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The Hiring Process is Broken

Yeah I know, not exactly a shocking observation. We’ve all been through horrific interviewing processes, and even the Wall Street Journal is writing about people who got into a job only to realize it wasn’t what they were promised. Clearly, we have a problem.

The question is, why?

There are multiple answers to that question, and I want to try and break them down by drawing on the experiences I have had, as well as the ones I’ve heard about from many, many friends and acquaintances..

I will say this though, I do believe the majority of people are, finally, starting to understand that a job interview is a two way street. The employer has the job, and they control the offer, but the interviewee comes in trying to figure out whether they even want the job too. I’m not entirely sure the majority of employers get that yet, but I think more and more professionals do understand that they are interviewing the company just as much as the manager is interviewing them.

And yet, the process is still broken in obvious ways.

First off, as the link above makes clear, I don’t believe anyone gets an honest evaluation about what a job is until after they get in and start doing it. Over the years, I’ve changed jobs probably more often than a typical person my age, and I have never, ever, been able to look back after the first two weeks even and say that the job is exactly what was described during the interview process. Not once. I don’t know many people who can say their experience is any different.

Now does that make every hiring manager I’ve ever talked to a liar? I don’t believe most of them meant to lie about it. (A couple I do wonder about though…)

No, what is more likely is that the company doing the hiring has a problem. Either they need to hire because there is no one in the job currently, and you wind up talking to the person who just needs someone to do it, but has not done that work themselves, or occasionally you meet with someone else who does the same job, but is so overwhelmed because the team is shorthanded that they don’t really want to tell you all of the “challenges”, for fear of this process taking forever! Help desk jobs often end up with this conundrum. The people managing first level support aren’t on the front line of things, and the ones who are, are overwhelmed. So you’ll hear about some of the challenges with the technology, and maybe some training of users that hasn’t been kept up, etc. No one tells you that some of the users might just be reprehensible human beings, prone to verbal outbursts directed at anyone they interact with.

You only learn about them through first-hand experience.

On the other hand, when the manager doesn’t have anyone in a position, they are not always so clear on what the challenges really are, and in some cases, they don’t really have a clear vision for where it’s going. Again, they need a body. They know that much. They know what work isn’t getting done while they look for that body. That becomes the job, for now. It also usually picks up all the work that wasn’t getting done that the manager didn’t even know about, which is why those responsibilities never came up.

The next time you’re in an interview and get asked the always popular “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” question. Try turning it around.

Where do you see the person you hire for this position in five years?

I’d be willing to bet they don’t really have an answer. That’s telling.

Secondly, there is always the possibility that you are competing for the job with someone internal. That’s fine, but you owe it to the candidate to be honest about that, especially if the person will report to this new hire. That creates two massive failures. First, it creates an odd interview process. I once interviewed to manage a training team, and didn’t meet any of the people who I would manage during the process. That’s weird, and a huge red flag. (As it turned out, I was not offered the job, and I wasn’t sure I would’ve taken it)  It also creates a relationship that starts out awkward, only one party doesn’t know about it. Don’t do that to people.

The third situation that creates problems is what I like to refer to as the CYA hiring process. This is the one where you have to run everything through such a mind-boggling bureaucracy that the process becomes a death march. Let’s see if this rings any bells:

  • The job is generally posted for 30-60 days before anyone gets called back, to allow plenty of time to get a wide range of applicants.
  • The resumes are filtered through HR first, to avoid any potential bias. First with an automated tool, then by HR staff)
  • HR runs through the initial interviews. Only those deemed “worthy” are then passed to the hiring manager. (The HR staff member is usually unable to accurately describe the position as well)
  • The hiring manager schedules one on one interviews to find the cream of the crop candidates.
  • Those are then brought in for more wide-ranging interviews with everyone on staff who feels a need to have input on this hire, so no one is left out of the process.
  • Eventually, all of that feedback is gathered, usually in the weeks after this interview, and a decision is made.
  • An offer is, finally, made, 4-6 months after the initial application.

The thing is, by the time you go through this process, one you’ve clearly identified yourself as an inefficient workplace, and two, the really great candidates probably already found another position.

So you pick among what’s left after you’ve marched them all through the jungle, so to speak. That’s just great.

That’s the direct effect of these ridiculously long hiring process. There’s also usually another nasty side effect. The process goes on so long, that someone ends up doing the job in the interim. Sometimes they do it well, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they applied for the permanent job they’ve been doing well for months, and don’t get it. Sometimes they’ve changed the job in the mean time. Then you end up with all three of these situations in one. The job you interviewed and hired for isn’t the same, you’ve got an awkward situation with the person who’s been doing it, and you wound up with a less than ideal candidate because you waited too long. It’s like the bad hiring trifecta.

That’s no way to run a business.

Yet, it’s what we see over and over again. I have to ask, again, why? Why has the hiring process become such a cluster of misinformation, mismanaged expectations, poor communication and outright rudeness? I have some thoughts on that, but I will save them for another post. What are your thoughts? Do you have any interviewing nightmares to share?

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