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I had some very disturbing news this week. Two of my friends who had been in career transition got jobs.

Now don’t get me wrong. Anytime someone lands a job in this economy should be cause for celebration. I dearly love these people and am thrilled to see them gainfully employed again. What bothers me is what their employment says about the current state of these companies’ talent acquisition processes. For each new posting, supply far outstrips demand. Each posted opportunity begets a sea of resumes. Just sorting though the pile becomes an unbearable task. The need for a reliable selection process becomes more critical, particularly when people are stretched by tight time schedules and being short staffed.

Let me take Jason* as an example. Jason is a software engineer specializing in open source programming. He is a talented man, but frankly his skills are pretty rusty. He is resourceful and hardworking, and through persistence borne of desperation he managed to keep his name in front of the hiring manager. He even did some coding for them for free. In the end he established a relationship with the manager and showed that he would work hard.

The job description, heavily laden with lines like “Significant php troubleshooting required” did not mention what appears to be the key part of the job, the redesign of a user interface. Subsequently, he did not meet 5 of the 7 requirements listed on the job description, but landed the job. Jason will also be the first to tell you that this is neither the job he was looking for nor wanted.

I can’t help but wonder though, how many better qualified, better fitting, more productive people were available for this job? How much more could that hiring manager be getting for his money, and what limits he is putting on his business by hiring the expedient choice? What are the chances that Jason will move along to a better fitting job as soon as he is able to do so?

Then there is Shawna*, a bright, vivacious charming woman who has an excellent background as a business coach, as well as a supply chain manager. Everyone who meets Shawna loves her, and she is a good networker. However, organizational skills are not her strong suit and she does not like working with numbers. What job did she land? A position as an office administrator in a financial services office! Again, she is missing several of the “requirements” of the job, but the hiring manager was thoroughly charmed. His “reference check” with me consisted of one question, “Is Shawna a reliable worker?”, followed by a pleasant conversation about how nice it was to spend time with Shawna. I was not about to disagree with him, of course. Shawna is my friend.

Shawna will be the first to say this job is not the best fit, but she is thrilled to be able to meet her mortgage. It is easy to see that there are people who will be able to perform much better in the job, but the hiring manager made the decision based on how much he enjoyed spending time with her, combined with his need to fill the position quickly.

It is easy to see the real costs these companies will pay for not having clear job descriptions, based on actual needed skill sets, and system for assessing performance fit. It is also easy to see that they will pay long term for their lack of a real process for selection, or even compliance with the current processes they have. Job seekers are becoming more adept at working the system to their advantage. Is your company as adept at selection?

*Not their real names

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Carol Schultz

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