The Nonsense Phrase - War for Talents

Published by MBA Skool Team, Published on November 13, 2014

There are many trends and issues are evolved within HR sphere and some challenges were addressed and solved, but one trend is still going on and unsolved. Many round-tables discussions, numerous of articles are being published and the issue of shortage of talents or skilled people is addressed intensively and extensively in HR conferences. CEO’s saying that they are unable to find the right candidates to fill those critical positions that are vacant for almost half a year, and in some cases for a year, and I personally know a CEO who is still looking for and Executive Secretary/Administrative Assistance for almost two good years and can’t find it.

Organizations are in great danger and vulnerable if they can’t find those elite people and someone has to pay the bill. Eventually, HR will be blamed for not getting the people on board as planned, and hiring became a critical mission for both companies and recruitment agencies, and it seems to be that we are in a war for talents.

Image Courtesy:, Stuart Miles

The Blind Side

The perceptions about a lack of talents are pervasive, and this is an illusionary concept. As a matter of fact it is a short sight from the recruiting, hiring function and/or top management, and the case is unsubstantiated and quite irritating for many applicants. It is a myth, or fairy tale.

Since 1997 when McKinsey & Company invented the term The War for Talent and all companies are going nuts and entering into a race to find those talents and fetch them on board. It became one of the most important new buzzwords in Corporate HR. Moreover, there are some companies went far beyond the race by introducing a function within HR called Talent Management, and we are really wondering what they do and what is that suppose to mean in business terms?

The first impression when I hear the word Talent Management is to think of an impresario who is in charge of managing events and can get you good singers and dancers for your daughter wedding.

However, despite its growing popularity, the concept of Talent remains unclear and definition of talent is deceptively misleading. The sad part of the story is that talent was never explicitly defined in The War for Talent book, and companies do not even know how to define it, nor to manage it, and if defined it is vague, meaningless or very broad statement. Unfortunately we do not think things through, and instead we just take things for guaranteed, or reacting blindly.

Furthermore, how many times good resumes have been rejected for a nonsense reason called overqualified? Hiring decision makers, head hunters or at organizational level, wrongly assume that the candidates are very qualified to suite the job. Their excuse and assumption is that the candidate may ask for a high package or probably will be bored or even won’t feel utilized and therefore will not last for long.

The main logic reason that we can envisage in such awkward scenario is that organizations don’t want to pay for those highly educated and intensive experienced personnel or they under estimate their capabilities. And instead, they risk their organizations by hiring less costly ones, and later regret it.

In early 2013 I was assisting a food manufacturing company in finding and hiring a strong supply chain director, as they want to get rid of the current underperforming one, and after reviewing some good resumes we decided to meet two candidates in which one of them was group supply chain director for a very respectable, large and renowned company.

However, the CEO with illogical excuse stated that the candidate doesn’t look aggressive enough and rejected him. Anyhow, I proposed a new candidate whom I personally know with the following credentials:

• 15 years of experience with major international companies.

• Implemented Lean Manufacturing Principals and change management initiatives credited with improving corporate production processes and increasing corporate revenue.

• Master of International Business Administration in Global Management, ESLSCA Business School, Paris, France

• Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Power Engineering

• Certified Supply Chain Professional

• Qualified Supply Chain Operations Reference Instructor

• Certified Supply Chain Operations Reference Professional

• Certified Lean Manufacturing Black Belt

The CEO offered for such qualifications and experience a monthly salary range between US$3500-4000 maximum, where the candidate asks for US$10’000. Taking the fact that the position salary range in the country between a minimum of $3500 for entry managerial post up to maximum of $15’000 for director level. The candidate refuses further discussion.

If we accept the universal phenomena that called war for talents, which I personally rejected in form and substance, as this is a false perceptions or big baloney about a lack of skilled employees, then those overqualified individuals are exactly the kind of people organizations should be looking for and hire, and there are some compelling reasons to do this. But first ask yourself, have you ever heard of a Defense Minister assigned low rank officer or some other officers with no appropriate credentials to lead solders and troops in a war? Yes, may be in Walt Disney world.


Overqualified candidates have great intelligences; they have invested serious money, efforts, and time to gain those credentials to distinguish themselves from others. They have solved several case studies and read numerous of books. Those candidates are full of knowledge, information and concepts ready to be utilized and implemented. With their qualifications, they are ready to produce insights and improve working practices. But, you don’t want hire them!


Over and above, the experience they have gained over years, the dilemmas they have solved over period of times are of great interest and probably match with what you are currently facing or you may face in future. They bring wisdom, new perspectives, and facts to the discussions table. They have no time to waste in chitchatting meetings. But again, you don’t want to hire them!


They are definitely motivated and want to demonstrate themselves and their worth, and that is the reason why they are applying for the job. Most of them have done their homework and asked about your company and research it before they apply. Once more, you don’t want to hire them!

The Way Forward

Having said so, I greatly believe that the real culprits of not finding what you are looking for are the employers themselves. Organizations, executive search companies, and hiring decision makers have to challenge the status quo and the way they think on candidates. If a candidate is missing some of the skills required to do the job, simply invest and offer a training program.

I have a friend Mr. N.A. who was working as VP Finance in a conglomerate company decided to shift his career and accept a position of Head of Internal Auditing in an oil and gas company.

After a serious of interviews he was selected despite the fact that he had no idea about oil and gas firms and the auditing issues, but he is well educated and experienced. His bravery and visionary chairman sponsored him to attend three programs over a period of six months to get well acquainted and certified in the area.

Pursuing the above option will ultimately expands the supply of employees and shall increase retention on the job.

Finally, having a lot of education doesn't over-qualify a candidate, nor does experience. If we are not challenging the status quo and the way of thinking on candidates, organizations will keep suffering and missing those talented and overqualified candidates. Or as Albert Einstein once said “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”.

Good luck in hunting.


This article has been authored by Dr. M. Amr Sadik, IPE School of Management, Paris

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