Who is going to be brave in 2019?

Shane Gray
4 min readDec 30, 2018


As the old saying goes, “No-one ever got fired for buying IBM”.

Everyone who has sold software (except IBM salespeople no doubt) has used it to explain why they haven’t won a deal. Using it to explain a software sale that went to a larger competitor is one interpretation but it can be also used to eloquently summarise the practice of defensive decision making.

Generally this is when you make a decision that may not be best but will stand up to scrutiny because it is not outside of the “norm”.

For clarity, often you can substitute “norm” with “the way things have always been done”

We can all think of examples from work, love or life. The decision we wanted to make because we knew it was the right one but we veered away at the last minute and took the ‘safe’ option.

It’s easy to understand why people who have much to lose and nothing to gain from a decision nearly always fall into the trap of taking the safe option. This asymmetry explains why your boss has nice speeches about challenging norms and thinking outside the box up their sleeve but continue with the status quo rather than change things.

Although doing what looks right is usually safer it nearly always comes with hidden cost. Sadly the ‘safe’ option is not always the ‘right” option and many times the problem with the safe thing is that there is no improvement, no innovation, no change.

In the context of recruitment I’m hoping some companies will be brave in 2019 and start to do what is right rather than what looks right.

Who is convinced that the current approach of hoovering up applications from hundreds of candidates for every position is good for either side?

I, for one, am not and I believe that it’s one of the biggest sources of waste for companies and candidates alike.

Arguably it’s the way things have always been done so it’s going to take some effort to make it better. However I believe the benefits will be well worth it.

Think about the number of applications you need to make a hire. 300 is average for some companies…

Next, ask yourself what is the monetary cost of processing the 299 candidates that don’t get the job?

The numbers will vary but good authority puts it at between $10 and $100 per rejection.

Therefore you can be very confident it’s a significant amount.

Next, ask yourself about the emotional wear and tear the 299 rejected people went through as a result of applying for the job and not getting it?

Maybe never even hearing back from the recruitment team despite multiple requests for an update.

Again you can be confident it’s not an insignificant factor.

Now, ask yourself how much the recruitment team enjoyed screening the candidates that did not get hired?

Again you can be confident they didn’t enjoy screening the 90% that were never contenders.

Finally, ask yourself does this seem like an optimum process even though it’s the way things have always been done?

The conclusion has to be no it is not.

So why is it still such a commonplace recruiting model?

Once upon a time company called Zappos thought about these things and Stacy Zapar and Mike Bailen made the decision to take away all the company job postings.

In 2014 anyone could submit their interest in working with Zappos and just get to know the company better as an Insider.

To echo my friend Bill Boorman, “Everyone should be putting their time and effort into getting to know as many candidates as possible.”

Then you can spend your time figuring out the ones you need rather than processing applications from the ones you don’t.

It works.

Zappos got to know three times the volume of candidates than when they were just taking applications for jobs.

Recruiter processing workload was dramatically reduced.

Additionally, you can be sure they didn’t alienate retail customers because they had a bad recruitment experience.

Sadly, about a year later it was business as usual and job postings were back as the innovative team had moved on to greener pastures.

I can only surmise that the new recruitment leadership team decided you can’t get fired for going back to hoovering up applications as that’s the way things have always been done in recruitment.

However you can get amazing results when people have the space to make the right choice without being penalized for every risk taken rather than defaulting to what looks right and is safe.

There’s another very good reason to embrace different ways of doing things, technology is already changing the world at an exponential rate whether we like it or not.

As that rate of change continues to accelerate our processes need to change to stand any chance of keeping up.

The good news is that smaller iterative changes today and tomorrow can help avoid the need for much larger changes down the road.

Here’s one to start with for recruitment, try closing your open positions a week earlier than normal to cut off the stragglers and see what happens.

Be ambitious and brave in 2019.

Happy New Year.



Shane Gray

A veteran of technology business development and strategy with the uncanny ability to distill a complex issue into something that is clearly understandable.