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Resumes show eligibility, but not suitability. Could a company called Saberr change that?

I basically spent the better part of the past year looking for a job and, predominantly, being frustrated in that process. I really, truly believe that Human Resources needs to re-think its internal structure —  and I think that filters to the recruiting process perhaps more than anything. It’s very sale-driven in its present iteration, and it completely ignores the idea (often) that if people don’t already possess skills, they couldn’t possibly acquire those skills. That runs counter to the entire idea of education, in some ways.

The problem is: what can be done? There are a lot of innovative solutions out there presently, most involving the concept of big data — notably, crunching data to figure out what type of candidate is a “best fit,” and then going out and looking for that type of candidate. The issue here is basically network effects. Until there’s a wide rebuke of the conventional resume/CV, everyone will still have one of those — so the data you’re crunching is based off that format, in all likelihood, and as Harvard Business Review notes, that format is designed primarily to show eligibility (a baseline) rather than suitability (a final candidate). That’s all fairly amazing if you consider how many marriages begin between two people who never thought they’d end up together. When you’re mostly screening for baseline qualifications, you can miss a lot of really qualified candidates just because they have 9 of the 12 skills needed. (Chances are they could learn the other three, and broader chances than that are that the job description is probably out-dated.)

Here’s a section from HBR:

Successful placement also greatly depends on “fittingness,” so recruiters need to take other off-resume elements into account. Saberr pays attention to applicants’ core values and specific behavioral traits, in order to create a metric mapper – the main element of their data-driven HR Strategy. Using algorithms to process fundamental values and behavioral compatibility, as well as diversity, the company predicts how strong the interpersonal relationship between the applicants and the potential employer can become. The company does this by administering a survey for applicants and the employer, which maximizes the potential match, and by looking at soft skills and moving away from more conventional credentials or past experiences. The algorithm allows the company to “project” how the new hires will fit into the environment.

I like this — I fully believe one aspect of HR should be “big data” (since ideally they control employee data anyway), and that section of HR should report in to the CIO or COO. They should work closely with recruiting in order to determine the aspects that really drive fit. Some places absolutely must have Type-A personalities. Some are better without. Some places are better with sweatshirt-clad coders who work till 11pm. Others are better with suit-wearing middle management types. Everything is different, and yet almost every company approaches things in a similar way: resumes, screening process, a couple of interviews, final rounds, offer. It should vary by organization.

(Sidebar: one thing I’ve never understood about the hiring process and jobs is that often, you meet with the hiring manager — but very rarely do you meet with the whole context of the team you’ll be working with. Knowing your manager is very important, for sure. But knowing the entire team is too. I feel like team-based interviews, while potentially costly, should really be a part of the final 1-2 stages of any legitimate recruiting process.)

This all goes back to one of the other things I’ve never understood, and tried to sort out in my own head using this blog on a few different occasions. HR minds tend to be very sharp, but also very compliance-focused and privacy-considering (which they often need to be). But those qualities don’t necessarily roll up with this idea of “finding talent wherever it roams,” which is what the bigger organization needs to do in order to get a strategic advantage. How to reconcile all that is confusing. I do think breaking up HR into four different units, with four different reporting paths, could help.

But it’s a bigger issue across the board — for the resume as a concept to die out, broader cultural touchstones will need to change. This could potentially happen with the advancement of the millennials (which sounds like a horror movie title), but probably won’t. Resumes will be around for a few more generations, and that’s where the beginnings of this problem lie. As resumes currently exist, they provide almost no context to the individual or what drives them — my wife used to joke that she would screen finance resumes and everyone would list “Personal Interests” as wine, running and fantasy football — and rather, they just list a series of accomplishments (which could be, and likely are, inflated to some extent). How is that the way we should be beginning the process of acquiring the people that will drive your business?

Anyone out there got any ideas of what to do with the initial — the resume — step in the process?

 

 

Ted Bauer

6 Comments

  1. Sorry, but as with most HR issues, I blame employers. It seems like regardless of what hoops workers/candidates jump through, it’s never enough. It’s as if employers intentionally wait for Jesus/wizards so they can push wages down. I wish there was a metric that showed the number of hires per candidate pool for each job posted by each employer. So, how many applicants does it take to finally fill each job posting? That would reveal just how “selective” employers are. Another great metric would show how many times each employer re-posts the same job, and for what reason.

  2. There are two major drivers to poor or delayed hiring, in my experience. One is economics. We live in what amounts to a permanent labor surplus. Argue the reasons for this all you want, the end result is the same. Labor is devalued, the costs of treating labor poorly are not as great, so if employees are not valued, candidates for employment are even less valued. If people are seen as disposable then treating them well through the process isn’t a priority, nor is expecting them to want to advance, so employers look for an exact match.

    The second reason is sociological. In the US we’re just conditioned to have the Lucky To Have A Job attitude. Employment is seen as a ‘favor’ of sorts, the fact that you’re being paid is just a nice bonus. It’s an attitude that goes back to the US roots in Puritanism and Calvinism, where work is seen as holy in and of itself, so a job is a chance to prove how godly you are. In Europe they had similar religions, but developed with a long history of feudalism and the workers knew damn well that, once things started going more capitalist, that if they didn’t get hold of the government and force some concessions from businesses, then businesses would get hold of the government and subjugate workers. Which is essentially what has happened in the US, because here was the land of possibility, the New World, where things were supposed to be ‘different’ but ended up the same; kleptocracy.

    A job is really a mutual exchange, and like any other exchange it’s supposed to be 100% voluntary and mutually beneficial. However, due to a permanent shortage of jobs, and the prevailing attitude in the US that employers ‘give’ you a job and you should be thankful for it, as if you’re not doing anything productive for them in return but really just mooching off them, this fundamentally hostile attitude toward labor persists, and these exchanges are not 100% voluntary. And this will persist so long as people are viewed as disposable. A very, very few businesses are starting to clue in and understand how to deal with employees. Those are the ones that have stopped harping on 9-5 clock punching, have loosened time off restrictions and offered more than the paltry few days most US employers offer, etc. Eventually they will out compete the dinosaur companies who treat their actual capital better than their human capital, but it will take a long, long time.

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