There's no doubt that many more people are looking for jobs than there are those hiring.  As a result, organizations offering jobs can find themselves flooded with applicants.  Several are complaining about how hard it is to find "the right person."  Reality is most companies have been struggling to find "the right person" for a long time.  It just wasn't as obvious.

According to The Wall Street Journal "To Find Best Hires, Firms Become Creative."  Yet, these creative ideas are largely about finding new ways to restrict the number of people getting into the hiring funnel.  Increasingly, asking potential employees to carry more cost of the hiring process.  And often putting employees through a longer (sometimes days) battery of interviews.  Yet, it is unclear that these new hurdles are helping organizations hire "the right person" any more often.

In today's changing marketplace, "the right" people are often those who can help the organization adapt.  They think laterally about what is happening in the market, and how to develop creative solutions.  They rely less on their historical experience, and more on their scenarios about the future.  They pay a lot of attention to competitors, and push for decisions that leapfrog competitive actions.  And they aren't afraid to Disrupt historical ways of behaving and recommend white space projects where new things can be tried.  They don't try to Defend & Extend the company's Success Formula.  Instead they seek improved results.

But that is not how hiring processes are designed.  They focus on developing tight requirements.  With so many applicants now, the focus is on making very, very tight requirements so resumes can be sifted efficiently for specific experiences.  But this approach means hiring requirements are based on what history has dictated was needed.  They reflect what the company used to do, how it used to hire, what previous employees did that supported the old Success Formula.  Job requirements rarely look forward, instead they try to find homogeneous individuals who are like people that succeeded in the past.  Usually by reinforcing the old Success Formula.  They are out to find candidates who want to Defend & Extend the Success Formula, not evolve it to better results.

Most hiring organizations even have an "ideal prototype candidate."  This goes down to specifying the type of degree, and the university attended.  It may well include specifying a geography where the candidate was raised.  Common certifications.  A preferred set of previous jobs that are like what others have been through.  These approaches are all about yielding candidates that look alike – not different.  In most companies, an employee from Google. Amazon or Apple – very successful companies – could not get through the first round.

Then the prolonged interviews.  These simply force candidates to be like the people doing the interviews.  Rafts of studies have been done on interviewing, and they always return the result that interviewers like people who are like themselves.  The interviewer has a sense of what they think made them successful – education, experience and problem solving approach.  And they simply look to see if the candidate is like them.  If the interviewing goes on for days, they even look to see if the candidate orders food like them, drinks like them, has the same approach to mornings or working late.  The long interview approach merely ensures that candidates are more likely to be just like existing employees.

These approaches are about finding candidates that have a good "initial fit."  But if the organization is in need of adapting to changing market conditions, is that the employee you really need?  All the people at the old AT&T were much alike – but that company still didn't survive deregulation.  The people at most airlines are much alike, yet outside of Southwest the airlines don't make any money.  GM had an "ideal employee profile" yet the people leading the company could not deal with market shifts that sent the organization into bankruptcy.

Today your organization might well need new employees who are not like previous employees.  They may well need different  education.  Different experiences.  Work in different industries.  And different approaches to problem solving.  With so many available candidates, is your approach to hiring helping you find people who can help your company grow, or is it trying to find the kind of people who reinforced the old Success Formula?  Are you hiring for the future, or searching for people like you hired in the past?

Sign up now and get new posts delivered to your email inbox.

You have successfully subscribed to the blog!

There was an error while trying to send your request. Please try again.

Adam Hartung will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide updates and marketing.