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ATD Blog

Is It Time to Put Your Hiring Practices on the Chopping Block?

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

A new global survey reveals that CEOs view attracting and retaining talent as their top internal concern for 2019 and developing the next generation of talent for leadership roles the third (The Conference Board, 2019).
Why is hiring talent so important? For one thing, the right talent remains critical to organizational success, so much so that according to PwC’s 2017 CEO survey, CEOs view the unavailability of talent and skills as the largest threat to their business.

For another matter, hiring is expensive. According to one study, employers spend $4,129 per hire in the United States. It may take money to make money, but is all the money we’re spending on hiring giving us the talent we need?

Two Problems With Current Hiring Practices

The first major problem I see with current hiring practices is that organizations don’t have a clear picture their existing hiring practices’ success. The methods for finding and placing talent are too often a clouded compilation of slow internal processes, limited recruitment channels, misaligned hiring practices, differing approaches among hiring managers, and varying timelines.

Organizations also often miss opportunities for data-driven insights into outcomes. Institutions tend to stop investigating the ROI of their hiring practices at the point of vacancy-fulfillment and don’t track metrics that could help evaluate their efficacy. In fact, only one in three U.S. companies report monitoring whether hiring practices led to good employees.

A second major problem is the over-reliance on experience and qualifications. Imagine that you need an amazing leader and people manager, and a rock-star at operations, people support, client support, and interpersonal relations. Most job postings would mistakenly reduce these competencies to easy-to-measure metrics like years of experience. Having served in several positions as the hiring manager, I understand why we seek certain qualifications, but I have also seen too many times where hiring on the basis of years of experience and tenured qualifications didn’t lead to a successful, productive, or motivated employee.

I can tell you story after story demonstrating that experience is often little more than a stopwatch for the number of years someone has led or performed unsuccessfully, been a less-than-ideal people manager, an average individual contributor, or tied down to a job for personal reasons. We must divorce the idea that years of experience automatically represents capacity for performing successfully and instead view it as historical background out of which we can ask a candidate to demonstrate their skills, learnings, growth, and vision for porting their skills to this new role.


Experience and Skills Portability

I was once recruiting a new consultant for a highly technical business analytics role. I needed this person to master BI software, while applying it with clients in a conversational, easy-to-grasp way. After poring through a flood of resumes and interviewing many candidates with unquestionable tech backgrounds, I interviewed someone with no background in consulting or BI who worked in client support services.

As I envisioned a day in the life of this role, I could see how her philosophy for customer service could help keep clients happy. Her aptitude for representing the customer while balancing organizational realities would help her communicate less-than-ideal product road map decisions, escalate concerns, and identify new product enhancements.

In this example, the candidate didn’t appear to qualify in terms of years of experience and background. Yet, she turned out to be a successful and favorite consultant for many happy clients. Her experience, though important, was a springboard to formulate interview questions to get at relevant (and portable) skills and determine whether she could successfully perform the core of this role.


To take this further, I could check the ROI of my hiring decision by looking at her performance but also at metrics such as employee engagement, cultural fit, and the organization’s ability to retain her in a competitive marketplace. In this manner, I could join the 33 percent of organizations that report having a succession plan to include developing talent for future leadership.

Summary and Considerations

Whether we’re evaluating candidates, seeking a new role, or rethinking our company’s hiring practices, we each have a part to play.

As hiring managers, we can evaluate good leadership, individual contribution, strong interpersonal skills, and collaboration skills in so many ways other than by years of experience, and consider that some skills are transferable across contexts, and that more nuanced qualifications can be obtained on the job.

As candidates, we can demonstrate the skills we have and show how our experience and qualifications build on our ability to apply ourselves in a new role. If you’re not asked, try to find a way to tell!

As organizations, we must get downright inquisitive about the ROI of our internal processes for defining new openings, recruitment channels, expectations of candidates, and interviewing techniques. We can continually query for evidence that validates how our hiring practices are leading to what we really want: to recruit, develop, and retain needed talent.

About the Author

Rachel Cubas-Wilkinson is a senior consultant for The Myers-Briggs Company, and a certified MBTI, FIRO, and CPI 260 practitioner. She is passionate about people development, self-awareness, and leadership, and specializes in planning, strategy, and learning for people and organizations. She has more than 15 years’ experience in roles that include teaching, leading, and consulting, and has worked across industries and in multiple geographies including higher education, corporate, and nonprofit organizations within the United States and abroad.

Rachel has launched new online and traditional programs, led innovations in learning, designed assessment and learning programs for recruitment and developing talent, and prepared new leaders for successful transitions. She has led organizational initiatives in learning assessment, technology roll-out and adoption, team formation and development, organizational change, and leading remote teams. She is known for her strategic and thoughtful approach to establishing key goals while balancing organizational needs with contextual realities. She has presented numerous conference sessions and workshops on learning, leadership style, team dynamics, and individual strengths development.

Rachel holds a doctorate in transformational leadership and change, as well as a master’s degree in leadership with a graduate concentration in adult learning methods and instruction. She also served as a founding board member of the Peter F. Drucker Society Global Network, South Florida chapter.

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