From March, 2014

Video Interviewing and the Disabled: Considerations

Whether you are building a house or always dreamed of doing so picture what you consider it might have.  Do you think about a grand staircase, a swimming pool, a large blind personkitchen with an island and industrial oven?  Yes?  How about a ramp out front so that you can roll your wheel chair into the house if one day you become disabled?  What about extra wide doorways so that you don’t scrape your knuckles while you push through?  Certainly you must picture the type of support railing you will put on the wall next to your toilet.  Oh and what about Braille on the light switches should you one day lose your vision?

You probably don’t consider those things because if you aren’t disabled, you probably give little thought to what you might require if you were.  Very similarly when building a software solution, many vendors give small consideration to those who have needs different from theirs.  Making software intuitive enough for the general public who have no serious disabilities is hard enough.  After all let’s be honest, although stupidity may not be classified as a disability, it is still an impairment many of us who work with technology, including me, have.  So while developers spend a great deal of time “idiot proofing” their product, they often don’t consider the myriad of other disabilities that could trip up users such as vision or hearing impairment.

Recently I sat on a panel for a webinar entitled, “New Day Dawning in Affirmative Action – Building Bridges that Work for Everyone,” hosted by affirmative action consultant, Teresa Turner, President of Synchronized Resources.  This webinar sought to bring awareness to the increasing need to provide accessibility and accommodations to veterans and the disabled who access tools such as video interviewing and applicant tracking systems during their job search.  One of the many things that opened my eyes was who is considered as disabled?

When I hear the word disabled I see a child suffering from a mental impairment, I see a woman without sight, I see a man with a prosthetic leg.  What I had not considered was someone with a speech impediment, someone with a learning disability like dyslexia, or someone who simply is color blind.  These impairments, though not always noticeable to the general public, could greatly affect an individual’s ability to perform well during a video interview or even when applying online for a job through an ATS.  In this regard video interviewing and ATS vendors have some work to do to better accommodate those with unseen disabilities so that they can take advantage of our services.

However I take heart in the notion that while we may have more work to do, video interviewing providers to some extent have also made life easier for those with disabilities.  According to the Census Bureau, in 2010 over 56 million people were classified as having a disability.  Of these, over 30 million had difficulty walking or climbing stairs or used a wheelchair, cane or crutches.  Now of course many of these thirty million are elderly individuals who won’t be asked to take a video interview, but think about the others.  If you have trouble with mobility, interviewing for a job from your home’s comfort makes life easier.  If you are applying for a job that allows you to work from home but you suffer from a psychological phobia that prevents you from attending a face-to-face interview, then video interviewing from your home makes life easier!

Knock on wood I presently have no disabilities, but through Teresa’s presentation we have learned that as a provider we cannot simply wait for a problem with a disabled person to arise before we do something about it.  The good news is, we’re able to.

Why So Hard to Find Talent? This Image Sums IT Up For You.

Lack of Talent chart

Look at the image above and really try to understand how broken the hiring process has become.  According to a 2013 survey by Manpower, 39% of employers in all industries were having trouble filling open positions.  The graph above explains why.  While positions are left open through selective “choosiness” do companies really consider the true cost of leaving positions vacant?

Number two on the list of the ten hardest jobs to fill according to Manpower’s survey was sales representatives.  Now using the graph above let’s map out a hiring scenario.

I’m looking for a sales representative who has experience selling to C-Level executives at semi-conductor companies with 500 or more employees.  Sounds pretty simple right?  Well let’s see.  After gathering resumes from job postings and recruiters, the candidates are either fed through an applicant tracking system or through HR professionals.  Let’s pretend I have 100 resumes with which to start.  Bam, right off the bat the ATS eliminates sixty candidates.  Most of these aren’t remotely qualified but a few good ones who don’t know how to pepper their resumes with relevant keywords slip through the cracks.  The HR professionals eliminate another ten because, though the applicants are dynamite quota busters, they have either jumped around too frequently or have sold only into smaller companies.

Next, I begin reaching out to the thirty that made the cut.  Only ten of those remaining candidates live within a commutable distance to the office.  The others didn’t want to drive ninety minutes to work.  The employer is willing to relocate a candidate from another state but unfortunately the candidates that would consider relocation live in an area of the country where the cost of living is much lower.

So now I have only ten candidates left who on paper appear qualified.  Of these ten first contacted by a recruiter, three are happy with their current employer.  Great, now I only have seven candidates!

Two of the seven remaining candidates make far more money than what the employer is offering.  “Thanks but no thanks,” they reply.  Now I’m down to a measly five.  Five is better than nothing though.

I video interview the remaining five and show their interviews to the hiring manager.  Within minutes three more are eliminated for “cultural fit” reasons.  Now I’m down to only two candidates, which isn’t great, but at least I saved the hiring manager time by not having to interview all five in-person.

The big issue now is that the better of the two candidates has received job offers from at least one other employer.  Ok, no problem if we act quickly.  But nooooo!  The hiring manager drags his/her feet for seven days and the candidate goes elsewhere.

One candidate remains.  Though not the best this is a good candidate who won’t require much training because we know how employers no longer like to invest in training.  The hiring company makes a good offer to the candidate but unfortunately the candidate’s present company makes a counter offer that is much better.  Guess what?  We are now back to square one.

Keep in mind that from the time the first posting went up until the time that only five candidates remained, six weeks or more may have passed.  During that time and for the next six weeks while more candidates are found, this open sales position will remain unfilled or filled by a sub par candidate.  But hey, it’s only money, right?

Job Rejections Piling Up? Chin up! It Happens Even to Billionaires.

Do you know Jan Koum and Brian Acton?  Like you I had never heard of them before last Wednesday.  A few years ago they both applied to and were rejected by Facebook.  The significance of this is that on Wednesday, February 19th, Facebook, the company that had years earlier rejected them for employment, bought Koum and Acton’s company, WhatsApp for nearly $19B.  Yes that “B” is for billion!  Unemployed and rejected one day, the next (well actually many days later) the very company that said they didn’t pass muster paid them billions!

Even more satisfying for Koum is that he has also earned a sweet spot on Facebook’s board of directors.

I understand what you are probably thinking.  “Koum and Acton are rich because they both must be geniuses.”  Well if you believe that then you must concede that even though they were brilliant, they still got rejected.  Perhaps they were smart enough but had bad resumes.  Maybe they took a video interview and failed it.  Maybe they had the wrong behavioral profile.  Perhaps they had no college degree.  Heck even Steve Jobs with all his untapped potential was rejected by HP’s hiring process for having no degree.  Cancer aside, we all know he did okay.

The point that I hope is sinking into your brain is that despite their alleged brilliance, despite their probable drive and work ethic, even Koum’s, Acton’s and Jobs’ potential, like yours, was overlooked.  If you aren’t getting anywhere with your job search your first inclination might be to take it personally rather than objectively.

Take a look at this picture of Koum signing the $19B Facebook deal.  The building pictured is the social services building where Koum once stood in line to collect food stamps.

whatsapp imageMaybe you’re standing in line for food assistance or unemployment benefits.  If so, take heart!  One day you could be signing your multi-million dollar deal on the door of the building where once you may have been frowned upon.  Chin up my friends and good luck out there!

Will A Higher Minimum Wage Spur More Effort to Lower Turnover?

Turnover rolls along at high rates and at a high cost to employers.  Rates run as high as QuitsPerMonth2007-201335% in the hospitality industry. Costs, according to research by SHRM, can be as much as “60% of an employee’s annual salary, whereas total costs of replacement, including training and loss of productivity, can range from 90% to 200% of an employee’s annual salary.”

It seems like the cost of turnover is like a dirty little secret no one wants to talk about.  Or do anything about.  Yet we are talking about literally billions of dollars a year in costs.

The year 2007 began with a quit rate of around 3 million employees per month.  That’s out of a labor force of about 150 million in the U.S.  During the subsequent Great Recession, when self-reported employee satisfaction rose and departures went down, 1.6 million employees still quit in the month of September 2009, the lowest number reported in years.  Since that bottom, the number of employees quitting has steadily grown to around 2.5 million per month.  There has been no indication that the one-time decline in quits would become a new normal.

Why do employers accept high rates of turnover and its hidden costs?  One reason may be that turnover allows employers to keep wage rates down.

I was at a conference a few years ago and found myself pitching programs to a C-level executive of a Fortune 1000 company that could improve the quality of his hiring, and thereby lower turnover.  He listened for a moment and then interrupted me, saying “Jim, you just don’t understand.  We like turnover.”  When I asked him to explain, he glibly answered “we hire them at $8 per hour, give ‘em a six-month raise to 10 bucks, and then hope they leave before we have to bump them to $12.  We then bring in their replacement at $8 and start the process all over again.”

Despite all the happy talk about employee satisfaction and engagement, how can employees find satisfaction in jobs where they are simply treated as “factors of production”, fungible commodities to be traded off for some illusory cost savings?

I believe that employers have an inherent commitment to help their employees find satisfaction in and through their work.  If you believe this way, then excessive turnover is an affront and should be addressed.