A crisis makes hiring managers rethink their priorities and reconsider their hiring criteria. Even the ones who aren’t hiring immediately are beginning to recalibrate their talent strategies to take into the account the types of people they will need to overcome unexpected business challenges such as the ones precipitated by Covid-19.
For years, experts have recommended strategies such as hiring for attitude and potential, not skills. Today, another element is being added to the mix – concrete ideas to solve problems and help businesses transform.
Too much of a focus on candidates’ educational backgrounds and past work accomplishments can cause employers to lose out on highly competent individuals with the ability to innovate, perform and deliver in a dynamic environment. After all, past experience has been shown to be an inaccurate gauge of future performance.
While skills – both hard and soft – are vital, they are not playing as much of a role as before. Skills shortages and mismatches can be resolved as long as candidates have the right attitudes towards learning.
SOLUTIONS TO PROBLEMS AND IDEAS FOR TRANSFORMATION
The ability to come up with feasible solutions and ideas is more elusive.
Even before the Covid-19 crisis, we routinely advised candidates to thoroughly research the companies they were applying to. This would largely constitute the company’s current business challenges, growth and transformation plans. This knowledge should enable the candidate to come up with possible solutions and ideas that could be discussed during a job interview.
Today, the ability to do this has become even more critical as the global downturn requires ideas for business transformation and problem-solving on a whole new level. With the number of job seekers outstripping the number of vacant positions, candidates need to be ready to go the extra mile to get noticed.
TIME FOR UNCONVENTIONAL APPROACHES
In a 2017 TED talk, entrepreneur and talent expert, Jason Shen, spoke of the need to do away with archaic hiring criteria such as educational background or hard skills, pointing out that most of us would end up working in fields that are unrelated to what we studied in university. Shen himself graduated with two degrees in biology, but built a career in technology and taught himself “everything from sales, marketing, strategy, even a little programming.”
To get a job as a Product Manager at American e-commerce website, Etsy, he took an unconventional approach.
“The company had recently gone public, so as part of my job application, I read the IPO filings from cover to cover and built a website from scratch which included my analysis of the business and four ideas for new features. It turned out the team was actively working on two of those ideas and had seriously considered a third. I got the job,” he said.
In our view, all job seekers should endeavour to do this for a position they really want.
Shen also advises employers to look at “portfolios, not pedigrees.”
“If we only look for talent in the same places we always do – gifted child programmes, Ivy League schools, prestigious organisations – we’re going to get the same results we always have.”
“The Head of Design and Research at Pinterest told me that they’ve built one of the most diverse and high-performing teams in Silicon Valley because they believe that no one type of person holds a monopoly on talent. They’ve worked hard to look beyond major tech hubs and focus on designers’ portfolios, not their pedigrees,” he added.
TEST FOR ABILITY
To thrive in an uncertain world, we believe businesses indeed need to take a radically different approach.
“Just as teams have tryouts and plays have auditions, candidates should be asked to demonstrate their skills before they’re hired… If you’re hiring a data analyst, give them a spreadsheet of historical data and ask them for their key insights. If you’re hiring a marketing manager, have them plan a launch campaign for a new product,” said Shen.
Businesses might feel this is time-consuming, but think about the benefits that this process could bring in terms of helping you hire the right people to fulfil your business goals. In the long run, you will reduce hiring mistakes and save valuable time and money.
In the Covid-19 era, more and more candidates have been asking us how they can stand out among a sea of job seekers with similar educational backgrounds and work experience. Our advice is: do the research, come up with ideas and present them thoughtfully even before a prospective employer asks for them. Just as business realities are rapidly changing in an era of transformation, it is inevitable that job-hunting and hiring practices will evolve in tandem.