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Job-Matching the Harvard Way (No Experience or Degree Required)

Job-Matching the Harvard Way (No Experience or Degree Required)

One of my primary objectives for this blog is helping HR play a more active and engaged role in their hiring process. I teach this a variety of ways. Most importantly though and because ninety percent of candidates begin their search online, I attempt to shift HR professionals’ perception of sourcing and recruiting to one that is Internet focused. In other words, using online marketing tactics to ensure you cast the widest net of qualified applicants possible.

While this approach seems to be gaining traction in the HR realms, it’s still a vastly underutilized and a widely misunderstood approach. Every once and a while though, the hiring heavens open and deliver me a little gem like this recent Harvard study. If you’ve attended any of my free webinars, you know I’m data obsessed, and when there are some real numbers out there to support what I’ve been trying to teach to my almost three thousand clients and the thousands more who have heard or seen me speak, I can’t help but feel a little giddy.

What I love most about the study is that it debunks almost every hiring myth associated with 360,000 Sales folks across fourteen industries. Each group of 18,000 was selected at random to breed confidence that the statistical data created an accurate portrayal of the sample’s culture.

While I could ramble on for sixteen pages about how HR’s preconceived notions regarding Sales candidates hurt them rather than help them, I’ll save that diatribe for one of my presentations.

I’d like to direct your attention to the two findings that really stuck out to me – college degrees do NOT equal performance; neither does experience. If you’re anything like my clients, you’re going to need to stop reading and take a deep breath after that last sentence. No, it wasn’t a typo, and no, I’m not making it up. A test group 360,000 people deep doesn’t lie.

So, what does this information mean for you? It means that most corporate recruiters are selecting the wrong candidates for their team. And while this study centers around predominantly Sales people, it suggests that reevaluating your applicant expectations for other positions isn’t a bad idea either. You see, throwing out requirements that seem to make sense without any evidentiary support is comparable to playing a game of hiring Russian Roulette because you’re leaving the success of your employee’s fit to chance.

Let’s face it, education and experience are important and necessary if you’re hiring for a position that requires them (MD, Engineer, etc.), but they definitely aren’t an insurance policy for being a top seller, or even a reliable employee that gels with the culture of your company. Instead of requiring a Bachelor’s degree and X number years of experience, why not check in with your top performers to see what credentials they have? You can even take things a step further by conducting a behavior analysis benchmark for your best employees and then incorporate that assessment testing into your application process. If committing to pre-employment testing feels too risky to you, then based on your rockstar employees’ profile, design strategic screening questions to rate your applicants. This is a standard feature of ApplicantPro, but should be available with most applicant tracking systems.

The key is to select candidates that are right for YOUR company, not what society assumes makes a prime candidate. If your top performers have some college under their belt and one or two years of experience, interview applicants with similar profiles. Use a system that works and that is supported by data. Not only is this the “safer” approach for reducing turnover, but it’s the strategic route to HR and it’s sure to turn some heads at your next manager meeting.


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