Sunday, February 11, 2007

Hiring, and Unit One Reflection

The final unit on hiring sparked me to consider a new issue. As we move through the hiring process, the level of individual attention and respect that each candidate receives seems to increase. During recruitment, it is important that the organization represent itself well and professionally, but only with respect to the job ad itself. While assessing resumes, employers must deal with faceless documents and come up with a way of ranking candidates that accounts for their individual differences but does not particularly target individuals. During an interview, it is important that the organization represent itself well to candidates because when the best person is identified, we want them to be working for us. Finally during the hire itself, it is important that the organization truly offer the best of itself to the candidate so that they will accept the position. At each stage of the process, individual respect increases and must increase in order for the organization to find the best people. Hiring can and should be an increasingly human process, not the dehumanizing process it is often made out to be.

During my reflection on the various issues that have arisen in Unit One, I've learned some simple and complex things about the hiring process. I've also solidified my opinions about various elements of this process.

Key things I have learned and thought about:

1. There are illegal interview questions that people ask, regularly.
I am a bit offended by the fact that many employers have been asking interview questions that are illegal. I was under the impression, as I believe most Americans are, that questions about such topics as whether one is married or has children were not banned but simply dubious in terms of being perceived as "appropriate." The fact that most people seem to be only vaguely aware of what an illegal interview question might be underscores something very clear about the hiring process in general. While employers may have a written policy about whom they will hire and for what reasons, that policy will not be followed as Gospel in most organizations. Nebulous concepts like "fit" and subjective views about whether most of the people involved in the hiring process "like" you will matter a great deal; the hiring process is likely to be unfair. This probably is not one individual's fault, or something worth blaming organizations for; but it is important to think about how it could be made more fair and equitable, as well as aboveboard legally.

2. Employers operate with limited information about candidates. A resume is not a whole person. A resume plus references plus the version of a candidate you meet in an interview is not a whole person. Employers cannot assess who the "best" candidate is with perfect accuracy; they can only use many measures to get as close as possible to a strong estimate of who the best person will be. To improve the likelihood that the best (most qualified? most potential-laden? easiest to work with? cheapest?) candidate will be hired, employers should use every piece of data that they have access to. They must call references; they must review resumes with a system, ranking key criteria against merely interesting ones. Otherwise they are doing themselves a disservice, and will overestimate and underestimate the value of individual candidates.

3. Employers should not overestimate themselves or underestimate their future employees.
It seems to be the case that employers require potential employees to jump through many hoops to be considered for a position. This ensures to some degree that they will only receive applications from individuals who are truly interested in working for their organization. But it also creates a dynamic where potential employees may not be impressed with the organization. Hiring itself is part of recruitment and part of corporate culture; employers should not labor under the misconception that the best people want to work for them always. In posting job announcements, creating online applications, and generally moving through the hiring process, employers must be willing to accommodate their potential employees; they may lose the best candidate otherwise.

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