Powerlessness and Hiring Don’t Mix

By Scott Wintrip posted 01-25-2016 12:54


Feeling powerless is one of the darker aspects of being human. Whether you’re a parent who can’t stop an illness from ravaging your defenseless child, or you’re at home on the couch watching a television newscast about the latest violent attack in the Middle East, you all—we all—experience powerlessness at some point during life. Much of it, like incurable diseases, can’t be stopped. Some of it, however, like the powerless feeling many people have during the hiring process, can and should be minimized or eliminated.

Powerlessness is front and center in my life today as I watch my wife go through a round of chemotherapy. A few months back, this beautiful, amazing woman found a lump—a lump that turned out to be cancer. I’ve felt powerless many times in my life, but this experience beats them all.

While I’m grateful to be healthy and capable of being helpful, I’d trade places with her in a heartbeat. I think most husbands would feel the same. They’d gladly sacrifice themselves. I say cut me open. Pump toxic chemicals into me. Hell, I have no hair so I’m already one step ahead. Just don’t make me watch the woman I love and adore go through this. She’s dealt with enough in the past six months with her father dying from cancer and her mom being diagnosed with lung cancer.

Enough already.

I wish I could will this feeling away. I wish it were that easy. That’s not possible, though, and therein lies the rub. The way I see it, when you’re feeling powerless you have two options: you can move through it or run from it. The former approach processes the feeling and the latter ignores it. One is productive; the other isn’t. Unfortunately, when people experience powerlessness during the hiring process, they tend to default toward the latter.

It’s a problem.

Top talent who can’t get an employer to respond or act quickly will go somewhere else. Hiring managers who can’t get their internal people to fill an open job quickly will look outside the system. Staffing agencies and recruitment firms who can’t get their customers to promptly reply to candidate submissions will shop talent to other customers.

It makes sense to cut and run when things aren’t working. It’s easy to understand why people do it. What companies need to understand is that it’s not productive. You can’t run from powerlessness—you have to move through it.

You have to engage.

There’s a direct relationship between powerlessness and engagement. The more in control the candidate, hiring manager, or staffing agency representative feels, the more invested and engaged they are in the process.

We may be impotent before some things, but we have real power to change others. When hiring, the ability to create an experience wherein all parties feel empowered is well within our control—all we have to do is follow the three S’s:

  • Schedule
  • Share
  • Surprise

A long, drawn out series of interviews makes no sense when you need the seat filled yesterday. It makes even less sense if you want to create an engaging, potent process. One well-planned phone screening is all you need to gauge if a candidate is a good fit. One well-planned live interview allows you to see, hear, and experience if the good fit is a match made in employment heaven.

Because of their importance, the three S’s are an integral part of the On-Demand Hiring process I’ve pioneered and rolled out at hundreds of companies across the globe. The results speak for themselves: the retention rate at these companies is more than 90%.

Transparency creates trust, which becomes the foundation of a budding employment relationship and solid rapport with candidates, hiring managers, and staffing partners. Share not only how you’re shortening and streamlining your process, but also exactly what will happen during it. You don’t have to give away personal secrets or tricks of the hiring trade you use to ascertain traits like honesty or follow-through. Simply share what, who, when, and why: what decisions and choices will be made, who will make them, when they’ll happen, and why they’re made. When all the stakeholders know what’s happening beforehand, the hiring process becomes fast, lean, and efficient.

Unpleasant surprises have no place in a process that begins a relationship, but positive ones are welcome, remembered, and passed on. Surprise candidates by making them smarter during the hiring process. This includes giving them access to educational materials or industry insights. Hiring managers dream of being surprised by faster response times than promised. Staffing partners go out of their way to help customers who skip excessive interviews, trusting both that the firm sent the right person to do the job and will replace them if the hire goes south. Planning surprises ahead of time allows them to be used consistently and generously as a tool for keeping all parties positively engaged.

While I’m powerless over my wife having cancer, I can and certainly will remain engaged in the process, doing my part to help her manage her treatment, recovery, and healing. I plan to meet everything head on and move through my feelings of powerlessness. Her prognosis is good and that gives me tremendous hope. The prognosis is also good for companies that do everything within their power to minimize and eliminate powerlessness for candidates, hiring managers, and staffing partners. Those that do won’t have to hope people stay involved—they will because the company made it so. Those that do won’t have to wish the hiring process produced positive results—it will because they made it so.

It will happen because they engaged. It will happen because they made it happen.