Eliminated 50 Resumes Immediately? Maybe You Are The Bad Job Candidate

Last week I wrote about the trend among employers to monetize the apparent happiness of employees. One of the examples I provided was a job listing requiring people to be passionate about cleaning buildings. I pointed out one of the ways this already impacted the arts is the belief employees didn’t need to be paid to perform their roles since they are doing something they love.

But even arts and non-profit administrators who are resolved to pay employees fairly in line with current market rates are apt to have expectations that exceed the reality of their work environment.

A couple months ago Seth Godin made a post regarding, “The fruitless search for extraordinary people willing to take ordinary jobs.”

“It’s unreasonable to expect extraordinary work from someone who isn’t trusted to create it.

It’s unreasonable to find someone truly talented to switch to your organization when your organization is optimized to hire and keep people who merely want the next job.

It’s unreasonable to expect that you’ll develop amazing people when you don’t give them room to change, grow and fail.

And most of all, it’s unreasonable to think you’ll find great people if you’re spending the minimum amount of time (and money) necessary to find people who are merely good enough.”

When I was writing my post last week, I had a vague recollection of reading a post about how too much focus is placed on formal credentials and education when hiring people. I searched around quite a bit trying to find the source. Fortunately, in his post today, Vu Le linked back to the very post he wrote in April I was thinking about.

In that post, he mentions lack of formal education, typos in resumes, short term vision and “grass is greener outside our field” thinking as short cuts employers use to eliminate applicants and make the resume review process easier.

In essence, like Godin, he says employers have high expectations of a process in which they invest minimal effort.

In addition to making the effort, Vu advocates:

Change the philosophy and definition of “qualification”: Qualification should be based on whether a person will do a good job or not in the position. Since we can’t know for sure if they will, we use proxy characteristics, such as formal education, as a predictor of performance. But formal education, as mentioned above, leaves behind a lot of people. Set it in the “Preferred” section if you have to use it. This opens up doors for people who have equivalent working experience.

He also encourages people to be hired based on their passion. That isn’t generally an issue in the arts where people are replete with passion. But he also adds the need to hire based on potential, a sentiment that is echoed in a Fast Company article from a year ago that recommends hiring on potential over experience.

While it’s easier to measure past performance, it’s also possible to evaluate potential, he says. Zehnder looks for indicators such as the right kind of motivation: great ambition to leave a mark in the pursuit of greater, unselfish goals. “High potentials … show deep personal humility and invest in getting better at everything they do,” he says.

Four other hallmarks of potential, he adds, are curiosity, insight, engagement, and determination.


Businesses may focus on hiring someone with eight to 10 years of experience, Seville says, but sometimes that’s really “one year’s experience times eight.”

That emphasis is the article’s not mine. When I read it, my first thought was that it sounds like the description of a large segment of people who work in the non-profit arts. So if the corporate sector starts to orient more toward those qualities, there is a potential for a bigger talent drain away from the arts.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


3 thoughts on “Eliminated 50 Resumes Immediately? Maybe You Are The Bad Job Candidate”

  1. I once worked for a university arts organization and we were reviewing candidates for a new position about 3 years after I started. My boss commented that we should disqualify a candidate because their college gpa was less than 3.0. I had to remind her that she hired me, who had a 2.7 college gpa, (because I was working long hours in my field as an undergraduate). We need to look at the overall person and not just one aspect.

    • Indeed. And it is always interesting to be on higher ed. hiring committees when someone points out that the school’s graduates wouldn’t be qualified for the job being advertised. Often it isn’t the committee that wrote the job description so they have no capacity to change it.


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