HR is broken, and no one knows better than Dave (fake name). He got the rare opportunity to write a job description for the very position he was applying for. Instead of being an obvious shoo-in for an interview, however, the human resources folks decided he wasn’t a good fit.
I know this sounds confusing so let me explain the full story. Dave had been working for the Technology Director of Acme Co. (fake company) and after being repeatedly asked to join as an official staff member, finally decided it was time. The director was ecstatic! He knew Dave would be the perfect candidate to bring in to the fold because he had already been working for 4 years alongside Acme Co. He was easily a no brainer and the staff loved him — there was just one hoop to jump through. HR.
The process had to go through the ever-capable hands of human resources and part of that process required an official job description to be written. Because the director simply wanted Dave, who had already proven himself, they figured it would be easiest just to write the job description around Dave’s resume. In this way, they could check all the HR boxes without wasting time. Dave wrote his own job description, the director looked it over and passed it off to HR to schedule the interview, but he certainly did expect what happened next.
Before the interview would be scheduled HR had a concern they wanted to ask about. They knew that Dave had been working with the company a while, but didn’t believe his resume matched the job description closely enough to be considered for a job interview — the job description they were unaware Dave wrote to match his own resume. Dave was eventually hired. Yes. This is a true story.
How Could That Happen?
HR is known to force candidates through endless (and idiotic) hoops, treat them with complete indifference, pump them for ideas, then not return phone calls. Many view the department as a necessary evil… and that doesn’t change for internal employees. To be clear, fault in the broken HR process doesn’t solely lie with HR employees. Company leadership bears much of the blame and drives HR people to make these fear-based choices in the first place.
HR is broken because its leaders aren’t put in the position of finding the best candidates, but protecting the company from bad ones. This small distinction is the difference between their job being treated as a resource verses a defense mechanism that is used to constantly poke holes through candidates — finding ones that can’t possibly pose any risk.
Like anyone else, these handcuffed HR people begin to look for safe options in the form of familiarity. Logically, if they only hire people that match current employees who have avoided scrutiny — they escape blame. Therefore, if there is anything unusual or unfamiliar about a candidate, that person isn’t even considered. Period.
It should be obvious this strategy is a losing one, incapable of growing a company or pushing it forward. But, when most are given the option to pick the familiar and escape scrutiny versus picking someone different with the chance of failure. It’s not a hard choice. They aren’t thinking of company objectives, but departmental objectives.
What To Do When HR Is Broken
For leaders, trust your HR people to find talent and stop holding them responsible for bad candidates. No one is a mind reader and no one can predict fit no matter how many personality tests, or hoops you set up. You will hire jerks. Accept that. For HR people, hire candidates that fit company goals, not candidates who make your job easier or help you escape scrutiny.
For candidates? You need to understand HR is broken and may not change. You need to weigh what is truly valuable to you. If it’s a paycheck (and there’s nothing wrong with that) then fit in. Be plain. Do not stick out. The chances of getting a job go up. Don’t ghost employers.
But if you want to feed your passion and contribute to a work culture that you can align with, be yourself and do not hide it. Own it. An honest resume is both magnetic to great companies and a repellent to pests. Companies that pass on you will get the employees they deserve and you increase your chances of finding a great company.