Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Theory vs. Results

Workforce Management Magazine covers a slew of topics that would be of interest to managers at almost any level.

The other day I was drawn to an article titled: Could Your Best New Hire Be a "Recareering" Boomer? It was interesting to me on two levels. First, there was a fair amount of comment in the article that essentially said that keyword searching was still not much help to recruiters. Indeed, there was a quote from Kathy Barton, SVP of Marketing & Product Development for PeopleClick in which she said that technology was not very effective in screening career-changing candidates. She said the best stats indicated that "...the use of keyword searches by the major job boards result in matches less than 10% of the time." The article goes on to talk a bit about the efforts that Peopleclick is making to try and help recruiters match skills and competencies. The problem with all of this, of course, is that once you have the "list" people can, and do, just add them to their own "buzz word" lists and you are pretty much back where you started in terms of trying to assess the characteristics and attributes and "fit" of an individual to the organization's need.

While I was not surprised to read this, it reminded me of the narrowness with which both candidates and recruiters often approach each other.

There are many thousands of "boomers who have been in the rat race for 20 plus years who are very interested in moving into something different and more challenging on many levels. Yet when they try to position themselves in the marketplace, they feel compelled to present themselves to the recruiting world as a series of "buzz words" (i.e. keywords) that put them right back in the mold they are trying to break. Why?

Answer: Because the recruiter's client, who is really worried about the "not invented here" syndrome doesn't dare to ask the recruiter to find someone that doesn't look like a cookie-cutter candidate from within the same industry based on a "list" of what in the technology age become keywords. Sad.

The candidates seem to forget that what has really made them successful in their industry probably doesn't have all that much to do with their industry knowledge as it does with their skills as an executive. Sure, the industry knowledge is a plus, but it is hardly the “be all and end all”. Knowledge can be acquired. Skills have to be developed, but once developed are readily transferable.

What we should be talking about is how the candidate's effectiveness as a manager and the things that includes: their skills as a leader(whatever that may mean), an effective communicator, a motivator, and problem solver.

That a candidate must possess the requisite "skills" for the job is a given, but when it comes to someone who wants to get out of the "box" as many boomers are going to want to do, it isn't a question of skills, it is a question of those with the need taking advantage of the knowledge base that these executives have and not being overly concerned with putting people back in the same sandbox they are trying to escape.

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