3 keys to talent acquisition and hiring the best people

With modern day talent acquisition, recruitment needs to be a two-way street where employers make an effort to see things from the candidate’s perspective

With modern day talent acquisition, recruitment needs to be a two-way street where employers make an effort to see things from the candidate’s perspective, writes Christine Khor

In the face of rapid business growth and relatively low unemployment, Australian organisations are in the midst of a skills shortage. This talent drought is transferring the power in the recruitment relationship to candidates, giving them room to be more discerning about the roles and companies they will commit their time and energy towards. So for companies to survive and thrive in today’s complex and dynamic global marketplace, it is not enough to simply know what you want in an employee – it’s also about knowing what they want in an employer.

Knowing what you want and what you need
One of the biggest mistakes hiring managers make in talent acquisition is not having a clear picture of what the ideal candidate looks like before they begin the recruitment process. What are the mandatory skills they need versus the desirable ones? What kind of person should they be to add value to the team and fill in the gaps where the team may be lacking? Is the team lacking a strong voice of dissent?  Is the team in need of a more strategic mind? Perhaps someone from a different industry is required to bring fresh ideas to the table.

I liken this to going to a travel agent and asking for the perfect holiday.  The travel agent will ask you what the ‘perfect’ holiday looks like to you – do you want warm or cold weather, adventure or relaxation, arts or sports based activities, etc…  And you reply with “I’ll know what I want when I see it.”  How probable is it that the travel agent will plan your perfect holiday in their first attempt?

Knowing your ideal candidate in terms of their strengths, skills, experience and personality makes it easier to identify the person who comes closest to this ideal.

Hook them with your vision
As more research becomes available about what drives the world’s most successful organisations, it is becoming increasingly apparent that companies such as Google, Apple and Unilever (all recently named in LinkedIn’s list of the “most sought after employers in the world”), manage to attract and retain the best talent by employing and fostering people who embrace their company’s purpose and are well aligned with its vision and values.

According to a recent Fortune article, Unilever draws about two million job applications every year, and is “a magnet for recruiting and retaining workers, because it is considered a place of purpose”.

With clearly defined objectives around improving the health and wellbeing of more than a billion people around the world, halving the environmental impact of its products, and sourcing sustainable raw ingredients for its products (all while aiming to double the size of its business), Unilever is operating a business with positive purpose that, in the words of its CEO Paul Polman, aims to “serve society, rather than take from it”.

Of course, not every company can be a Unilever or Google, but every company, no matter the size, can learn from their approach.

One of the most effective ways to build a business that attracts and retains great people, is to firstly define and clearly articulate your organisation’s purpose, vision and values, and then to ensure potential employees understand – and are genuinely aligned to them – before you hire.

“If you cannot define your purpose and vision in less than a couple of sentences, they are not clear”

Sadly, a 2012 study entitled Human Nature at Work found that sixty-three per cent of employees do not understand the vision or purpose of the company they work for.  This means that the majority of surveyed employees did not understand what it was their employer was trying to achieve or how their role was helping to achieve it.

Being succinct and clear is vital. If you cannot define your purpose and vision in less than a couple of sentences, they are not clear.

Doing the work to develop and promote a tightly articulated purpose and vision will attract passionate, like-minded job-seekers, and ensure that everyone within your company is unified by a common goal – a key factor in achieving significant and sustainable business success.

When a prospective employee believes in your vision they will do everything they can to help you achieve it, including sticking around, applying their best skills, going the ‘extra mile’ and holding themselves accountable for their performance.

In other words, they will do the job because they want to, not because they have to.

Values alignment is the foundation for a strong culture, and a strong culture is what helps a business weather the storms of an ever-changing economy.

It is important to note at this point, however, that the success of ‘values alignment’ relies on an organisation’s commitment to consistently doing what it says it will do. The moment someone detects that their employer is behaving in a way that contradicts the stated values, they will feel this inauthenticity, and their motivation and accountability will start to decline.

Determining ‘fit’
A skilled behavioural interviewer will be able to assess a prospect’s values through their actions and the behaviours they exhibit. Often they will do this by asking questions about past, real-life situations with the assumption that past behaviour is likely to determine future behaviour. For example, if one of your company’s values is honesty, ask a candidate to describe a time when a negotiation didn’t work out in their favour. You’ll be able to tell if their example is authentic and whether they are honest about their shortcomings. Then ask them what they did about it. This will determine their problem-solving abilities as well as their resilience.

Ascertaining how a candidate is motivated is also a critical piece to the recruitment puzzle. If what motivates them is not how you motivate your people, then there is a misalignment. This however, does not mean that you have to show a highly talented person the door. Consider, are you able to adapt the way you motivate people in order to secure this candidate? For example, if a candidate is motivated by work-life balance, offering a robust bonus scheme might not appeal to them. But if you are able to offer this person the ability to work flexible hours, then you are demonstrating that your company is one that looks after the different needs of their staff.

In addition to the behavioural interview and reference checking process, psychometric testing and credentials verification can be utilised to support your assessment of talent. This combination of quantitative and qualitative assessment will help to build an accurate picture of the ‘person’ behind the ‘candidate’, and establish their true potential for performance, accountability and the type of sustained cultural alignment that drives the world’s most successful companies.

By having a clear vision and a clear idea of the talent you need, you will not only be able to better target suitable candidates, but suitable candidates will also be attracted to you. Behavioural interviewing will allow you to assess talent based on values alignment, in addition to their skills and experience and by having a team that is aligned to your company’s overall vision and values, you have the recipe for success.

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