Lucy Kellaway: How a dating App can improve your company’s recruitment

This week, the Financial Times’s top columnist takes a look at a Dating App, suggesting it holds some great ideas for staff recruitment. Thinking laterally, as usual, Lucy Kellaway’s suggestions are likely to see executives all over the world downloading Tinder – strictly for research purposes, of course. In the local context, I learnt a lot from the recruitment processes of Allan Gray and Investec Bank where potential new staffers are interviewed by everyone likely to work closely with them. That way, all the staff involved have a say in who they get to work with, and a degree of “buy-in” before the successful candidate is shown to their desk. But even these firms might be able to learn something from Tinder. – AH  

The FT's top columnist, Lucy Kellaway
The FT’s top columnist, Lucy Kellaway

By Lucy Kellaway*

We are hopeless at hiring. Deep down, we know this is true, but we have to pretend it isn’t because we spend so much time and money doing it and because it matters to get it right. But in reality we never know if the people we pick are going to be any good – sometimes they turn out to be great, sometimes awful, and mostly somewhere in between.

The latest person to remind us of the stupidity of how we hire is Laszlo Bock of Google who last week wrote a post on LinkedIn pointing out that résumés are a waste of time. What people write about themselves on CVs is usually sanitised nonsense and even if it is trueish, employers don’t know what to make of it. Not only are CVs unhelpful, so too are interviews (as I’ve often written) and references are the most pointless of the lot.

While the employer makes its selection in the dark, so too does the candidate. All job descriptions are written in boilerplate, giving no clue as to what they are actually like.

There has to be a better way – and according to Mr Bock there is. It lies in data. If we can gather enough detailed data about the person and the job, perfect matches can be made every time. Various companies, including Google, are working on this and so a brave new future possibly awaits in which CVs can be put in the bin, and all recruitment will become a doddle.

In the meantime I’ve got a simpler alternative that doesn’t involve collecting a lot of sinister data about people. The only problem with it is that it doesn’t yet exist, as I’ve only just thought of it.

The idea came to me last week when I was having a chat with a young person I know. Or rather, I was chatting to her, but she wasn’t chatting back as she was on Tinder.

In case there are any FT readers who haven’t heard of this app, it is the chosen way of those who are youngish and single to meet possible partners. It is simple and addictive: you post your picture, age and name, and are shown photos of possible dates in the right age range who are nearby. If you like them you swipe right; if they like you too then you can start to message each other.

After that, it is up to you. You can meet. You can have sex at once, or not at all – or go steady and end up getting married.

Whatever happens, it’s immediate. It’s fun. And my young friend tells me the men you end up meeting are no less suitable than the men produced by more traditional channels.

If it works so well for dating, why not for hiring? There is surely a market for an app – let’s call it TinderIn – that would be a fast and efficient way of matching people to jobs. Instead of posting a CV on LinkedIn, people would supply a picture (possibly at a computer, or doing something rugged, or laughing uproariously) plus a very brief description, in say, 140 characters or fewer. I might be “Financial Times columnist. Company director. Gives speeches.”

Equally, the employer would have 140 characters in which to say something about the job. Then, if both sides swiped right on each other, they could start to exchange instant messages. The snappy flow of question and answer would be faster, simpler and more natural than an interview, and if it went well, the next stage could be a quick meeting in the office. Assuming both sides liked what they saw, the person could then be put to work. Later on, a permanent contract could be signed. Or not. If either party lost heart at any point, it would be back to TinderIn, no hurt feelings.

Through this app all dreary formalities would be swept away. There would be no more unsolicited applications. No waiting around for rejection letters.

Best of all, it would be honest. Most hiring is still built for an old world in which jobs were, if not for life, then for a long time. On TinderIn the faithlessness of employees would be explicit. No one would ever have to claim to have nurtured a life-long passion for joining UBS or P&G. They would simply see how it went.

Another advantage of TinderIn is that location would be given the attention it deserves. The app would favour employers that were nearby, a consideration that most workers rashly ignore. No one ever knows if they will like a job, but a short commute is always going to be a big advantage.

You could object that photos do not belong on TinderIn as appearance is irrelevant to most jobs. I don’t agree. The choice of image gives a (small) clue about you. It is as good a place to start as any.

It is possible that TinderIn wouldn’t work. But it couldn’t be worse than the present arrangement. And it would have the extraordinary advantage that looking for a job or looking for someone to hire – currently two of the most soul destroying activities around – might become something quite fun.

* Lucy Kellaway is an Associate Editor and management columnist of the Financial Times of London. For the past 15 years her weekly Monday column has poked fun at management fads and jargon and celebrated the ups and downs of office life. Follow her on Twitter at @lucykellaway

(c) 2014 The Financial Times Limited