Is the Talent Shortage Partially Self-inflicted?

by Dave Forbes

There is an article by LeadershipIQ that I just recently saw called The Worker Shortage Is Partially Self-Inflicted. The article is focused on some of their survey results regarding how leaders see the hiring practices of their own companies. It was a small sample size, but the surveys illustrate that there are some gaps in what people perceive about their hiring practices and what may be happening. Interestingly, people that I speak with agree that the shortage of workers is partially self-inflicted. To be fair, most of these people are in HR, so they may not be completely objective responses. Furthermore, the survey is from Q4 2021, it appears that change is coming slowly within some organizations as they must adapt to a new game with a new playing field and rules.

Most of LeadershipIQ’s survey questions were focused on topics around the respondents’ company’s hiring practices like “Would I be hired if I had to apply for my job again?” and “Is our company too strict with our hiring criteria?” All are very good questions, and the results speak for themselves. The questions that caught my attention were about the HR leaders and what they thought about their own hiring managers’ capabilities in interviewing and evaluating candidates. Based on the survey, 62% of HR leaders that responded thought their hiring managers were not consistent with how they interview people. Just as worrisome, 68% of HR leaders surveyed didn’t think their managers were consistently evaluating candidates. So, if a company’s candidate interviewing and evaluations are not consistent, how exactly does one gauge and select talent? What is the impact on the hiring process if there isn’t a consistent process to determine who is the right person for a job(s) one is trying to fill? Would you do this when buying a home? A car? What about dating? Since interviewing is like speed-dating on steroids, here are some tips that can help with creating a consistent interviewing and evaluation process for candidates to increase one’s chances for success.

Understanding what you are looking for before you start looking

A critical mistake that I have seen managers make over the years is for them to say “I’ll know it when I see it” when it comes to hiring people. If a company or a manager truly wants to create a consistent interviewing and evaluation process, put a plan in place. I realize that everyone is busy, but any plan is better than no plan at all. Developing a baseline is a good foundation for consistency.

  • Review the role, the work that needs to be done, and the skills someone filling this role should have. Use these to establish the evaluation criteria.
  • Develop a few interview questions that pertain to the criteria that every candidate will need to answer. Not too many, save time for an organic conversation to develop.
  • Understand and document what the acceptable answers are to those questions.
  • Create an interview scorecard to help create an objective candidate ranking system.

Make sure the interviewer(s) know what they are doing

No one is a natural-born interviewer. It is a learned skill that is practiced over time. If a manager doesn’t do a lot of hiring, they are likely out of practice. Feel free to insert any sayings here about what a lack of practice can mean, like “if you don’t use it, you lose it,” etc. To make it more interesting, there is some legal jeopardy for a company if inexperienced interviewers inadvertently ask the wrong questions. I recommend asking your HR department for training if you, or anyone on your team is new to, or out of practice with, interviewing. The internet isn’t the most reliable source of information so I don’t advise relying on a Google search. If you don’t have an HR department, Converge HR Solutions can help with this.

The more the merrier

I also recommend an inclusive interview process with additional people. One advantage is I’ve lost count of the number of times when I’ve missed something in an interview that was noticed by someone else. Another advantage is team or stakeholder engagement. There is an adage that if you want an engaged team, engage them. A manager including their team is an easy way to get them invested in the process and provide an opportunity to practice interviewing. When a manager is developing interview questions, they can assign team members different questions to ask each candidate during the interviews. The impact is two-fold, it can help create consistency since the same person is asking the same question each time and the team feels they are involved in the selection process.

Who they are, not just what they can do

Another opportunity to increase your chances of success in hiring is to focus on the person. Who are they? What do they like about their work? What are they most proud of professionally? How do they handle setbacks? What do they want to be when they grow up? Our jobs are as emotionally stressful and challenging as any personal relationship. Why wouldn’t a manager take the time to see if the candidate is someone they and the team want to work with? All too often managers can get super focused on the skills at the expense of the person. The damage to the team’s morale and effectiveness can be immense if the candidate doesn’t match the team’s personality and energy level.

Candidate experience

The other benefit of focusing on the person and having an inclusive interview process is the candidate’s experience. In today’s talent market, candidates are interviewing managers as much as the managers are interviewing them. When someone takes an interest in you personally, what happens? It starts to build a foundation of a relationship that can carry over to someone’s employment. I wasn’t kidding about comparing interviewing to speed dating on steroids. Now, which opportunity do you think a candidate will remember after several interviews with different companies? The one that peppered them with a lot of questions about their work history and their skills, or the one that took the time to get to know them and in the course of the conversation learned all about their skills and work history?

So, is the talent shortage partially self-inflicted? Yes and No. A specific company’s inability to hire all the talent they need could, in part, be self-inflicted. We are all guilty to some degree of “getting in our own way.” However, there are always things that are beyond anyone’s ability to control. It’s a competitive market out there, and people have more than one opportunity. What I’ve learned about this new modern era of hiring is that technology can assist the process, but recruiting and hiring are still, at their very core, people talking to people. The better skilled recruiters and managers get at that part of the process, the more likely they will be to have people accept offers. Let’s be clear, there is no panacea or silver bullet that can fix everything when it comes to the challenges we face in the current talent market. There isn’t a “one size fits all” solution either. But enacting some of these tips and remembering that we are all just humans doing human things can certainly increase a manager’s chance for success in hiring people.


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