Almost every week we see an article on the “war for talent.”
Companies need to hire people and can’t find the right skills. Recruiters rely heavily on sophisticated applicant tracking systems to do the initial resume sorting. Even if the system “OKs” a candidate, chances are slim this person will actually end up as a “perfect” match.
Instead of waiting for perfect candidates, why not take a step back and think about the type of actual, practical skills that are needed in a job — skills that actually show a person’s ability to perform? Quit focusing on degree type, name of university, college courses on a transcript and grades. There is a saying: To do the same thing over and over and expect different results is the definition of insanity. Recruiters need to rethink their approach to recruiting. Here are a few new ideas to consider:
1. Hire people without university degrees
As Eric Gaydos said in his recent TLNT article, in many high tech companies, management could care less if candidates have degrees or not.
The fact is, technology changes so rapidly that what students learn during a four-year degree program is obsolete by the time they graduate. In addition, there are some celebrated CEO’s that don’t have college degrees: Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Michael Dell to name a few.
Apple was founded and built by Steve Jobs, a college dropout who credited LSD and calligraphy with inspiring more of his product-design genius than anything he ever learned in school.
At NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the head of Human Resources says he has trouble replacing his master problem-solvers. He has his pick from Harvard and MIT, but he found even though they were brilliant, they weren’t innovative in dealing with problems the way their predecessors were.
He realized that his best problem-solvers had been kids who were tinkerers, who built sand castles, who took computers apart with their friends so they could understand their guts. Degrees didn’t matter.
2. Use real-world projects in interviews
These are not the formal, concocted simulations that companies have used for years as part of interviews, but real-time projects. Most companies have learned the hard way that no amount of interviewing, reference checking and/or psychological testing is a substitute for actually working with a candidate on a real project.
Michael Schrage on HBR’s blog calls these projects “projectlications” (project applications) or “applijects” (application projects). The purpose is to see if a candidate can actually produce and work collaboratively with a project team.
“Can they ‘help redesign a social media campaign, document a tricky bit of software, edit a Keynote presentation, produce a webinar, or peer review a CAD layout for a contract Chinese manufacturer?’ ”
Isn’t finding someone like that the whole point of recruiting? By working on a project with a team and coming up with solutions —- what more is necessary? These people ought to at least be considered.
3. Select people from different professions with the skills needed
In HR Examiner, Hank Stringer talks about IBM.
For instance, in the early days of IBM’s involvement in computers, programmers en masse didn’t exist. And there was no Internet to source, test and train prospective talent. What did IBM do? Well IBM considered the skills they needed, talent who could easily understand something akin to a binary language, who were creative and could sit at a keyboard for long periods of time. Guess what? Music majors who had been trained in composition (especially trained pianists) fit the bill. The program worked!”
Don’t laugh. Steve Jobs said that his best computer scientists had backgrounds as poets, artists, zoologists and historians.
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4. Hot jobs: data scientist?
There is a growing prediction that in 2013 and beyond, the hottest job will be “data scientist.”
Companies are rushing towards the use of big data. Data scientists will be able to bring structure to large quantities of formless data and make analysis possible. They will advise executives and product managers on the implications of the data for products, processes, and decisions.
There are no university programs offering degrees in data science yet — and when there are, the curriculum will likely become out-of-date before students graduate. Given this vacuum, recruiters are looking for people with strong data and computational focus. Thus far the best fields to recruit from seem to be experimental physics, astrophysics, ecology and systems biology.
What about HR?
What about hiring a person from another specialty area to work in HR?
What’s so “holy” about a bachelor’s or master’s degree in HR? Or for that matter, an SPHR? How about someone from marketing or finance?
What marketing and finance types don’t know about HR, they can easily make up for it by bringing different kinds of value to the table. They would be able to bring expertise that HR desperately needs — research and analysis, market segmentation, the ability to understand company financials and ROI and how to set financial measurements for talent management programs.
We live in a changing world. Recruiting needs to change its search methods. It’s time for recruiters to tap into their creative, internal “maverick” and bring out that entrepreneurial spirit.
Go for it!