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Entrepreneurs need not apply – Why are HR scared of us?

zeeyolqpictures @flickr

Today on LinkedIn I came across an article which is grasping the essence of challenges I’m facing now:

“Entrepreneurs and freelancers attract fewer interview invitations than comparable candidates who have spent the last few years working for someone else, according to research which will be presented to the Academy of Management annual conference in August. In the UK, the self-employed received almost two-thirds fewer interview requests than people with similar professional experience who worked only at employers.
The stigma against the self-employed may indicate that hiring managers just don’t see them as a good fit in their corporate culture. Traits that work for start-ups—risk-taking, taking charge and adopting “unusual points of view”—don’t necessarily work well in corporate careers, the paper noted.”

 Chris dorley-brown @Flickr
Chris dorley-brown @Flickr

In the city where Mayor, Tech London Advocates and the government are having ambitions to create and exceed successes of Silicon Valley, one could think that entrepreneurial minds are encouraged to come out and are in huge demand. Nothing further from the truth.
Entrepreneurs whose start-ups failed or those who are just in the beginning of the journey seem not to be of interest to established companies.
The thing is, that entrepreneurs think ‘outside of box’, find gaps in the market and offer solutions, juggle priorities, manage budgets, allocate resources…see what others don’t.
However, HR managers like stability and entrepreneurs do not. We crave changes, we need them to stay viable. So we need to pay the price of being an ‘outsider’ at cost of limited job opportunities.

Modern 1984

Established companies have become factories of mental models setting pattern for controlling how and what people think through the influence of illusory power, prestige and money. The attitudes have created copied cultures of “we are in control and we pay you to follow the rules we make“. Initially, these mental models were designed to build systems where compliance and productivity of human labour determined profitability as per Marxian ideology.  Subsequently organisations were built around concept of hierarchy of military control.  Corporate mental model is dependent on compliance.  However, compliance through control of resources via influence of power and money and other perks has proven to be limiting and costly. You can only buy conformist attitude. Self-motivation and passion are excluded.
The stigma against the entrepreneurs may indicate that hiring managers just don’t see them as a good fit in their corporate culture. Traits that are welcomed in start-ups—trial & error choices, risk-taking, taking charge and adopting unusual points of view—are seen as leaning out too much.

There is no way back

“The choice to become an entrepreneur can result in an involuntary lock-in, a factor that should be taken into account in planning one’s future career,” wrote the five professors from the University of Vienna, Munich School of Management and Erasmus University Rotterdam.

In recent experiment, researchers from Erasmus University Rotterdam sent pairs of cover letters and fictional resumes to real human resources management jobs in the UK over two years. In both fictional candidates’ CVs, the skills and training in the first seven years of the “applicant’s” careers were the same, with experience at large- and mid-sized companies. The key difference was highlighted after 2009: One of them was said to have owned a small HR consultancy with 3 employees while the other worked in a company’s HR department consulting with different groups.
Although the exact numbers of this experiment are not available, researches concluded that almost all “entrepreneurial” applicants were shunned right at the beginning of the recruitment process. Conclusions are simple: Need a job? Cover your entrepreneurial predilection as “hobby: movies, sport, books, travel”.

Spending energy and time on creating opportunities and challenging yourself in business is seen by HR management a threat to long-term investment in employee. But maybe it’s time to see entrepreneurs as those trying to optimise their talents and resources and appreciate their versatility. HR should not be afraid of hiring mavericks. Somebody who thinks a little differently can help to see problems as opportunities and inspire creative energy within a group.

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