Recruitment is broken

In All, The Human Resource by Fiona AnsonLeave a Comment

I know this is a pretty controversial and may well get a backlash from those who have spent longer than me in the profession, but sometimes it takes an outsider to see the real picture.   You know, woods from the trees stuff.

Until five years ago, one might argue that I had had very little experience in true HR, with the exception of having hired, interviewed and employed people for about twenty years.  The last five years feel like I’ve been dropped in at the deep end of the policy, procedure and red tape that is HR.  And I’m appalled.

And, it seems, I’m not the only one who thinks so.

I recently posted an article to a couple of LinkedIn HR-related groups about becoming a contributor to  In trying to stir up conversation, I posted to a few HR LinkedIn groups inviting people to join the conversion about change in the HR space. Within hours, there were over 90 comments and most were along the lines of “it’s about time”.

There are many of us who believe that the HR and Recruitment industries are using processes that are well and truly past their use by dates.  Let’s face it; The way we find people and hire people hasn’t changed in not just decades, but in centuries!

We’re still using the old knee-jerk way of finding people.  One hundred years ago, when we had a vacancy, we posted an ad in a newspaper to get applicants to send in a resume.  We looked over those letters, sorted them into yes, no and maybe, picked our favorites and got them in for an interview, after which we chose the best candidate and offered them a job.

While so much about life has changed and new ways to communicate have opened unbelievable channels for us to get to know people, we’re still doing it exactly the same way.  Newspapers are now online and the job site has replaced the “section” for jobs, but it’s still the same concept.  With one exception: It’s now less effective.

Where, in the last century, there was one place to find a job, now there are hundreds.  The US alone has over 40,000 jobs boards and that doesn’t count every company’s individual career sites.

Add to that the ability to use social networks and is it any wonder that pretty much every job ad now results in an application avalanche?

If anything, the recruitment process has gotten worse – and much less personal.  Fifty years ago, you’d get a “thank you but you’ve been unsuccessful” letter, now you’re lucky to get anything, which is peculiar given that ways to respond can be totally automated.

We still know relatively nothing about the people we employ, except what a quick look at their Facebook or LinkedIn page tells us.  Given that it’s so easy to create relationships with people today without evening know them, why aren’t we doing that?

Then let’s look at how we treat people: While the word “culture” is bandied around, very few employers take it seriously.  At a recent conference’s morning keynote, I saw a CEO speak about EVP and their carefully constructed culture of inclusion and “family”.  At afternoon tea, I just happened to be standing in a group of fellow attendees, one of whom was the company’s HR Director, I was appalled to hear her bragging (yes there is no other word for it) about how her “clever” workplace agreements had enabled her to give her employees a wage increase less then the Award rise, and how she had fooled her people into thinking that their wage rise was fantastic because she was talking in percentages instead of dollars.

Not only is this totally incongruent to her CEO’s idea of their culture but to me it reeks of the days when we really exploited workers in order to produce better bottom lines.

HR is in need of a huge overhaul – and it’s not just HR people who need to do it.  It must come from the top down.  Part of the issue is that often HR doesn’t have a seat at the table because it’s not an income-producing function, yet I’d argue that your people are the biggest income-producing component of a business.

We need a totally new way of looking at HR and leaders who are brave enough and innovative enough to take that on.

Co-founder and Director at Workible | HR Disruptor | What if explorer

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