During this most unpredictable of times, we think a lot about how to manage disruption. When we think about disruption, we think about ensuring that we grow in a way that is sustainable over time–meaning that as we grow, we remain flexible and adaptive. It also means that as we grow, we continue to serve our clients at the highest level, support the communities in which we do business, and pay even closer attention to the needs of our team. What we’ve learned is that when we take shortcuts and feel rushed, it’s easy to make a mistake; and when you make a mistake while hiring, it can be a big one.
We think of every single person we hire, no matter what role they play, as an essential part of our growth. Each person must be resilient and resourceful; a game changer, an impact player. In this matter, there are no compromises: if we aren’t so excited about our new hire that we can’t wait to bring them on board, then we haven’t got the right person. Throughout the process, we also need to uphold our values by respecting and caring about everyone involved–this means every single candidate we talk to, and every team member involved in the hiring process. Due to the fallout from COIVD-19, there’s an abundance of talent in many sectors; yet it’s also true that finding an exceptional person who is the right fit takes as much time and discipline as ever.
STEP 1: SET THE STAGE
- Clearly define the need. In my experience, this is a step that can easily be rushed–especially if our workload is great, and we feel desperate to find help quickly. Clarity on exactly what the job requires will save a lot of time in the long run, and we’ve learned the hard way that it’s important to invest the time upfront. First, carefully outline the skills and experiences needed for the role, including intangible qualities that would be ideal for a new employee. If you’re replacing someone who has left, take the time to determine whether the position itself has changed and whether the job description should be adjusted. Don’t assume it’s the same job it was when the previous person came on board. The successful candidate should be capable of significant career advancement, and the job description should be created with this in mind; in other words, always hire for the next job.
STEP TWO: ATTRACT THE RIGHT CANDIDATES
- Consider where to find candidates. When building a conscious business, your first step should be to look to your network. People and organizations are motivated to help you if they know and respect your company. Make a list of key people and organizations with strong ties to your business, and provide them with a dynamic, compelling job profile and personalized cover letter. That personal touch will pay off; even if it doesn’t help fill this specific position, it will keep your network thinking of your organization as a place to refer top talent.
In addition, identify appropriate advertising options such as LinkedIn, Idealist, or industry-specific boards that attract high-caliber candidates. Remember to include candidates from a diverse array of backgrounds, as this only strengthens the pool from which you’ll select.
- Know when to get help. Understand that the recruitment process can be difficult, especially in a highly competitive labor market or when hiring for positions with a unique set of qualifications. There may be times when you need to seek outside resources. Find a skilled recruiter, and spend time with them to create the right candidate profile and search strategy; this may ultimately save your team a tremendous amount of time and effort.
Recently, Opportunity Lab worked with a client to help them identify a new HR professional that would play a critical role in advancing their company’s goals. We worked for about two weeks, hoping that the process of identifying qualified candidates would be fairly direct; but we came to understand that the expertise of a recruiter with extensive experience hiring for HR roles would simplify and shorten the process. Sure enough, within two weeks we had a great new hire on board who was well worth the added costs.
STEP THREE: SCREENING CANDIDATES THOROUGHLY
After setting the stage and preparing your screening tools, you’ll start receiving resumés from candidates. Screen them with your resumé screening tool, then screen qualified candidates by video chat and then again through a first-person interview. At each step of the program, you should evaluate candidates with the Candidate Evaluation Tool, which lists the criteria you will use at each step of the process.
For the Resume Screening, We Look For:
- A solid job history
- A proven track record of measurable results
- Evidence of personal and professional development
- A well organized, easy-to-read resume
- A well written, personalized cover letter
For the Video Chat Screening, We Look For:
- The ability to engage the interviewer: making eye contact, asking relevant questions, and attempting to make a personal connection
- Self-presentation that’s consistent with their resume
- An ease in setting up and completing the screening interview
STEP FOUR: INTERVIEW CANDIDATES THOUGHTFULLY
- Determine interview structure. Who is doing the interviewing? Look back at your defined need, and identify who will be involved and who knows the position well. An HBR study states that 3 skilled interviewers are sufficient: “The greater the number of filters you include in an interview process, the more you reduce your risk of hiring the wrong person—but also the more you increase your risk of rejecting the right one.” When possible, at least one interviewer should be from the Human Resources department to ensure legal compliance and fairness while viewing the process through the lens of organization culture. At Opportunity Lab, we’ve found that for most positions 3-4 interviewers is enough to make a good hire without slowing down the process or overly taxing a candidate. For senior positions, there are more key stakeholders, so usually 5 to 6 interviewers are required.
- Identify your criteria for evaluating candidates. Once you know who will be involved, finalize your approach. Create a candidate evaluation form, by which to judge each candidate by the same criteria defined by your team in the initial recruitment stage. Having the hiring criteria in front of you while conducting interviews gives you a tool by which to make comparisons beyond just a “gut feeling;” it helps maintain an objective view of each candidate. It gives you a tool by which to make comparisons beyond just a “gut feeling”. Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahnemam developed an interviewing process for the Israeli Army in the early 1970’s which is still in use today. Kahheman found that gut feelings, though sometimes very useful, often bias interviewers. To guard against this bias–which often causes interviewers to favor people who are similar to them–his program trains interviewers to note their intuition and put it aside until the decision is to be made. When interviewers do this properly, bias is often minimized. Please note that in order to be useful and legally compliant, all criteria need to be specifically related to the role you are hiring for; also bear in mind that they cannot have a demographic or identity-oriented component.
- At Opportunity Lab, we evaluate candidates using three categories:
- Skills and Experience
You may also consider using a hiring assessment to gain some deeper insight. While not grounds on which to base an entire decision, it may bring up questions that hadn’t been previously covered or simply provide further confirmation of previous perceptions.
- Encourage many ‘touch points” with potential candidates, to get a sense of their personality. Be as open as possible about your company, and what you’re looking for in a successful candidate.
STEP FIVE: MAKE THE DECISION WITH DISCIPLINE
- Make sure the needs of both sides are equally considered. Everyone involved in the hiring process must be in agreement that the selected candidate is the right choice. The candidate should also be well equipped to make an informed decision about whether the job and company are right for them. Transparency about your company’s policies and practices, intentions for the role, and feelings toward the candidate will only help to confirm the correct fit. Often, employers focus on the candidates demonstrating why they’re right for the position, and don’t focus on demonstrating why they’re the best employer for the candidate.
- Negotiate collaboratively to ensure there is alignment between what the candidate wants and what the company wants to offer. Keep this in mind, though: if you feel the candidate’s conditions seem excessive–such as a salary that greatly exceeds the company budget, or extreme haggling over bonuses–perhaps it’s not a good match. This kind of thing may indicate a misalignment of the candidate’s interests and your own.
- Be caring and considerate to all candidates. For those you’ve decided not to hire, provide prompt follow-up as soon as a decision has been made. When appropriate, provide feedback if it would be helpful for the candidate. Being unresponsive or dismissive of someone you’ve interviewed is disrespectful, and can be damaging to an employer’s reputation. Everyone who has participated in the recruiting process is now part of your network, and it’s best to treat them that way.
Above all, throughout the hiring process, use the mission and ideals of the company to inform the hiring strategy. Open communication is critical to identifying a candidate with the right mindset, and to building a relationship with them. While there’s never a guarantee that every new hire will be a perfect fit, being diligent and thoughtful in the hiring process will help to minimize turnover and lead your company to scale successfully. A conscious hiring strategy will bring about the shift from reactive hiring to conscious scaling for your company.