I’m going to take a break from my normal theory driven posts to write about a recent article at CNN Money discussing the coming shortage of skilled workers. In doing so, I thought I would relate a somewhat humorous, if not slightly tragic, personal story about my employment search fresh out of college.

It was May of 1998 and I had just graduated from Purdue University with a Bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering. Not having much experience in terms of an internship and being in a field (alternative power systems) which was not in vogue at the time like telecom, I was without an offer. After working with the university for the summer I made my way to Texas to visit a college roommate and try to network my way into a job.

After a month I had received a call from the hiring manager at my roommates company, a defense contractor, and was told I would have a position in about a weeks time. Later that day my roommate came home about two hours early, telling me that the job I was to start was no longer there and that the plant was being shut down and moved out of state. This was quite possibly a record time for achieving a high and a low, regardless the state, alcohol was involved.

Having found part-time employment while continuing my search, I continued to network. Meanwhile my roommate would regale me with tales of his ‘cube-mate’ at work (same company, different division). It seems that this individual, who had also received his engineering degree in 1998, was constantly discovering new and exciting things while missing several deadlines, such as the ability to resize the icons on his desktop and resetting his monitors refresh rate “just to be on the safe side” (doesn’t make sense to me either).

It was in the midst of stories about these astonishing discoveries that a mutual friend, also a hiring manager, was talking about the need for more hires and an upcoming campus recruiting trip. A bit puzzled, I inquired as to why she needed to make a trip all the way to Michigan when there was a perfectly good engineer right here. I was met with a lecture on the difference between new hires, experienced professionals and the need to fill the positions with the right people. After bringing up the engineer who seemingly didn’t understand MS Windows, the conversation abruptly ended.

So how is it we should go about finding the right people at the right time? From the article above, we know there is a growing shortage of skilled workers. In addition, a report from the consulting company McKinsey indicates that suitable candidates are becoming more selective and less likely to take the time to apply to positions on corporate career sites. There is already a great deal of literature regarding companies holding onto their older knowledge base and keeping in touch with retirees, a practice not just occurring in America but also in the EU and Japan. The usage of older workers however experienced can only take an organization so far. The need to find and retain the new young manager will only increase as the baby boomer generation retires.

Google may have one answer. In the near future the online search behemoth will begin employing a survey, fed into an algorithm, which will measure a candidates attitudes and behaviors to better gauge their personality and ability to perform on the job.

Google is certainly not alone in the search for quantitative ways to find good employees. Employers use a wide range of tests meant to assess skills, intelligence, personality and honesty. And the use of biographical surveys similar to Google’s new system is on the rise.

It has been well documented that it is more cost effective to have an open position than to have that position filled by the wrong person. The question remains, however, will tools such as Google’s algorithm result in the hiring of an organization that looks, acts and thinks alike and what will be the long term implications of such a scenario?

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