Keeping Answer Guy Central running can be a complicated thing. The job of making business change by putting the right people in the right places to handle our clients’ needs isn’t always easy, and I’m constantly on the lookout for new talent. Last week, I was discussing the state of job search with someone who said:

“Job descriptions are of a person who doesn’t exist, and the applicant’s task is to pretend to be that person”.

While there’s always been some truth to that—employers put out a wish list and potential employees do their best to look as though they fit—the Internet has made the problem much worse.

Now when you hunt for someone to fill a position at your company you get unlimited space instead of a predefined number of characters, or column-inches, or whatever format the newspapers you advertise in allow. It sounds great, but reality is that it encourages sloppy behavior by the person who write the job description. And that’s not even the real problem.

Now that your advertisement is read and responded to be people all over the world, the pool of applicants has gotten huge. That sounds like a great thing, but just as people who travel on business know how unglamorous business travel is, anyone who’s had to wade through hundreds of applications just to find a handful of people worth interviewing understands what a mixed blessing the Internet is to the hiring process. AND IT GETS WORSE: people don’t even have to spend money on a stamp or stationary any more, so the numbers get blown up by that “progress point”, too.

But those issues are just byproducts of “progress”. Let’s focus on the big problem ruining the could-be-a-great-thing business change: being able to describe the job you’re filling and the ideal applicant in as many words as you like means you’re going to add so many ideals and qualifications to the list that the person you describe won’t really exist. Or he exists, but there are exactly two of him, and they’re both busy.

Now go further: if person filling the slot at your organization is also screening the responses, he’ll be overworked, but at least he’ll have a shot at finding the best person in that mountain of paper.  On the other hand, if screening is handed off to a human resources type or worse yet is done electronically you’re going to be throwing away an awful lot of the best candidates because they aren’t “quite right”.

And again: NO ONE WILL BE QUITE RIGHT

Business Change requires flexibility. By all means, use Internet job boards. But then ask yourself whether you’re using them correctly. Finding the best people for your organization depends on you running the technology, and not letting it run you.

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