“WANTED: self-starter, highly energetic, entrepreneurial spirit.” Set aside the reality that what this job posting wants is to fill a 100% commission sales job, does anyone really consider the wording of their ads? Energetic employees are certainly an asset, but it seems a bit of a stretch to expect that quality simply by asking for it. For all its seeming clarity, “self-starter” can also be ambiguous, alternately being characterized as a good thing when hidden behind a fancier euphemism like ‘spearheaded’, or treated as a rhetorical pariah in an era when the ability to get up to speed and contribute quickly has become the rule. And it seems that entrepreneurial spirit can mean whatever the user wants it to mean. It’s a fine attribute, to be sure. For an entrepreneur. Not for someone who is going to be absorbed into a corporate culture. I realize companies talk a lot about shifting the paradigm or changing everything or trashing the proverbial box, but only a rare few actually walk that talk.
So, where does that leave you in your search for energetic, motivated, free thinkers? In the HR version of a Vegas craps table. Many of you are familiar with research that up to half of all resumes have some measure of creative license, usually in predictable areas. Technology has made this creative license much easier to root out and consequences for lying can be career-ending. Unfortunately, technology has not gotten to the point where reviews on people are as readily available as write-ups about restaurants, local businesses, and products but it there are tools that can eliminate some of the guesswork.
Some companies love assessments and use them for both pre-hire decision-making as well as for coaching current employees and assessing future leaders. Other firms see them as one more expense. But when articles on how to reduce turnover are as common as cat videos, that is solid evidence that the hiring process is not perfect. Assessments are particularly useful in determining job fit. By nature, they will provide you with more information about candidates than resumes and interviews can provide; they can reveal things about current employees that are difficult to detect in the typical workplace. Imagine being able to understand what gets people going each day, what truly motivates them, how they like to be managed, and so forth.
People use two criteria in making decisions: screening and evaluation. Screening criteria is the broad brush – I need people with X number of years experience in Y industry, preferably with Z level of education. Evaluation criteria gets into the nuts and bolts, and weighs the strengths and weaknesses of candidates against one another. Almost any hiring system already does that. Unless someone lies on a resume and it takes a while to catch it. Or they strike all the right notes in the interviews but are tone deaf after hiring.
Assessments fill a third category, the behaviors and traits you are likely to see from each individual and their interests. It’s not enough to know if someone can do the job and how that person will do it; a good assessment will answer if the individual wants to do the job. How many of you thought you had the perfect candidate and six months later one of you is saying “this isn’t working out.” In a relationship, you’ll lost some time and maybe a little heartache; in business, those setbacks cost money. Imagine the hiring process as a cost-saver; your CFO will notice and chances are, others will hear about it, too.
If you prefer simply tweaking the process without assessments, you can do that but do you really want to be a copywriter and how often do you expect to strike gold? If you want snappier job ads, eliminating jargon and buzzwords seems like a good start. I doubt many lasting relationships were founded on cheesy lines and the problem with being unique is that when everyone is doing it or trying to do it, the purpose is defeated. And there is still no guarantee that you will find someone who is a fit for the job or for the company’s culture, and you’re still stuck rolling the dice on a resume, interviews, and whatever can be learned from references. But that’s me.