One thing everyone in business will agree is in universally short supply: Time. Increased competition drives the pace of business. That, combined with the need to get more work done with fewer people—especially in an era when lay-offs are just “business as usual”—is transforming time into a resource of inestimable value. Business people are double- and triple-booked for meetings regularly and, since we’re still waiting for cloning technology to be perfected, it means they miss meetings they should be in and so try to play catch-up later. Email has run amok—no one is ever caught up—and the media continually grinds into us that faster is better and anything less than super multi-tasking at extreme rev is, well, lame.
The pressure of running endlessly short on time forces a lot of compromise, like scanning emails rather than reading them, nodding in agreement when you’re not really sure what you heard. But who has time to be sure? It’s a bit like knocking down an energy drink when you know what you really need is a good night’s sleep. Eight hours under the covers or a five-minute Red Bull recharge? Shortcuts are the norm!
What does this have to do with whether hiring managers “get it”? and by that I mean whether they understand they’re overlooking a rich, well-educated pool of applicants when they say things like “Business degree required” on every single job description they approve. Why do they do that? Because they believe they’ll be adding to their ranks people who can hit the ground running, who—with a minimal amount of preparation—can crunch some numbers, wiggle some technology, make something happen.
To say the least, they’re impatient. Time constraints drive short-sighted decision-making, and this is just another example. No time to consider whether our standard criteria deserve a fresh look. Just slap “Business degree required” on it, and maybe “MBA preferred,” just for good measure.
Yet many of these same hiring managers know that some of the important abilities they hope to find (leadership potential, communication skills, systemic/critical thinking) come from academic disciplines like the humanities and social sciences. They know it—I know they do—but changing the standard business-degree-required approach would take time (“You want to hire a what?” their manager asks in astonishment), not to mention the additional ramp-up required for a successful candidate who hadn’t been launched quite as first-day-job-ready as his business school counterpart.
Nope, no time for all that, since time (as we mentioned) is precious. Pop another Red Bull instead and deal with the consequences later—consequences that include a workforce heavy on spreadsheets and technology, light on analytical ability, dialectical thinking and communication skills.
So, do hiring managers “get it”? I think many do. But the idea of convincing others and changing the standard operating hiring practices … that’s more time and energy than they’re willing to spend.
That means it’s up to you to demonstrate your value, recognizing you may indeed have a receptive audience among many hiring managers. Think about how what you do will add value, cut cost, improve efficiency and maybe even save time.* And don’t be shy about it.
Remember: Your subtext is “Here’s why you should hire me instead of a business major” and theirs is “Why should I hire you instead of a business major?” Should make it easy to keep the conversation on track. As long as you don’t lose sight of the essential element holding them back from hiring you: The time impact.
* Detailed descriptions of how liberal arts majors add value in business as well as cut cost, improve efficiency and save time can be found elsewhere on this blog, also at http://www.ForEnglishMajors.wordpress.com.)