Humanize the Interview Process – Become a Relational Recruiter

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There have been some interesting reports about employee retention and turnover that started me thinking about why people look for new opportunities and how that impacts recruiting.  The Society for Human Resource Management recently published a report entitled “Skills Gap, Turnover Are Top Talent Concerns” in which they found:

About one-fourth of employees reported that they are likely to look for a new job in the next 12 months. They cited unhappiness with current salary (23 percent), followed by looking for a better opportunity (19 percent), not feeling valued (16 percent) and unhappiness with growth opportunities (13 percent).

Indeed.com just published their Talent Attraction Study: What Matters to the Modern Candidate in which they found:

71% of people are actively looking or open to a new job, and 90% of people hired within the past year actively looked for a job within six months prior to being hired. Also, 65% look at new jobs again within 91 days of starting a new job, leading us to believe that no one is “passive” about their career in 2015.

Indeed’s conclusion that “no one is passive about their career in 2015” led me to think about what people mean when they say they want “a better opportunity.”  On one hand, there is always going to be a grouping of people who will opportunistically move for better compensation packages.  Resumes that show a new position every 2-3 years are often representative of the person who is moving for better salary.  On the other hand, the more interesting question is what do we need to do to make people “feel valued” from the moment we reach out to them in the recruiting process.

All too often hiring managers and recruiters can forget that every aspect of the recruitment process is an opportunity to let potential hires know they are valued.  Recruitment agencies and internal recruiters ought to convey in their initial outreach that the human equation is what matters, not filling the job; we are in a relationship-oriented business.  All too often the relational aspect of recruiting and hiring is second to the need for speed and efficiency in recruiting which can lead to a commoditized process in which candidates feel like a cog in the wheel, rather than a respected and valued future member of an organization.

Interestingly, I read an article yesterday – The Trouble With Behavioral Interviewing – that is quite relevant to how we recruit talent.  I especially appreciate this comment from author Liz Ryan:

We are human all the time. We are foolish to turn job interviews, such potentially fun and fizzy human processes, into tense and grovelly affairs.

As a recruiter who is also an improviser, the activity of creating conversation is where I put my focus.  Again, I appreciate Ryan’s perspective:

If you care about talent, you won’t want to interview people from a script. You’ll want to sit down with them next to a whiteboard and brainstorm like crazy. How else will you know whether your energies resonate together?

Once I’ve established that a person is qualified for the role, I abandon “interview questions” all together in favor of having a wide-ranging conversation.  We can learn valuable information about a candidate when we allow ourselves to explore who someone is in the world, how they express their intellectual curiosity, and discover their goals both personally and professionally.  In the long run recruiting is about building rapport.  It is refreshing to create the conditions that eliminate the hierarchical framework that comes with a more traditional recruiting paradigm in favor of getting to know each other.

Interviewing – It’s a Performance! (Part One)

imagesIt might seem counter-intuitive but my experience as an executive search consultant and coach is that the role of interviewer can be more challenging than being interviewed.  While job seekers rehearse (prepare) for interviews, interviewers are often busy executives who have been asked to interview candidates along with the many other responsibilities that all too often take priority, absorbing most of their attention.

Unfortunately, many of us have been in the “bad interview” play from one side or the other – the interviewee arrives at the interviewers office and that busy executive that is conducting the interview is winging it.  S/he is distracted.  Perhaps running late.  Whirling around in the interviewer’s head are things like: “Did I see a resume on this person?  What job is she/he interviewing for?  I don’t have time for this.  I’ve interviewed so many people this week I can’t get my work done.  What core competencies am I supposed to be interviewing for, anyway?”  Meanwhile, the interviewee wonders why s/he is not being asked thoughtful questions.  When recruiters debrief candidates about an interview it is not unusual to hear, “The interviewer did all the talking.”

There’s a lot to do in an interview – assess skill level, cultural fit, leadership and emotional intelligence to name a few.  And there is often a need to sell a talented candidate on the job and the company.  The hiring manager has a responsibility to organize her/his team to appreciate that talent acquisition is critical part of their job, to create an environment where the candidate feels respected and valued, and to clarify what each interviewer is looking for in her/his interview.  While one person might be interviewing for cultural fit, another might be digging into the candidate’s skill set.

Now, I’m all for improvising (vs. rehearsing and learning lines) but it’s good to remember that a well trained improviser is always making her/his partner look good.  We are very keyed into “the other.”  We are active listeners.  

Above all else I think the job of any interviewer is to create a conversation.  A performance for the interviewer might be to lead and enjoy the activity of creating conversation.  Be in the present and be present as an active listener.  Be thoughtful.  Go slowly.  Let the conversation unfold.  Follow your curiosity.  What does it take to get to know the person?  Take a risk.  Go somewhere together.  Allow space for their questions and be as honest and direct as possible in answering.

A great resource for interviewers is Adam Bryant’s weekly column in The New York Times – The Corner Office – http://projects.nytimes.com/corner-office/interviews/oldest/sort Bryant does a great job of interviewing hiring managers about how they interview and usually asks his subject’s for their favorite questions.

Have a great show!

Performing Potential

Harvard Business Review recently published an important and interesting article about talent acquisition for any of us who are engaged in recruiting: 21st Century Talent Spotting by Claudio Fernandez-Araoz http://hbr.org/2014/06/21st-century-talent-spotting/ar/6

The executive summary of the article is as follows – I bolded some key points:

How can a person who seems so qualified for a position fail miserably in it? How can someone who clearly lacks relevant skills and experience succeed? The answer is potential, the ability to adapt and grow into increasingly complex roles and environments. For the past several decades, organizations have based their hiring decisions on competencies. But we have entered a new era of talent spotting. Geopolitics, business, industries, and jobs are changing so rapidly that it’s impossible to predict the capabilities employees and leaders will need even a few years out. The question now is not whether people have the right skills; it’s whether they have the potential to learn new ones. Research points to five markers of potential: a strong motivation to excel in the pursuit of challenging goals combined with the humility to put the group ahead of individual needs; an insatiable curiosity to explore new ideas and avenues; keen insight into connections that others don’t see; a strong engagement with work and people; and the determination to overcome obstacles. Once organizations have hired true high potentials—a challenge, given the increasing scarcity of senior talent—and identified the ones they already have, it’s crucial to focus on retaining them and on helping them live up to their potential by offering development opportunities that push them out of their comfort zones.

I read this article with great interest as I reinitiate my work as an executive search consultant and engage in the process of developing and interviewing candidates for my clients.  During the course of my search work I have been come keenly aware that the author is correct when he describes what many might already have experienced:

“…your organization will be looking for it in what will soon be one of the toughest employment markets in history—for employers, not job seekers. The recent noise about high unemployment rates in the United States and Europe hides important signals: Three forces—globalization, demographics, and pipelines—will make senior talent ever scarcer in the years to come.”

The notion that we can no longer simply rely on core competencies to recruit talent makes good sense to me.  Executive search consultants are hired to survey the market in order to find the “A players” that every organization wants to recruit; the scarcity of the talent pool is apparent. Looking for “A players” can be limiting; we end up looking for “special” people (or privileged people from “top schools”).  Recruiting people based on their potential to develop requires a new skill: the vision to see who someone is becoming.  We are always becoming (along with being who we are and who we were); seeing potential broadens the discussion about talent to a discussion about human development.

Development opportunities require us to step out of our comfort zones; we step out of our comfort zones when we have development opportunities.  What enables us to step out of our comfort zones?  How can we make these moves and see the moves co-workers are making?  Performance.  We can perform ahead of ourselves as leaders, managers, executives, and business owners.  Innovative corporate cultures use performance to develop potential in their people; we can all perform motivated, curious, insightful, engaged, and determined.

Managers and leaders can create environments that allow everyone to be “a head taller”.   The more that organizations create opportunities to perform as “high potentials”, the more people will begin to develop these traits.  It is difficult to be motivated in a critical environment; the more we see each other through the lens of who we are becoming, the easier it is to perform our motivation to succeed.  People express their curiosity when dialogue is encouraged.  Someone’s insightful observation will be heard when listening skills are encouraged and developed. The more teamwork is encouraged the more engaged people become.  When we play in a level playing field we have that much more determination.

What to do about the scarcity of the talent pool?  Let’s develop!