Why hiring is the Everest of business challenges, and how I conquered its peak (Part 1)

job description
Artificial intelligence
Personal story

Throughout my career, one thing has become clear: the process of hiring is as unpredictable as it is crucial. Just when I believed I had mastered it, a surprise would throw my strategy off-course. Leaving me dumbstruck and trying to figure out how to solve the situation. It's tempting to think of hiring as a straightforward task — like choosing ingredients for a meal. You pick out some onions, some tomatoes, and some basil, and voila, you have the founding elements for a tomato sauce. However, hiring is more akin to the art of molecular gastronomy, blending art, science, and audacity, than traditional cooking.

For over 15 years, I've been in the thick of talent acquisition, which is a concept derived from what most people used to call hiring. I've had the privilege of learning the ropes...from sourcing potential candidates to making the final call of who to hire, where each step has its unique challenges. But over time, I've managed to identify some common patterns of why hiring is the Everest of business challenges.

The Everest of tasks: Unpacking the complexity of hiring

So, what makes hiring such a daunting endeavor?

  • Time Investment: A never-ending race against the clock.
  • Stakeholder Drama: With more players than a Game of Thrones season.
  • The Manual Labor: It's like building IKEA furniture without the manual.
  • Dreams Vs. Reality: Candidates' aspirations can be as elusive as a Salvador Dali painting.
  • Ego Wrestling: A game where declaring a winner is challenging.
  • Internal Politics: High school cliques? They've matured and entered the corporate world.
  • The Tech Traps: Tools that over-promise and under-deliver.
  • Blind Biases: Invisible prejudices that influence our decisions.
  • The Art of Persuasion: Selling a vision, a promise.
  • Analytical Acumen: Breaking down compatibility as if it's a Sherlock mystery.
  • Marketing the Role: It's about selling a vision, not just a job title.

This complex tapestry of challenges means that hiring isn't just about recruiting. It calls for the acumen of a market analyst, the insight of a psychologist, the persuasion of a salesperson, and occasionally, the foresight of a clairvoyant. Any seasoned talent acquisition professional probably has war stories for days and mishaps throughout one's career.

I love talking to other professionals within the TA space, to learn from their experience, to understand why they took a specific course and how they handle some of the challenges listed above. Each conversation brings more light to this daunting task.

The base camp for hiring

In my countless conversations with fellow professionals, one fundamental truth keeps emerging: the cornerstone of a successful hiring process is an impeccable role description. Think of it as the base camp for a mountaineering expedition. Before you ascend Everest, base camp provides a foundation, a grounding point that ensures every subsequent step is guided and purposeful. Similarly, a robust role description serves as that foundation in the hiring journey.

This might sound rudimentary, but it’s surprising how often this is overlooked or rushed. In a world teeming with complexities and ever-changing variables, the clarity that a well-crafted role description provides is unmatched. It not only sets clear expectations for potential candidates but also serves as a compass for recruiters, guiding every step of the hiring process.

The Essence of hiring: Understanding the Role's Depth:

Imagine attempting to hire for a pivotal position with only an ephemeral grasp of its complexities. This is comparable to diving into the art of assembling a jigsaw puzzle blindfolded, where you’re aware of the pieces but oblivious to the grand image they’re meant to form. Job descriptions are far more than mere enumerations of tasks or boxes to tick. They are akin to architectural blueprints, meticulously conceived to encapsulate the very soul of a role. Just as a blueprint guides the mason, electrician, and carpenter in constructing a building, these descriptions navigate both recruiter and candidate through the labyrinthine corridors of talent acquisition.

Where are we going?

In the grand theater of hiring, discerning the crux of a job is no less than understanding the pivotal plot of an epic tale. Is the role of the protagonist driving sales, or the maestro harmonizing team dynamics? Perhaps it's the visionary leading a brigade of process innovations? As the narrative becomes clear, your quest for the ideal character shifts. It's no longer about the cursory glance, hoping for a match. It's a deep dive into the annals of skills, experiences, and aspirations, searching for that individual who doesn’t merely "fit" but wholly embodies the role’s essence.

Delving into the multifaceted world of talent acquisition, a well-crafted job description becomes crucial. It charts the course for every subsequent action, from sifting through a sea of resumes to weaving those intricate interview questions. But its most salient feature? Setting a harmonic tone of expectations between the hiring team and the potential hire. It is the compass ensuring you don’t stray into treacherous territories and the master recipe shielding against the bitter aftertaste of regrettable hires.

In essence a job description acts as a guiding star throughout the hiring process, ensuring alignment from the start, minimizing potential hiring mishaps.
Lessons learned and how to get started with job descriptions

It's not always evident what a role entails. For instance, when hiring management consultants, defining their role was a real challenge. The nature of their job changes over time, evolving from a data-driven role where details are extremely important, but later emerge into a leadership position, and eventually to a business-centric one. And the definition of excellence varies across organizations, even if they offer similar services. Hence, I realized that job analysis is perhaps the most intricate yet critical part of hiring. The repercussions of getting it wrong can be dire.

I've faced pitfalls by not analyzing roles deeply, and ending up with candidates who, although skilled, weren't the right fit. This misalignment often became evident months later when they underperformed or felt disconnected. Leaving me to start all over again and them having/wanting to resign (the reality of an up or our culture)

What you can learn from my mistakes

To create better job descriptions, resources like Onet online, Platsbanken (Swedish), and ESCO can be invaluable. As a solution to this challenge, we also developed a job description generator, leveraging internal data and AI for your pleasure. It might be a helpful tool for your endeavors in hiring.

Bye for now

Continued reading:

Part 2: The arbitrage in hiring

Part 3: Mechanical and mathematical aspects

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