Internet Recruiting is Doomed!

Good! Now that I have your attention, I’ll repeat. This is NOT a catchy statement to get your attention. Internet recruiting is a “dead” medium! A few years ago, Bill Murray starred in a movie called Groundhog Day. The plot of the movie was that every spring, a group of self-appointed officials from a rural Pennsylvania town dressed up in formal attire to poke sticks at a large hibernating rodent. Legend was the rodent’s reaction to all this stick-poking predicted the remaining weeks of winter. Bill Murray was a curmudgeonly reporter sent to cover this apocalyptic event. He was insensitive and disrespectful to everyone from morning until evening. When he woke up the next morning, however, he discovered he had to re-live Groundhog Day all over again. In short, Murray was locked in a time-warp that he could not escape until he changed his behavior. The same is true of recruiting. In spite of its incredible power and potential, many recruiters insist on using the Internet as a high-tech way to apply low-tech solutions. None of this should come as any surprise, but let’s examine typical recruiting practices to explain my point. Typical Recruiting Environment

  1. Applicant resumes are highly job-tailored and self-enhancing.
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  3. Job postings do not always represent job requirements.
  4. Search engines are extremely effective ways to match inaccurate resumes with inaccurate job postings.
  5. Interviews are no better than chance predicting job performance.
  6. Personality tests are virtually useless at predicting skills.
  7. Technical tests leave a lot of ground uncovered.
  8. The need for highly skilled people is becoming greater and greater.

It’s a recruiting “Groundhog Day”–hundreds of thousands of recruiters and recruiting organizations caught in an occupational time warp. Imagine what it would be like to get seriously ill traveling in a foreign country. Your foreign doctor needs to learn more about your medical history, so he calls your family doctor back home. Now, imagine what it would be like if the two doctors not only had a native language problem, but each doctor used a different medical vocabulary to describe your condition. Prognosis? Notify your next of kin. You are in big trouble! Think of it. Almost all true professions such as engineers, physicians, chemists, psychologists, and programmers use a common language. Their native tongues may be different, but the fundamentals of the profession mandate they use the same technical language. Now consider the recruiter, hiring manager, trainer, and compensation specialist–they each need high performance employee descriptions, but they have no common language to describe performance. At first, it sounds like they are looking for the same thing, but then they have a candidate. Whoops! Wrong job requirements, disagreement about what can and cannot be trained, different ideas about performance appraisal and management, and the sinking realization that compensation banding and job skills are significantly different. Need For A Common Language Of Performance People grouse about having to learn something new, but without a common performance language, recruiting, training, and performance management will be a Tower of Babel forever–everyone using a different tongue and no one able to communicate effectively. Organizations need the language to communicate job requirements, recruiters need the language to screen and measure candidates, and candidates need the language to communicate their skills. Escaping from the human performance time warp requires a competency-based performance language that can be used to describe training, recruiting and performance management requirements and expectations. Using the Common Language To Define Job Requirements Most job postings and job descriptions list what the job is supposed to produce, not what competencies are required to do the task. Words like “solve problems,” “hard worker,” “dedicated professional,” and “team player” could be used to describe either a Shetland Sheepdog or a high performing employee. A performance language needs to include descriptions such as “analyze chemical elements and recommend new processes to synthesize rubber,” or “regularly work 10 to 12 hours each day,” or “work interactively with six to seven people, helping each other as the need arises.” Job requirements need to be explicit enough to define specific as well as general job requirements to allow accurate internal and external database searches. Organizations with published job requirements that are so general they could be used to describe a house pet, or so specific they could be used as a detailed performance appraisal, need to do some work. Using the Common Language To Define Applicant Skills Every applicant, whether internal or external, has been told to tailor his or her resume to the job and include key words that can be picked up by search engines. Doesn’t this seem a little silly to you? Searching through resumes “salted” with key words that may or may not have anything to do with real applicant skills? How many good people get passed over because they left out a key word? How many unqualified people get selected because they knew how to “pad” a resume? Like the job requirements, the full range of applicant skills need to be described using the performance language, otherwise recruiters will be forever pacing the recruiting beach with a metal detector searching for pocket change. Measuring Applicant Skills Accurately Forget traditional interviews, silly questions and get-to-know-you conversations. Forget using personality tests that do not predict job performance. The job of the recruiter is to determine whether the applicant has the requisite skills for the job, not if he or she is likeable or articulate. If recruiters insist on using ineffective tools, why not just go for truth in advertising? Wanted. Nice person with impressively written resume. Ability to field silly questions, produce articulate answers under pressure, and complete a test that does not predict job performance a plus. No actual job skills will be measured. Recruiters need to use only tools proven effective by selection science. Each candidate should be evaluated using the best validated tool for the purpose–role plays to measure interpersonal skills, cases and exercises to measure planning and problem solving skills, patterned motivational tests to measure job fit, and behavioral or situational interviews to measure and confirm everything else. The choice of tool, of course, depends on validating the tool against job content and job performance. Forget About Training You will have as much success correcting employee performance problems through training programs as you will have getting your significant other to change his or her unpleasant habits. By and large training does not work. True, well-meaning trainers talk about training effectiveness studies, but hard-copy evidence is as elusive as confirmed UFO sightings. Training works for transferring technical knowledge, but people don’t get smarter, they vigorously resist changing their behavior, and will go to war to defend their opinions. Training can make the good, better. But, training cannot fix a selection problem. Hire a weak performance link and you get a weak performance link. Conclusion If you want to improve the quality of your product you go to the engineering manager, if you want to improve the quality of your production, you go to your production manager and if you want to improve the quality of your financial reporting, you go to your financial manager. Who do you approach to improve the quality of your employees? Who in your firm is responsible for improving the quality of hire? Are you living through Groundhog Day all over again?


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