The Covid-19 crisis has made hiring managers more discerning. They are now looking for agile and adaptable individuals with, among other things, critical thinking skills. Essentially, employers want candidates who can not only survive in an uncertain business environment, but thrive and take their business to the next level of excellence.
But although the pool of job seekers in certain sectors has expanded since the crisis set in, finding candidates who fit job descriptions to a tee can be challenging. It’s common for a request for applications to attract candidates who seem less-than-perfect at first.
Don’t write them off. Instead, learn how to evaluate them differently. Look for those who can grow and evolve with you.
Here are some steps you can take to separate the non-starters from those with potential.
1. Let Data Inform your Decisions
In a recent Harvard Business Review article, John Sullivan, professor of management at San Francisco State University and author of 1000 Ways to Recruit Top Talent recommends taking a data-driven approach.
“Look at the 10 people you have already doing the job. Then ask: What do the top three performers have in common? What characteristics do they share?” The answers will provide insight into the basic requirements of the role. “That’s what’s needed to succeed in the job, and you will assess candidates on those factors,” he says.
2. Pay Attention to Transferable Skills
We would add that even if the candidate lacks the hard skills you deem necessary for the job, consider their transferable skills. We routinely ask candidates to highlight these in their resumes. Among other skills, these include leadership, inter-personal and problem-solving skills. If a candidate is able to demonstrate such skills, they are certainly worth a shot.
3. Gauge their Capacity for Learning
In the same article, Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, a senior adviser at global executive search firm Egon Zehnder and the author of It’s Not the How or the What but the Who says, “Hiring managers tend to weigh knowledge and skills, but that has many limitations.”
“You want someone who has the capacity to continue to grow and learn,” he adds.
Indeed, knowledge can be acquired and skills can be learnt. Let’s face it. Even if a candidate has all the necessary hard skills today, the requirements of their job could change in a few months or years as the business environment changes. The ability to reskill and/or upskill is a necessity.
In order to assess a candidate’s ability to learn, ask them how they’ve done so in the past. Also ask them to describe the steps they would take to learn a brand new skill today, whether it’s learning from their peers, or taking up formal courses. While you should support them in their development journey, they shouldn’t be solely reliant on you to train them.
4. Gauge their Level of Curiosity
Another key success factor is curiosity. In a 2016 Harvard Business Review article, author of Growing Great Employees, Erika Andersen said, “Curiosity is what makes us try something until we can do it, or think about something until we understand it.”
Great learners retain this childhood drive and instead of focusing on how hard or uninteresting a subject is, they ask questions.
In order to gauge a person’s level of curiosity, you could introduce a new industry concept to them and observe how they react. Do they ask intelligent questions in an effort to understand it better?
Fernández-Aráoz also suggests asking questions like, “Tell me about a situation in which you proactively sought feedback. What did you do with the results? And what were the consequences of that?” Proactively seeking feedback clearly indicates curiosity. However, they should also show that they made good use of it to improve.
5. Conduct “Whiteboard Tests”
Sullivan also recommends conducting “Whiteboard Tests” which are popular in Silicon Valley. They are designed to measure problem-solving skills and are traditionally used to measure engineers’ competencies. But they can be applied to candidates in other industries and functions too. Give candidates a problem or a task, and a whiteboard on which they can illustrate the steps they will take to solve a given problem.