The heart of hiring is a human one. Let’s keep it healthy.

In all my previous jobs, including my current one running an HR marketing firm, I’ve hired dozens and dozens of employees – from higher education to high-tech to the HR marketplace, marketing and PR. I’ve played recruiter, hiring manager and human resources, although I’ve never officially held the title of any with the exception of sourcer.  When I first entered the HR marketplace over a decade ago, I went to work as a sourcing account manager for a company called prior to taking over the marketing communications function and internal sales team.

Let’s take a ride in the Way Back Internet Time Machine, shall we?

Our pitch was this: sources Interested, Qualified Applicants for software developer, IT, and Asian-language bilingual positions. You pay only for those candidates who you decide meet your specifications and who have agreed to an interview. You’re in control.

Sophisticated artificial intelligence quickly predicts the likelihood of a match between interested applicants and a particular position.

It was cool.  It was ahead of its time.  And it became a demise before the end of 2001.

Time and again we pushed our artificial intelligence proprietary matching system. I’ve worked with hundreds of HR suppliers, many who claim their technology will help companies identify and screen the right applicant for the right position quickly and effectively.  And there’s truth to that; there are many quality products and services that accelerate sourcing, recruiting and hiring.

To a point. It is practically impossible to completely remove the human subjectivity of hiring. No wonder some of our clients would repeatedly question the validity of our results

In a recent article on matching technology from John Sumser’s HRExaminer, he states:

Lots of forecasts for the future of Recruiting and HR focus on phenomenal breakthroughs in technology’s ability to personalize and match environments. That’s probably not really going to happen in the foreseeable future. The triple disciplines of sourcing, attraction and selection will continue to require human intervention at the decision making point.


This is true in every size organization; the final decision is a human one.

And the good news, based on the recent Intuit Small Business Employment Index, is that employment has increased since mid-2009, with nearly 150,000 new jobs for businesses with fewer than 20 employees, which comprise 87 percent of the total U.S. private employer base.

And what helps make the final human decision be the right one?

Cross-functional cultural interviewing.  Allowing others in the company, regardless of position, to meet with and interview applicants in a relaxed, informal setting, maybe even offsite is very important.  Cultural fit is critical is small spaces.

Scenario-based tests. If you’re hiring an Internet researcher, then have them do some Internet research.  If you’re hiring a developer, then have them complete a coding test.  If you’re hiring a marketing person, then have them put together a brief plan that would generate more publicity, traffic and leads.

Going beyond the ceremonial reference check. Ask for 5 or more references, not just the standard 2.  Make sure they include previous employers, co-workers and vendors they’ve worked with when appropriate.  Engage and question them beyond name, rank and salary number.

Social media participation. I’m all about transparency and personal responsibility, so although no one should be required to participate in social media, if applicants are already doing so, then you can follow up. What services are they using, and how effective and appropriate are their social media communication skills?  If you’re squelching participation within your company, you’re losing a competitive edge and quality applicants.

Google. Yeah, you heard me.  See above.  But do be careful not to make your final hiring decisions on what you find online with one exception.  See below.

Background screening. Workplace violence and fraud are always a concern, and conducting regular background checks on all final applicants can help ensure a safe and legitimate environment.  Though this requires using an outside service, you can’t “go with the gut” on these things.

Offering flexible work schedules. The way we work continues to change and the personal and professional so intertwined.  Be open to offering telecommuting, flexible irregular schedules, dialing up and down workload based on company/personal needs, giving time off for volunteering, community and social-based causes, etc.

The heart of hiring is a human one.  Let’s keep it healthy.

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