Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Taking the Human out of Human Resources

There's a lot of fear in the job market these days and most of it stems from a disturbing tendency of employers to treat candidates like some kind of trade-in at Honest Bob's car lot.  I'll give you some analogies (of course) to make my point a little more clear...

  • I sell Trucks, they're trying to trade a motorcycle! - Does this person even fit the job?
  • How many miles, Condition? - Are they too old or are they going to drive up my health insurance costs?
  • What kind of options does it have? - Do they have all the skills and experience I need or do I have to train them?
  • Show me the CarFax! - Anything in their past I can use to lowball the offer or exclude them entirely?
  • Market value? - I want to get this guy/gal for as close to free as possible.

In the private sector it's no surprise.  In theory, removing intangibles and non-sequitur from the process should create a more level playing field.  It's also more efficient which plays well with the bean counters.

But it can go too far...

It's one thing to use objective criteria  to thin the herd but that's where its usefulness really ends.  We all understand that no employer wants to interview 100 burger flippers for a structural engineering job.  However, a potential candidate shouldn't be excluded by a process that's left to HR departments that have no idea of how to vet a potential hire.

We're coming back to the real point here. 

Today's work environment is frequently populated by underpaid and mostly disinterested workers.  There's no denying it in spite of the all the stock photos of happy faces populating the company HR page. 

We live in an age of stagnant wages, dwindling benefits and a slow erosion of worker rights.  Let's not forget the almost total lack of job security.  Even CEO's can't guarantee their tenure but then they've got a lot softer landing than the rest of us.

So don't expect a lot of that "personal touch."  You're just another resource to be evaluated, a commodity.

Which is a problem.

When you reduce talent to their lowest common denominator you end up missing a lot of important information to help you make a decision.

For example: A top notch engineer could be cut from consideration because of a bad credit record, a visible tattoo or if they happen to smoke.  HR pundits ( yes they exist) will offer up excuses like:

  • A bad credit history reflects on a lack of responsibility. 
  • Tattoo's cause issues with workplace culture
  • Smokers drive up insurance costs and take too many breaks. 

None of them have anything to do with the quality of the candidate but more often than not they're used as screening factors.  The justifications are hollow but there's no point in challenging them.

It's the result of a process cut to the bone and borne out of a systematic devaluing of the Human in Human resources.  
The only advice given to the job seeker? 

Bend over...

Yeah, no big long flowery mental masturbation there.  That's the bottom line. 

Because you as the candidate have no value outside of the factors of a commodity you must focus on the irrelevant.

Look sharp, clean up your social profile, quit smoking, pay all your bills on time even if you're broke and without exception, never have been sick.

That's an awful lot of time spent on things that have nothing to do with your ability to actually DO the job.

Here's a posting for a VERY entry level job.  It's a good representation of what I've been talking about.

Flier Delivery (NOT door-to-door) Team Needed (East Valley, AZ)


What: Team (of 2) needed to drive to elementary & middle schools to deliver fliers for after school programs. (One driver & one delivery person per team)

What we are looking for in a delivery person: *GREAT personality a MUST! *Be able to effectively communicate with school secretaries *Must be able to present a clean cut look with business casual attire.

*No visible tattoos or body piercings
*Non-Smoker *Clean Background Check

What we are looking for in a driver: *RELIABLE transportation (with room for boxes) a MUST! *Proof of Insurance *Know the East Valley well! (especially school districts) *Clean Background Check *Clean Driving Record.

*Able to lift about 60 lbs.

Deliveries start right away! Hours will be Monday-Friday, approx 8am-4pm (when schools are open) We give preference to drivers with GPS or navigation systems.

This is NOT a sales position, but sales experience & driver). Driver & Delivery Person need to have a positive personality &
"personality" a ++. We offer $11/hour (per person) + mileage (for the professional attitude. 

Our Teams represent ***************of America to the schools, clubs, churches & districts that support our programs.

Some familiarity with *************** is WELCOMED

Ok , this is about as low on the totem pole as you can get but the takeaway is this: The same selection criteria is becoming commonplace regardless of industry or position.

Entry level jobs usually suck, that's a given but at some point along your career path you would expect to be given more consideration than some kid handing out colorful pieces of paper.

Sadly, you'd be wrong.

The reality of today's interview process is cold and impersonal.  You'll frequently hear catch phrases like, "Culture fit" and "Self Motivated" which translates to "anything we can legally discriminate against" and "doesn't ask a lot of questions."

It's only going to get worse before it gets better.  For now set the bar low and you might just survive it.
Just be sure that you can accept how employers see your value.  These days the demands of work will monopolize more of your time than family or friends and the higher up the food chain you go the worse it gets.

Remember, the price of potatoes is based on their current market value which can fluctuate with demand.

So, are you worth more than a potato?  You might be surprised.