Hire Talent, Not Robots : Quality Recruitment

Organised? Check. Able to multitask? Check… In the world of recruitment, there’s almost a standard template that HR tends to follow, a checklist o…


Organised? Check. Able to multitask? Check… In the world of recruitment, there’s almost a standard template that HR tends to follow, a checklist of sorts that is supposed to help “weed out” unsuitable candidates. But in today’s fast evolving age of IoT, industry disruptions and even market segmentation, does this “checklist” still help? Or is it time for us to reboot and install updates?

Don’t get me wrong – the basics of a checklist and job description are still fundamental for any recruiter or headhunter worth their salt. But what we put on this checklist matters a lot, and should reflect change. With over 15 years of recruitment experience, I’ve seen a shift; there’s a huge difference between hiring suitable candidates, versus attracting real quality talent. What do I mean by this?

Book smarts vs. street smarts

Take for example the age old “Level of Education.” While it’s understood that quite a number of jobs require technical knowledge and qualification, there are still many others that don’t. Despite success stories of college dropouts like Jobs and Zuckerberg, many recruiters (and companies) still place a little too much emphasis on this, thus effectively alienating a large group of talent that may be a better fit for the business. Despite the lack of paper qualifications, there are talents who have garnered a wealth of knowledge from starting work early on and gaining valuable hands-on experience. Why would you want to miss out on this group?

Theoretical and written knowledge gets a person only so far. Someone who “tests” well in school doesn’t necessarily equate to someone who works well in the office. Education systems the world over have recognised this and as such, have been paying more attention to developing technical schools and integrating soft skills knowledge into their curriculum. Perhaps beyond just the traditional “hard” skills checklist, it’s time recruiters start looking at transferable skills. And this brings me to my next point.

It’s time to get soft

Soft-skilled, that is. At the end of the day, the ability to apply the knowledge effectively, coupled with adaptability and fast learning capabilities, are some of the qualities that several companies look for in a suitable employee. Contrary to popular belief among many, it’s not anything new. For years now, job descriptions have listed out soft skills, emphasising the value placed on these qualities; they just didn’t know it. Some classic examples of these are:

Must be a team-player – this means the ideal candidate should have excellent communication skills (to take instruction and work well with other colleagues to achieve a common goal).

Able to multi-task, and a quick learner – flexibility, and the ability to acquire brand new skills on the fly i.e. learn on the job. This rings particularly true within the digital space, where 6 months can equal to a lifetime in terms of specialised skills. Technology, platforms, tools and divides move so fast that you constantly need to learn and acquire new skills.

Display good problem solving skills – yet another pertinent soft skill to have in digital. The fast-paced nature of the industry requires someone who is a good problem solver, as they will probably gain specialist skills faster due to their solution-oriented attitude. This is generally also an indication of a fast learner.

And the list goes on. The only difference here is that recruiters and business owners alike, are beginning to be more aware of the importance of soft skills and placing focus on it. But there’s still huge room for improvement on this, and uptake can be speeded up.

This is not to say that hard skills are now irrelevant. In digital, there are 2 types of hard skills – 1) correct domain knowledge e.g. design, tech, data, marketing and 2) specific skills, e.g. UI designers with good appreciation of UX, front-end developers with html5 expertise, data analytics specialists who have worked with social media listening and insights tools, marketers who understand content marketing, etc. But companies can find people in the same domain and cross train the specific skills, provided they have some people or partners that can hot house a new recruit.

It’s a two-way street

Just as great communication requires feedback from both sides, so too does the recruitment process. An excellent recruiter isn’t just tied down to the KPI of filling in a role in the shortest amount of time – we need to be aware that:

1) We are the bridge between candidates and clients, and often, the connector between two different generations sometimes. Hirers (business owners) can be fr om Gen X, and candidates from Gen Y or even Z, or vice versa.

2) We need to be aware of the market – it’s a Millennial-mad era. Although I personally deal with more senior levels, recruiters and companies alike need to be aware of what makes the current generation, as they form the larger part of the talent pool market.

Employers used to think that they held the “power” of being able to hire and fire at will. In this enlightened period, both employers and employees are aware of their symbiotic relationship (and if they aren’t, they should be). Companies are now aware that finding the right candidate from the get-go is more cost-effective in the long-run, as is talent retention.

On the other side of the playing field, candidates themselves don’t just look for a paycheck – they look for fulfilment. Graduates no longer look for high paying jobs in known industries like finance too. And if the place where they spend a minimum of 5 days a week, 8 hours a day does not meet their passions or needs, they’re most likely to leave. Actually, according to several recent surveys, they might also leave if you are only offering strictly 9-to-5 jobs, but that’s another story.

We all know that it’s in everybody’s best interests to attract and retain the best quality talent. But in order to do this, perhaps it’s time recruiters look beyond just a checklist of skills. Gone are the days where emphasis on hiring someone who knows how to proficiently use a computer and the internet, is the norm; this is now a given, especially in the digital arena.

What businesses now require are staff that can be trained quickly and efficiently to garner new skills imperative to the job, and retaining them. Finding and hiring that person can only be done if they are offered opportunities for growth and progression. Recruiters need to see how candidates can fit in a more holistic and integrated way, beyond just theoretical knowledge – remember, look for talent, not robots.

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