How HR Is Killing The Corporate Gene Pool And What To Do About It

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The Setup

GOSSIP GIRL sucked this week so I decided to write an article on one of my many pet peeves, Human Resources. In case you don’t know, I have a corporate consultancy as well (SLI Advisors), and I’ve watched as the hiring arm of Human Resources, aka “Recruitment,” has slowly but surely drained all life from the companies they ostensibly service. It’s not as if the people in HR are somehow fools or anything like that. Rather, they’re trapped, the way much of corporate America is trapped, by a system that claims to want outside-the-box thinkers while simultaneously being very clear that the only way to remain blameless and unpunished oneself is to do things EXACTLY the way they’ve always been done.

This can all best be seen in HR’s current, ubiquitous, and total failure of a recruitment strategy, the computer. Much like it doesn’t work in online dating (a subject covered elsewhere on this site (my Online Dating Guide, Dating Nancy P)), the computer doesn’t work in job placement either. Why some people think a computer is better suited to understand a human than a human is beyond me, but recruiters seem to love them.  In any event, I think it’s worth understanding how the hiring system became this calcified so if you’re someone looking for a job you can work it better and if you’re in HR or running a company you can get some ideas for changing it.

What HR Says

We’re hiring the best and most qualified people for the job! For real!

Back Up And Tell It Right

Let’s time travel a little bit here back to the gogo years of the early ‘00s when online applications, emailed resumes, and the like first started becoming prevalent, when HR people could dream of a future where, while the total number of overall applicants, many unqualified, would increase due to the ease of clicking “send,” the upside would be a maximization of both recruiter time and candidate quality, since the computer would do the tedious sorting and filtering and only deliver the most-qualified candidates to the recruiters.  The best!  The brightest!  And all so easy!

[insert sound of record scratch here]

The thesis that computers would reduce recruiter workload and increase recruiter efficiency was not only untested but, as it turned out for reasons described below, incorrect. Additionally, even if that first thesis proved to be true, the staffing mission of HR has nothing to do with making recruiters’ lives easier but rather with finding the best candidate for a particular job, and the computer, as you’ll see, has actually served to undermine HR’s mission rather than enhance it. Even worse, the problems that have always been present in online staffing have been magnified in today’s world due to the sheer number of people looking for work.

The goal of recruitment isn’t to eliminate people; it’s to find them, yet the computer has ensured that the system is significantly better at keeping people out than letting them in.  This happens in two basic ways.