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Like a Broken Req-ord

Posted by Colin Kingsbury

Mar 15, 2007 2:43:00 PM

It is thoughtful of Jeff Hunter to begin titling his recent post "Reqs are a Reality," because there's no shortage of recruit-o-pundits writing "why you must get rid of (insert buzzword here) or perish!" screeds. The pattern is so consistent that they're like a bunch of students who all bought the same term paper for the same class.

Jeff's post is important because nearly all the consultants, thought leaders, and arm-wavers, he's starting to put money and mouth together in his company. People who dismiss him as a starry-eyed theoretician will be disappointed, and if anyone is going to trailblaze a new model for talent over the next 5 years, Jeff's the man I'd bet on.

That said, I remain broadly skeptical. Jeff writes,
Regardless of any of that, reqs are guilty of all the sins I have enumerated so many times before: the are a risk control document that means more to the CFO than the talent, they lead you to measure yourselves by speed instead of value, and they drive clients to see you as a cost / risk problem in the organization instead of a critical business value add. None of that is in dispute. I still haven’t had anyone give me a rejoinder that would make me believe that I had any of my facts wrong.
This is, like everything else Jeff writes, a sparkling polemic. He also to my mind risks giving the game away in the first sentence.

Mommy, where do baby reqs come from?
Saying that "reqs are a risk control document that means more to the CFO than the talent" suggests that the CFO is some kind of green-eyeshaded troll blocking the bridge to a halcyon future of good cheer and profit. Until talent (not to mention landlords and suppliers) are willing to accept payment in "talent" rather than "cash," it is the organization's consolidated financials which determine possibility.

At a more atomic level, reqs represent the overall direction and plan of the company. Where I am most sympathetic to Jeff's position is that many companies approach this so reactively that even within the strictures of "we can afford to spend $500k hiring people in this department in 2007" there is no doubt room for improvement. But, I think talking about this primarily from a recruiting or even HR perspective is problematic to say the least. We've all seen, known, or been one of those people hired to "change the dynamic" in a department or company, and in the absence of a much larger directional transformation, such people rarely succeed.

Jeff's uncompromising vision does not demand a better kind of recruiting; it demands an entirely different kind of business. In that I wish him good luck, and godspeed.

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