Steven's Blog

Could You Get a Job at Your Own Company?

If you are finding it difficult to fill key roles with excellent people, don’t assume it is because your company does not attract the right candidates, but rather that the right candidates don’t get through your company’s screening process.

If you applied for a job at your own company, you too might not get through either.

The CEO of a major European company in Japan discovered only after it was too late that an ideal candidate whom he knew from previous work was rejected out-of-hand for a key position, and ended up going to work for a competitor. The candidate’s background simply fit no common mould that HR was using as screening criteria, as is often the case with excellent people. He didn’t even make the first cut. Since then, the CEO has forbidden HR from screening CVs for key roles, and instead vested that authority in the hiring manager.

The CEO of another European company in Japan made it their policy to also consider hiring excellent people with what would be considered “weird” backgrounds that fit no mould. The decision resulted in a group of excellent newly hired managers who likely would have otherwise never even been considered. In Japan, there is a largely untapped pool of talented people like these managers, as most companies have given them the short shrift in the recruiting process.

The Japan CEO of an international financial services firm told me over lunch that he was having a hard time finding a suitable candidate for a vice president in charge of strategic planning, a role that is ostensibly a stepping stone to succeeding him.

“I’ve been interviewing all sorts of people with backgrounds in strategic planning, but none seem suitable for guiding the business. I don’t know what to do.”

“Strategic planning alone tends to be an operational role compiling and reporting numbers,” I said. “Why on Earth would you want to prioritize that?” I asked.

“Both my HR director and the recruiter we hired insisted strategic planning experience was essential,” the CEO explained.

“Stop selecting candidates with strategic planning backgrounds,” I advised. “It’s people with leadership experience you want, and the successful ones will naturally be competent at strategic planning and execution.”

I had to wonder how many suitable candidates CVs had simply been discarded.

I once asked the HR director a major technology company here in Japan which candidate he would hire if both had identical CVs, who each responded differently to the question, “Tell me about a time that you have suffered a major failure.”

I told the HR manager to assume one candidate answered, “I have never had a major failure,” whereas the other said, “Just one failure? I have had so many, I am not sure which one to talk about, but I’ll pick one to tell you about.”

The HR director said he would hire the candidate who claimed he never fails.

Yet, show me a person who never fails, and I’ll show you a person who does not learn.

The most adept managers I know fail frequently, and can talk candidly about what they learned from the experience, and what they changed. Click To Tweet

It is only the mediocre managers who hide their failures, or give a backhanded response to the question.

Which candidate would you have picked?

Do you suspect that your company might be turning away excellent candidates? If so, I have a suggestion. Invent a persona who would be great but whose CV does not fit the mould. Then apply for job at your own company and see how far you get.

If you get an interview, then you know the cause of a dearth of good candidates lies elsewhere.

If you are turned away, then you are in luck, because you will now know what needs to be done.

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