a story of a staffing firm unable to identify one qualified candidate for a standard engineering role out of thousands of applicants.  I’m scratching my head.  Presuming that 50% of those candidates weren’t remotely qualified we can still assume that at least a couple hundred had what it took to get the job done.  So if talent is what these companies really sought then how could so many talented individuals get rejected?

According to a study published last year, overweight respondents reported discrimination in the hiring process 12x more than normal weight respondents while severely overweight respondents cited discrimination 100x more than normal weight respondents.  Now let’s assume that a few of these overweight/obese individuals were actually qualified to do the job.  If they are eliminated from the process for any reason other than talent then can they still be included in the lack of talent data?  If a guy has talent but the hiring organization won’t hire him because he’s obese then we can’t say no talent exists.  Their selection is based on anything but talent.

Research out of the University of Iowa suggests that a bad interview handshake can eliminate candidates from contention especially for entry level jobs.  Again the handshake has nothing to do with talent so I’m once again scratching my head.  The talent is possibly there right just not the handshake?  Again this isn’t a rejection based on potential lack of talent but rather a possible personality conflict insinuated by a limp handshake.

New studies also reveal that a candidate who has been out of work six months or longer is less likely to get a job than a candidate who has been out of work six weeks or less but has less skills.  So to clarify, more talent doesn’t equal more interviews.

Studies in Europe and the U.S. suggest that while attractive women are more likely to get promoted (regardless of talent) they are also less likely to get called in for interviews (again regardless of talent).

Let’s say I’m running a farm and post around the county that I need animals to pull my heavy machinery.  Well a bunch of cows apply.  Now these cows are pretty strong and reasonably healthy.  One appears a bit overweight and the color of another’s hide is different than what I’m used to, but for the most part they can all pull my machinery adequately.  Unfortunately for them I’m used to hiring horses.  I found talent but I don’t like my talent.  I want horses darnit not cows!  The talent exists but I’m basing my decision to hire or not hire on far more factors which may or may not even be important to the position.  In other words I am discriminating against the cows because they are cows and not horses.

The American workforce is not livestock but I think you get the analogy.  Are we really saying we can’t find talent?  I think we’re really saying that we just can’t find talent that walks like us and quacks like us.

“Cultural Fit” Hiring in Only 5 Minutes?

An international study by Cubiks of more than 500 organizations showed that 82% felt cultural fit was an important measure in the hiring process.  Additionally, 59% reported they rejected a candidate based on the lack of cultural fit, and seventy-five percent of the hand shake1respondents believed cultural fit was a good predictor of success.  Sounds like hiring for personality is the new fad in recruiting.   Here’s the problem though.  Only a little more than half of the respondents could define their company’s culture.

Furthermore, how can anyone accurately determine what cultural traits are best for the company?  If we are to assume (probably naively) that these organizations are not using cultural fit measures to exclude job candidates based on race, gender, age and so on, then we can surmise that their cultural fit requirements are based on personality.  How does the hiring manager accurately determine if the candidate has the right personality?

For instance, I’ve worked with search consultants and hiring managers in the past who clearly like outgoing and bold sales people.  Makes sense right?  If I’m hiring a sales person who needs to regularly interact with clients and prospects, then I don’t want to hire a shy introvert who may burn out too quickly.  But what if the employee’s excessive boldness causes them to act recklessly or irrationally?  Maybe they are so outgoing that they talk too much or show-off.  Perhaps they are bold but during the interview you missed the fact that they were also accommodating.  Well what’s wrong with being accommodating you might ask?  An accommodating individual while often helpful could also be a push-over or a doormat.  In the world of sales being a slave to the customer is a huge detriment.

Many hiring managers claim to know within the first five minutes of meeting a candidate whether they are a good fit for the role.  How can any hiring manager determine in five minutes whether a candidate is too accommodating, too bold or too selfish?  I don’t really believe they can, which leads me to suspect that the candidate is being judged more for appearance and general body language than personality.  A recent study by the University of Iowa showed that job candidates with good handshakes were considered to be the most hireable.  This evidence suggests that if you have a good handshake you have already given yourself a leg up in the first ten seconds.

If everyone is hiring for culture then how do handshakes come into play?  How as a job candidate am I to know how to shake the hiring manager’s hand to let them know I fit the culture?  I mean what if I shake it too hard!  What if my hands are too soft or too calloused?  What if the hiring manager has big, meaty paws and completely swallows my small hand?  Will I not get the job?  On that note what if in the first five minutes I cross my legs in too manly a manner.  What if I wear a tie but the company is so hip they don’t wear ties.  What if I mention that I like the Miami Dolphins football team but the hiring manager hates mammals?  Gasp!  What happened to the good ole days when people were hired for their skills!

A recent Gallup poll suggested that 46% of new hires fail within the first 18 months mostly for attitudinal reasons.  If so many people are hiring for cultural fit but 46% of the workforce is leaving in eighteen months, then a whole lot of people are missing something.

So here is what is happening.  The hiring manager shakes your hand, looks you up and down and then decides based on your smile and interests whether you are the type of guy/gal they would want to hang out with.  If yes, you’re hired.  If not, “thank you we’ll be in touch.”  I know that sounds cold because just like in a relationship we all want to be accepted for who we are.  We can’t stand to think that we didn’t get the job because we’re not the guy or gal with whom the boss wants to throw back a cold one.  Bottom line – it’s a crapshoot.  Cheer up though, the position will be open again in 18 months.


Is the Traditional Resume Dying in the World of Social Media?

This is a guest post by:

In a world in which you can suddenly have an audience of many prospective employers with just a single upload of a resume, is the process of handing out your traditional paper resume becoming obsolete? It cannot be denied that social media is an extremely important part of the modern recruitment process for both employers and employees.

Giving you the chance to sell yourself:

For jobseekers, the web enforces no character limits on the experience you have gained, it does not restrict you to citing solely your last 2 jobs and it allows a huge audience for your single document. It allows you to fully express all of your skills and experience, highlighting your qualifications and allowing you to be considered for jobs you perhaps never knew existed.

Testing candidates more rigorously:

Online social media profiles certainly have their advantages for employers too. The much more generic approach to a CV means that there is less room for embellishment and falsification to tailor a resume to one particular employer. Also, the wide range of friends and acquaintances that each person has on a social media profile allow for a large number of references at the click of a button. Because you have to expand on everything you write on a social media platform, there is no way that you can craftily word your resume to make it sound like you have more experience than you actually do. This is great for employers as it helps guarantee the calibre of person that they are hiring.

Going to extremes:

But in such a competitive job market, is it enough to simply rely on social media to get you employed? Recently there have been several stories of graduates going above and beyond the usual recruitment processes to make themselves stand out from a crowd to get hired. One example was Adam Pacitti, who, having been unsuccessful in finding a job through the conventional channels, spent his last £500 putting a 10 foot portrait of himself on a billboard with a link to his website Less than 24 hours after the billboard poster was erected roughly 10,000 people had tweeted references to his campaign and although he is yet to be given his dream job, he managed to get himself heard by thousands. His website was his online CV, but it was only through innovative paper methods that he got his resume seen.

Is social media enough in the current economic climate?:

The fact that Adam was forced to such means probably suggests that even social media cannot help everyone to find a job, at least not in the current economic climate. Adam’s story proves that in order to get the job you want you really do have to stand out above the rest of the crowd, and whether you achieve this by uploading your resume online or by handing out a paper version to prospective employers is irrelevant as long as you can prove that you are the right person for the job. Social media simply allows you to access more prospective employers or employees at the click of a button, and gives you a greater scope to apply for more jobs in a much shorter amount of time.

Only time will tell:

The paper resume may not be dead yet, but it is easy to see how social media may completely take over in the future. It is a much more fool proof way of assessing somebody’s skill, aptitude and potential before the interview stage of the recruitment process and it gives individuals the perfect platform to really sell themselves.

Richard McMunn, runs the leading career website  His aim is to help as many people as possible pass the recruitment process they are applying for to secure the job they have always wanted. The site offers a wide range of books and training courses for those who want to ensure they are fully prepared. You can also connect with How2become on their YouTube channel.

Want to be Permanently Unemployed? Take a Few Months Off of Work!

Recently a former colleague of mine worked on recruiting assignments for two different companies.  After submitting a pool of candidates for each assignment he quickly noticed hammocksimilarities between two rejected candidates, one from each assignment, applying for two entirely different roles with two entirely different companies.  Each candidate had been unemployed for six months or more and not only that, but both had done little to find a new job.  Instead they chose to work on personal projects or hold out for the specific job they truly desired.  I see nothing wrong with that personally.  If I’m hiring someone I want them to be truly passionate about the job and not just interested in a paycheck.  Here’s the problem though.  They were both rejected for being unemployed.

Of course unemployment was not the only reason given but when my colleague received emails from the hiring managers for why these two candidates would not be pursued, their lack of recent employment was at the top of the list.

Here are the responses he received from the clients regarding these candidates.

“There were a few yellow flags with two being borderline red.  His lack of work for >2 years is one.”

The above rejection was presented in the very first sentence.  Bam, right off the bat this hiring manager is saying that he’s essentially worried about hiring anyone who has been out of work for so long a time, regardless of the candidate’s skills which were spot on.

Here’s the response my colleague received from a hiring manager in regards to a candidate for an entirely different role:

“He has not been looking for work since they let him go in 12/2012.  We want someone that needs to work and is aggressive.”

A recent study out of Northeastern University showed that employers were far less likely to call back a job candidate with industry experience who had been out of work six months or more than a candidate with no industry experience who had been out of work for only a short time.  In other words if you have a lot of experience but haven’t been working in over six months, the guy or gal with no industry experience who has only been unemployed for six weeks is likely to get called before you.

So far no data exists that suggests hiring a long term unemployed worker is bad for business so we can only speculate as to the origins of this bias.  Perhaps a belief exists that if a candidate has been unemployed for six months or more that something must be wrong with them.  Hiring managers and recruiters are inundated with resumes and spend little time, only six seconds according to some studies, reviewing them.  They may abruptly filter out the long term unemployed assuming that if other employers have already passed on them, then why should they too waste their time?

Whatever the reasons, fair or unfair, the bias exists and very little is being done about it.  The moral of the story may very well be that even if you hate your job, you’d better keep it.  Perhaps this is why, according to Gallup’s most recent state of the American workplace report, only 30% of U.S. workers are actively engaged at work.