05/08/2014 08:48 am ET Updated Jul 08, 2014

The Road To Bad Hiring

If your job includes hiring, The Road To Bad Hiring will be familiar. If you're looking for a job, you'll know every mile.

The Road to Bad Hiring is the sick and twisted system we use to connect the right person with the right job. On this road, no one really wins. Instead, we waste time. And in doing so, our system of hiring costs untold sums of money that can never really ever be calculated. For example, what's the cost of hiring a bad teacher or school administrator? You could measure the time wasted in recruiting, interviews, and onboarding and put a cost to that time. But could you ever measure the lost opportunity or even the damage a bad teacher can have on a child? Or on generations of children?

And the cost of lost opportunity and damages done by a bad hire is certainly not unique to education.

Fixing the Road to Bad Hiring can be tougher than you'd think. First, because The Road is so easy to disguise. When an employee problem surfaces three weeks, months or years after date of hire, no one jumps to ask, "Was there a red flag we missed in hiring?" The first priority is always to manage the immediate problem.

Hiring functions that prioritize holding the keys to power and acting as gatekeepers rather than serving the cause of connecting the right person with the right job, can also mask the problem.

But the biggest obstacle to fixing The Road comes when we forget that it IS a road. Hiring is a system. It's not a transaction. And the remedies we put in place are all too often band-aid remedies that cover up minor scratches while the massive bleeding continues. For example, we standardize questions as if making a hiring decision was a math problem. All the while ignoring the bend in The Road up ahead where there is no strategy for answering that all important question, 'Is this applicant a fit for the organization?'

The same kind of stopgap fixes are also rampant in job search. "Experts" proclaim a stop gap fix like "better interviewing skills" is what will get you a job. All the while deaf to the cries of the millions who shout, most often to themselves, 'Yeah, that's nice Mr. Expert but one small question, HOW DO I GET THE INTERVIEW??'

Every Road to bad hiring is different. So as you take a look at the stops along the Road sent in by Jerry, a reader and user of Finding Work When There Are No Jobs, compare it to how hiring works in your organization.

And if you're looking for work, does Jerry's story sound familiar?

Stops Along the Road To Bad Hiring

#1. Pure Chance. Jerry was going for an administrative position at a Big 10 School. He was called because the resume screener noticed he'd written a book on his area of expertise. That was it. The screener saw nothing compelling in Jerry's story. Just data on past experience.

#2. Screened By Salary. The next thing that happened is that the hiring manager called Jerry and began the conversation with one question, "The salary is $50,000. Is that acceptable?" Knowing that a "Heck No!" would end the conversation, Jerry said, "Sure." There could be no conversation about what the job was worth unless he said "Sure." So he did.

#3. Anonymity First! Throughout the Conversation, the hiring manager never offered her last name. When Jerry asked, "Who will be interviewing me?" the anonymity continued as Jerry was given the roles of four other people who would be involved interviewing.

#4. EFFICIENCY First, Last and Always. A frequent stop on The Road to Bad Hiring in many different ways. Efficient hiring on The Road will always trump quality hiring. Here, efficiency reared its head with the plan to have all five interviewers conduct the interview at once on the phone.

#5. Cliché questions for all! During the interview, it became clear that none of the interviewers had done much interviewing. As they read the questions they had been assigned off the piece of paper in front of them, Jerry waited for someone to ask him, "What are your strengths and weaknesses? And follow up with "If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?" He got one of those questions. But there was zero hope in the efficient structure of the phone-based exchange, that there would ever be a real conversation.

Having been prompted to think differently about finding work by the stories in Finding Work When There Are No Jobs, Jerry is now off The Road and working. So I asked him what advice he'd give others, both applicants and hiring managers, who found themselves thinking that the Road was their only option. And here's what Jerry told me, "Get off the Road! It can never end good!"

Anybody else ever find yourself on the Road to Bad Hiring?