The Big Myth About Selection
DO NOT LET IT FOOL YOU
Jane has applied for an entry-level management position in her organization. The position requires a bachelor’s degree in any field and a minimum of two years of specialized experience. She knows the other applicants for the position and she knows that her qualifications are head and shoulders above all of the others because, besides having over three years of specialized experience, she has a law degree from a prestigious university.
She is invited in for an interview by the selection panel and the interview goes very well; she gives an impressive performance. She is fairly certain she will win out over the other applicants, but when a white male is offered the position, instead, she is shocked and runs to the HR department to file a case of discrimination. Will her case have merit? Does she have a chance of winning it? Perhaps, but probably not. She will not win it just because she has a higher degree and more experience than the other applicants, including the applicant who got the job.
The bottom line is that Jane, like so many other job applicants, has been taken in by the big myth about selection: The Most Qualified Candidate Should Always Be Selected. Anyone who knows anything about how to fill vacancies effectively knows that this is nothing more than a myth for two main reasons:
1. The most qualified applicant, on paper or as defined by skills, years of experience and level of education may be inappropriate for the position because he or she may be considered overqualified for the position. Anyone that does selection should know that filling a position with one who is overqualified entails more risk than selecting someone who is slightly under-qualified. Many under-qualified employees can be trained and made to perform satisfactorily in the position. On the other hand, many overqualified employees pose the danger of quickly becoming bored, dissatisfied and under-challenged with the position. As a result, they frequently seek higher positions, thus making them short-timers and adding to the productivity problems.
2. The applicant with the most impressive paper credentials may not have some of the other requirements for the position. These “non-paper” kinds of things can only be assessed during the job interview. They may include certain abilities, such as creativity, attention to detail, good written communication skills or the ability to lead others. They may also include certain traits or characteristics, such as being an introvert or an extravert, keeping calm under pressure or preference for working alone or in groups. These “non-paper” qualifications, traits or abilities are often just as important, and sometimes even more important than what is on the applicant’s resume.
Going back to the example of Jane at the opening of this hub, she might have been considered over-qualified from the standpoint of her law degree. The same might have been the case if she had a PhD degree. Frequently the selectees filling a vacancy that requires an undergraduate degree, might consider someone with a law degree or an advanced degree as being too ivory tower or academic and not practical enough for most positions, except in academia or for legal positions. For that reason, many job applicants that have advanced degrees will omit them from their resumes, unless they are applying for academic or legal positions.
So, if it is a myth that the job should not always go to the one with the most impressive resume or with the most “paper” qualifications, then what is the reality of selection? The reality is that the one who should be offered the job is the best applicant for the job. By that I mean the one who has the best combination of education, skills, experience, qualities, interests and work habits that best match the requirements of the job. In short, the candidate who shows the best prospects of being successful in the position-and that is not always the one with the highest degree or the most experience.