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Hiring - The great Recruitment "Labyrinth"

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Rajit Nair

Here is the funny clipping depicting the interview scene from the movie, Step Brothers. Well! That’s satire, but it’s time to go for a reality check out there in our corporate world!

Every year, one of the public transport companies from the Persian Gulf heads to the northern part of Kerala to recruit ‘skilled’ heavy-duty drivers for their workforce.

What are the key ‘driving forces’ behind this hiring where it’s not left hand traffic (driving) as well as the automatic, low-floor buses just made the entry in our roads needs a debate. The daring attitude of our bus drivers, their maneuvering skills to drive through the narrow, pot-holed roads in Kerala or may be their ‘competitive’ spirit while chasing another vehicle to ‘serve’ the public, may be the few notable ‘USPs’(Unique Selling Propositions). We need to appreciate the guts of the hiring company to recruit our drivers who will be ‘tamed’ and ‘fit’ into a working culture entirely different from the one they are used to. The adjustments they make in spite of hailing from a 100% literate and highly politically enlightened state, they can’t ‘react’ like they used to do like calling for ad-hoc strikes against silly issues is highly appreciable.

Anyway, what amused me most are the interview techniques, the interview team resort to source the best talent. The recruitment team from the transport company is led by one of the managers, citizen of that country along with an Indian supervisor. So, when you recruit heavy-duty drivers, you expect to conduct a driving test with an oral session, to test whether the candidate could apprehend the traffic basics and also able to read the signboards and write the trip sheets. You are mistaken. The only criteria, the interview team would be looking for in this ‘reality show’ is that how the candidate holds the steering wheel. What is required is to hold the steering wheel in a ‘perfect’ stance, or to be more specific it should be as per the industry standard, the 10 minutes to 2 ‘O’ clock position. The candidate is selected, if he succeeds in this ‘acid test’. Rest is left for the Almighty to take control!

Let us move on to another scenario that is happening in our neighborhoods every year. Months of March and April are the time when our local private schools hire teachers to replenish their human ‘stock’. Most of our schools lack a proper HR department or someone handling the recruitment needs. As the business owners of these schools, be a trust or a group, put their heart for recruiting senior academics to script credibility for their school (if it is a new born school, then real ‘man hunting’ happens as they all go for well known, retired old horses from the education sector and the auction would resemble our IPL player auctions) and generally, less attention will be given for non academic staff. Even if they hire non-academic support staff they would fill in those positions i.e. receptionists, accountants or other office staff. Such hiring normally would be ‘political’ based on recommendations or may be ‘imposed’ by the trust or by the owner of the school. In such a scenario, who will argue or request for an additional HR person in the school. As the demand for teachers are high in different formats like part time, full time or sometimes substitutes, you cant expect the Principal or the Academic Head to conduct interviews every time.

Most schools would utilize their current teachers to act as subject matter expert (SME) and be part of the interview team. The irony is that, these subject matter experts would flex their muscles during these interviews and utilize the occasion to ‘impress’ their Academic Head or the Principal or the management representative with their ‘in-depth’ knowledge. They fail to understand that they need not do that, as they are already part of the team. They deliberately forget the objective of the interview is to hire, good and caring teachers. This happens mainly, when ‘young blood’ meets the ‘old horses’ during such job interviews. These ‘naïve’ subject matter experts would spoil the entire mission and most likely, qualified and talented teachers would be eliminated from the list citing ridiculous reasons. In the long run, the school’s reputation will definitely get hit if similar episodes continue to happen.

In the age of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), it is natural that the recruitment processes are also outsourced to save time and money. RPO is the technical term for this process. Professional companies handle the RPO without any issues or complaints. However, selecting the right RPO provider is a challenge. Like any other industry, some ‘adjustments’ may happen with the internal skill sets of few RPO providers. As demand for such services started flooding, many new entrants in this field started engaging ‘novices’ for handling the initial telephone screening of the candidates. Without any practical or hands-on experience or expertise to do such interviews, they conduct interviews in the most amateur fashion. Many candidates complained to the hiring companies that these callers, just ‘interrogate’ without even reading their CVs and many times, they fumble when the candidate ask them about the job description. Again, such acts would tarnish the hiring company’s image and future recruitment initiatives may get hit, badly.

Similarly, hiring company’s reputation is at risk when the engaged recruitment firm or the executive search consultants engage junior employees to interview senior candidates. I have seen many experienced candidates getting irritated, when they realize at the interview room, the person sitting in front of him is very junior and do not know the abc’s of conducting job interviews. In such cases, it will end up as the candidate interviewing the interviewer. What a shame?

Another precedent that comes to my mind at this juncture is about the bogus advertisements placed by recruitment companies these days just to populate their databanks. Candidates, without knowing this hoax would apply and expect interview calls. The height of this fraud is when such firms’ even conduct fake interviews.

Some hiring managers as mentioned in one of my articles on the leadership styles, only ‘hunt’ for mediocre candidates just because they hate to see smart and ‘intelligent’ candidates. Most probably, they don’t want someone to question their skills or their business conduct. So please don’t be surprised, if a highly recommended candidate was turned down on ‘technical’ grounds.

Recently, one of the youngsters from my neighborhood joined the NRI club by accepting a job in Dubai. Let me give a little insight. The young, well-built macho was working in a government project as tech support. He is trained in Trouble Shooting and networking. For better life and due to the influence of his neighbor to ‘go and see the world’, he applied for a similar job in Dubai. A company representative interviewed him in the garden city of Bangalore and the ‘deal’ was fixed for a very low compensation. This always happen to our Indian techies pursuing a career beyond the boundaries of India, because the picture our ‘IT stalwarts’ and ‘IT missions’ in the state portrays that India is a cheap IT destination. This prejudice price tag is harming our youngsters. Yes, when you are trying to attract US or European IT projects you have the right to use such ‘catchy’ marketing slogans. But you should consider the other side of the coin. When our IT-ians were hired for Middle East or other places, the same logic is seen applied by the hiring companies, which the candidate could not question as the hiring official always quote what our so-called ‘IT guardian angels’ and their websites ‘brag’. This is unfair is what I would say as I have witnessed this phenomenon many times.

Anyway, the other day, the youngster called me from Dubai to share his anguish about his career. He was hired as tech support, but the job right now is totally different as he was assigned with the task of maintenance of office automation equipment. Like his fellow NRI’s nurturing ‘Gulf Dreams’, he accepted the task, as life had to go on.

During the job interview, the company representative never conveyed with clarity the job description. Either the interviewer did not understand the nature of the job or the candidate failed to ask more details about the job before signing for the ‘mission abroad’.

Interviewing is a skill. Whether it be soft skills or technical skills the interviewer is probing for, it’s important that the interviewer should possess common sense, ‘people handling’ skills and good communication skills. HR should be given more active role in job interviews, as both the hiring institution’s name and the candidate’s career are at stake.

Please keep visiting (every week) for more on the series “Fearless or Shameless”. © stateoftheartconsulting 2010

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