Today's recruitment professional has little resemblance to those of just a few years ago. Hiring for qualifications and experience alone is no longer enough in a disruptive market; hiring professionals now must be part detective, part analyst, as they assess worker background and traits associated with success and longevity. On top of that, talent pros have to keep time-to-hire low to ensure they don't lose the people they've invested time in cultivating.
A solid recruitment strategy requires hiring managers to evaluate four facets: qualifications, experience, soft skills and potential.
Hiring professionals are re-evaluating which degrees are actually required today, versus those that were added to job descriptions when candidates were plentiful. But they're also trying to discern which degrees may fit the bill, even if they aren't a match. Does the actual major matter, or is the ability to get the sheepskin enough?
"Hiring candidates for learnability will increasingly become an operational advantage in the age of record unemployment and technological change," Becky Frankiewicz, president of ManpowerGroup North America, told HR Dive in an email. Learning doesn't stop at graduation, she added. Employers will need to emphasize continuous learning as "essential for individuals to make better career decisions and stay employable, and critical for companies to develop the talent they need." Manpower research shows 76% of U.S. employers intend to upskill their workforce by 2020, a sharp increase since 28% in 2011.
The days of finding an applicant with the exact experience required for a position are now painfully few and far between. Unless a company is in the business of poaching, most recruiters are now analyzing how non-exact experience can translate to their job vacancies. Experience has never been more fluid.
"I don't generally look for exact experience," Kevin Gumienny, senior learning architect at Microassist, said in an email to HR Dive. "In some ways, analogous experience is more important. If someone has been in a similar situation and solved similar problems, and — here's the key — can map that experience onto a new situation, that's a tremendous benefit." While few new hires encounter the exact situations they've dealt with in the past, he said, "we've found that the ability to apply existing experience to new situations is a skill that will help them (and the company) tremendously."
ManpowerGroup is working with companies to develop targeted training programs to help bring people in and develop their skills to the specifications of their client employers at various levels. For instance, copywriting for marketing purposes is a technical ability, but knowing multiple platforms on which to broadcast that message is digital proficiency, Frankiewicz said. Mastering collaboration with different parties or vendors to send out those marketing messages is a soft skill. Employees need to know all of those different skill types to be successful at any company.
Soft skills have built up buzz for some time. Employers want candidates with skills like leadership, communication, and emotional intelligence — but how does a recruiter accurately assess that? Does a sales rep need the same communication style as a caregiver? Is a company looking for leadership potential, even for teams that already have strong leaders in place? Resumes that point to progressive career advancement could be a clue to leadership capability, or they could just mean automatic promotions. Getting to the core of these skills may require more analysis than just a single interview.
"Every company is looking at how they assess skills and how to find people with the right skills," Matt Hendrickson, founder and CEO of Ascendify, told HR Dive. On average, he said, about 20% of hires are considered bad — and employers need to drive down that failure rate.
To do so, businesses have to do more than identify a skill category. Hiring leaders have to decide which skills are most important and then delegate responsibility to interview for those skills to the right person. Just as a recruiter would ask a tech person to assess whether an IT candidate has the right skills, Hendrickson suggested, employers should choose interviewers who are adept at finding soft skills, as well.
"The problem with leadership and communication skills on job descriptions is they've become meaningless because we're asking for them always," Hendrickson said. For soft skills, Ascendify quantifies specific attributes, defining capabilities like interpersonal skills, relationship-building and more. The platform unlocks traditionally non-quantifiable skills and can create an interview guide to help interviewers ask the right questions and score answers that are predictors of success.
"Soft skills – such as critical thinking, problem solving, a strong work ethic and time management – are the most in-demand qualities in today's candidates," Terri Herrmann, VP of Marketing at Montage, told HR Dive in an email. But they are also the most difficult skills for recruiters and talent acquisition leaders to assess during the hiring process, she added.
Herrmann recommended structured, standardized interview guides, asking every candidate the same question so interviewers can compare applicants. Ask how candidates might approach real-life scenarios, she added: "This enables them to better assess the soft skills that are important to the role, but don't always come across in resumes or even traditional experience-based interview questions."
The newest "must-have" is potential. Does the candidate have potential to learn, to grow, to lead? How is that quantified? Perhaps a candidate's last company stifled their potential. Perhaps their last company gave too much responsibility, far beyond their capacity. "Where do you see yourself in five years" is now the precursor to "and what are you doing to get there from here?"
Herrmann suggested integrating skills-based assessments into the hiring process. "These assessments present candidates with a real issue or assignment they would be tasked with in the position if they're hired on," she writes. Not only does it allow the candidates to get a sense of the work they would be doing in the role, but it also enables recruiters and hiring managers to better predict candidates' potential and how successful they would be if they were hired for the position.
Frankiewicz believes tech will help uncover potential. "Better people analytics, psychometric assessment, predictive performance and AI mean employers can map and upskill their existing and potential workforce like never before," she said. Assessments can predict performance and reveal capabilities. "That's how they can help people move from this role to that," she added, "moving talent around so people can perform to their potential."
When looking to assess potential, "I'm particularly interested in what questions they ask. I'm looking for curiosity and perception. Do they ask questions that I haven't previously considered? Or heard from others?" Gumienny said. If so, he added, an employer may have found a good, if informal, measure of how well they'll do on the job.