Recruiting and Lean Human Resource Management

Some companies subject job applicants to hands-on tests of the skills required for a position. This says that they appear more interested in filling a capacity gap for a skill set than in recruiting people for careers. The most extreme cases are the “coding interviews”  given at Silicon Valley software companies, during which candidates are asked to solve programming problems. This  has spawned a whole sub-industry of coaches and books to help cram for such interviews. The problems are typically the kind of textbook exercises given in college that experienced programmers have long forgotten and are irrelevant to their actual work. College students, for example, learn various ways of sorting records, while professional application programmers just use built-in Sort functions. Software developers with, say, 20 years of experience with databases perceive these interviews as silly and demeaning, raising the question of whether they  are intended to bias the hiring process in favor of recent college graduates.

This is the opposite of the Lean approach. During a career at a company, a person would have to acquire many technical and managerial skills. With that in mind, the willingness and ability to learn are more important than what the person knows walking in. When Honda set up its Marysville facility, they deliberately hired people with no prior experience in car manufacturing, to train them from scratch in the Honda way. As an employee, the background knowledge you need is supposed to have been provided at school. Whether in the US or Japan, however, schools never work perfectly, and companies end up providing remedial training they feel they shouldn’t have to. However, if all you need today is a technical skill set, you are probably better off hiring a  contractor than an employee.