11 Mar 2020

Modern Hiring Doesn’t Find The Right People For the Job

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We focus on two things when hiring. First, find the best people you can in the world. And second, let them do their work. Just get out of their way.” —Matt Mullenweg

I personally hired over 100 people in the course of my 35-year career beginning as an application coder and ending as the Director of the computer operations department of a multi-billion-dollar company. I’ve also observed over a thousand people and 100 managers go through the hiring process during that time span. Despite classes, books, schooling, and mentoring, finding and hiring a person qualified for a position, and more importantly, a fit for the company culture, is a crapshoot at best. Hiring the wrong person can be a disaster.

Hiring is often one of the most agonizing things—next to firing—that any manager does. The whole process is filled with so much importance, at least on the surface, that it can be beyond stressful. In fact, making a wrong hiring decision can be seen as a major failure that can haunt a manager’s career for years.

Unfortunately, it is all but impossible to know how well a person will work out until she is actually on the job – producing – and has been doing so for at least six months. There are some techniques you can use to try and improve the odds of choosing the right person for the position, but it’s just a matter of luck. This is especially true if you use the traditional methods of hiring using resumes or agents, also known as headhunters, to find people.

There are many times when a candidate has had the perfect resume, interviewed exceptionally well, had excellent references that all checked out, and then turned out to be a babbling idiot on the job. This is true in all directions on the organization chart—up, down, and sideways.

On the other hand, some of the best people on my teams didn’t have a resume, came dressed to the interview in casual clothes, and didn’t provide any references.

A manager is expected to make a perfect hiring decision based on reading a resume, performing 1 to 3 interviews, and making a few phone calls to references.

Talk to your average manager and they will tell you that they have the process of hiring mastered. You’ll hear how they start with the job description; skim resumes to discard those who are unqualified for the position, interview people, call references, and then make a hiring decision.

Let’s look at this process in more detail. Typically, the procedure begins by placing an advertisement on various job-hunting sites, engaging a couple of headhunters, and perhaps reaching out to a few fellow managers in other companies. Typically, dozens or even hundreds of resumes will be received for any position.

There had been times when I’ve advertised for a technical position and received anywhere from 500 to 1,000 resumes in a period of a single week. Of course, it is impossible to review or even quickly scan over that many resumes. To reduce this to a manageable level, some companies resort to keyword matching services to reject resumes that that don’t show specific skills, experiences, or educational levels.

Ideally, a resume is a summary of a person’s experience, skills, and education. The funny thing is, none of that has much to do with whether a person will work out. Obviously, a person’s skills and knowledge are significant, but not vital. A person can always be trained and mentored to learn new things.

The most important question to answer when considering bringing someone on the team is, “Are they a good fit for the culture, company, and team members?” None of those things are mentioned on the resume, so why is the resume given so much importance in the hiring process?

The interview is supposed to fill the gap between the dry facts on the resume and the actual person, their capabilities, and personality. According to the theory, a manager should, in the course of less than an hour, talk to a person face-to-face and make a conclusion as to whether that person is the ideal candidate for the job. Some managers use phone interviews to screen out more candidates before taking the time to do them in person.

Quite a few managers don’t bother to call references. Sometimes the human resources department performs reference checks, but these tend to be of questionable value. A few managers—very few—actually reach out to references, have real conversations with them, and find out useful information.

Unfortunately, in today’s litigious world, if you say something that causes someone not to get a job, you and your company can be sued. Thus, reference calls are often exercises in futility. You have to read between the lines and grasp at nonverbal cues to fill in the information that the person you’re talking to can’t tell you for fear of a lawsuit.

This is how modern businesses in the United States hire most of the time. They put out advertisements, receive a pile of resumes, filter out the perceived junk, interview the rest, call some references (sometimes), and make a decision. Sometimes I wonder if rolling dice or flipping a coin would make more sense.

This whole process for finding and hiring a person is, to be frank, unworkable, and it tends to find low-quality people.


It sounds grim, doesn’t it? I’ve seen this method of hiring used repeatedly. On the surface, it appears to work and can even occasionally result in a good hiring decision. Unfortunately, many times this process results in less than satisfactory candidates getting hired at the expense of well-qualified people. Everyone suffers from a bad hiring decision, but the process just described does little to help find the right person for the position. What it does do, though, is cover everyone’s behind. If the hire doesn’t work out, everyone involved can say they went through the motions and followed procedure.

Believe me, this is a heck of a lot of work to find someone who isn’t the right candidate for the position. The worst part about it—from a manager’s point of view—is it can be difficult to fire someone once they have been hired and are beyond the typical 90-day probationary period.

Even worse, hiring the wrong person puts stress on that person—she got very excited about the new position, left her old job, maybe even moved across the country, told all her friends, and started to build up relationships in the new workplace. She did all this only to find out—and it is usually a complete shock—that she isn’t the right person for the job.

This whole process is not fair to anyone involved. Those who get rejected because they didn’t have the perfect resume don’t get the opportunity to at least be considered for the position. The people who are hired because they have a good resume or who interview well but are not qualified cause harm in the form of lost opportunities, reduced profits and discouragement to the rest of the staff.

There must be a better way. Luckily, there is a much better method of finding and hiring people; unfortunately, it’s generally not taught in any schools and not covered in very many classes.

The answer is networking.

The most successful way to hire quality people is to reach out to your network of contacts. If you’ve done a reasonable job at maintaining those contacts and staying up to date, you might be surprised what you get back.

We’ll talk about network in detail in the next installment of this article series.

Originally published in the book How to be a Good Manager and Supervisor, by Richard Lowe Jr.

Richard Lowe Jr

Richard Lowe Jr

Owner and Senior Writing at The Writing King
Richard is the Owner and Senior Writer for The Writing King, a bestselling author, and ghostwriter. He's written and published 63 books, ghostwritten 20+ books, as well as hundreds of blog articles.
Richard Lowe Jr

@richardlowejr

Professional Ghostwriter, author and writing coach
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