Open innovation is the new job interview

People hate job interviews, and for good reason: they can be a huge waste of time. According to a number of studies, there is no reason to think that an interview leads to better-decision making, a less biased process (starting with problems with the interviewer) or that the sequential “death by interview” method has any predictive power on how well a candidate will work out.

Compounding this last-mile problem is that the front end of the hiring process is even worse.


  • The average time spent by recruiters looking at a resume is 5 to 7 seconds. An estimated 53 percent of resumes and job applications contain falsifications. On average, according to Glassdoor, 250 resumes are received for each corporate job opening with the first resume received within 200 seconds after a position is posted.
  • Preliminary resume screening at most corporations use a computerized ATS system which dramatically increases the odds that a resume will be instantly rejected because required keywords, or the odd mistake.  Recruiters spend less than 2 seconds (of the total 5-7 second review) looking for a keyword match.
  • According to the Wall Street Journal, recruiters report that over 50 percent of applicants for a typical job fail to meet the basic qualifications for that job. This high “not-qualified” rate is largely because individual’s spend an average of just 76 seconds (and as little as 50 seconds) reading and assessing a job opening.
  • What is deemed as “culture” is problematic. A McKinsey survey of 1,421 global executives suggests that enterprise-wide cultural factors continue to play a central role in achieving (or missing) diversity goals at the executive level as well as within the workforce in general. Of the senior female respondents, 40 percent said that their leadership and communication styles don’t fit with the prevailing model of top management in their companies.

I could provide more examples, but suffice to say the resume to interview process is deeply flawed.

What can replace the hiring process?

In a phrase: show me, don’t tell me.

One of the most noticeable trends on the global economic landscape is the proliferation of start-up competitions, hack-a-thons, creative TikTok challenges, writing submissions and open innovation platforms that provide a showcase of talent, ideas and business models and, for competitors, an entry point to build a career. They can do this by gaining critical experience, being supported to start their own company, or simply getting noticed and hired for what they have accomplished in a particular context. The differentiator with these competitions is that the skills required for many of these events (hard and soft skills, and often emotional intelligence) can go well beyond what can be gleaned from a resume, interview, or university lab, and provide a more credible signal to the market of potential investors, mentors or employers.

Future innovation, and employment, will likely include much more of this activity. The concept of Open Innovation, originally conceptualized by Henry Chesbrough back in 2006, has already penetrated deeply into enterprise strategy and culture. It has been further accelerated by the “Start-Up of You” zeitgeist, the rise of the passion economy, a vast UpWork and gig workforce, and the challenge of persistently high-skilled underemployment. In a post-pandemic world, where many talented people will be confronting job markets with insufficient demand, the acceleration of current trends is almost assured.

Universities, at the center of this challenge, have and will continue to respond. From the UC Start Innovation Challenge and Harvard’s Innovation Labs to The Hatchery at Emory and the Nestle-Tsinghua x-Lab Joint Innovation partnership in Beijing, there are many, many similar concepts launching within academic departments and career centers across the higher education community. They are happening because students are telling administrators and professors that this will be the path for their future career development, and they are right.

On the other side, corporations and governments benefit greatly from the harnessing of talent and innovation outside of their walls and can build a strong hiring pipeline in the process. Closed innovation is increasingly a dead strategy. I did a cursory search on LinkedIn for “open innovation” work within corporations and found thousands of available positions across a wide swath of industries. This corporate pathway to the crowd is now well traveled, from partnerships with start-ups to app development and R&D challenges from undergraduates to post-docs. The next step in this process is nurture more diverse linkages between innovation competitions, employee hiring, and the funding of new ventures, all of which can spur more demand for hiring.

Who is Playing?

There are many ways that crowdsourcing and competitive innovation competitions are working to build this future.

VersatilePhD, which helps to prepare tens of thousands of PhDs and post-docs for work outside academia (disclosure: I run the company) is working with HeroX, a leading crowdsourcing platform which has worked with entities from NASA to the National Football League, to develop curated (PhD-level) innovation challenges with private and public entities.

Other platforms such as MBO Partners, which recently acquired crowdsourced platform MindSumo, brings challenges to their large community of freelancers, while Innocentive, cloud-based IdeaScale, and AI-platform Crowd Analytix offer other variants on the crowdsourcing theme.

This two-sided marketplace of students/adult job seekers and employers/investors is already spreading well beyond the US, particular as R&D and innovation in the scientific and corporate communities–and the talent that supports it–becomes more globally dispersed. That is good news for labor markets, future innovation, and the tens of millions of graduates, from Bachelor’s degree holders to PhDs, that need a more empowering and equitable opportunity to demonstrate their skills than sitting in a board room, or on another Zoom call, answering repetitive interview questions.


Ready for more? Subscribe.

Or contact us at