08/14/2012 09:22 pm ET Updated Oct 14, 2012

Make Decision Makers Accountable For What They Don't Do

Other than a three year stint as the Founder and Director of a non-profit focused on helping people get a job and then keeping it, I am not a "Human Resources" professional. But that was fifteen years ago and I've been working on an answer for the complex problem of unemployment ever since. The thing is, it always boils down to two major stopping points: 1. A hiring process that expects candidates to sell themselves and, 2. How and why the decision to hire is made.

The hiring process as it is now is fundamentally flawed from the beginning. Business has changed. Hiring has changed. In today's environment, hiring should no longer be viewed as just... hiring. Unfortunately, companies see hiring as a sales process where the candidates need to sell themselves to the hiring manager. But in reality, this is a misconception and an enormous misjudgment. Hiring is not a sales process, it's an acquisition.

A candidate, just like a mergers and acquisition target, brings to the table the background, knowledge, experience and skills that they -- the hiring company -- need in order to expand and achieve growth, no matter the position. If the "want ad" is out, it's because they need it. This applies to everyone from the receptionist who can correctly and pleasantly greet the caller -- to the account manager who possesses the ability to clearly convey the company's value proposition to a potential customer -- to the CEO who provides the direction necessary to guide the company for long term sustainability. They are not an expendable commodity. They are an investment instrument, hired because they have what the company needs.

The hiring company or acquirer on the other hand, has the financial benefits, stable environment and business model the candidates want in order to continue along their path and reach their objectives. Essentially, both have what the other desires. It's then up to the hiring manager who understands their responsibility is to connect those needs with those wants for a mutually beneficial outcome.

So, is a candidate guaranteed to get the job if they have demonstrated they have everything the company has said it needs? Unfortunately, no. Why? Because, all too often, the hiring manager's "wants" may differ from the company's "needs". In the meantime, unemployment continues to stagnate and blame and fingers continue to point in every direction. Those placing blame or seeking answers quote numbers such as 8.3 percent and over 20 million unemployed while those seeking to hire say they have 3.5 million jobs they cannot fill.

But do they? Can the CEO's of these companies securely claim they have jobs available but no one to fill them? To arrive at these conclusions, they rely on their Lieutenants who in turn rely on their Lieutenants and so on until you get all the way down to the one person making a decision -- the hiring manager. The problem is, no one makes these "interview decision makers" accountable. Oh, these companies say they do by the performance indicators of their teams or departments. But we all know in the long run, those performance numbers are supplied by the same person who made the decisions to hire the ones who ultimately bear the blame if those numbers aren't met. And if they aren't met, who's the first to go? You guessed it.

I have a simple idea that would alleviate much of the problem right now -- not later, but right now and increase accuracy, efficiency and productivity in the process: Make decision makers accountable not for what they do, but for what they don't do.

Many companies already require the hiring manager to write a job requisition describing what a job entails, what experience and educational background is necessary, why are they necessary and what benefit is it to have all this now and sometimes, in the long run. The problem is no one person or committee of higher authority takes the time to review who will be selected to interview and why some others (ex: top 3 to 5 selected by HR or some other vested interest) were not. Their focus is on who was selected -- not who wasn't. Therein lies the problem. In other words as it is now, if HR has narrowed down a list to x number of real close fit candidates, they rely solely on the word of the hiring manager with all their quirks, prejudices, self-preserving natures and hidden agendas on whether to proceed or not. But what if this hiring manager is picking the wrong or better put, not the best people or most apt to fit the required role to interview? How many excellent candidates are not even considered because one person does not possess the skill to select or worse, looks at it not from the perspective of what is good for all, but instead what is good for me? In the same regard, how many hiring managers are essentially forced to hire an individual due to internal political or policy reasons, when they feel another would have been better? It's my contention a peer review or committee approach to interview selection would greatly enhance hiring at any level of an organization. Consider the following:
  • Is creating a hiring system of this nature viable? Of course! It infinitely benefits all concerned -- especially the company that views people as a means to accomplish a goal.
  • Can or will it take time away from other productive duties? Of course it will -- for maybe an hour it takes to review the choices.
  • Is it inefficient? Quite the opposite. In both the short and long term, the best candidate will get the job which ultimately is extremely economical and highly efficient to the organization. This is a common sense approach.
  • Will it ruffle feathers of those involved in hiring now? Yes. But that's a good thing. Perhaps it gets out those that shouldn't be where they are at now and gets in those that should.

Not until companies stand by what most all seem to shout, namely "our people are our greatest asset" nor until company leadership learns to except that their needs are often far removed from the wants of one decision-making hiring manager full of personal prejudices and self serving desires, hiring will continue to be nothing more than a crap shoot in Vegas -- throw the dice and hope for the best.

You want to solve unemployment? Start at the root of the problem.