A Podcast of this blog post is available at http://bit.ly/iq5aRC
What does the musical 42nd Street have to do with a business blog about career moves? Everything! As a quick primer, 42nd Street the Musical is based on a movie of the same name from 1933. It’s a play within a play in that all the casting and rehearsals are the scenes of a fictional 1932 Broadway play called Pretty Girl. Recall that 1932 was the beginning of the depression and here we are in 2011 still oscillating with our current recession.
Though the economic times are similar, that is merely the backdrop of why I am blending the musical with business. I recently attended a local community theatre opening night performance of 42nd Street. I was utterly amassed that they could find 29 local actors that could tap dance, since almost all of the numbers involve serious tap dancing. I leaned over and whispered this to my wife and she said that most of them likely learned to tap for the show. This is at least true of one of the male leads who credits the choreographer with teaching him to tap. The frequent cheers and applause during the show, and the standing ovation at the end, was well-earned by the energy, passion, and outstanding singing, acting, and dancing.
So how did the producer and casting director pick the actors during the auditions? Was it because they could tap dance? Not likely. It must have been their theatrical accomplishments, competencies, and passion for the role. The choreographer/producer made the assumption she could teach them to tap if they brought forth the core talent to perform. Because of the casting choices and excellent directing and training, the audience thoroughly enjoyed the singing, acting, and tap dancing of every cast member and their collective ensemble stage presence.
Now contrast this with the current methodology many companies are using today as they seek to audition a candidate for employment. The job requirement often lists 10 things the candidate must have and if a candidate doesn’t possess all of the requirements, they are often excluded from moving forward in the hiring process. In the pre-recession days of scarce resources, those 10 requirements would have been divided into Must-Have’s and Nice-to-Have’s with about a 50/50 split. With an abundance of people in the job market, some recruiters and hiring managers are insisting on all 10 without applying weighting factors. Are they seeking to hire the best overall employee for the company or one that can identify with the current needed skill?
Imagine if the choreographer chose only those that could tap dance. Would that have produced the excitement and passion that thrilled me the other night? Is tap that popular these days? Or did she pick the best actors that had proven they could sing and had dance talent and then assume that a few weeks of intense tap dance training would create an outstanding cast? Would I have enjoyed great tap dancing at the expense of stage presence, singing strength, or acting ability?
How many candidates possess that stage presence, functional strengths, a progressive record of outstanding accomplishments, and core professional competencies, but are minus one learnable skill? If the one learnable skill was absent from the requirement, would these same candidates be much better employees in the long run and bring sustained success to the company. Are these companies hiring for that one next assignment or hiring people for a career that will provide year over year value to customers and increase shareholder value?
I have been spending more time networking recently and have met many intelligent and motivated people who are seeking a new career opportunity. They often talk about the one thing that excluded them from becoming an employee of their targeted company. I can’t help but wonder if the person chosen over them was really a better addition to the people equity of that firm. Over a cup of coffee, I had the privilege to experience tremendous strengths and passion they could have used to make a difference in value creation for that company. Would the company acquire a more loyal employee by taking the risk and investing a small amount of time for that person to “hit the ground running” a few weeks out? Or have they hired the sub-optimal candidate that can “hit the ground running”, but then head in the wrong direction really quick?
The challenge to acquire that next employee in this recession recovery period is the responsibility of both candidates and employers. The candidates need to prove they are active learners and can demonstrate this with recent skill acquisition and demonstrated active learner behaviors. The employers need to evaluate the accomplishments and competencies of the candidates and assume that a missing skill is one training event away. Given these assumptions, every employer has a golden opportunity to hire proven, accomplished, and talented people who will leverage new skill training into success for their customers and shareholders.
Candidates – step up to the challenge to prove you are an agile and active learner. Employers – step up to the challenge to hire your best next employee. After all, you will end up spending more time with them during the work week than you will with your family or friends!
“Come and meet those dancing feet on the avenue I’m taking you to… 42nd Street.”