“This round of interviews is pointless” or when “what” you want someone to do isn’t enough to get the right person to join your team.
One day, at a telemarketing company I worked for as a manager, we had to bring together a “special team”. It was to take care of a fundraising campaign a national cancer research foundation asked us to manage. The easy part was: agreeing with client’s team on the project’s terms, defining how many people we’d need to fulfill the contract in due time, setting up an appropriate job description, selecting job boards where to post our ads, conducting over-the-phone and in-person job interviews, training the newly hired employees, include in that team a few of our top employees. The hard part was: ending up with the “right people” to do the actual work, and deliver what my employer had signed for. “It’s only phone calls. Like for any contract we get from any of our clients”. That was the shared understanding during our management meetings for this one project. We ended up coming short on what we were expected to deliver. Not by a slight margin. Not really understanding why neither.
WHEN QUESTIONS AND DOUBTS PILE UP…
“Maybe we haven’t used the right job boards this time. Maybe we haven’t received enough resumes. Maybe we haven’t had enough time to train the new employees. Maybe if we had more…” The number of questions and doubts we had, after having handed out the campaign’s results to the client, piled up. “What could we do differently next time?” That question was irrelevant. As we were told it was only a one-time run.
That was until the client decided to give us another fundraising campaign to manage, a few weeks later. The reason being, we had outperformed other telemarketing companies the foundation had worked with in the past. All of a sudden, “What could we do differently?” resurfaced. At the end of this second campaign, we surpassed the client’s goal. Not by a slight margin. A big one.
How had we done it? We put our efforts at recruiting candidates who had “empathy” as a key personality trait, and for whom “fighting cancer” had meaning. Because they either knew someone who had a cancer, or had one themselves. Opposite to our “regular recruitment”. Where a “past experience in sales or customer service” was the top requirement our hiring decisions were based on. It wasn’t “being a new graduate” or “being available to work on a rotating shifts schedule” or “having the ability to work well under pressure / in a fast pace environment” as many of our competitors required.
Was this new angle – used to recruit for this 2nd campaign – something we could copy and repeat? As we found out, yes.
The core of most job descriptions posted on boards these days is about three (3) things: a set of tasks that needs to be fulfilled, goals to be met and a schedule to “squeeze it all in”. Let it be a full time, part time, day shift, evening, or on rotation one. Nothing or not much about the personality required to do the work.
Why companies, managers and recruiters focus so much on the number of “years of experience” and levels of skills mastery but overlook things like personality traits, values and worldview?
Because a number of “years of experience” can be compared with someone else’s number. A “level of mastery” can be assessed with different tests, “roleplay scenarios” or else. Salary expectations can be compared with a compensation chart. But the level of “chemistry between two people”, the percentage of “match” between a team’s values and a candidate’s own, the proximity or distance between two “worldviews”, they can’t. Managers and recruiters will tell you “We don’t have the tools and the know-how to do so.”
More importantly, they can use numbers as an excuse to justify their pick when a hire fails at “passing the 3 months probation period” or else. “Well, I don’t understand but I know it’s not my fault. Because I’ve picked the best candidate available there was.”
Yet, everyday, the same people use the skills and know-how they feel they lack at work to judge of the “presence” or “absence of chemistry, of fit” in their relationships with their friends, spouse, and family. Moreover, to decide if they want to meet again with a stranger they have chit-chatted with, while waiting for their morning latte at the coffee shop. In some cases, they’ll even use personality traits and worldviews in the “what I am looking for” section of their profile on a dating website to successfully find a partner.
How come, then, using a similar process is difficult in a recruitment context, or when bringing a team together?
WE LACK PRACTICE
Simply put, it’s because we lack practice at it.
Like any skills, it’s something that can be learned. Something you can develop a mastery of, and become good at it.
How can you start?
The most basic “first step” is stating what you believe in about the work you do, or the venture you want to take on. Then, be clear about what you do (or aim to do, depending).
Here’s an example of a “generic post” and a “customized post”:
Generic: “Restaurant located downtown. Looking for a full-time waiter with 3 years experience. Wine knowledge is a bonus. Salary to be discussed. If interested, contact us at _______”
Customized: “We believe in sustainable agriculture and healthy food habits. We happen to run a vegetarian restaurant downtown. Our team is looking for a full-time waiter. Required: 3 yrs of experience as a waiter. Bonus: Wine knowledge. Salary: To be discussed. If interested, contact us at _______”
As a job seeker, what are the odds that you’ll send your resume to the vegetarian restaurant if you don’t necessarily believe in sustainable agriculture and don’t have healthy / vegetarian eating habits? On the other hand, as a someone building a team, what are the odds that the resumes you’ll receive will be smaller – in terms of number – but better – in terms of “quality of the match” with what you are actually looking for?
This is what happened to us, with this second campaign. Even more when, during our over-the-phone interviews, we asked candidates how cancer prevention and research resonated in their lives. It’s something you can see happening with teams or groups that become clear about what they are about and what they are looking for in people they’d like to see join in. Because, put in other words, they go from “open to everyone… who meet the basic skills and experience requirements” to “not for everyone but a specific group of people… even if you meet the basic skills and experience requirements”. Personality traits, values and worldviews act as these “extra filters” that make a difference.
For example, when in need for hiring, Harley Davidson won’t get resumes from the same mechanics than Honda motorcycles will receive theirs. Neither will Harley end up recruiting the same profile of people. Yet, both companies are looking for a mechanic.
KNOWING WHAT’S AT STAKE HELPS MAKING A DECISION
What’s at stake here is being able to “make it to the end goal”, to fulfill your team’s or company’s mission. Let it be “Fulfilling dreams of personal freedom” (Harley Davidson), “Fighting back against the hostile takeover of our psychological, physical and cultural environments by commercial forces” (Adbuster Magazine), or “Bring people together to build homes, communities and hope” (Habitat for Humanity). A goal you, personally, or your company has realized you can’t do on your own. That’s why you’re recruiting in the first place.
If so, which would you rather spend more time doing: find your “best match” out of a group of people who – right from the start – have values and a worldview in common with yours, or people you don’t know if you have any common grounds with without meeting or talking to them before? A customized (job) posting favors the former. A generic posting, the latter.
The decision is yours to make.
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Photo credits: EllasSmall
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