Harvard Business Review: "Your Approach to Hiring is All Wrong"

In June of this year, HBR published a quite controversial article with the above title.

And they started the condemnation with the following statement: "Businesses have never done as much hiring as they do today. They've never spent as much money doing it. And they've never done a worse job of it." 

Hiring talent remains the number one concern of CEOs.

Per HBR, chief executives view the unavailability of talent and skills as the biggest threat to their business. And they are absolutely right. The bottleneck of expansion for any small business is not money or ideas; it is the lack of human capital to help the organization grow stably and strongly.

The two main culprits of recruitment difficulties

Hiring talent remains
the number one concern
of CEOs.


As a first reason for growing difficulties, HBR cites the lack of internal recruitment, which went from 90% in the seventies, down to 28% today. The instability or lack of loyalty amongst employees has made internal hiring a more challenging issue. Lack of leadership is probably to blame in the back of that, but few CEO's want to recognize it. The famous slogan "People don't quit their job, they quit their boss" has apparently never been so true as it is today.

As a second reason suggested by BHR, poor levels of retention have forced organizations to look outside for new, fresh talent. Per the Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics (see blv.org), 95% of hiring today is done to fill existing positions - most of them caused by voluntary turnover.

The biggest weakness observed in most organizations is the lack of pro-active resolutions which could prevent or reduce personnel turnover in the first place. As LinkedIn suggested in a recent report,  the most common reason employees consider a position elsewhere is because they were not offered any career advancement with their current employer.


When it comes to the hiring process, HBR says that most employers are missing the forest for the trees: Obsessed with new technologies and driving down costs, they largely ignore the ultimate goal: making the best possible hire. Here are some practices to re-consider:

Hiring for the long term

Do not promote a job, promote a career. If you are growth-driven, you definitely should be able to offer career plans. It is recognized that most people want to grow with their organization. If you cannot enthusiastically describe a bright future within your organization, the most qualified applicants will stay away. When we help our clients develop their employer branding strategy, this is always the first question we ask:

"Can you talk about a bright future and HOW your human capital will be part of it?"

Growing the human capital from within

I hear too often from employers that nobody inside the group qualifies for a higher-level position. It might be harsh to ask, but whose fault is it? If you hire to fill a position without thinking how that person can grow within the next few years, you are limiting the human capital potential of your organization from the get-go. "we are looking for people who want to develop a career, not just get a job" is a good statement that means it all. By focusing too much on technically competent applicants who are primarily selling the content of their resume, rather than their ability to contribute to your group's expansion, you face the potential liability of hiring for the short term and developing poor retention.

Redefining "passive" candidates

Employers face the reality that around 85% of employees are open to moving to a new job, at the right price. And they tend to promote better compensation packages as the ultimate attractor of new talent. However, HBR provides a new picture: passive candidates are waiting for the best offer - and present money as the main driver for a new job. On the other hand, active candidates are those who look more actively for a position offering better work conditions and career opportunities. More active than passive job seekers reveal themselves to be more passionate about their work; they are more engaged in improving their skills. They are mostly motivated to move because they are ambitious, not because they are money-driven.

Hiring for attitude, not resume

I have written about this concept in many previous articles. It always amazes me that the majority of small business owners are so focused on hiring people with the right technical skills. They are willing to blindly pay a premium for a more "experienced" new employee, only to realize that competence and willingness are two very different attributes. There is ample evidence that the vast majority of terminations are due to a serious lack of soft skills - such as team spirit, communication skills, willingness to learn, etc. - rather than a lack of technical competences. To be honest, this is the hardest point I try to communicate to my clients. For some reason many believe that they will have to spend less time and energy to make a new employee productive if they already know the business and the position specifics. Here is the hard truth about soft skills: 89% of hire failures are due to personality-related weaknesses, per a Leadership IQ research.

Reviewing Hiring practices

The Ultimate Strategy: Hire for Happiness

Did you know that focusing on your people's happiness can make your organization 20% more competitive and can increase sales by 37%?  I know, it seems unreal. If you did not read my article "Hire for Happiness," you should. We are not talking about transforming your organization into a social center here. No, we are talking about HOW happy employees do contribute to your business success better than through any other strategy.

In fact, the businesses listed in Fortune's "100 Best Companies to Work For" enjoyed a raise in stock prices of 14% per year over a seven-year period, compared to 6% for the overall market. What does it tell you? It clearly demonstrates that "hiring for happiness" is a surefire recipe for the most effective talent acquisition strategy. So, if you want a profitable and stable expansion, you need to focus your employer branding strategy on two major levels:

  1. Provide a working environment conducive to job satisfaction and, generally, happiness at work.
  2. Hire people who will contribute to the happiness of your employees and customers.


The Pre-Selector: Providing you with a "Happiness Contribution Index."

Hirebox provides offers the ONLY pre-hire assessment specifically evaluating applicants on their willingness & ability to contribute to your organization success and happiness. Go to this link and request your free trial of the Pre-Selector. We will show you how to use this unique pre-hire assessment to get people onboard who are long-term, career and growth committed.


Patrick Valtin,
CEO Hirebox.