Will the Real Qualified Candidate Please Stand Up!


Back in 1956 when television shows were only in black and white and there were only three channels (OMG how did people survive back then????) a show called To Tell the Truth debut. The show has since run off and on through 2002, so even those of you who were not born BC (before cable) may have seen it. The show featured a panel of celebrities who were tasked with identifying the “real” person who had a particular occupation. There were three contestants and only one of the three was the “real deal”. The “real deal” had to answer all questions truthfully, the other two were allowed to fib and stretch the truth. At the end the celebrity panelists were to guess the real person with that occupation and that person was then asked to stand up. Many times the panelist guessed the wrong person. That is what I call entertainment!

I was thinking about this show the other day for no particular reason and it occurred to me how eerily similar it was to how most companies approach their hiring process and make a decision on which candidate to hire is the “real deal”.

See if any of this sounds familiar. Your company has an open position or multiple positions to fill. A job description with qualifications is pulled together with input from the hiring manager, HR and former job descriptions that produced responses. The job is posted to the web, your site and various job boards. Your internal recruiters begin to source candidates based on the job description and qualifications. Candidates begin to respond to your posting and forward their resumes based on the job description and qualifications. Your recruiters begin to screen and select a few candidates and present them to the hiring manager for consideration. The hiring manager and sometimes a panel of those with hiring authority begin to ask each candidate questions based on the job description and qualifications to determine which one is the “real deal.” A decision is made to hire and many times the panel of hiring experts “guesses” the right one. But often they guess wrong and instead of the whole process being entertaining, it can often cost a company a good deal in wages, time and lost opportunities.

So, what can be done to make the process more entertaining and help take the guess work out of the equation? Get rid of the job description and qualifications as the basis for hiring. The job description that companies use today could very easily have been written in 1956, in black and white and only distributed on a few channels.

In a recent article for ERE Daily entitled A Zillion More Reasons to Abolish Job Descriptions Lou Adler suggests the following.

  • Except for the list of responsibilities, they don’t define jobs at all; they define people taking the jobs.
  • They’re bogus.
  • They’re illegal.
  • They aren’t used for internal promotions.
  • They eliminate high-potential candidates from consideration.
  • They don’t predict on-the-job performance.
  • They turn off passive candidates.
  • They make diversity hiring more difficult.
  • They’re designed to weed out the worst, not attract the best.
  • You don’t need them for building a pool of candidates.
  • They decrease employee satisfaction and increase turnover.
  • They make no sense.

So, why are companies still using job descriptions and qualifications as the basis for their hiring process? When our company begins a Recruitment Project Management engagement we work with the hiring manager to help determine the actual work that the candidate will be required to perform, especially in the first 90 days, and what experience and skills the candidate will need to possess in order to meet or exceed those performance requirements. As Lou Adler would say, it is about fitting the job to the candidate, not fitting the candidate to the job.

If you are a business leader, HR leader, or talent acquisition professional consider moving away from using the job description when looking for the best talent. Or, you could just bring three contestants (candidates) in and have your panel of hiring experts ask questions and then guess which one of the three is the most qualified candidate, which one of the three is the “real deal”, which one of the three is telling the truth. Then see which one stands up.


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