Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Rethinking Selection

Recently, I've had the chance to revisit one of my favorite topics, the selection process, and it has renewed my enthusiasm for a proposal I made over a year ago.

Here goes:

  1. We should replace the selection process with a Talent Evaluation Process. Selection is far too mechanical. It places the round peg in the round hole - at least we hope - and its overall emphasis is on filling a slot. Serious evaluation of the available talent is often secondary. In too many cases it is a very far second.

  2. The selection process produces two camps: the successful applicant and the losers. The latter may be highly talented souls but the selection process is not horseshoes and you normally don't gain any points from being the Almost Selected. [Although that's a nice thing to emphasize to your mother: "I was really, really, close."]

  3. Due to the warm and caring intervention of the lawyers - those altruists! - organizations clam up when it comes to giving feedback to the also-rans. "We were impressed by your qualifications," we lie, "but decided to hire another applicant. Your application will be kept for a year in case another opening occurs." [See. We aren't bad people. We just tossed a fish!]

  4. This practice means that people can apply for job after job and never get any meaningful feedback. No one says, "Lose the tie" or "Stop talking down to the oral board." We actually think our silence is kind but with kind friends like that, you don't need any...well, you get the point.

  5. The Talent Evaluation Process would be candid. Its emphasis would be on evaluating the skills, knowledge, and attitudes of the applicants and telling them where they missed the mark. Now before the HR folks start moaning over the extra work and the legal exposure, let me propose a compromise: Limit the detailed feedback to the internal applicants, at least at the start. Let candor be one of the little benefits of working for your firm.

  6. The advantage is obvious: You can tell people what they need to do to make themselves more competitive. Some will huff and puff and claim you missed their inner beauty but others will take that budget class or dress more appropriately or learn how to handle a job interview. They will improve their ability to rise.

  7. As for the legal exposure, that is indeed real. There would be more of it. But if you let fear of litigation dictate all of your decisions, you will not be doing the right thing. There are some cranks out there, but most people are adults. They will prefer the hard truth over the cold caress of the bureaucratic rejection. They will know that you cared enough to be honest. And that's not a bad signal to send.

1 comment:

class factotum said...

Oh, how I would love to get feedback on why I was not selected for a job! I have called and asked before, saying, "I would really appreciate knowing what I could have done differently to get the job." If it is a matter that they really wanted a PhD in Physics for the job and interviewed me anyhow, even though I was an English major and have an MBA, then I know they just wasted my time.

But if I talked too much or said something stupid ("Where is the ladies' room -- I've been holding it for hours?" was probably not my finest moment) or didn't give solid examples of leadership ability, those are all things I can fix.