Andy Swann, progenitor of the fascinating TheWorkProject has published a great post on the skills that are required by people entering the job market to actually get a job. He terms it “the entrepreneurial job seeker” and, putting aside my issues with the term entrepreneur being used by anyone other than those setting up their own businesses, job seekers being more proactive rather than cosying up to lazy-making technology seems sound advice.

His article has crystallized a visual metaphor that has been banging around in my head for some time about how we go about recruiting people. It’s become terribly logical. All competency-based interviewing and talent management systems. And it’s all a sham.

Job interviews are like the eponymous bit on the terrible TV game show Hole in the Wall. We dress up in frankly ludicrous costumes and try to contort ourselves to fit for a split second in time to a desired shape that someone (often out of the picture) has deemed necessary.

The reality is amorphous. Job descriptions are a description of some needs expressed in outcomes not needs. CVs are a story told by the world’s worst story-teller. Interviews are a mass of subtext. And even when the decisions have been made, no-one really knows if it’s going to be the right one (but everyone is too afraid generally to admit they’re wrong).

For all the contortions, they’re the most inagile process imaginable. Fail slowly, fail disastrously.

Try-before-you-buy approaches, recruiting through contracting, may be another method. But maybe the whole shebang is no longer fit for purpose in a world where job titles are two a penny and rarely are commonly understood, and the world is changing too quickly to update them anyway.

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