HR must reevaluate the vetting process to find new talent

11 Jan 2022

Traditional methods of vetting job candidates are no longer enough to find new talent. Companies should consider unconventional skills and experience to find the right fit.

Many enterprises are rethinking how they vet candidates to fill new opportunities due to a shortage of talent for jobs, especially high-tech ones, executives at the Work Rebooted conference in San Francisco said. This is because the traditional approach of looking for keywords in resumes may not be the best predictor of a candidate's success in the business, Parminder Jassal, group director for the Work + Learn Futures at the Institute for the Future, said in an interview.

While HR managers typically look at past roles or degrees to assess candidates, these generally only describe part of a candidate's potential. Newer approaches focus on skills-based hiring, which might describe certifications, but fail to quantify a candidate's ability to bring these to bear in a company's existing culture.

"When you get into skills-based hiring, [you] cannot track skills at the lowest denominators. How do you quantify someone's ability to learn how to learn," Parminder said.

Rethinking jobs as tasks

The notion of work itself is changing from the idea of clearly defined jobs to a collection of tasks. By finding better ways to map that collection, HR managers can think about work in a different way than before, Gayatri Agnew, senior director of corporate philanthropy at Walmart, said.

Walmart is facing a significant talent shortage for high-tech skills in some of its more remote locations. The company is trying to move away from traditional proxies of a person's capacity to find better ways to identify which candidates can learn new skills. One challenge is that, even if newer approaches lead to better outcomes, sometimes people don't like change. "That model of skills-based hiring is hard," Gayatri said. "I don't think we have a perfect system."

Finding soft skills with AI

Other enterprises are exploring ways to improve the ability to quantify a candidate's soft skills using AI, Valerie Morignat, an AI strategist, said. She sees companies using Affectiva, an emotional analytics platform, to prescreen candidates through recorded video interviews. One concern is that these algorithms may be biased since they reveal a candidate's race and sex before the hiring process. However, in 2017, Unilever was able to use these algorithms to increase diversity by 16% and reduce the recruiting processing time by 90%.

Making sense of unconventional experience

In many cases, candidates might be reluctant to mention some of their most valuable skills in a traditional vetting process. "There are a lot of smart people being overlooked because you cannot properly translate what they can do for your organization," said Andrew Buhrmann, co-founder and president of Vettd, a service for analyzing candidate data.

For example, a serendipitous conversation about a complex computer strategy game helped Buhrmann identify his current vice president of engineering. It turned out to be a very successful relationship, but few candidates would describe their non-work experience on a traditional resume.

"He had spent a year organizing data to win at a game. That wasn't a marketable skill, but I could see he would be good at doing analytics," Buhrmann said.

Experience is not always the best metric

Richard Swartzbaugh, CHRO of CVHCare, a home health agency, said there is often no correlation between experience and how well a candidate will perform. He will encounter college graduates with a lot of passion and ideas who end up being great workers. "Frankly there is an oversupply of them, and you have the ability to groom and coach them over time," he said.

Swartzbaugh said HR managers tend to focus on millennials when hiring for new tech jobs. But he finds that some older workers have the same adaptive mindset. He recently had a 71-year old candidate who came out of the Army with several short-term jobs. "He was like the universal crescent wrench, Swartzbaugh said. "A millennial perspective is not only about age, but experience."

Overcoming the limits of candidate analytics

While better tools can improve many talent searches, some companies are still looking for better approaches. Tim Whipple, CEO of LiveOps, a remote call center service, said they get a few thousand job applicants per week. His biggest problem is trying to vet them and find the tools and labor to decide which onesmerit a response. They will start with a thousand and end up with two hundred. "I still have not found any kind of analytics screening tool to give a lot of good information on that," he said.

When Ross Sparkman, head of strategic workforce planning at Facebook, started at the company, the social network focused on elite talent and looked for candidates who had math or science degrees from Ivy League schools. "I found there was no secret sauce there in terms of performance, but I did see a lot of entitlement," he said.

Sparkman thought about what he really wanted on his teams, such as grit, determination, willingness to learn and selflessness, and Facebook revisited how it evaluated candidates. One strategy was to have the hiring managers create a list of questions related to solving a particular business problem and give candidates an opportunity to present on their ideas. This approach helped clarify who was willing to really dive in and who wasn't. One candidate prepared a one-hundred-page presentation a consulting firm would have charged a lot of money to prepare.

"To go and do that shows grit and passion," Sparkman said.

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