Black Chip Collective | What the Show 3% Can Teach Us About Recruiting
The dystopian future in the Netflix series "3%" is uncomfortably close to a modern recruiting funnel. By breaking down the problems in "the process" we see where real-live recruiting can be improved.
recruiting, tv, 3%, cinematography, 3 percent
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What the Show 3% Can Teach Us About Recruiting

Feb 22 2017

What the Show 3% Can Teach Us About Recruiting

The show 3% is a Brazilian Netflix series about a dystopian future where as the population comes of age, they compete in a series of trials to live in an offshore paradise. While the show boasts an engaging storyline and impressive visuals from director Cesar Charlone, cinematographer of “City of God”, the thing that struck me most is the similarity of the trials in 3%, called “the process”, to everyday systems in a modern job search. While “the process” in 3% is much more intense and brutal than a real recruitment, there are a number of lessons that recruiter might draw from the show (some non-specific spoilers included):


‘The Offshore’ Doesn’t Seem to Know What They Want in a Candidate

There seems to be some general consensus that ‘the Offshore’, the paradise promised to top candidates in 3%, is looking for exceptional people, but not exactly what that entails. They even waver on attributes for which they’ve previously tested; demanding one skill in one test and then eliminating based on that quality in another test. And for an organization that is essentially looking for roommates, they’re comfortable with an awful lot of cheating and backstabbing, while at the same time eliminating candidates for much more innocuous personality traits.


While this is used to show inequality in the selection process in 3%, all of these mistakes are also made by hiring managers in real life recruiting: going in with an unclear vision of what a candidate needs,not being consistent with selection criteria, and setting unnecessary or irrelevant skills on which to judge candidates that are poor predictors of job success. Most of these tend to fall on a hiring manager, but a recruiter shouldn’t be afraid to give feedback or raise concerns when they occur.


The Tests Don’t Seem to Correspond to the Traits that Are Wanted

Most of the tests in 3% seem to be high pressure insanity. It makes for good TV, but it doesn’t really test for the already ambiguous guidelines set by the Offshore. While some of the initial tests do indeed seem to test for general skills like intelligence and drive, but even those have strange guidelines and are tested under strained conditions.


This happens in real life as well- recruiters will measure skills using metrics that are actually poor indicators of success, but the tests in 3% are most analogous to an interview. The vast majority of jobs are not high pressure and many of them do not require any particular type of charisma, yet candidates often face final selections based on how charming they can be in a thirty minute pressure filled window.


We can do better with interviews. Rather than asking direct questions about experience, which disproportionate favors candidates who can best spin a narrative, hypothetical situations and in depth conversations about crucial subjects give a more accurate view of a candidate’s strengths.


The Candidates are Treated Poorly

So maybe no one is goading Google applicants into forming a band of street toughs to fight other candidates, but though the allegory is much more extreme, it does offer a fair picture of the way recruiters treat candidates. Recruiters, like the Offshore representatives in 3%, are too often working on a flawed premise. They believe they have something of value (a job) and therefore candidates should be working to impress them- when in actuality recruiters are competing for top candidates with other companies.


I often see tips and trends for retaining top candidates throughout the recruitment process, but these things are just a distraction when so many people are getting the basics wrong. It comes down to basic respect for all candidates. Be communicative, let them know where they are in the process, what’s expected of them, and how things will work going forward. Respect their time, understand that they often have other obligations to work around, and that their apparent desire for a job may not reflect actual drive. Finally, adhere to the oft neglected rule of basic decency: always tell rejected candidates when they are out of the running.


Our future isn’t yet a dystopia, so surely we can do better than 3%.

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