Saturday, July 26, 2014

Taleo is Not for the Faint of Heart, and Software is a Poor Substitute for Finding & Hiring Talent

Or why philosophers and metaphysical-wonks could actually be quite good for evaluating candidates and connecting companies with job-seekers.

[Internet Keyword: "Taleo Sucks." Forgive me, this is the popular statement online, or the sum-generalized statement of discussion on the matter. Given it's among the most widely used pieces of hiring software, who wants to bet it is behind the 25,000 applicants for one position all being rejected and told they don't match its requirements?

Also, Why Does Everyone Love to Hate Taleo Applicant Tracking Software? With "love to" stricken because hating Taleo is not a thing to love--Taleo is ubiquitous for all the BS that its former self and now Oracle, and perhaps some in HR, can throw at management to make it sound like a good idea.]

Or why CEOs think HR is ruining companies and causing a massive drag on the economy

It could be the un-intelligent use of software with no awareness of semantics or pragmatics--the things computers do not (even with terms like "semantic web") actually have any capacity for. Poor HR, getting blamed when they themselves are required to wait on the software. Go re-read the two prior linked articles, then ask yourself if replacing as much as 90% of HR with software is really a good idea, especially with
One job seeker said "he had been told he was perfect for a given position—except for the fact that his previous job title didn't match that of the vacancy," a title unique to the prospective employer.
As anyone who has applied for a job lately knows, the trick is parroting all the words in the job description but not just copying and pasting the text, which leads the software to discard the application. It's a whole new skill: Clearing the software hurdle is as important as being able to do the job.
Actually, part of the problem is evident in the Forbes's authors's statement
HR places a disturbingly high premium on what it calls “communication skills” and what you and I call “talking.”
There we find an un-awareness of the pragmatics and intentions of the term "Communications Skills"; "pragmatics" put another way (and far too simply to be truly accurate--but "pragmatics" like "grammar" is a complex label--most people think "grammar" means "style rules") is "familiarity withhe semantics, intentions, and associations that are typically gained through experience or serious discipline." They concern, for example, all that someone intuitively understands when hearing the phrase "people who live in glass houses should not throw stones", part of which is the unthinking knowledge that there isn't actually a glass house except those showy designer baubles not really suited to living-in (unless a fabulously engineered αντιglass that defies the usual expectations). Being able to apply that statement "properly" to many different scenarios invokes the pragmatics thereof.

It is this sort of unawareness that probably leads this sort of man--whose article on the whole is very good--to think "we should replace these useless people with software", not even being aware that matching terms--or even word clouds--the methods available to software, aren't improvements but may be the drag causing HR to be "useless." Snake-oil salespeople sold the software to unwitting executives, and those who have actually to deal with the results can understand this--those who have invested their money (and potentially reputations) can will not. But there is another point to make, for which that author's own words are very useful:
Actually knowing how the business runs doesn’t much register with HR. Using HR as talent spotters makes about as much sense as asking the florist for help filling out the roster on your basketball team.
Being able to assess "qualities" is experience-dependent. That's one reason one cannot spend enough [ever] to build and refine software suitable to make hiring determinations or filter to "best candidates" for a job.

On a more personal level,this is also why it is so hard to discern whether a company offer actually has the value they say it does: a good example I know seems boring and brain-dead, "quality carpet installation." The ordinary person thinks "isn't that just putting something on the Floor", but then they buy a $40/foot squared high-end sublty-patterned beauty that once installed shows garish seams everywhere because their supplier hires labor paid piecemeal; or the rug pulls-up and takes concrete with it one day in an office space because the carpet was mis-stretched and had tension running along the diagonal in opposition to the warps and wefts, weaves, and lines of the matrix on the backing; or the whole thing very quickly (rather than with wear over years) begins to bubble and wave like a water on plane towards a beach seen from space. There actually is a whole lot to it--it is a trade--underappreciated like "installing drywall" ("isn't that just attaching some plain white board and smearing over it with texture or some paint!!!!?"...then they DIY and it's awful to anyone experienced, or quickly wears).

You don't understand the things that make something quality until you're the one doing it, you care a lot, and you have a lot of experience--enough to say--though a "mere 'tech'"--to the engineers with all their theory to take a hike, because actually yes, that configuration of lines, signal modulation, and backfeeds with certain frequencies does and did work despite their protests, and yes they ought to go out there to find out why: and don't bother putting it back together, you're level of skill in that area will only mean water gets-in and short-circuits the entire system; or "no, please don't pre-run 'the best' cable, it's not and I don't care what the specs say, you'll just make things a bigger PITA: go back to designing the lay-out of that circuit and let the actually "applied-engineers"/techs do the material development and all the levels of assembly."

(Yes, all of these things, are from actual experience of my own.)

Having exensive familiarity, at least, takes years: I have angered managers and execs (who thankfully, like Mr. Burns, just forgot my name) with

"you shouldn't buy those consultants' "cloud" system and scrap the one we developed into the fine system it is today on promises to reduce costs; their promise is to develop it on Firefox, but Mozilla's people are unstable and have bad judgment about what to do with the browser, it's getting slower and more unstable, and has a flaky cache which they're proposing to use for a non-persistent database: that means that any slight crash and a whole day's worth of paperwork can be lost in an instant--even if the power on the tablet in the field just dies, and they often do because their mounts are bad and power connections flimsy and liable to break or short constantly. We'll not only waste the $40,000,000 on development of this system but all the prior money spent before on a system we won't be able to simply resurrect.

The response was essentially "shut-up peon, what successes do YOU have?" Followed by months of being proved correct. If I hadn't cared for the job I would have responded late,
Successes? Being consistently right about decisions you're supposed to be competent for. Can I talk to your supervisor and have you honestly admit to this, so I can have your job?

That experience-dependent understanding of given facts--more than simply their definitions or basic ideas, but every connection and implication on account of their behaviors and operations, relations to other facts and theory, operations, behavior, in the wider systems all around us, human and natural, is the thing we intuitively grasp and understand when we all get incensed with unexperienced--though perhaps with intelligence exceeding our own in general--dolts trying to "help" our specific crafts, telling them they're simply an obstruction even by trying.

And, why outside-consulting sold-and-hardly-adapted and imported-metrics systems and systems of "quality assurance" tend to fail, demoralize, penalize the good employees; they don't tend to fail officially--execs, MBAS, and various other officers, etc., on the hook for those decisions, make certain of that--usually with threats and fairly cynical "just make it work" which veils an implied threat that we all--from the pragmatics--understand. But the real result is a workforce that understands a failure and feels the resulting burden, and an organization that in fact has been compromised relative to its former self.

Such systems, consulting, etc., are often inappropriate therefore. The people providing advice or building systems simply do not understanding the nature of the problem, with people who can't simply by asking a few questions or even by doing the work for 6 months, and frankly what company is going to spend months only to say "well, turns-out this system in essence isn't applicable to your company, so we'll cancel our contract so as not to be a racketeer?" "Running a business" often sees problems as "increase or decrease those numbers", but numbers are abstractions with no relations to anything (not kidding, see "What is Math", THE book endorsed by Einstein and the other famous Maths Experts and Physicists, at its first two pages); to really "understand" and make things "better" overall, one must know the factors that produce the outcomes which were measured and recorded in numerical format.

And instead of understanding of those factors and relations, we get production-control "quality assurance" programs that were possible due to largely mechanized assembly lines and other non-human or simple-single human tasks being applied to operations with complex roles throughout; these are ironically named, because since they are supposed to guarantee or improve certain outcomes whose production factors are not understood by the system designers or buyers, they are neither "assurance" but are rather "enforcement", and they enforce not "quality" but rather the "process." A process *might* improve quality, but very likely it may just be a hindrance. Knowing whether it is one way or another--or whether the 'successful' numbers that come-out after implementation which neither account for the fact that workers and lower management will still receive or lose bonuses based on performance regardless, and heads will roll for failures, so will fully actualize Gödel's law regardless--still requires the experience and training and application of oneself to doing, in order to discern. 

Thus, often these issues can't simply be fixed very simply. Careers are invested, pay (especially bonuses)--which is to say "well-being" and "livelihood" (I add since minds will inevitably de fault to "GREED!!!!!!!!!" rather than have a proper default--also understood from pragmatics)--is on the line.
So while the same people remain in charge, who can never understand why the metrics aren't quite hit or, when investigated, they're always manipulated, because like their consultants they're not actually "pragmatic men" from the roles and areas under scrutiny by those systems. Even those systems meant to gather "business intelligence" are typically failures to assess the situation realistically or gather any real business intelligence at all.

And that's qualitative anyway--anecdotal. Taleo? Nobody seems to inform anybody in management that Taleo is worse than the nose cream you get from kissing-up. (Relevant information: given my cleaners' background I'm neither afraid of things brown nor cleaning it up.) Knowing this is more from generalized experience than necessarily needing some specialized background.

In 2014 if an application that is used by hyper-large organizations can't handle the actual title from an employment position because it "exceeds the maximum number of characters", it bespeaks something regarding that organization's competence.

And what other employment application can be tied-in to LinkedIn and STILL screw-up with the already-structure data formatting provided from that location? e.g. I recently let Taleo scrounge the data and it took every job title and threw each into its own "Function" fields for each position, leaving the titles blank--the ones that can't accept beyond a 100 characters, e.g. for a position with a name as common as "Field Service Technician" (I wish I were joking).

Did I mention yet that explaining "reason for leaving" is also limited to 100? In a complex world? Can't even match Twitter? Is their database THAT archaic? Someone inform these people that there are amazing opportunities in technology by making things BETTER for people. Indeed, IF I ACQUIRE ANY POSITION AND THEN DO NOT IMPROVE MY SKILLS, WHY WOULDN'T MY EMPLOYER FIRE ME[1]? WHY THEN SHOULD COMPANIES THAT DON'T INNOVATE AND IMPROVE CONTINUE TO BE UESD? REALLY, WHY IS TALEO STILL BEING USED WHEN IT CAN RELY ON JUST PULLING LINKED-IN DATA, SOMETHING A COMPANY HR COMPANY COULD DO? WHEN IT SCREWS EVEN THAT UP AND COMPLICATES IT MORE!!!!?

And hasn't someone informed them that talent often skips Taleo on account of these things? That the word is--at least it's been this way in my head since my first extra-academic job at a King Soopers--that organizations that use Taleo as a primary hiring mechanism, are organizations that are highly probable to be not worth working for? That perhaps there is a correspondence of "wise to avoid" with "uses Taleo"? That therefore it's a predictor of organizational competence and not-run-by-sociopathic and myopic MBAs or "it's all me! I am successful, all others are whiners!!!"! BOs?

Indeed, a system that takes forever to satisfy with highly rigid entry requirements is likely one badly designed at both ends--not just for the applicant but the HR personnel. Why is no one informing American corporate management of this? 

And from all aforementioned, it's a matching system--not a system that can do real evaluations. "Evaluations" is a very mis-used term, only humans can "valuate." Without the background, experience, etc., even without egregiously mis-informed matching and other assumptions built-into the protocols of the program, it will still do as well as, say, an "HR professional" whose background is accounting to judge the candidacy for someone whose qualifications and experience for the lathing position are in metal machining: that HR person is the wrong person for that job. If they don't match, they'll likely mis-choose; if they do, they'll just get the most clever--not necessarily someone even qualified, and if they immediately discuss the position personally, they can be duped by someone who has even just slightly superior knowledge, who perhaps only began lathing last week.

Why? They have none of the priors or pragmatic knowledge arising from the facts and experience to evaluate--just like the machines.

As for Taleo the company, I wonder if that they may simply be resting on their laurels, relying on large organizations that don't know any better. Funny thing is, I can use their own applications process to send feedback even to companies who use Taleo that may likely never know how to critique it for lack of the technical background.

Beyond that, here is the information I was unable to enter for "exceeding 100 characters": 

Work Experience #2 Job Title/Position (at teleNetwork/TNI):

Technical Support Representative.

Reason for Leaving [TNI]:

Professional error. Logged-in from forbidden location. I have been sincerely remorseful for the mistake since, especially out of respect for my manager.

Work Experience #6 Job Title/Position (at teleNetwork/TNI)::

Student Residential Area Desk Clerk

Work Experience #9:

Reason for Leaving:

Worked position during summer prior to beginning of semester; position schedule began to conflict with class schedules. Resumed duties in separate position once available.

[1] the only exceptions being those who refuse any cooperation or flexibility in scheduling should a certain class or opportunity for professional improvement require certain dates, but those are companies with management you simply want to walk-out on, eventually, anyway. Some great exceptions (due to non-idiot management) I know that are in or have agents in the Denver area are TNI, Carpet Exchange, and various Franchises run by independent business owners who have about zero turn-over...unlike almost all other Franchises in those chains run by anybody else.

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