It is a well-known fact that in these difficult times in the labor market [there are more than 11 million job openings right now] – it is the candidates who continue to hold the balance of power.
Added to the misery is remote hiring. This further complicates recruitment. Think about it: when an impressive corporate office is stripped down, all that’s left to influence potential hires are the people on the other side of the Zoom interview.
So what does all of this mean for recruiting right now?
It seems to me that we need to get to the root of the problem. We know that a key driver for determined job seekers is finding companies that match their values. As such, it seems obvious to me that HRDs must rethink their traditional hiring practices, practices that can often seem transactional, combative or exclusionary. Instead, they should focus on creating a values-based interview experience.
Here are some steps we’ve taken at Gusto that have helped us grow our workforce by 80% over the past year:
1) Valuing values by talking about people rather than income
When I myself was interviewed remotely last year, many people I spoke to focused on revenue and company performance – metrics that I could easily trace through my own research. I was looking for a company that matched my personal values and career goals, knowing that my decision would impact not only myself but my family. The long-term trading trajectory was only part of the equation.
The hiring process is an opportunity to engage a job candidate – from emails to interviews to the final offer. The aim should be to make each step the Human as possible.
At Gusto, we achieve this in part through our Values, Motivation and Alignment (VMA) interview, where each candidate speaks with someone not directly affiliated with the role they are applying for. We take a break from assessing technical qualifications to ask a candidate about their passions and what drives them. Instead of saving these questions for the last five minutes of an interview, we create the space to have meaningful conversations.
Inclusiveness is often at the center of these conversations. For example, we will ask a candidate to indicate a time when they made an environment in which they worked more inclusive, or a time when they felt excluded and how they dealt with it. This information not only helps us get to know a candidate, but also allows us to apply this information to our culture so that new hires feel included from day one.
When it comes to making a job offer, we treat it like a celebration. Finding alignment between a company and a candidate is difficult and it is important that they are celebrated for the difficult task that they are. Don’t just tell the candidate they have an offer; tell them why they are getting an offer. Reaffirming why a candidate is a good fit is a great way to build enthusiasm for the role and the company.
2) Create inclusive applications and job postings
Job postings and applications say a lot about a company’s culture and how it treats people. This digital footprint is often a candidate’s first interaction with a company.
The language used in job descriptions can help everyone see themselves in the company. So, instead of creating job postings exclusively around a list of requirements such as years of experience or skills, use verbs that can better address the real needs of the position. Our engineering job postings list things like “experience leading cross-functional projects” and “experience empowering technical teams.” There are a variety of ways candidates may have gleaned these experiences, which helps to ensure that we are not looking for candidates who only come from a narrow path.
I also strongly believe in the power of pay transparency to help address systemic inequality. We list salary ranges on each of our job descriptions. It’s another way to turn company values like transparency into action. Compensation data provides employees with crucial information and helps them succeed in the hiring process.
Job applications themselves can have an impact. Be intentional about how candidates may choose to describe themselves. Make sure there is a range of options, from pronouns to ethnicity and gender identity. Not only will this allow candidates to self-identify, but it will also provide valuable data that can help detect bias in the hiring process and make it more inclusive. For example, if people from a specific geography or ethnicity are routinely excluded from the hiring process, this is something we need to take a closer look at so we can address the underlying cause.
The article continues below
3) Hire elite teams but not elitist
Hiring is more than filling quotas. It’s about creating a narrative that will help candidates decide if they align with a company’s values and mission. These will be different for each company.
At Gusto, our story involves building a team as unique and complex as our customers, which means we value courage and technical excellence over pedigree. It also means that we invest in engineers with varied profiles. Hiring diverse backgrounds and hiring talented engineers quickly aren’t mutually exclusive – it’s a false pair. Some of our top developers have included a former music student, an exercise physiologist, and an administrative assistant. It’s not just about expanding our talent pool; it’s about living our values authentically.
One step here is to let go of the traditional, narrow hiring mentality that there is a right kind of candidate or a good career path.
To get away from that, try making a list of what is not required for a position before writing the job description itself. For example, is a college education really necessary? What about a specific programming language? Which hard skills can be taught and which soft skills cannot?
4) Create equitable experiences
We have moved to a remote-only recruiting experience for all candidates, whether or not they work in one of our offices. Why? This helps ensure a fair experience and level playing field for all job applicants. Plus, steps like this stand out to job candidates looking for clues about a company’s commitments and how it treats people.
There are hundreds of companies vying for talent, and many of them boast exciting mission statements and lucrative compensation. At a time when every company promises to change the world for the better, the hiring process has become a way for candidates to judge authenticity.
How you recruit is a litmus test, so let your values shine through every step.
Although today’s job market presents many challenges, I would argue that it also presents an opportunity. Companies that have historically struggled to compete with the big powers can attract talented people by rethinking traditional hiring and building on core values.