Have you ever had a date with someone who had recently been through a bad breakup? There’s a good chance they were nervous to go through the same thing again. You can practically see the fear in their eyes. In relationships, we call this sort of thing emotional baggage. And, it can be tough to overcome. What’s interesting is that companies can have emotional baggage too.
With companies, the baggage starts in the form of a bad hire. It’s a bad hire that happened long before they met you. It’s like an ex-spouse. It’s someone who is long gone, but whose emotional damage still remains. The company hasn’t forgotten them, years later.
You may wonder what exactly I’m talking about. Here’s an example. An interviewer may say to a job seeker, “We hired an entrepreneur once before. That person was really controlling. He was hard to work with. Ever since, I really don’t like hiring anyone who has ever been self-employed.” (Disclosure: Yes, this really happened.)
For a job seeker who’s currently self-employed, for example, this statement is a hard one to overcome. How can you combat worries about problems caused by an employee that no longer works at the company? In this example, it might be best to be friendly and understanding, and try to reassure the interviewer. Show them you can get along well with others. Quiet their fears.
In reality though, it’s possible that old employee wasn’t difficult because they had been self-employed at some point. Perhaps they were difficult because they are just a difficult person. Wouldn’t that make a little more sense?
These types of generalizations are biases, plain and simple. It’s like assuming that because you dated a chemist once who was very rigid, all chemists are rigid people. But, that’s not true. Each person has their own unique personality, with positive and negative features.
Just like in the world of dating, if you want to find your perfect match, you’ve got to stop looking at things through an old lens. You can’t assume every relationship won’t workout. Otherwise, you’ll never get anywhere. Similarly, you’ve got to judge each job seeker on their character and their individual experience. Don’t hold them up to a standard set by someone else long ago.
Ask the job seeker about their skills, and their past jobs. Ask them why they’re interested in the role. Learn about them. Find out if they will get along with your team. Evaluate them, based on what’s important today – not something that happened before. Try your best to look at them as a unique person.
If you can drop off your emotional baggage, you might just find that you pick up a great new hire. The more that biases drive your decision making process, the less you’re evaluating the current candidate. You’re allowing the old employee who isn’t even there anymore to continue to run the show.
It is becoming increasingly common for certain jobs to cluster in large cities within the U.S. You probably noticed it when Amazon picked their new headquarters. The cities that made the list were the usual suspects. And, it’s the same for other big businesses. Many are located on the coasts, in cities like New York, Boston, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
I’m beginning to see a trend of job seekers that are looking to relocate to these large markets. Their goal long term is to create career stability. They assume that being in a big city, they’ll have an easier time finding their next job. This thought process makes sense in today’s professional environment. Many people switch jobs every three to five years. Forty years ago, you would stay at a job until you’d retire, but sadly, this is no longer the case.
The thing that’s a bit odd is this. Many companies are demanding local candidates. You might even notice on some job postings the words, “Local candidates only.” I’ve seen many instances where a candidate has a positive phone screen with human resources. In the last five minutes of the call, the company will realize that the candidate isn’t currently living in their city. They plan to relocate. It is not unusual for a company to end the phone screen and to reject the candidate on location alone. They will say, “We have enough local candidates. We don’t need to consider people from other regions of the country.”
At first blush, many people assume the company is trying to save money on relocation expenses. But, I’m not sure that explains the full situation. Even when a candidate offers to relocate themselves, the companies don’t take the bait. Some hiring managers say that out of town candidates are more risky. The job seeker might not like the new city. But, isn’t everyone risky? I suspect that part of the issue is that it’s logistically more work to hire an out of town candidate. You have to plan in person interviews ahead more. Plane tickets must be booked. Hotel rooms must be reserved. The start date may be further in the future.
The candidate could move themselves first. But, quitting your existing job and moving to a new city where you have no connections is a big risk. The cities I mentioned are quite pricey. They aren’t a great place to be if you’re not going to have a stable paycheck.
I’m not sure what the solution, but, we’re one country. Landing a job in a new city should be easier than it is today. Companies, take more time to consider out of town candidates. Hiring managers, if your recruiter is mysteriously only presenting you with local candidates, find out more.
I saw the perfect profile for a recruiter recently. It said, “I am not a ninja / purple squirrel / unicorn hunter, nor someone who hires ‘rock stars.’ I am a strategic and tactical recruiter, meaning I partner with leaders and we hire – at scale, for the niche skills required to make the difference to a business.”
Have you ever heard of this phrase – “purple squirrel”? In the world of the job search, it is a reference to a hiring manager who wants to find the perfect applicant. They’re looking for that once in a lifetime candidate that will bring everything they want to their business and more. The person is often also referred to as a unicorn, a ninja, or a rock star.
The problem is this. This purple squirrel hiring strategy is completely unrealistic. It relies on an environment that no longer exists in 2019.
You may wonder what I mean. Well, think of it this way. The dot com crash happened in 2000. This is around the same time that Monster.com started to be the way companies hired. Other sites like LinkedIn, Indeed, and Glassdoor have also come onto the scene, but the process has remained largely the same.
Employers are able to input a large list of criteria and in return, they can find a candidate who has the qualities that they’re looking for. When the job market was terrible, this worked perfectly fine. You could upload a list of, say, thirty skills and get a handful of people who matched.
The issue today is, we’re in the middle of the best job market we’ve seen in fifty years. Unfortunately, many employers haven’t adjusted the way they hire. I have to think this is due in part to one thing. People who graduated from college around 2000 are forty years old now. They are hiring managers. And, for those that age, they’ve never truly experienced a job market where the company wasn’t in control.
They’re stuck on finding those perfect unicorns and it’s showing. The time to fill jobs is taking longer now than it did in the past. Employers are having a harder time finding the perfect person. That’s because job seekers have more choices.
So, what’s a company to do? Stop searching for the perfect candidate. Start looking for great candidates. Look for leaders. Look for motivated, dedicated, smart employees. Because, meeting the criteria on a checklist doesn’t measure how dedicated or excited a candidate may be.
You might be surprised, but a yellow squirrel can get the job done just as well as a purple one – maybe even better. Just because someone has a resume that’s non-traditional doesn’t mean they won’t fit a fit for the job or your organization. Take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Don’t stick to a checklist only approach. You’ll do yourself, your business, and your candidates a huge favor.
The job market is the best it has been in 50 years. You’ve heard that on the news. And, companies are struggling to find good candidates. There aren’t as many people available for work as there used to be. In other words, because the market is doing well, companies are hiring more. Because companies are hiring more, job seekers have more options.
The ironic thing is, when a company finds a great candidate that they want to hire, they’re still interviewing that candidate like it’s 2001. The company is putting the candidate through the paces, assuming they’re in control. One of the ways they do this is by hiring by consensus.
In the ‘good old days’ of job seeking, you might have three interviews. The first would be a phone screen with human resources. Then, you would have a phone interview with the hiring manager. Last, you would come in person and meet the hiring manager and a few others in a panel interview.
For many jobs, the days of a straight forward interview process are gone. Many hiring managers haven’t hired new employees in so long that they’re nervous to make the wrong choice. They don’t want it to be their fault if the candidate doesn’t work out.
So, what does the hiring manager do? Unfortunately, they force the candidate to meet everyone they can create a calendar invitation for. Recently, I have seen many, many job openings where the job seeker is interviewed ten to fifteen times for one job. They are interviewed by the boss, HR, the boss’ boss, the boss’ peers, the job seeker’s peers, the job seeker’s future employees, and sometimes even the person who left the job.
Fifteen job interviews doesn’t result in someone unearthing some important piece of information about a candidate. It is a way for the hiring manager to cover themselves in case the person doesn’t work out.
If you are a job seeker and you find yourself being asked to interview repeatedly for one job, you have a decision to make. You can refuse to do so many interviews. If you do this, you can rest assured that you will not receive a job offer. It doesn’t matter that the company is being both unreasonable and disrespectful of your time. It’s their process. If you want to play ball, it has to be by their rules. So, if you do want the job, you’ll have to go through the process.
But, I would take note of this disturbing trend. If you find yourself interviewing with a boss who is putting you through this experience, it is very likely a reflection on them. They may be a weak leader who is unwilling to accept responsibility for their own actions. It doesn’t mean they’re a bad person and you may even want to take the job. But, if you find yourself being hired by consensus, pay attention.
If you’ve interviewed lately, you know the first step of a job interview is a phone screen. After you apply for a job, a recruiter from the company will reach out to you. They’ll ask to setup a time to meet.
In the phone screen, the recruiter will ask predictable questions. They say, “Tell me about yourself.” Then, they’ll ask follow up questions. “Why are you interested in the job? Why are you looking for a job?” They may also ask how you heard about the job, or how much expertise you have in a certain area. And, they’ll ask how much money you want.
It’s pretty standard. The one question I have seen lately that is shocking however is this. At the very end of the interview, the recruiter will say, “After this call, can you email me a copy of your resume?” Read that again. “After this call, can you email me a copy of your resume?”
This seems like an odd question, right? What I’m getting at is this. Some recruiters are interviewing job applicants without having a copy of their resume. They aren’t downloading it ahead of time from the application. They are going into an interview cold, without knowing anything about the candidate. They’re asking random questions. They are completely and totally unprepared. And that is how they’re making important hiring decisions for the company.
As a candidate, I suppose you may want to start off an interview by checking to see that the recruiter has a copy of your resume. However, this question really seems like it may introduce an odd dynamic to the conversation.
HR leaders, if you are reading this, please take note. This is a genuine problem. I’ve observed many examples of this lately. If you’re a company, I know you want to hire the best people. And, you certainly don’t want to waste a candidate’s time. After all, candidates study for interviews. They memorize your job description. They scour the internet to learn about your company. They practice their answers to common interview questions. They prepare their own questions. And, often, they ask friends and family for help. This is a huge effort to go through for a recruiter to show up unprepared.
If you’re looking for a job, I don’t have a ton of great ideas for this problem. Honestly, the lack of accountability baffles me. And, companies are using these folks as the gate keepers. Sure, many recruiters are helpful. But, even one absent minded recruiter can really cause problems with an entire hiring process.
Companies, it’s past time that we hold ourselves to the same standards that we hold candidates to. It’s time to show up on time and prepared for our interviews. If we don’t have something we need in order to participate in an interview, we should ask for that piece of information before the interview begins. It’s step one.