Changing the Hiring Process – Making it Better

In 2005, Fast Company published an article called Why We Hate HR.  It received a lot of attention, both for and against what the article was saying.  I think what a lot of people were really saying is, it’s not HR we don’t like, it’s the process of hiring that we know is fundamentally broken and the lack of change and new ideas is what we really don’t like.  The hiring process is broken and often companies try to fix it by going to the extreme of what isn’t actually working.  The solution is so much easier than the current system.  Business is about change, growth, adopting new ideas, so why is the hiring process frozen in time or just getting worse?    


As a hiring manager and a candidate, I know how bad this system is.  As hiring managers we are frustrated because we don’t really get to the meat of the issue.  As a candidate, we are frustrated because we never really get to show our talents.  On both sides it is like fitting a round peg in a square hole, it just doesn’t really work at the end of the day. There has to be a better way and there is!


Back when I started hiring, I did what everyone else did, because that’s what I was told is how you hiring someone.  We created a job description, put in things we felt a person should have in order to do the job, then asked for cover letters and resumes.  We narrowed down the ones we liked based on the job description we made up, and interviewed them.  Then did background checks on them and finally we made a decision as to whom we thought was the right person.  But as a hiring manager, I never liked this procedure because it never actually addressed or answered my basic questions.  My questions:


  1. Will this person make us more profitable?
  2. How will this person make us more profitable, do they have the skills we need to accomplish the current and known situations of the future?
  3. Do they fit with our culture and our client’s culture?


For me, in marketing, these are important questions.  The more I used the current method of hiring, the more I saw how it never answered my questions that I needed answered to feel confident with who I was hiring.  Thus we made mistakes, like everyone else does, because instead of just asking for answers to our questions, we danced around them which is what the hiring process used by most companies does, dances around the heart of the issue without ever addressing the issue.  I learned that all the resumes, cover letters, background checks, urine tests, psychological tests, aptitude tests, behavior tests, never told me what I wanted to know.  So I asked why?  Why do we need cover letters and resumes?  I was told because we needed to see if they were a fit with the job description.  Ok, so how do we know the job description is accurate?  Here I got several answers, such as “industry standard” (I don’t want standard, I want the best).  I was told that it was based on the background the last person who held that job had (that’s not always a good thing and if they were right for the job, why are they not there now?).  I saw how this entire process was designed with goals other than hiring the best person for the job, as a hiring manager, the hiring process lets us down every time.  In fact, most so called experts couldn’t tell me why the standard hiring process is the way it is and how it address my questions or your questions.  It’s broken, in business when something is broken, you replace it with something that works.  So being the innovator that I am, I made a new system.


I did my homework and found a great site that I used as a guide.  Probably the only guy I know of who knows what hiring is really about,  I started with the questions I wanted to have answered.  I quickly realized that resumes and cover letter letters tell me how someone made someone else profits, but that doesn’t translate into my profits.  Look at Carli and HP, she was great somewhere else but at HP, she wasn’t.  Past success does not translate into future success, there are a lot of variables in play and backgrounds in terms of success at one place does not me success elsewhere.


Background checks tell me where someone was, but it doesn’t tell me if they really have the skills I need or the ability to develop and create.  I was told we need to do these because we need to ensure people were telling the truth about their past salary or where they worked.  Again, this didn’t answer my questions, it didn’t matter at the end of the day, so this is just wasted money.   Behavioral tests can tell me if someone is moody, as defined by a testing organization, but it doesn’t tell me if they will be comfortable and thus productive in my corporate culture.  As a candidate, I find these things frustrating because I would really rather show you how I am going to make you profits, but I can’t do that with the current tools used to hire, because they are not designed to tell you what I will do for you.


I work in marketing, when we need an ad agency, what do we do, we put out a request for proposal.  This is what we want, show us how you are going to make us money, that’s basically what an RFP says.  So that’s what I did.  Example:




We are looking for someone who can help us take existing
US based products and launch into the EMEA.  Please send your proposal of how you will do this for us and improve our profit performance, how your skills are relevant to the project and why you feel we should speak with you about this opportunity.


Notice I did not say degree, industry experience, job titles etc…  One reason for this is, in business we want to have the edge on competitors.  If I’m only hiring with in the industry, I have no edge.  Everyone knows the plays of everyone else.  Plus you never know what someone in an unrelated industry is doing that you can benefit from, they could have the idea you need to propel you to the top of your industry, why limit yourself?  Nobody reached #1 by limiting their options.


As a candidate, this gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your skills and how they will help that company.  Develop a business plan and show them.  Forget about what you did, where you were, show them what you can do and how that’s going to make them money.


Once we had responses, we called in the ones we liked and chatted with them, about their ideas for us.  Not really too concerned with what they did in the past and with whom.  That’s not really relevant for the most part.  Do they have experience, yes, that’s relevant and comes out in their presentation, do I need to know where and with whom, no I don’t.  Because my next step was a case study exam.  If they were trying to pull a fast one on me, I’d know in the case study.  The case studies were actual past examples we had that we knew very well and could easily gauge if a person knew how to approach the situation.  After the case, we had one more interview round and that was it, rarely did it go past that, we had our candidate by then. 


Under this model, turnover was less than 1% with very high moral, which also translated into better performance.  Under the hiring model used by most companies, turnover was 12% with low moral, lots of sick days and lots of lost opportunities.  The numbers speak for themselves, the model we used, produced better results for finding the right candidate for the job and improved the profitability of the company by lowering turnover and improving our return on investment of each hire.  So right off the bat, we gained a competitive advantage by changing our method of hiring.


Now I am a candidate, I am actively seeking a new position.  Sometimes I can see the frustration in the hiring manager on the other side as he or she knows the system they are using just isn’t answering what they really want to know.  Yet they feel trapped in that system as they ask me why a manhole cover is round or where I plan to be in five years; fully knowing these questions don’t address what they truly want to know.  I’m frustrated because I know I’m not being given the chance to really demonstrate what I can offer a company.  I’d love to walk in with a business or marketing plan and present it and talk about how I’m going to address the issues at hand and make them money.  That’s what I love doing, that’s what I know how to do.   


I’ll be honest, it’s frustrating, and you tell the HR person or hiring manager, “hey, I can do this, let me show you how I can make your company more profitable!”  And being told “sorry, but you just don’t have XYZ on your resume.”  If you look at the history of innovation and business success, you will notice a lot of people who didn’t have XYZ on their resume.  Once I didn’t even know what the word genomics meant.  But that didn’t stop me from helping a biotech go from $0 to $25million, with a marketing and operations plan, I certainly didn’t have industry experience, but I do know how to market and get people to buy.  Resumes don’t tell you what you really want to know about a candidate, none of the current process does.  


If you want the best candidates and get them to be great employees, throw away the entire hiring process as you know it.  Focus on what you really want, that’s the first step, ask yourself what you want from a person who is going to fill that role.  What is the bottom line contribution you seek?  Then do an RFP, NOT a job ad, ask them to outline their ideas for you, it works!  Don’t limit yourself to years experience or industry or function or job titles, that only limits your ability to find candidates that will create a competitive advantage.  Next, focus on what they will do for you.  I remember I hired a guy that everyone else was unsure about, he has no industry experience and an unusual past that didn’t fit any normal career path.  He became our best salesman.  Focus on business plans, let people show you how they are going to do the job for YOU.  It’s nice that they did good things for someone else, but that’s not what you really want to know, so get to the heart of the matter, it saves time and money by doing this.  The past is NOT an indicator of the future, it is only an interpretation of what was.  And read Nick’s website, asktheheadhunter, he has great advice on why the current system is broken and how to fix it.  Break out!  Be different, stop conforming and take your market by storm by revolutionizing the way you hire.  Believe me, if you do it right, you will be better off.

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