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Unicorn Hunting

I’ve recently read a few articles by and about Peter Capelli, a professor of management and human resources at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, on the topic of the morass of hurdles employers create when looking to hire a new employee.  Qualified candidates can’t get to talk someone because the technology used to screen out anything but a perfect match screens them out. Employers bemoan the lack of qualified candidates because they are looking for a ‘unicorn’ – a mythological creature that is rumored to exist, but in reality doesn’t.

Technology is great for many things; a useful tool to help us increase our efficiency and therefore, our effectiveness. This seems however, like another example of my observation that it is not and cannot serve as a replacement for the essential basics of human interaction.

Scanning a resume for the exact title, phrasing, or experience means that the employer is seeking someone who is currently doing the job already. Since some job titles are not just industry specific but company specific, anyone who has held a position with a different title can get screened out of consideration.

We all have heard the stories of a single open position receiving hundreds of resumes. I understand that it’s a lot of PDFs to wade through. But isn’t that the professional Human Resource person’s job?! Aren’t they skilled in scanning and deciphering applications? What about the goal of always being on the search for talent and fit; not just for now but for future needs?

It is easy to sit at a computer screen and type away at he keyboard, sending off tailored resume’s to nameless recipients. That’s not networking. It’s not even interacting. And one way communication is so limited in its effectiveness that when it comes to employment, it seems that this would be the worst tool to use in learning about the qualifications, aspirations and fit of anyone, let alone someone you’ve never even met.

The hunt for a unicorn is the pursuit of an idealized perfection. In fact, as it’s depicted in tapestries and paintings, it was usually the job of royalty and much more about the ceremony than the actual hunt (or success). It was simply a symbolic chase for excellence, acknowledged to be fruitless.  If you wanted to simply find a unicorn (just a sighting) they wouldn’t be seen in the usual places by the usual people. It had to be a remote location or the center of a maze, and even then,  they were often only seen by the pure of heart.

It’s frustrating for both applicant and employer to be involved in such a futile exercise. Though there is plenty of evidence that fighting the system is a waste of time, so is the current employment process in many organizations today. Too many employers are looking to the past to find their future.

Hiring managers and HR folks should consider stopping the search for someone who has already done the job somewhere else. It’s unlikely that the best person for the job wants’ to continue doing something they have already done for several years. Applicants should be getting dressed up and getting out; meeting people who can help them meet the people who are making the decisions so they can promote what they know, what they’ve done, and what they want to learn as well as contribute.

Hunting unicorns is a fool’s errand. Give me a motivated person who is an experienced learner any time.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 6th, 2012 at 2:40 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.