Hiring managers aren’t good at identifying talent

hiring manager bad comic

My experience has been that hiring managers aren’t good at identifying talent. No, this isn’t because they might not have selected me. I have been selected for jobs that I shouldn’t have had, and that is a problem too.

When I first started working I didn’t have a great deal of experience so I did all kinds of jobs to see what I might enjoy. One of those was as a mover. I remember asking the hiring guy at the moving company to accept me on a trial basis as a day labor. He looked at me from head to toe critically. It was clear he didn’t like what he saw. However, he said, “I’ll give you a chance.”

I worked very hard that day to earn the money. I don’t know if anyone has been a mover, but it is heavy and difficult work. As I was working he was keeping a close eye on me. He said that I was working too hard and that I needed to put less stuff in boxes and smaller boxes when I was moving their food/cans. I helped move things that I had never moved before and used all kinds of interesting tools. I always looked for something to do, and I kept busy the entire day. At the end of the day, the hiring guy came up to me and apologized and told me that I did a great job and that he originally didn’t think I had the strength and capability to do the job. I smiled and said that I am stronger than I look and he laughed. He said he would be glad to employ me whenever I wanted a job.

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I found a better job the next day so I didn’t go back, but this is an example of how hiring managers don’t and can’t see what you can offer a company. In my career, many times hiring managers have dismissed me for reasons that were illegal, unreasonable, and unfair. However, just as critically I have gotten jobs that I shouldn’t have gotten but the job description didn’t talk about the importance of a particular skill. I had to upskill very fast to continue working in that job. I never misrepresented myself. If anything I downplay my skills in interviews. Setting people up to fail doesn’t help anyone.

People like to think that they are great at judging people but the truth is they are not. You can ask questions to find someone with technical talent, but some people are good talkers and can BS any question that was thrown at them. Degrees, certifications, and years of experience are meaningless. I’d take one passionate and curious person over all of that. I have worked with people who checked all the boxes, yet had so little initiative and drive that they were useless. They spend their energy getting what hiring managers believe makes people successful, and they didn’t care about helping others be successful.

I can count on one hand out of hundreds/thousands(?) of recruiters/hiring managers I have spoken to that were good judges of character. They took the time to get to know someone. They were quiet and listened. They asked thoughtful probing questions, not just the 10-minute standard recruiter refrain. Cherish people who give other people a real chance to show who they are. Those are the companies that you want to work for!

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