I signed up for a triathlon. It’s something I have wanted to “try” for a while, but my fear of swimming in open waters has kept me from it. I haven’t been on a bike for any amount of distance or effort in about 15 years. I can run forever. I have 7 strong years of experience in one discipline of the triathlon and the equivalent of zero years skills in the other two. But I have a strong overall fitness level, superior running skills, and can hold my own on most athletic endeavors. The workforce is no different and we could stop this self-imposed talent shortage if we looked at someone’s overall competence and ability to adapt instead of trying to find that purple unicorn.
I’m a little nervous about this triathlon. The only reason I signed up is because the swim portion is in a pool. If I get tired or panic, I’ll just stand up. I have some swimming ability, but I’m not counting my 4 years of swimming lessons as a kid and the endless hours at the pool from 5 years old to 15. My swimming skills are all about cannonballs, Porter-style, at the local pool and survival. The same goes for my biking skills. I’m not counting the 10 years as a kid logging countless miles on my BMX bike all over Speedway. Riding a bike is just like riding a bike, though. But I know my body and its capabilities and will be able to get up to speed in no time to be able to complete those legs, respectably.
In the quest to find talent, (I refuse to use the phrase that compares recruiting to combat) companies need to get creative. Recruiters need to look beyond the resume and job title, pick up the phone, and have real conversations with people about their overall skills. Look beyond the narrow focus of the job description. This isn’t even about creativity. It’s about truly evaluating the core skills needed for a role. Does the person have the will to do a job? Teaching the skill is the easy part.
And this doesn’t fall squarely on the recruiters. Most are just doing what they’re told from their hiring managers. It’s easy and comfortable to plug in a search for a specific title or skill and let the ATS or LinkedIn do the work. When you’re rewarded to just fill a job and not have to worry about whether the person works out, why would you do anything different? By doing this, though, you’re missing out on a vast number of qualified applicants. And AI won’t fix this. It will just narrow the focus even more and exclude those without the exact job title or key word. (If there’s AI technology that can see beyond a title or key skill words, let me know. Seriously, I want to learn more about it.)
Because I’m all about the sports reference, and all about me, I’m going to bring it back to me. My 3 pointer is solid. I’m not too fast, but throw me the fade in the end zone of a flag football game and I’ll come down with it 10 out of 10 times. I think I hear Springsteen’s “Glory Days” playing in the background. The point is, I can adapt to any athletic skill pretty quickly because I have a solid base of overall health and fitness and a passion for athletics and competition. There are many job seekers with great skills and abilities that may not be the perfect match that you are looking for, but they have the aptitude, the drive, and the hustle to do a more-than-serviceable job in your organization. It just takes a little work.
Now I need to pull some Micheal Phelps YouTube videos to learn how to swim. Wish me luck!