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HR in 2023 - recruiting: where creativity goes to die

Brian Sommer Profile picture for user brianssommer January 4, 2023
Recruitment challenges and additional reading for the savvy CHRO in 2023 (and beyond).


In part two of this extended look at tough HR issues to sink your teeth into in 2023 - part 1 here -  attention turns to recruitment...

The problem: There is some really stupid behavior out there when it comes to recruiting. Job posting language can remain virtually unchanged for decades while the workforce and employment landscape remains highly dynamic. The new definition of insanity (with a hat tip to Albert Einstein) is when Recruiting keeps asking for a specific skill set and getting poor results. 

For example, I’m amazed at how many firms want Accounting Managers with 8-12 years of accounting experience but must also have 1-2 years of Big 4 experience. Why are recruiters looking for that ancient job experience with a Big 4 and do these recruiters know what people do the first year or two with a Big 4 firm? This extra requirement (i.e., the Big 4 experience) knocks out lots of great candidates when the position they’re looking at won’t ever require them to do any of the work that a new audit hire would have done (e.g., tons of photocopying schedules and pulling documentation). This requirement is an anachronism. It is also dismissive of a lot of great candidates and it hurts a firm’s ability to hire people quickly. 

What’s Needed: Recruiting is still hung up on outdated and increasingly irrelevant concepts. For example, recruiting teams still rely on resume scanning technology that mostly looks for explicitly stated work experiences and NOT skills. Yes, some vendors are building taxonomies and inference engines to figure out what skills a candidate actually possesses. These new tools are needed now. 

We need to re-sequence how applications and resumes are processed. Too many firms let an ATS (applicant tracking system) or resume scoring tool discard all but a handful of applicants. Most of this (highly incorrect) processing is simply keyword matching based and is discarding lots of great candidates. Instead, employers should run ALL applicants through a skills inference tool first to see which applicants possess the deepest, widest, most scalable and flexible skillsets. Those are the candidates that should move forward. 

The other problem with ATS and recruiting tech/processes is that they are designed to look backward at what someone has already done NOT look forward to see what skills the candidates possesses and understand what else they could do.  Businesses that hire someone to do what they are already doing are going to have a hard time attracting talent. The ATS is selecting people who will be asked to make a lateral move. That’s not compelling to the applicant. Organizations need to assess the range of skills and capabilities a person possesses so that they hire people who change as frequently, grandly and effectively as the business landscape and employer must change. For firms that want to be resilient & flexible, HR needs to hire people that match that need. Hiring people who only do one thing (i.e., one trick ponies) won’t deliver that intended organizational agility. 

We need HR technology vendors to radically reimagine what recruiting (and other processes/functions like succession planning) look like when SKILLS not job titles are the key selection evaluation criteria. 

Resource: None noted, but I sure would like to see something. 

Other homework for the smart CHRO

  1. HR readers should check out Peter Capelli’s recent HBR piece on how financial accounting screws up HR. This piece helps explain the rationale behind a number of HR policies and practices and how certain business decisions will affect the workforce and the bottom line. For example, have you thought why it’s so much easier to get capital to buy new HR software instead of hire a person? One of these is a capital expenditure and the other comes with a number of current period expenses. The examples in the piece will surprise you and make you rethink some HR decisions, policies and technologies.
  2. You might want to checkout Handshake. Handshake is designed to help upcoming college graduates get their first job. Why do we need this? Almost all other recruiting sites and tools are best used by people with pre-existing employment experience. Also, there’s variability in how effective some colleges’ placement offices are.  Additionally, potential employers can’t possibly recruit from all of the hundreds and hundreds of colleges/universities out there. As a result, some great candidates are never seen by employers. I can’t believe this hasn’t been there before. (see this recent Forbes piece on Handshake).
  3. It’s time to acquire or develop an alumni system to track all of those former employees. In fact, this tool should look just like an HRMS but one that doesn’t necessarily need a payroll component. Let’s face it, the best people who could fill so many of those open positions out there are your own former employees. They know your products/services, your business practices and processes, and, they’re quite familiar with your company culture. But, you can’t rehire them now as you:
    1. Don’t know how to reach them (because your firm chose to shun them)
    2. Have a policy forbidding the rehiring of former employees
    3. Still don’t know why they voluntarily left in the first place. 
    4. Will want to put them in exactly the same role and with the same boss they had before when they left your firm for something different
  4. Inorganic growth is an ever-present and growing phenomenon but few HR teams ever put policies, systems, training, etc. in place in anticipation of these events. In a short Harvard Business Review piece (November-December 2022, pg. 22), we read:

An analysis post-acquisition showed that organically hired employees left their new firms, on average, after 2.3 years of service, while acquired employees left after just 1.6 years. And turnover among acquired employees rose with seniority and education and was highest in critical technical, executive, business development, and sales roles – precisely the types of employees acquirers most want to retain.

My take

That list above should take your firm some time to work through.  If, by some miracle, you can knock all of that out, here a couple of other challenges to work on:

  • What can be done to improve the Recruiting and Employment Brands of the firm?
  • How do we get everyone, firmwide, to be better at collaborating with each other and delivering better business results?
  • Should we insist on better business communications (e.g., grammar, punctuation, complete sentences, etc.) especially when communicating with third parties? Why should chatbots have better communication skills than our own employees?

And for all of those HR vendors out there: Can we ever get a real, global payroll solution? Pretty please!

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