Career Strategies: Are They Hiring for the Future or the Past?

Have you noticed how many jobs get re-posted after three to six months?  You applied for the job and were told you didn’t have the right experience.  Six months later you see the same job, description reworded, posted again.  What’s going on?  You are watching terminally risk-averse people try to hiresomeone to lead into the future who succeeded in the past!  That is, the reason they are filling a position is to find a leader to move forward.  The assumption is that if you did a similar job in the past you are qualified.  That is a fallacy, not to mention lunacy.

Any organization should look at the skills, not the experience, needed.  Most don’t — especially not-for-profits.  Wouldn’t executive directors all have similar skills and experience?  Not really.  The job hunt should begin with what the organization needs done, not what titles candidates have held.  Here’s an example.  We need a sales manager who can get younger sales people enthused about the product and teach them to convey that enthusiasm to customers.  We look at sales managers’ resumes by the dozens and they all seem qualified.  We pick candidates with years of experience managing sales people.  Three fail in the job in 18 months.  (Shame on us, by the way.)

It’s not the candidates’ fault.  We have failed to define the skills needed to do the job going forward.  We’ve gone generic and it didn’t work.  Further, we made the same mistake three times!  Talk about slow learners.  My favorite example is the organization that needs someone to create a structure and sort out who should do what but hires a fund-raiser instead  because past executive directors have had fund-raising experience.  The new hire has no clue about “systems.”  She’s a wiz at relationship building.  She’s followed by a manager who thinks the organization chart just needs to be “tightened up”– not completely rethought.   She also wants the employees to “be happy.”  The third person has a “wonderful” reputation.  Of course it will take either outside intervention (a consultant), or much more money wasted and finally identified as such, before the right skill sets are identified and their bearers interviewed.  By that time the grapevine will have reported that the organization is a “hirer of last resort.”  No competent candidate will apply.

Job Hunters:  The first question to ask, after the preliminaries, is always, “When was my predecessor promoted?”  (It’s more tactful than saying, “What happened to my predecessor?”)  The answer you do not want to hear is, “We’ve had three people in the job and none of them worked out.”  Stand up, thank the interviewer, and get out of there before something terrible happens to you.  It’s one thing to fail.  It’s another to be set up for failure and conspire against yourself.   Don’t be your own worst enemy?

Contact Marilyn for Help With Career Strategies

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