By Tash Down

The war for talent. A concept that’s been felt even stronger with COVID-19’s talent restrictions (for example, limited travel and immigration). We’ve all seen the proliferation of fear-inducing articles telling us to double our efforts and recruitment spends or perish. This leads many people to believe there’s a scarcity of good candidates out there, and that we should do everything we can to secure those who come across our desks – even if that means overpaying them.

But I take a different view to this. I don’t think there is such a thing as a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ candidate. Each of us have a unique perspective to bring to the table, as well as skills and lived experiences that only we can offer.

This means people can often thrive in a role that isn’t necessarily something they or others think they’d be suited to on paper. That is, they might not necessarily have the exact skills or years of experience listed in the ‘requirements’ section of a job advertisement. But perhaps it’s time we ditched those requirement lists and instead focused on what the individual could bring to an organisation that’s not already there. Let’s start asking: ‘How can they add their own flavour?’

When we think like this, the challenge of hiring isn’t about finding the right person but perfecting your match-making process.

A new way of recruiting

Relationships, friendships, and connections with other humans tend to evolve naturally. Sure, there’s such a thing as love at first sight, or at least that’s what Hollywood would like us to believe, but most relationships take time to build.

You need to spend time learning to trust each other, to understand the other person and to unpack what makes them tick. What do they value? What do they hate? What energises them? What drains them?

The same goes for hiring people. How can we expect to truly understand the essence of someone by asking them to tick a few boxes? It’s just not possible.

This is why, in my opinion, traditional recruitment methods are failing us. The ‘war for talent’, ‘quiet quitting’, ‘the great resignation’ and all those other catchy slogans are pointing to the fact that we’re just not getting it right, and we’re probably hurting people in the process.

We take a stack of applications, read some (or, in many cases, just skim the surface) and discard the others. Then, we cull candidates again by making them jump through hoops, testing their skills, often in unrealistic and high-pressure environments. Then, once we’ve removed those who ‘don’t stack up’ we meet them (usually briefly) and grill them on what they’ve done in the past, in the hope we can copy-paste their skills into our own business – wash, rinse and repeat.

Finally, we create a shortlist. Three or four people, against all the odds, have navigated the rigorous recruitment process and then, we pit them against each other and try to catch them out on a mistake or discover their weakness. Eventually, someone comes out on top, but after all this rigmarole, do you actually know them? A resume doesn’t even begin to explain the human behind the paper and a job interview only sheds a small amount of light on them.

That’s why I like to encourage those who are in the hiring seat to shift their thinking. Instead of considering the hiring process as a collection of tasks, tests and compliance/risk assessments that need to be completed, focus on building a great relationship with a new hire – from the very moment they walk through your door. And give that relationship the right amount of time to blossom.

While adopting this mindset shift might require a little more time than traditional processes, it’s bound to save you money down the line because you can rest assured that you’re hiring the right person, and you’re welcoming them into an inviting, inclusive environment that values them for their unique contributions.
How can you put this mindset shift into action?

You might be thinking, ‘This all sounds great, but how can we actually make this a reality?’ Like all cultural change, it will take time, but there are a few things you can do to kick-start the process:

1. Learn about your culture – take the time to really understand the complexities of what makes your organisation, your teams and your people great. What is it that makes them excited to jump out of bed and come to your workplace each day?

2. Create a compelling story of your culture – This is a new approach to the employee value proposition (EVP). Your EVP should speak to the heart of the jobseeker you wish to attract. Do something that sparks interest and excitement in them. How can you make them curious to learn more about your organisation or to come back for that second interview?

3. Share your real story – Speak with authenticity. Take your story to people in your organisation and get them to add to it. This will help you to find a common language and discover what fills employees with pride. By giving your people the language and stories to share, they will go on to attract other good people for you. Authentic humans are magnets for other authentic humans.

4. Build connection – Stop assessing people to look for what could be wrong with them and start connecting to see who they are, what potential they could bring and how they might be right for you – even if in unexpected ways.

5. Build a role that works – Don’t cling to your existing job description. Be malleable and offer flexibility to make it work for job seekers. Sure, there might be some non-negotiable skills that you need (an accountant should be good with money), but perhaps there’s something else they can bring to the role. Allow space for people’s creativity and uniqueness to flow through.

At Mwah. (Making Work Absolutely Human) our mission is in our name. By helping leaders to change the ways they welcome people into the fold, we are doing our part to bring the humanness back to recruitment.

So, let’s move away from ‘the war for talent’ and towards the potential of humans.

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