Will there be an end to copy/paste selection?

Bringing down the wall of rejection. Is the end of candidate cloning my pipedream? As a coach I insist that all candidates fully understand their transferable skills and can share their success stories in any situation whether it’s on a CV , in an online professional profile, in a formal interview, at a networking event or even during a random encounter. On the other side of the spectrum as a search consultant I am unhappily very familiar with the hiring management mantra of ” give me what I had before .. and do it fast” known in search jargon as ” copy/paste selection”. Basically what I see is a train wreck of mismatched expectations waiting to happen, as candidates head towards the brick wall of rejection. And the wall does get hit with monotonous regularity.

Double bind
Job seekers face a double bind. Hiring managers generally want candidates from the same function and same industry sector, doing something identical to the open assignment. They want a clone of the previous job holder. If a promotion was involved, to complicate things even further, sometimes the hiring manager wants a clone of him/herself. Recruiters generally want candidates from the same sector, doing something identical, because that’s what their client wants. They don’t have time to spend on sifting through non standard CVs , establishing if the skills are really transferable, only to have them rejected. I’ve even had discussions with clients about the most miniscule differences between different aspects of the job and a candidate’s skills. Most good search specialists if they find a candidate they believe in, will advocate for him/her. But even in situations where non clone candidates produce excellent aptitude and personality test results which suggest their suitability and compatibility, they are still rejected.

There are understandable reasons for this. A familiar type of candidate is reassuring and takes away the risk of any potential damage they could do on the job, reduces the onboarding time and minimises the cost of letting them go if the appointment isn’t successful at the end of the probationary period.

However, organisations are changing at a phenomenal pace. Jobs that are common place today didn’t even exist 5 or 10 years ago. We have no idea what roles will emerge in 10 years time and what the work place landscape will look like. We don’t know what skills will be required or how many of us will have the necessary ones. Flexibility and being multi-talented will be very key requirements for tomorrow’s job seekers and employees, as well as the ability to acquire any lacking skills quickly. Mid career or even post project re-training will become a regular feature of our professional lives, as the 21st century employee tries to stay up to date.

As the need for candidate cloning reduces over time, hiring managers and search and recruitment specialists will be forced to take a wider, more flexible and creative view. Recruiters will need a deeper understanding of the potential and capabilities of each candidate and will require greater expertise in identifying transferable skills and assessing their value. Hopefully many will be better equipped to do that, with some minimum, but compulsory professional training and examinations. Currently anyone who can manipulate a data base or produce a creditable Excel spread sheet can call themselves a Recruiter. I shudder when friends and associates recount their horror stories of encounters with unprofessional search specialists.

Raising Visibility
In the meantime if job seekers are looking for career opportunities a little outside what they have done to date, then they need to focus on creating a career strategy that extends their out-of-sector knowledge. It’s no longer enough to go and do a MBA. They should concentrate on building up their personal brand and reputation to drive job openings towards them, instead of the other way round: raising their visibility and making sure they are found.

What do you think? Will candidate cloning really become a thing of the past or is that my very own pipe dream?

10 thoughts on “Will there be an end to copy/paste selection?

  1. Wendy Mason

    Thanks Dorothy for a really interesting post. Yes in a climate of change I believe recruitment specialists will be forced to take a wider, more flexible and creative view at some point. But I’m not convinced it will happen as quickly as we might hope. Unfortunately in the present climate I fear that they may become even more risk averse and indeed, as you will understand, the pressure of change may lead some influential/blue chip players to become even more conservative!

    1. Dorothy Dalton

      Hi Wendy – yes aderse conditions do make everyone risk averse. The hands of good search specialists are often tied by their client requirements and poor ones don’t care. I live in hope that one day these tranferable skills will be recognised!

  2. Tim Douglas

    Very well made points on cloning and the relevance of the speed of change.

    One approach may be to tell the client who needs to be replaced that THEY may not be the best candidate any more, given the degree of change since they first went into that job.

    And to warn them about a candidate who is already doing that job elsewhere in the same industry. What challenges would they feel they still have to achieve? What personal development could they hope to expect? How would doing the same job again enhance their future promotability? (It may even damage it – “you didn’t seem to make progress when you moved to ….” says a future interviewer!)

    Maybe the ONLY way to attract the copy/paste candidate from a competititor is to OVERPAY them. After all, why else would they be motivated to move? So your client pays above market rates for a candidate who is out of date and sees no opportunity for growth. If they DO get past probation, it’s a recipe for atrophe, I think.

    1. Dorothy Dalton

      Hi Tim – thanks for your comment. I agree there are so many situations when incumbent job holders wouldn’t get their own jobs because change has passed them by or they have failed to stay up to date. Quite often they have hiring responsibilities. It’s an ongoing talent management dilemma!

  3. brucelynn

    ‘Copy-and-paste’ selection is a by-product of ‘Industrial Age’ organisational thinking. It’s not just the factory floor that works in monotonous consistency. The assembly line model goes right up the professional ranks to the most senior management. Office parks are simply white collar factories.

    The syndrome that you describe will only change as businesses start to shift from the ‘industrial age’ model to the ‘information age’ model. Such seismic shifts do take time.

    One can preach all one wants, but I find that the best way to effect change is to personally profit from it. The businesses that adopt more dynamic and creative approaches to structuring their work (which would include the profiles of people they hire in) which have a disproportionate strong competitive advantage producing better product at lower overall cost and beating the ‘copy-and-pasters’ in the marketplace more and more. Over time they will die out from their own irrelevance and competitive weakness.


    1. Dorothy Dalton

      Hi Bruce – thanks for your comment. Couldn’t agree more! Changing recruitment practises especially at a senior level means leaving comfort zones! Looking forward to that happening!

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