I work in HR (yes, I'll admit it
), and I thought I could provide some insight into how things work in the HR area. It's not that HR or management only want to hire people just smart enough to do the job. HR is looking for the profile of a person who will stick with the job long enough (or longer) for the company to gain some benefit from the employee's training. During an employee's first X months (X depending upon the nature of the job), the employee is usually not able to perform at full productivity due to learning about the company, the procedures for the job and in some cases, the job itself. The initial X months are an investment of time and money by the company. HR has been taught that past experience equals future results. Therefore, they look for resumes with lengthy tenure in past positions. In many industries (not all), low turnover equals high productivity and profitability, and thus the ability to keep turnover low by retaining employees is valuable to the company.
Add to that the fact that most management positions today are occupied by the Baby Boomers and even still some of the WWII generation who have a very specific definition of work ethic and loyalty to their employer which influences their definition of a good employee. Despite what I read, I do not believe that the Baby Boomers are going to retire anytime soon--especially given the performance of their 401k's in the market these last couple of months.
Another key factor in hiring can be how one would "get along with others." If you are trying to retain employees with lengthy tenure, how do you think they are going to react to someone new coming in with ideas of how to improve and change things? Thus, a value becomes keeping the status quo so that those people who have done the job for umpteen years don't feel threatened or complain resulting in a situation that would require time and energy diverted from the mission of productivity and profit.
HR and management look for a variety of other factors including the ability to do the job. However, ascertaining the person's ability is probably the most difficult part of the process. Most people interviewing have absolutely no idea what "abilities" they should be looking for or how to assess them.
Now, taking off my HR hat, what does all of this have to do with personal development? I think once we understand how things work in corporate America, we can better decide whether this is the place for us. In most companies, your personal needs are not going to be high up on the list of values. I'm not saying that the company's values are bad or good--they are just different than the individual employee's values--nor do I personally agree or disagree with them. The company is responsible to owners or other stakeholders and has to value that which it thinks will bring the greatest return to those owners or stakeholders. Personally, I think that smart managers are going to see that some shift in values is going to be necessary in order to attract the best talent to their companies as the talent pool will increasingly consist of people who have different values. Until then, I think it's best to understand the values and motivations of the employment world so that we can make the best decisions for ourselves or even how we can leverage that system for our own benefit.