Checkbox Hiring Doesn’t Lead to Innovation

Checkbox Hiring Doesn't Lead to InnovationWhen looking for a new job, it seems like 95% of the time people will only hire you to do the job you just did, and the other 5% of the time will provide an equal mix of once in a lifetime opportunities and jobs you shouldn’t take.

So why aren’t organizations more innovative in their hiring processes?

First, recruiters are tasked with providing candidates for interviews who meet certain education and experience requirements set out by the hiring manager. It quickly becomes a case of “you get what you ask for, not what you need.”

Recruiters provide a set of potential recruits that tick the boxes and look very similar on paper. Time constrained hiring managers then interview the people they are provided with and figure they are a “smart” hire because they have the education and experience. This generally means hiring the guy or gal that has done the same job before, preferably at a larger or more respected company.

Need a job?For example, a restaurant will hire a waiter who has been a waiter before, even if the only reason he is available is that he was a crap waiter every other place he worked. In our hiring system, someone who has experience almost always gets the job, regardless of ability and capacity for growth. Meanwhile the gal who dreams of being a waitress, whose passion for the profession would make her an amazing waitress as she strives to create the perfect customer experience, never gets hired. Where does this leave the person with amazing potential but no direct experience in the position they seek?

They are confined to finding that desperate manager with an entry level opening who just had three people turn down their offer and has nobody left in their pipeline.

We hire people the same way we hire an office chair:

  • Four wheels? – check
  • Tilt? – check
  • Height adjustment? – no
  • …and on to the candidate who might have a height adjustment built-in

Consequently we end up with amazing consumer marketers working as engineering firm accountants because they started out in accounting for an engineering firm straight out of university and now can only get accounting jobs. How much stronger would our economy be if we could find an innovative way to allocate our human resources to those places where their star potential would be unleashed?

Now granted, some companies will allow someone from accounting to move to marketing within the company, but even in those companies that do facilitate this type of movement, the great majority really occurs at the managerial level with individuals the organization views as skilled managers with the potential to move up in the organization. So where does this leave the staff accountant whose real talent is not management but something else like consumer marketing?

Frustrated Hiring ManagerUsually this person is doomed to remain an unhappy accountant, potentially seeking an MBA that may or may not successfully allow them to transition over to the world of marketing.

So why don’t we change the hiring process?

Well, change is hard, and checklists are easy. “I don’t have time to interview as it is, I’ve got work to do! I certainly don’t have time to think about creating a better way to hire. My list of questions works pretty well.”

The problem is that people can only look at how candidates perform that have actually been hired in terms of how long they stay, and similar metrics. We cannot measure how much more we would have benefited if we had hired someone else that we didn’t even consider.

But, if we continue to hire the same type of people that we’ve always hired in the same way that our competitors continue to hire, then we will never achieve a business strategy innovation.

So what’s the answer?

There is no magic answer, but here are some guidelines to consider:

  1. Have recruiters identify and provide at least one or two candidates who show passion but don’t have the experience or education tick boxes checked
  2. Don’t focus on what someone has done, have them show you what they can do
  3. Think about the key tasks and challenges of the position
    • Have the candidate tell you, or even better, show you how they would approach them (remember lingo and document formatting can be learned – do they understand what’s involved?)
  4. Ask them what job they would really like to do in the organization
    • Regardless of what job they’ve applied for

    • Maybe even go so far as telling them that the job they applied for has been filled and see how they react (What job would they choose to interview for?)
  5. Ask them if they think they are qualified to do that other job and if not why not
  6. Movie producers don’t interview actors, they have them audition
    • Use appropriate role plays

    • Have candidates present if doing presentations are part of their role
    • Give them a small piece of real world work to do to see both how they approach it and how well they execute it
    • Have candidates pitch you your product as if you were a potential customer (even if it is not a sales role)

Click here to download my new white paper on ‘Harnessing the Global Talent Pool to Accelerate Innovation’

Final Thought: There is one other side benefit to hiring people with the passion and capability for the job, but not the experience, they’ll usually take less money upfront and won’t be turned off by probationary periods.


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Braden KelleyBraden Kelley is a Social Business Architect and the author of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire from John Wiley & Sons. Braden is also a popular innovation speaker and trainer, and advises companies on embedding innovation across the organization and how to attract and engage customers, partners, and employees.

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4 Responses to Checkbox Hiring Doesn’t Lead to Innovation

  1. Pingback: Checkbox Hiring Doesn’t Lead to Innovation | Braden Kelley

  2. Rafael Kireyev says:

    Really, we need to change the principles of recruitment and it could become one of the cornerstones of anti-crisis measures.

  3. This article is so true. How many times have you met recruiters who didn’t ask questions and just assumed they knew. Remember “I know…” are the two most dangerous words, especially when they don’t ask. Every time the highlights on a resume are considered exclusively for considering a candidate’s fit, unfortunately a major disservice is done to the company, candidate, and the recruiter’s professional development. Each time there is an interview, but questions still aren’t asked, and answers assumed. Opportunity and innovation are killed in the cradle.

  4. Pingback: Checkbox Hiring Doesn’t Lead to Innovation, (Innovation-Thinking)

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