It seems to be that people no longer expect a straight answer to a straight question these days. Perhaps in a world of politicians, PR experts and downright charlatans, it comes as no surprise, but I believe it would serve us well to be far less cynical when it comes to recruitment, where our default setting is to expect mendacity from applicants from the very start.
Yes, it is very true that politicians are very well trained to avoid directly addressing the question put to them, as an unqualified, unvarnished, and unequivocal straight answer could well commit them to a stance they might later need to recant. Politicians are drilled to do so by the very same PR gurus that attempt to tip-toe through the media minefield on behalf of large corporate clients, mindful that any verbal slip up could have far reaching consequences for profitability, the careers of executives, and ultimately shareholder value. These individuals know that they are in a hard fought game, and are well aware of the rules, or lack thereof.
Since when though, did it become commonplace to treat job applicants in such an adversarial way? Rather than ask respondents to a job advert to answer truthfully whether they believe they are a good fit for the job, employers persist in demanding corroboration in the form of clues, which may or may not have any bearing on the actual vacancy.
Take these, for example;
- Must be degree qualified to 2:1 level – Meaning are you clever enough? Unless the qualification is vocational, and crucial to the job, why assume that this is a good indicator of intelligence? Today we see even the most junior of jobs demanding a university degree.
- Alongside the above we see many employers insist on an MBA, a PhD, or that you have studied at a particular university. What won’t be advertised is that some employers screen out candidates who are deemed to be overqualified for the job.
- Must have 5 years’ experience of PHP programming (or any other discipline). – Since when did years of experience directly correlate with ability? Lewis Hamilton almost won the Formula 1 Championship in his first year.
- Whilst it is no longer permissible to ask a candidate’s age, employers still screen out applicants on this basis, citing that they wouldn’t “fit the company culture”.
Employers often ask for gold when they really need silver; and if they can get it on a tin salary, then so much the better. It is no excuse to state that this is a necessary response to candidates exagerrating their own abilities. Why look for clues to a person’s abilities and personality, when you can simply ask them directly. When we can directly assess an applicant’s psychometric profile for culture fit, and practical skill and intelligence with tests, we should do so. It’s easy to administer, and very inexpensive. Why spend time and money researching the veracity of qualifications, verifying the honesty of a CV / resume, checking credit ratings, or snooping on an applicant’s social media activity, when the subject of your enquiries is happy to answer all straight questions with a straight answer?
By all means do these things (where necessary) before making an offer, but do not let them impede your hiring process. If you really want to look hard at a candidate, then look hard AT THE CANDIDATE.
You can listen to the audioblog of this article here. https://soundcloud.com/stephen-odonnell-4/ask-the-candidate