Open Hiring

Have you ever been on the job market? I have been through several job applications, like many people. And several is a real understatement here. When starting this process the first thing you do is hitting up keywords and looking for jobs in your area, that seem to somewhat ask for the skills you have. There is the popular statistic in behavioural science that man apply to a job for which they qualify about 60% but women only apply for a job once they fit about 90% of the requirements. Where this statistic comes from I do not know. If you do, please let me know. Regardless of the validity of this stat. we filter ourselves out before the company does. When we do decide to apply to the job after weighing costs, benefits, chances of success and having several existential crises, the process of the application itself isn’t exactly easy either. Applications haven’t exactly become shorter. Not only do a lot of companies want your CV, they also want a cover letter or a motivational statement (similar things), that seems to be the minimum. When it comes to certain specific jobs or job sectors, they want a lot more. For one postdoc application they tasked for a CV, cover letter, research statement, diversity statement, teaching statement, grade lists, degrees and three references. Applying to jobs can be a fulltime job in and of itself. Which is insane. And that’s ignoring the assessments and calls and interviews that still have to come once you go through to the next round. If you ever hear back from the company you just applied to anyway.


So imagine my surprise and excitement when I heard about open hiring. Open Hiring has received a lot of press attention recently as an initiative from the Start Foundation based in the Netherlands. In short, it means that you simply apply to a job. No CV, no interview, no nothing. This concept, however isn’t new, nor Dutch. The originator of open hiring is Bernie Glassman, who happens to be a Zen master. In 1982 he created Greyston Bakery, following Buddhist principles. He started the bakery in Yonkers, New York, which at the time was experiencing high levels of poverty. Glassman wanted to combat this poverty by creating work for people who really struggled getting a job. Glassman offered jobs to people to work in his bakery. He didn’t ask anyone questions about their work experience or background, the only thing that mattered was that they wanted to work. The execution was quite simple: if you wanted to work you could come to the bakery and put your name on a list. Once a spot was free and your name was next on the list, it was your turn to work and have the job. You would be treated as an employee. The Dutch Start Foundation is now applying the same principles. In collaboration with several employers, and that list is growing, they are creating a similar approach. Employers will also have an (online) list where people can write down their name to be called in for work and hold down a job. Again, the same principles apply: open mind, no questions asked and equal treatment amongst all employees. The initiative has especially taken off as the current Dutch employment market is tight. Lots of employers need people, and quite a few people need jobs (thanks to the pandemic) but somehow this demand and supply curve isn’t reaching equilibrium, mainly at the expense of the employers who have loads of jobs sitting unfulfilled. Different applications of Open Hiring are already being considered. There have been discussions on the topic of internships, and whether they could benefit from a similar approach to hiring. In this case the student would determine whether they fit the internship program, and not the other way round.


Open Hiring is not a way of escaping a selection mechanism, it’s simply a way of escaping the pre-selection mechanism by employers. The applicant themselves determines whether they’d be any good for the job by either applying or not applying. If the statistic mentioned in the introduction is grounded in reality (seriously where did this number come from?!) a lot of women may be disadvantaged by this method as they judge themselves as incapable, before anyone else has the chance of judging them on their actual abilities. Additionally, once employed, the application-now-turned-employee will still be judged on their ability to work. Employees do get a contract, but receiving later contracts or promotional opportunities is entirely grounded in their ability to do the job. It’s not a free for all, you do actually have to show you can do the job! Personally I think this is a very interesting concept, and I’d like to see how it pans out. I do wonder how this works, or if it would work at all, for jobs that require an incredibly high level of education or training. And somehow I have a feeling it wouldn’t. But this may just be my biased preconceptions. What do you think?

*** a lot of resources in this article are Dutch, if you don’t speak Dutch yet still would like to read them let me know and I’ll try my best to translate them for you ***

Behavioural Science