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Why Hiring is Like Buying your 1st House

It’s Friday so I wanted to close the work week off at The Armchair HR Manager with a nice analogy/metaphor post. As mentioned in previous posts, I have been involved in the recruiting, I mean Talent Acquisition, I mean Human Capital Acquisition field(s) for some time. So I have had the pleasure of being part of some really unique campaigns and helping to hire some great individuals. Having said that, I have also experienced my share of pain with the recruiting process in terms of managing the expectations of hiring managers and being asked to find those elusive purple squirrels. You know what I am referring to – the “perfect” candidate that exists out there somewhere.

All the challenges and discussions with hiring managers got me to thinking. (My wife is always quick to point out that is the precise moment when I get in trouble). None the less, I have to say that hiring is an awful lot like looking for and buying a house. Think about it, when you start to look for your first home, you have a laundry list of all the “Must Have’s” and “Don’t Want’s.” You initially refuse to settle for anything less than 100% of what is on your must have list. You begin the search process and over the course of several months (perhaps many long months) you begin to realize that there isn’t any one house out there that meets all of your needs. Perhaps the place has carpets and you want hard wood floors, maybe the entire place is wallpapered, or needs new paint, or doesn’t have a deck, or the roof needs new shingles, etc. You get my point. During this process, you probably came across 1 or 2 homes that were pretty good. They might have needed a few minor upgrades, tweaks or maybe some basic renovations but you refused to “settle.” (Perhaps like me you aren’t that handy so you wanted something move in ready).

House balanceSo then you start to think about building a new home so you can ensure you get all the exact features you are looking for. You start to look at lots, find builders, deal with subcontractors, design plans, pick out flooring, etc. This whole process ends up taking upwards of 6-12 months depending on availability of the contractors, weather conditions, etc. Eventually, your new home gets built but you have spent many more months waiting to move into your home, you spent another year on rent and overall have probably gone WAY over whatever budget you had set for yourself, not to mention the time and stress of going through the build process. If only you had bought the home you looked at 12 months ago that all you really needed to do was change out the carpets or paint the walls, etc. How much happier would you have been? How much money would you have saved? What about the stress and strain on your family life?

My point, now that I have finally got to it, is that hiring is just like the process of buying your first home – and deciding to build or buy a previously owned home. We often meet candidates during the hiring process that don’t have the laundry list of attributes, skills and experience we are “ideally” looking for. However, they have shown great aptitude and ability at their previous jobs that they are capable of picking up new technologies or that they have been involved with projects/challenges of similar size scope that you are looking for – albeit not IDENTICAL. Hiring managers refuse to waiver on the requirements and want the recruiters to keep hunting for that purple squirrel. They want all the experience/abilities that the posting asked for and refuse to ‘settle.’ Meanwhile, months go by, the work piles up, projects are not completed, stress levels of current team members increases, turnover results, etc. This all costs the company TIME & MONEY.

What could have been done? We could have hired the candidate that had some of the skills and experience that we were looking for. They might not have met the laundry list but they had the essential skills and qualifications. In other words, they were a high potential candidate that demonstrated that they could DO what the job required (albeit without the specific industry experience, etc. that was asked for). This person could have started on the job within weeks, been trained up to take on all elements of the job and alleviated the workload of others, helped deliver products on time and show an ROI within months of being hired.

So I ask, wouldn’t a better decision have been to hire this person (buy the house that needed some fix-ups), get them on the job and train them to take on all job elements (complete the renovations) all the while they are helping their co-workers to deliver for the company and generate revenue (move into your home earlier and stop paying rent)? I think the great recruiting guru Lou Adler sums it up best when he says, “Rather than start with a perfect person in mind, why not first define what this perfect person needs to do to earn the “perfect” employee title. Rather than define the perfect person, why not define a perfect outcome, and then seek out some remarkable imperfect people who have accomplished something reasonably comparable?”

As I said, hiring is a lot like buying your first home. There are lots of decisions and tradeoffs to make. A lot depends on what you are willing to accept or not accept. Me, I bought the house that needed some upgrades. However, I moved into the house I could afford, I stopped paying rent a lot sooner and we have lived happily ever after since. (This is why I always take this approach in my recruiting practice too!)

What about you? What has been your experience? Do you find hiring is a lot like buying a house? As always I welcome your thoughts and feedback.

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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