There’s a good chance your current hiring practices aren’t built for the reality we find ourselves in today.
As the economy tightens, fear of recession looms, interest rates increase, and unemployment reaches record lows, organizations are forced to evaluate their budgets to determine where efficiencies can be realized. In other words, many talent teams are being asked to do more with less.
While some organizations are letting people go, and others are simply scaling back their hiring efforts, the truth is that organizations are still hiring, but specifically for critical roles. It’s more important now than ever to ensure that organizations place the right people in the right roles and equip them with the tools and resources needed to deliver maximum impact. These conditions demand a more transparent and immersive approach to sourcing candidates — one that gives them a true sense of their ability to thrive within the quirky nuances of your organizational world.
When layoffs happen, it’s not just low performers who lose their jobs. For companies that are hiring during economic downturns, this means that there can be an abundance of good talent available. However, poor performers also lose their jobs, meaning that less-desirable talent is abundant, too. How can organizations make sure they are getting the best talent available from that diverse pool? It’s not easy. Candidates (and hiring organizations) paint themselves in the best possible light, making it hard to distinguish between a qualified candidate who might be good for the role and one who doesn’t have the skills you need. Anyone that has used a dating app is familiar with this dynamic, and has likely experienced the frustration that comes when an illusion obstructs someone’s true potential.
Reading between the lines of a job description
It is tempting to think, “There’s good talent in the job market, so it should be easy to identify people who have been successful in similar roles at other organizations. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.” There are two problems with this logic, however. Firstly (as discussed), while there are plenty of good fish in the barrel, there are also a lot of not-so-good fish. Secondly, one’s success in one organization does not guarantee success in a very similar job at another organization: context matters. It’s not enough to simply describe the expectations of the role and then evaluate people against those expectations. While doing so correctly can help identify candidates with the right experiences for the job, such an approach ignores the more nuanced aspects of the job not included in the description. Consider the following example:
A client recently partnered with BTS to help them evaluate candidates being considered for placement into the role of president for their largest business unit. There were two frontrunners being considered, both of whom were strong contenders with track records of great success. However, the key difference between the two candidates was that one sought independence from the executive leadership team, seeing them as stakeholders who should be brought in only at critical milestones for input and oversight. The other candidate sought to partner very closely with the executive leadership team, looking to them for detailed guidance on the future direction and strategy of the business unit. Without knowing anything about the context of the situation, the reader may believe that the former candidate — the “independent” one — was better aligned with the role of president. The reality, however, was that the executive leadership team expected to play an active role in the business unit, and had wanted to be closely involved in major decisions impacting the business. Whether this was the right approach for them or not, it was the reality of the situation. Based on our assessment of both candidates, BTS painted two pictures for the executive leadership team, one of what the future would look like if each of the two candidates were selected for the role. The decision for the executive leadership team was easy. Nowhere on the role description was the phrase “Must run all major decisions affecting the business past the executive leadership team for approval,” but this was critically important. The point is simple: The best person for a job in one context is sometimes very different from the best person for the same position in another context. Again, context matters.
Your organization’s culture, values, ways of working, systems and tools, and mission all demand something unique from your people. These organizational truths are just as deterministic of a candidate’s success in a role as the job description. With so much talent available in today’s talent pool, how can you find the few special people that will build upon the precious foundation you’ve built for your business?
Meeting time-to-productivity expectations
Let’s examine why your hiring practices might not be ready for today’s realities. If your hiring process was created during a period of unfettered growth, high demand, and mass hiring, today’s economic landscape may strain or even break that system. During periods of high growth and demand, organizations scale fearlessly: they hire extra people with the expectation that not everyone will work out. In this setting, new hires receive leniency and patience when figuring things out, and the impact of a bad hire is diluted by the near-constant onboarding of new employees.
In today’s reality, organizations are hiring fewer people, and those new hires are under tremendous pressure to be productive as soon as possible. There is less tolerance and patience from leadership for poor hiring decisions. We see this explicitly in the tech industry today, particularly within go-to-market teams.
For example, take the comments Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff recently made in an internal Slack message, as reported by Business Insider: “We don’t have the same level of performance and productivity that we had in 2020 before the pandemic. We do not.”
Later, Benioff stated during a call that nearly all of Salesforce’s “annual contract value was being delivered by 50 percent of sales account executives.” In the face of more highly-scrutinized hiring decisions and raised expectations for time-to-productivity, talent teams must be more confident than ever that they are finding those who are already trained to succeed and thrive. This requires a new set of tools, or at least a new mindset.
So, what’s an organization to do? How do hiring systems, tools, and strategies need to shift in this new period of economic uncertainty and a world where we are asked to “do more with less”? Here are three considerations for talent teams to evaluate.
- Firstly, seek a deeper understanding of what traits are needed from candidates for each role: What does success look like in this new environment? What capabilities and behaviors will help your organization drive future success in an evolving world? How important are attributes like learning agility, being nimble and resourceful, etc., to success — not just today, but also in the future? For example, in the context of today’s economic uncertainty, skills like empathetic listening, industry-specific business acumen, and articulating value in the language of a CFO are among the most critical capabilities for sales professionals. In the past, these strengths may have been de-prioritized in favor of skills such as executive presence, storytelling, and domain expertise.
- Secondly, identify the pivotal moments in the daily life of a target role during which those capabilities and behaviors are most critical. When is a skill like empathetic listening most critical? Is it when a sales professional conducts a discovery workshop, or when they encounter a hesitant buyer’s objections? Whatever these pivotal moments are, they provide clear context for your job candidates to respond the challenges they’ll be certain to face, and you can observe their behavior in such moments.
- Finally, create the opportunity for observation and immersion into an environment that emulates your organization and the realities of the role. Day-in-the-life assessments can give candidates insight into the nuances of the organization and role — letting candidates try the job on for size, so to speak. They also give the hiring organization insight into candidates’ capabilities and behaviors. Most importantly, these assessments let them see how candidates will respond to some of the more unique elements of the organization. After all, both the candidate and the organization are making a very important decision, and it’s imperative they enter an employment relationship with eyes wide open. This is no different than what we expect from any long-term personal relationship, within which one accepts and value the entirety of another — their strengths, weaknesses, flaws, beauty, and quirks. This means that, at some point, we need to be transparent, vulnerable, and honest about what makes us unique. Why should our approach to hiring decisions be any different?
This radical transparency requires a mindset shift for many of us. Prioritizing honesty and inviting immersion into the quirkiness of both parties is critical to ensuring candidates and hiring organizations make the best decision. In a world where we have to be more confident than ever in our hiring decisions, we can’t afford to gloss over the aspects of our organizations that make us who we are. Isn’t it better to understand the full picture of the individual on the other end of a dating app before you make a long-term commitment?