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Human resources

Getting a job *should* be hard.

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Today I gave a reference for a long time colleague and friend, most of the time the questions people ask when checking CV references are barely more sincere than the standard 4 questions real-estate agents ask when checking potential tenants. It’s a fait accompli.

A real employment exam: this 1964 photo shows a NASA scientist testing astronaut John Glenn’s inner ear balance mechanism by running cool water into his ear and measuring the effect on Glenn’s eye motions.

This time was different, it took 20+ min and they asked deep probing questions. We quickly got beyond the basics of establishing my colleague was capable and moved into questions about the best environment, growth areas and how to get the best out of this person. These guys really cared about getting the right person, but also that the job was right for them as well. They also wanted to know how to make it the best possible engagement for everyone. For them hiring was a long and through process which required a significant commitment from everyone involved, myself included.

When you audition to join the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, widely regarded as one of the very best in the world you play the equivalent of a full recital in front of the entire orchestra. It’s very very hard to get in, but when you do, everyone knows how hard it was and knows you’ve earned your place. After all, they were part of the group that picked.

If you’re hiring staff, be ruthless – it should be hard to get in. Stop and think about how much time you spend with an individual making a decision which has consequences (good or bad) which both you and your potential employee will live with for many years to come. Is a 45 min interview with someone from HR and one manager really enough ?

I often hear discussions of how arduous the hiring process at some companies is, and how it turns people off from applying. Google is (in)famous for it’s complicated and exhaustive hiring process. Turning people away because the process might be hard is a good thing. As a potential employee if you’re not prepared to invest a few hours, maybe even a few days in finding out if a job is right for you, are you really excited enough about working for the company ? Wouldn’t you rather know that everyone who you might be working with has had to step up and deliver against the same set of challenges, interview and interrogations.

Getting a job should be hard.

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