Qualification is such a subjective term.
What does it really mean to be qualified for a specific job role?
Does it mean that you have a University degree, post graduation or Masters certification?
Does it mean you are a PhD? An Engineer? An MBA?
Does it mean that you have passed the skills/aptitudes testing that are prerequisite for the job you have applied for?
The answer could be varied and complex as you can see.
And worse still- none of the above guarantee that your qualifications add up to what it will take to truly fulfill the organization’s expectations of the candidate.
Therefore should we be more concerned about what specific value the candidate brings to the Organization, rather than worry about only the prerequisite qualifications?
Now don’t get me wrong – I am a believer that Educational, Experiential and Skill based Qualifications certainly are a great place to start – but that is all it is – only a start. There are other ‘soft qualification’ considerations that we need to consider before coming to a hiring conclusion – here are my Top Three Considerations:
1. Communication: Show me a highly qualified candidate who meets all the other criteria but who has poor communication skills and I will show you a potentially wrong hiring decision. Now it is true that over time communication can be taught, indeed learned – however if you are looking for someone to hit the ground running, you do not necessarily have the luxury of time. Communications has always been and remains my Number One consideration when considering ‘soft’ qualifications.
2. Transferrable skills: What skills does the candidate possess that have been demonstrated in his/her current and past assignments, that are easily transferrable to the current role we have in mind for which we are hiring? These transferrable skills could be a plethora of different skills and aptitudes, however we need to understand which of these can facilitate quicker productivity gains over the short term (productivity gains are difficult to come by in the early days – hence whenever this can be expedited it is always a good thing)
3. Interviewing skills on the part of the hiring manager(s): Unqualified people likely get hired to jobs, for this critical reason alone, in most instances – Inadequate or extremely poor interviewing skills/techniques: Hiring managers often work from a cheat sheet of Job Roles and Behaviours expected, Experience requirements and Educational/Technical prerequisites. They often miss the big picture and fail to test the candidates for some of the more critical ‘soft’ prerequisites. Like points 1,2 above, these are the areas of opportunity we should truly be looking to investigate and harvest in worthy candidates. hence the importance of good Interviewing Skills/Techniques.
I am amazed at the number of times I have failed to get satisfactory answers to the following 3 simple questions while conducting a job interview:
1. What can you bring to my organization and this role? (in other words give me one good reason why I should hire you – and don’t tell me about your qualifications, experiences or whom you know?)
2. Can you describe a typical day in your current assignment?
3. Tell me about a situation that did not go so well for you…where your actions/choices were probably not the best and could have contributed to the poor outcome – what did you learn about yourself and how have you used that learning going forward?
If you can include some of the above into your overall hiring process you will go a long way towards minimizing the risk of hiring the wrong person for the right job!
I also believe that our concept of ‘qualification’ is somewhat jaded and irrelevant in this web enabled environment of constant change, audacious quantum leaps in technology and knowledge sharing at the speed of light.
Knowledge is now an open book as long as you have access to the web. What used to be the domain of a ‘chosen few’ in terms of people who could afford to gain access to certain knowledge through association with some ‘Ivy League’ establishment of learning alone, is now everyman/everywoman’s open source.
I have observed over the years that the Internet has enabled a whole new class of Subject Matter Experts – from the individual who walks you step by step through the complex activities required to prepare that magical, Chef standard cuisine, to the artist who shares with you, up front and personal, how to create that specific work of art, to the Musician who happily teaches you to play that incredible Bach Etude for Cello, in three different timings and tempos with SloMo video thrown in for good measure…and all for a simple hit on the ‘Like’ button.
So consider this – not all ‘Qualification’ or Knowledge need necessarily flow from those fonts of organized learning – the schools and universities of yore. Indeed such knowledge and information as is freely available on the Web…is the shop-floor from whence a whole new breed of ‘Internectuals’ has emerged and this phenomenon will continue into the foreseeable future. So beware the pursuit of academic based qualification alone. The future will not hold as loyal a commitment to that avenue – in my humble opinion…
Why indeed is it that unqualified people sometimes get the job?
The answer is really a no brainer – pure lack of a robust hiring process (and if your Organization does indeed have a robust hiring process, there is obviously execution non-compliance that allows unqualified candidates to get the job).
Process controls and execution discipline guarantees us predictability and reliability of the outcome. So a good hiring process needs to (at the very least) facilitate the following outcomes:
1. Ensure that each job role being interviewed for has a comprehensive Hiring Specification Sheet that contains all the relevant requirements that the ‘(right’)candidate needs to possess and demonstrate during the course of the interview
This spec sheet needs to clarify which of the specs are non-negotiable – in other words there needs to be a ‘go-no go’ gate to filter out candidates who do not meet the bar for critical and non-negotiable skills, qualifications, experience and/or knowledge.
2. Ensure that the interviewer is at the right level in terms of the Experience, Knowledge, Qualifications and Technical Skills (as the case may be) that he/she has been called upon to interview for. I have noted during several interview situations I have personally been at the receiving end of, that the individual interviewing me was barely familiar with the kind of role and expertise the job entailed. This is a double whammy really, because if he/she feels even partially at a disadvantage during the interview, chances are you have lost the opportunity…and the job. This is a huge problem as we could miss out on some highly qualified candidates due to this sort of process gap.
3. Ensure that the Interview process requires that there is a basic screening interview as the preliminary qualifier for candidates who meet basic criteria, followed by an HR interview, and finally the Hiring Manager Interview. More senior hiring requirements may profit from an up-level management interview to obtain Sr. Executive/ Management input on the candidate as appropriate.
A robust hiring process would demand that the various levels of interview inputs are collated and that the comments from each interviewer are impartially consolidated and reviewed, before determining if there is a successful candidate to whom an offer can be submitted.
4. Ensure that the process has adequate controls built in that will allow for determining if any candidate has:
a. Any relations employed at the Hiring Organization (especially if they are the Hiring Manager, or work for the same Hiring Manager)
b. A recommendation from within the Hiring organization to Interview for the job
c. A recommendation from a Manager/Executive from outside of the Hiring organization, to interview for the job
This control allows us to screen for any potential bias or hidden agenda that may exist in the overall hiring environment for specific candidates, that will in turn help us to arrive at a more fair and balanced overall hiring decision.