Online Recruitment Tools - Roadblocks to Creativity and Innovation?

I get it, as HR professionals we’re trained to understand that past behaviour (and past work experience) is the best predictor of future behaviour and success.  At face value I don’t disagree with this approach.  But here’s the catch.

When we buy in to this belief wholesale, and especially when we use online filtering tools for recruiting, I have to wonder if we’re taking people out of the pipeline who, while slightly outside of what we believe to be the ideal candidate, might bring some new perspective and ideas into the business.  I’m not talking about the folks who apply for everything with little regard for the fact that their education, experience and work preferences bear absolutely no resemblance to the position being advertised.   But I am talking about people who have great transferrable skills along with a drive and passion for the business or cause.

I can tell you almost every CEO or President I’ve worked with share a similar lament ...”where do we find some new thinking?”  Organizations everywhere are trying to figure out the key to unlocking innovation in their companies.  Well, I can’t help but think that we often design the first step of the recruitment process so tightly that it’s unintentionally built to screen out any new thinking.  If you don’t answer within a narrow acceptable range to the 5-6 qualifying questions, you likely end up in the electronic “No” pile.  I wonder who the CEO, especially if s/he is the entrepreneurial type, might pull out of that “No” pile?

So we methodically work through a process that while it definitely reduces risk, also ensures that we simply recycle the same people from one organization to another.  While our online recruitment process may effectively address risk, are we paying for it at the cost of innovation?   If we really want some out-of-the-box thinking, then maybe we need some out-of-the-box candidates!

We’ve all got a lot on our plates these days, and there’s no doubt an initial online screening questionnaire saves time and can be a helpful first step in some recruitments.  However, are we misusing the tool by designing our validating questions so tightly that it’s now impeding value instead of adding value?  In our process-driven work environments where valid, repeatable methods help us to work more efficiently, predictably and with consistent quality, I think we need to take care not to narrow the funnel too early in the talent recruitment process.  

Some of the best hires I’ve ever made didn’t fit the mold perfectly and had I not taken a chance to evaluate their potential, they never would have made it into the candidate mix.  Yes, there is always the risk of an epic fail somewhere along the way, but innovation of any kind doesn’t come without some calculated risk.  Not every out-of-the-box candidate will have what it takes to make it through the entire recruitment process, and that's ok.  Because along the way they will challenge your thinking and in my experience of those who do prove to be the successful candidate, the payoff can be huge.     

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