Did Rube Goldberg Invent Our Modern Day Hiring Process?

For those of you who may never have heard of Rube Goldberg, here is a brief bio.

Rube Goldberg (1883-1970) was a Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist, sculptor and author with a degree in engineering from the University of California Berkeley. He was a founding member of the National Cartoonist Society.

Best known for his “inventions”, Rube’s early years as an engineer informed his most acclaimed work. A Rube Goldberg contraption – an elaborate set of arms, wheels, gears, handles, cups and rods, put in motion by balls, canary cages, pails, boots, bathtubs, paddles and live animals – takes a simple task and makes it extraordinarily complicated. He had solutions for How To Get The Cotton Out Of An Aspirin Bottle, imagined a Self-Operating Napkin, and created a Simple Alarm Clock – to name just a few of his hilariously depicted drawings.

Goldberg’s cartoons always showed the solution to a simple task through a series of steps, A, B, C etc. Here then are the steps most companies take to fill a position.

How to Hire Great People

A.   Write and post a job description that has little or nothing to do with what the person hired will be doing and rarely mentions why the position is open. Ask candidates to send a resume and cover letter if they are interested. All candidates are INTERESTED!

B.   Receive 1000s of resumes and cover letters (that your posting requested) and act shocked and amazed when your ATS system becomes full and your phone begins ringing off the hook.

C.   Devise various filters to help you get a handle on the influx of resumes. These could include eliminating any candidate who was honest enough to say that he/she is currently unemployed; eliminating anyone who indicates on their resume that they are not degreed (even though for most positions in a company having a degree has very little to do with how successful a candidate will be); very subtly determine how old a candidate is by looking at the date attended or graduated college.

D.   Ignore the 1000s of candidates who did not meet your criteria, thereby costing your company many potential customers for your company’s products or services.

E.   Contact the few that remain and begin presenting them to your hiring managers.

F.    Let weeks go by before your hiring managers decide to schedule interviews and discover that many of the few candidates left have taken themselves off the market.

G.   Settle for those that remain, interview and hire.

H.   After 3 – 6 months begin the process again for this same position. The reason that it is open is that the candidate hired through your process did not measure up.

Sound familiar? Sounds like the perfect description of a Rub Goldberg from Webster’s New World Dictionary, “a comically involved, complicated invention, laboriously contrived to perform a simple operation.”

Our task as recruiters, talent managers, recruiting consultants should be to help our companies recruit, hire and retain the best talent for every position. The “simple” part of this operation is to understand what any position requires the candidate to actually do and only search for those who can do it. The hard part of the process is selling those identified to consider the position, interview, accept an offer and contribute long term to your company’s success.

Rube Goldberg would love our modern day hiring process and if he had depicted it in one of his cartoons everyone would have laughed and appreciated the joke.

R.I.P Rube!


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