Hiring process (1) – Problem statement

Hello, I’m a mechanical engineer playing the “find a job” VR-game on Hardcore mode because not only do I not possess 6 years of experience in the area of mechanical engineering after finishing a 4 years degree I also moved to a foreign country right after graduation. I have been applying in Israel from 2015 to mid-2017, an in Europe (Especially Germany) since the middle of 2016. Right here I expect the reader to say I’m stupid and close this page, but if you choose to read on, kudos to you.

Now, it is totally legit for you to say “you’re a mechanical engineer, why are you talking about HR stuff?” to which I will reply, there’s an HR wall called “the hiring process” between me and the job I want. What job do I want? at this point, which is the right after graduation and before real life point, it doesn’t matter. I’m a curious guy and the job I dream about is really different than the job I want right now. My requirement is that it pays any kind of money and It has me do engineering tasks. It is ridiculous to try and find an entry level candidate who’s dream job is this specific position. I really think my dream job shouldn’t be my first job, my first position as an engineer should teach me about how to act in the workplace, the basics of the industry and so on.

Naturally, I’m not an HR specialist but I can understand processes, I can understand what goes on when choosing a suitable candidate for a role. Hell, I’ve gone through this process a few times when I had to recommend or even make the decisions about one of my subordinates in the army. For example, when one of the older soldiers was going to be released from the army his position had to be filled, and the staff had to consider the pool of candidates for the role. There are many things to consider when selecting someone to fill a role, especially in an environment where this decision cannot be undone (more on this later). Sometimes it’s internal politics, sometimes one of the voters have weird personal interests and sometimes it’s just a close call between two equally talented individuals, whatever drives the decision is mostly the best of the existing system. One difference I would like to draw is that when I was in the army and I cast the vote on who gets a promotion I was dealing with people I worked with on a daily basis, while when you want to hire someone you have to evaluate them within 20 – 50 minutes, which is exactly the problem with hiring nowadays.

This is a tough nut to crack, but I want to argue that it doesn’t have to be like that. You don’t need to spend 3 months looking for the super perfect candidate, mind you, in 3 months the engineer you are trying to replace is already going to be gone because he gave his notice and you don’t only have to hire someone, you have to make sure they are ready to replace the person who left, and any day wasted on hiring someone is one day less during which knowledge is transferred from the experienced engineer to the newcomer.

I think a better way to approach this is to take the CVs of all the candidates who answer 75% of your requirements and invite them to an interview onsite, of course after all the redundant phone interviews, Skype interviews and so on. This interview is going to be a few days long and it’s not going to be filled with “what is your biggest weakness”esque questions, it will be one of your seniors sitting next to these people and simulating a full work day and the seniors get a chance to evaluate how well these people will perform in this role – what you should look for is qualitative not quantitive, does this candidate have a good base for growth or not? Knowledge can be taught, thought process and personality cannot. See how these people face hardships and challenges, watch their reactions when something isn’t easy. As far as you’re concerned install cameras in CCTV in their workstation to see how they react and behave. You can even have more employees on this project to simulate actual work scenarios like a hard-to-work-with colleague and so on. This will be tenfolds better than asking the candidate boring questions which they already prepared for at home and give you a carefully crafted answer. Is this what you’re looking for in a candidate? Someone who sits at home and crafts answers for questions that have been asked thousands of times before? On the job you don’t have hours to carefully choose your words, you sometimes need to react on the spot and that better be an appropriate reaction.

“But that sounds expensive! and requires me to go out of my comfort zone! That sounds like a bad idea”. If we do a quick cost-efficiency calculation, it would cost you much less to do this simulation interview with 10 candidates than to interview 50 shortlisted candidates and then cramming meetings about who should be hired and the only material you have is your impression of how they presented themselves when they were stressed out because this opportunity is the difference between staying unemployed\minimum wage job and actually progressing in their career while wearing uncomfortable clothes and recalling the exact phrasing of their experience in the past.

I can evaluate a person way better than you during 30 minutes of sitting with them in a lecture, or giving them a task they never encountered before, even having a conversation with them about a technical subject is more relevant for the hiring process than questions like “Why do you want to work for our company and not that other company?” Every time I meet this question I want to say “I will work for whoever pays money”


Bottom line

The hiring process needs some revamping because it’s purely statistical right now and it is not effective


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