Let this serve as an open letter to human resource professionals, hiring managers, recruiters and anyone involved with the interview process.
Last week’s jobs report clearly shows that the U.S. job market is on fire. We have the highest level of employment and the lowest level of unemployment on record. It is reported that there are more jobs available than job seekers. Nobody in the executive suite can deny that there is a brutal war for talent. In certain sectors, the battle to hire is fierce. There are shortages of talented professionals with specialized skills, such as computer engineers in Silicon Valley. Despite the lack of available candidates, companies are acting as if they are in a bubble. They still cling to their old-fashioned ways of hiring, which clearly do not work any longer.
Ridiculously long job descriptions, infuriating, glitchy and invasive applications, interview cycles that drag on for far too long, ghosting and lousy offers compound the problem. What I’d humbly suggest is that professionals involved with hiring should immediately do the following:
Give someone a chance—it’s as simple as that. There are so many good, smart, talented and motivated people that need a break. For a variety of reasons (mostly out of their control), these great people find themselves between jobs. Because they don’t neatly fit into the razor-thin silos that the companies demand of applicants, these experienced professionals are ignored and dismissed.
The vast majority of people in between jobs possess top-notch skills, have achieved success in their prior positions, demonstrated job stability and can offer supportive references. These qualifications don’t matter to the close-minded and bureaucratic gatekeepers. If the robot-screening tools kick out a résumé, the small-minded absolutists will conclude that the technology must be right. There are thousands of fantastic people who are left out in the cold. Their résumés don’t even make it to the hiring managers.
I understand that you have a job description with 73 bullet points that absolutely “need” to be met. It’s ridiculous to believe that if the new hire, Employee No. 32,003, doesn’t have all of the required skills listed in the job description, the company will close down tomorrow. Maybe I’m crazy, but 73—or even 23, for that matter—bullet points seem a little excessive. Perhaps, you’re asking for too much and don’t realize what’s going on in the marketplace?
If you stick with your old ways, jobs will stay open for so long that employees—in the division with an open head count—will grow frustrated with all of the extra work. If you won’t increase salaries for incoming candidates with the right skills, they won’t accept your offer and will go somewhere else or stay right where they are. Without the help from a new employee, the people in the group will become disgruntled, and since it’s a hot market, they’ll seek out new jobs. The best usually leave first, as they have plenty of offers and opportunities to choose from. This trend will further exacerbate matters.
In this current tight job market, you’re left with only a few options. It boils down to three choices:
1. Ease up on the over-the-top requirements to gain more candidates.
2. Offer significantly more money to entice people to join your company.
3. Give people a chance that don’t meet every single bullet point on the job description.
With respect to No. 3, all that I am asking out of your life is to set aside a few minutes to give the person a chance to prove themselves to you. Hit the pause button on the cold robot screeners. Ask an experienced professional to read the nontraditional résumés. If a person has a solid background, possesses some of the skills and has other interesting talents, how could it hurt to at least consider her? If there is even a remote chance that she could quickly grow into the role, why not start with a brief phone call? Given the tight job market, it’s a prudent business decision, in addition to just being a nice human being. If she sounds good, set up an in-person interview.
You would be surprised by how many terrific people there are who are smart, capable and motivated. I speak with them everyday. They may not have all of the exact skills, but I would bet you they will be much more driven than the person who has the right background. This person will appreciate the break you’re giving them and run through brick walls for you.
Wouldn’t the corporate world be a better place if we became more humane and caring? You may not hire all of the applicants who aren’t perfect matches, but don’t you want to work for a company that cares and tries to give someone a shot at the job? Corporations brag about their socially conscious activities they claim to do. Isn’t giving people—who desperately need and want a job—just a tiny fraction of your time one of of the most socially responsible things you can do? If they get the job, it will radically change the life of the person and their family overnight. How great would you feel if you were the one to make this happen?
The answer to the labor shortage is so simple. Keep an open mind and allocate just a little bit of your time to speak with people who are going through hard times and don’t perfectly fit the exact mold. It’s self-serving, as you’re helping your company compete to win the war for talent by thinking differently.
But wait, there is one more thing. Remember that candidates are human beings with feelings, emotions, pride and families. They deserve better than to be treated like a product, ghosted, talked down to, ignored, bullied and shortchanged, with respect to compensation. Trust me. As a recruiter who has seen this play out over and over again, one day you will be in their shoes and you’ll also want someone to give you a chance when you desperately need it.