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Disrupting the Hiring Process

by Kevin Campbell and Anson Vuong

This is the first article in a two-part series.

Employers say they're having trouble finding the right people to fill jobs.

Many employers report difficulties filling jobs due to lack of available "talent." Yet 9.4% of Americans are either unemployed, underemployed or barely attached to the labor market. Isn't there pool of people out there willing to work? Why is there a so-called "talent shortage" when millions of Americans are looking for good jobs?

The quick answer: The typical hiring process could use a disruption.

This "talent shortage" is likely rooted in employers' inability to find people with the experience managers want rather than a true shortage of talented recruits. Put another way, when hiring, employers are favoring experience over talent, therefore overlooking recruits who could excel in certain roles despite not having the preferred background for those jobs.

Employers must take a hard look at how they're hiring and whether they are valuing years of experience over innate talent.

Gallup defines talent as an individual's naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling or behavior that can be productively applied. By this definition, true talent does not always come attached to specific employment experiences.

In the recruitment and hiring process, business leaders need to view talent as an opportunity to find qualified employees their competitors are missing. If they do, they'll see that it can be more important than specific industry experiences.

Experience Versus Talent in Manager Roles

This problem is particularly acute when organizations hire managers, whom they usually select based on tenure or previous job experience. Gallup has found that organizations fail to choose the applicant with the right talent for the manager role 82% of the time.

Think of the best manager you've ever had. What set that manager apart? Most people say things such as "He was motivating" or "She mentored me." Yet Gallup consultants rarely hear anyone say, "She had years of experience." Experience in a managerial role doesn't always make someone good at it.

Gallup Senior Scientist Frank Schmidt found that job experience predicts performance for up to about five years, but after that, innate abilities tend to trump any further gains experience offers. Yet when looking at job ads for managers, only a handful require fewer than seven to 10 years of experience.

Understanding this flaw in recruiting is the key to exploiting it. Focusing on talent when hiring allows companies to loosen up unnecessary job requirements, thus drawing a greater applicant pool.

Expanding Candidate Pools

Gallup understands there are some instances in which experience is critical to job performance, and there are techniques for taking that into account. However, business leaders need to encourage their hiring managers to update their recruitment practices to include experience and talent.

Take, for example, one of Gallup's banking clients. Some of its best performers had non-banking backgrounds, and the bank's leaders found that the best personal bankers differed depending on branch traffic: A banker in a high-volume branch required the talent profile of a "farmer" -- someone who cultivates and nurtures relationships. Conversely, low-volume banks required bankers with the profile of a "hunter" -- someone with the talent to initiate conversations and persistently pursue clients.

Many branch managers, however, were reluctant to hire anyone without banking experience, despite the fact that many of their top performers came from outside of the industry and demonstrated "farmer" or "hunter" talent profiles.

Addressing Perceived Talent Shortages

Workers rarely pursue a new career with their current employers -- 91% of working-age Americans say that the last time they changed careers, they left their company to do so. Any company can capitalize on these career transitions if it places itself on the receiving end of employment moves. Therefore, when organizations look beyond narrow job experiences and include a focus on talent, they are likely to tap into a large cadre of qualified applicants.

So the next time a hiring manager complains of talent shortages, consider asking: What will experience allow candidates to do that they would not be able to do otherwise? That would be a productive -- and disruptive -- question.

The second article in this series considers situations in which job candidates' experience is important in the hiring process, even if they possess innate talents for their roles.

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