Archive for August, 2010

Hiring and Social Media

August 30th, 2010 No comments

Last week German legislators introduced a bill to limit how employers could use publicly available information about candidates in their hiring decisions.  Although I have personal sympathies with the intent of the bill (more below), it’s ultimately a futile exercies.

Beyond the philosophical argument against this bill, there are the practical difficulties:

  • How will the German government differentiate between private social networking and job social networking? You can link your personal Twitter account to your LinkedIn account-does that put your whole LinkedIn profile out of bounds?  Lines will only become more blurry.
  • Candidates will have virtually no way to know if social media was consulted in their hiring decision.
  • How much enforcement resources will actually be devoted to this? If I were a German voter, I’d be disappointed if it were a lot-the government should have better things to do with its money.

From my perspective as an American this is all fairly moot, as I think our job market is far too neoliberal for something like this to ever pass.

One other point. As a I said above, I actually agree on some level with the intent behind this bill.  Social media is a poor evaluative tool in the hiring process. Lurking on someone’s Facebook page is akin to eavesdropping on conversations in a restaurant: at best you get a snapshot of someone’s life.  You simply don’t get enough information to draw strong conclusions about people.

So to recruiters and HR people that use social media as an informal reference check: please stop, you’re making us look like nosy fools.

Categories: hiring, hr Tags:

Hiring Transparency, ctd

August 27th, 2010 2 comments

I’ve written about transparency in the hiring process before, and this post lays out simple things recruiters can do to ensure candidates know what to expect and when.

Two things always strike me about lists like this:

  1. It really should be simple to have an easy to understand hiring process, shouldn’t it?
  2. An undervalued skill needed for effective hiring is project management

Since the first point is fairly self evident, I’ll expand a little on the second. The general thrust of the post is that it’s important to clearly articulate the job and the hiring process, and provide regular updates.  Sounds an awful lot like project management to me.

As recruiters, I don’t think we’ve done enough to build these skills.  And I think it does us a disservice-we tend to think that our work is all about a successful hire, and the way we get there isn’t as important.  Hence a lot of sentiments towards us like the ones in the comments section to this post (via TS).

Categories: hiring, recruiting Tags:

Education Matters

August 11th, 2010 2 comments

I’ve been struck with a case of writer’s block for some reason or another.  It may be because I decided I needed to write the hell out of this article since it left such a strong impression on me, but for whatever reason I haven’t found the right inspiration.

So a breakdown of our current unemployment by the BLS, nicely represented graphically by Matt Yglesias, nicely crystallized a few loose thoughts I had on the subject of education. Yglesias’ simple bar graph of the differences in unemployment is striking – the Great Recession is so different for people with degrees than it is for those without.

My personal experience drives this home for me (as stories about ourselves often do).  I was laid off from a great job last year, and experienced a bit of the anxiety and uncertainty of being unemployed. But I can’t claim much kinship with the long term unemployed, because I was unemployed for almost exactly 6 weeks. Good luck explains a lot of that, but I also have a bachelor’s degree, and work in the services sector. Exactly the kind of person that our new economy favors.

I struggle with the common idea that a degree has intrinsic value beyond the knowledge it should represent. A finance director I used to work with summed it up nicely when he said (roughly) “completing a degree shows drive and commitment, which are important attributes for a financial analyst.”  He then dismissed a candidate who had the right experience, interviewed well, and for whom the only reservations were the lack of a degree, and an apparent lack of interest in completing one.

I won’t argue with that sentiment because I agree that spending 2, 4, or more years completing a degree takes drive and commitment. But I don’t think the converse is true, that those without degrees are lacking these things. Using degrees as a proxy for these and other intangibles is lazy, and has uncomfortable implications around race and achievement.

Of course this is a complex issue, and I don’t have any real answers.  But I think it’s important that recruiters and HR folks think long and hard about what we’re actually trying to get from educational requirements.  They’re a blunt instrument at best.

Update (8/17): a friend who’s looking for work just had an interview cancelled because she doesn’t have a BA. She’s been working on completing it while working full time, so I’d submit that it shows she’s extra committed. She’s been working in accounting and finance for 10 years. Does the fact that this company noticed her BA is pending change anything about the relevance of her experience? Nope.

Managing People

August 9th, 2010 No comments

There is a lot of received wisdom around how to build a successful career, and one of the most common is that promotion to a leadership role is a requirement professional growth.  I’m skeptical.

This postfrom the Bayt blog (via Claudia) managed to get me nodding in agreement one sentence:

“…successful management requires skills entirely separate from the job skills that got you promoted.”

And irritated the next:

“In all likelihood, you have demonstrated these skills during the course of your career in order to secure the promotion in the first place.”

 Although it’s kind of obvious, I don’t think people realize that managing others performing a set of tasks is very different than actually performing those tasks.  Keeping people motivated, setting expectations, managing consequences are things you simply don’t have to do as an individual contributor.

Hence my frustration with the second sentiment.  HR folks and people in management roles conflate high performance with management potential, and they’re just two different things.  I can’t know if this particular person has leadership skills, but he or she certainly doesn’t seem to have thought much about it.  It’s just a part of advancing in the company.

What’s particularly concerning about this feeling that management = career growth is that it often elides the question of whether management is for everyone.  I’ve seen numerous examples in my career of people that were seen as good individual contributors, were promoted to leadership roles, and then failed. And they often took months and even years to rebuild their self confidence. 

The solution is pretty simple: you don’t have to manage others to be a successful, strong contributor. If you want to manage people, great. Let’s help prepare you. If you don’t, great. Let’s help make sure you stay challenged in your job.

None of this is helpful for this particular person, of course.  Theyr’e in the job-I hope they figure it out, and that the management thing works out.  That’s all I can do.

Categories: career, hr Tags: , ,

Gender and the Future Workforce

August 5th, 2010 No comments

I serve on an advisory panel for the Seattle University Career Services team, and this summer the panel was asked for our thoughts on the imminent gap between college graduates and jobs requiring degrees.  That Seattle U takes the time to think about these things is a big part of why I enjoy working with them.

I had a hard time not being a skeptic though, because this crisis just doesn’t ring true to me.  Setting aside the fact that this has apparently been looming for decades, I also think it misses an important fact: people aren’t necessarily going to retire the way they have in the past.  I think it’s likely that people will hit 65, stop working full time, and pick up part time or project work from time to time.  Plenty of others agree with me.

On the other hand, I found this article in the Atlantic Monthly about another trend in college completion very compelling. In it, Hanna Rosin details the ways that secondary educational achievement for me is lagging behind that of women.  It’s long, but well worth a read.

Since it’s such a big topic, I’ll focus on one thing here:

The attributes that are most valuable today—social intelligence, open communication, the ability to sit still and focus—are, at a minimum, not predominantly male. In fact, the opposite may be true.

We constantly hear about how the future of our country is a knowledge-based economy, and Rosin puts her finger nicely on what that means with these two sentences.  Although much of the discussion we hear is about educational attainment being the key to success, I’d argue that looking for degrees is really a proxy for seeking these kinds of skills.  In turn, the way that we as recruiters screen for these skills will become increasingly important.

A former colleague that worked on diversity hiring once joked that he would get a perverse pleasure in being able to say about a particular job “we need to figure out how to attract more white males.”  That scenario may not be far in our future, and it will be interesting to see how academia tackles this challenge.