Just about anyone who has been on the hunt for a new job has come to understand that the hiring process here is broken, or some similar word. It’s not a pretty picture at all in a lot of respects. And in some industries, including high-tech, that reality hurts the situation in a big way.

Even with some experience there, including very recently, a lot of things in a new Harvard Business Review article on the subject were quite eye-opening. Most of all is the areas where few, if any companies, work to get data that can help them with their process.

The perspective on internal vs. external hiring was an interesting start, and a point made in the last recommendation on improving retention – recognizing the cost of outside hiring – stands out. We all intuitively know that someone from outside will take some time to get up to speed on some things in a company as opposed to someone hired from within. There is such a thing as institutional knowledge; people already in a company know who to go to for help on something and have an internal historical perspective on products and the work on them that someone from the outside doesn’t. But the note that it takes internal hires seven years to earn as much as outside hires was astounding, yet also not surprising.

Think about raises in more recent years. Once upon a time, a decent or even good employee could fairly easily get a four percent raise. You didn’t have to be a star performer, although you had to at least be better than passable. Nowadays, good luck getting better than one or two percent in many places, even as times have been good. That is a big reason some have said that if you need or want a raise, you likely have to change employers. That has been my experience, although the changes have not always been desired at first – in just over three years, through three company changes my salary has now jumped far more significantly than it ever would have if I were still at the same company (although that also involved moving into more senior roles along the way than the one I was in before the first of those changes).

Where the article will certainly resonate with anyone who has been in transition comes in the recommendations on revamping the hiring process itself. Phantom jobs have long frustrated job seekers, especially when they find a company they are genuinely interested in and even a role that fits that description. It is highly unprofessional for a company to do that as a way of fishing for candidates for later, much like ghosting – another subject that is alluded to in passing here. (It is interesting that ghosting now becomes a point of controversy as job candidates do that to companies, but has not been in the opposite even though both are highly unprofessional.)

The most frustrating of all to many, especially in technology fields, is the requirements listed in many job ads. The desire for the “purple squirrel” is very real, and applicant-tracking systems (ATS) do not make this any better. Anyone who has looked for a technology job has surely seen an ad seeking such a person: a lengthy list of required skills and an almost-as-lengthy list of desired skills, and often the skills are not ones that tend to be found in combination. Even if the hiring manager is not sticking hard and fast to everything on the list, a long list then leaves interested candidates wondering at first glance which experience and/or skills matter the most.

Of course, that is where networking or having a recruiter with insight into the company and/or position is immensely valuable. That allows a person to understand if they have a chance or not – maybe the two or three skills they really need are ones the person has, in which case they should go for it, or maybe they are not, in which the chances of getting the job appear slim. Either way, a candidate can at least have a bit of clarity as to whether or not they fit the position or should not even bother trying (or if they do apply, not do so feeling like they’ll ever get a call for a phone screen).

Related to that, because it is so easy to apply for jobs nowadays – including ones for which a person has basically no chance of ever being offered – numerous people apply for just about every job listed. Too many, in fact. This is especially true for those that get to job boards like Monster, Dice (for technology professionals), Career Builder, Indeed and others. This is also part of why ATSs are not going anywhere anytime soon. It is one more challenge for job seekers, but also one more challenge for companies, because a natural question arises: are companies hiring the best people for these jobs, or the people best able to game the ATS, and are they one and the same?

All of this is before we even get to interviewing candidates, which is a subject we could spend years on from several angles. The interview process is a challenge for candidates and interviewers alike, and is not getting easier.

But that reality all points to how many challenges companies face in hiring. What is perhaps most surprising is, as revealed in this HBR article, just how many of those challenges can be mitigated by efforts of their own. At a time when Human Resources appears to be at a crossroads in American business, this may be one area where they can show great value to the company and should be empowered by the executive team to take that responsibility on. This is too important an area of a business for that to not happen.

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