OK, now I'm listening...
Over the past couple of weeks I have been involved in a review of my organisation’s hiring and onboarding policies; it’s been a very interesting process for me, as I’ve been sitting in on a number of interviews and have been able to indulge a somewhat worrying latent sadism by throwing in a few dreadfully left-field questions just as the candidates are beginning to feel comfortable.
The most interesting, and disturbing, aspect of what I’ve been doing, though, has been going through a broad selection of the CVs we’ve received, analysing the different responses we’ve had from different hiring channels. I say “disturbing” not because it’s given me an indication just how costly this whole process is (it’s safe to say the sheer number of different channels we use represents a significant departure from best practice) but because I have received a fresh insight into the depth of the talent problem in this country.
Shortly after last month’s riots I was talking with an old colleague of mine who has recently been advising local authorities on their hiring processes; he placed the riots in part down to what he calls “a total loss of focus on quality”, a problem manifesting itself, he believes, just as much in the short-termist remuneration policies which contributed to the banking crisis as in the explosion of reality television (it’s a fascinating thesis which I am urging him to turn into a book; unfortunately it appears his contracts with the public sector are so lucrative that he won’t be putting pen to paper any time soon other than when signing on the dotted line for his next house or two).
My acquaintance told me that he believes the most urgent evidence of this “loss of focus on quality” can be found in the secondary education system which is now entirely geared up to produce people who can pass exams at a basic level rather than who can enter the workforce in any meaningful way. I remember scoffing at what I felt was at best hyperbole and at worst a draft for a Daily Mail editorial. I’m not scoffing now.
I have been utterly flabbergasted at the horrendous paucity of quality represented by the selection of CVs I’ve reviewed in recent days. From spelling mistakes in covering emails – my favourite thus far is “Please see attatched my aplication” (er, no, I won’t, thank you) – to formatting glitches and even the delightful case of the gentleman who sent in an application by post but only included the first page of his CV, I’ve been treated to a litany of catastrophes – and that’s not even getting onto the topic of the disparity between the roles advertised and the (under)qualifications of many of the applicants. Qualifications which stop at a handful of mediocre GCSEs are not getting you a foot in the door of this particular global organisation, I assure you.
The experience would have been appropriately described as a comedy of errors if it hadn’t been so tragic. Of the several dozen CVs I’ve looked at only two or three have been anywhere near what I’d consider to be an acceptable standard. I’ve long looked down at those who’ve lamented the “talent crisis” in the UK, writing them off as uninformed without considering that most of those I work with are experienced, battle-hardened professionals. Now I’ve been given a snapshot of the new generation the only thing I’m looking down is the barrel of the gun we’re pointing at our own economy.