How To Win The War For Talent
In today’s job market, competition for top talent is fierce. The current market favors job seekers, so much so that Gallup reports employees have become consumers of the workplace: they’ll shop around for the organizations and roles that both meet their needs and align with their values.
There is a direct correlation between the culture of a company and its financial success, and people are the drivers of both. If you don’t have excellent people in the correct roles, it’s nearly impossible to achieve your goals and serve your customers well. But people are complex, and hiring is too.
Hiring the wrong person is costly, time-consuming, and can do serious cultural damage — and even with the best intentions, without a strong hiring process, wrong hires can still sneak in.
That’s why I was so impressed to hear about the hiring process at Arkadium, a leader in creating games designed specifically for grownup players and a 2019 Forbes Small Giant. During a recent Small Giants Community virtual workshop, Vivian Lee, Arkadium’s SVP of People Innovation, shared their process for hiring top candidates quickly and ensuring they’re culturally aligned.
Here are a few key takeaways from Arkadium’s hiring process that you can implement at your organization right away.
Rely on Hiring Managers, Not HR
Arkadium approaches hiring differently than most organizations. Two years ago, the war for talent prompted Arkadium to reevaluate its hiring process and find ways to create a more impactful, efficient experience. Ultimately, they decided to flip the traditional approach on its head and distribute more hiring responsibility to department managers. Now, HR is far less involved and hiring managers are empowered to take the lead in attracting and hiring talent.
“We’re the HR team, and we don’t do any phone interviews,” says Lee. “If you’re in charge of a team, part of your responsibility is to build a team. The way we see it is that hiring managers are experts in understanding and selling the job. So we put them at the forefront and work behind-the-scenes to support them.”
It’s a collaborative approach to hiring: HR does the work of finding candidates and putting them in a folder, while hiring managers reach out to them on LinkedIn or via email. “It’s more impactful to have the first point of contact come from a hiring manager who shares their background and passion for the industry. That’s vastly different than hearing from one of our recruiters,” says Lee.
Although managers are put on the frontlines of the hiring process, HR has developed a research-backed interviewing system for them to create consistency. “They’re the experts in who’s right for their team; and we are the experts in reducing bias in interviews, ensuring consistency across screening, and developing an interview guide that works,” says Lee. “We hand them the process on a silver platter.”
Combat Bias with Scorecards
With hiring decisions dispersed across departments, there’s an even higher risk for bias and inconsistency to permeate the process. When there’s too much variance in the questions you ask candidates, it’s difficult to compare responses and evaluate candidates on an even playing field.
Arkadium uses scorecards to create a consistent process for screening and assessing candidates. Scorecards have two components: outcomes and competencies. Outcomes define what success in the role looks like, and competencies are the skills and traits you need to achieve those outcomes, like leadership skills and conflict management. Once a scorecard is created, hiring managers take that into the screening process and use it as an interview guide.
“The idea is to create discipline where it’s natural to be undisciplined,” says Lee. “Most of us go into interviews just wanting to have a conversation, but that doesn’t serve you well afterwards. As you interview more people, you’ll forget what you think you’ll remember.”
During an interview, scorecards guide questions, they don’t dictate them. Managers pick a bullet point from the scorecard and use that to frame a question. As candidates progress through the interview process, everyone uses the same scorecard to design their questions. Arkadium uses the applicant tracking system Workable to manage its scorecards, which helps keep evaluations consistent and organized during the candidate lifecycle. For example, panel interviews put candidates in front of multiple stakeholders, all of whom use the interface to simply vote thumbs up or thumbs down on outcomes and competencies, and record their notes on a common platform.
It’s also important to schedule time to debrief after a panel interview. This is a critical time to freely share opinions and challenge biases before they become accepted as fact. We all have biases, but the combination of consistent evaluations and honest dialogue helps combat them.
Lee always schedules a 15-minute meeting after a panel for all stakeholders to check-in.
“Everyone wants to disperse after an interview,” says Lee. “Instead, we have someone from HR guide a free-flowing conversation to gut-check ourselves. We challenge common biases and encourage everyone to be self-aware of where their opinions are coming from.”
Give Feedback During the Interview Process
At the heart of Arkadium’s culture is its three core values: Fierce Drive, Positive Energy, and Living a Full Life. Feedback is critical to each of those values, so much so that they decided to give feedback during the interview process.
“It’s a secret weapon of mine,” says Lee. “There’s a certain point where we give feedback to the candidate in the way that we do feedback here, during our quarterly check-ins. We value transparency and real-time feedback, so it’s an important test to how they handle it and if they’ll be a good culture fit.”
After a candidate has completed a few rounds of interviews, Lee checks in and provides feedback. The feedback is specific and actionable, and it comes from a place of care. It might be letting the candidate know that they were a bit too wordy; or too theoretical. Going into the final interview, Lee is looking for signs that they’ve accepted the feedback and have a willingness to try and improve. “So long as they attempt to make changes, it shows me that they have the agility to succeed,” she says. “I don’t mind a diamond in the rough. If someone’s more junior on paper but they’re open-minded and know how to take feedback, I’m going to take that person.”
Lee is the first to admit that Arkadium’s hiring process is unconventional and labor-intensive for everyone, not just HR. But since they implemented the process two years ago, they haven’t paid for a single headhunter —a rare feat in the competitive New York tech job market. By taking a collaborative, tag-team approach with hiring managers, they’ve become their own headhunters.
“Remember that the headhunter fee is 20 percent of base salary. Cumulatively, that has a real impact on profit margins,” says Lee. “Even more, this process has helped us find people with the right heart and head to succeed at our organization. My advice to other leaders is to empower your hiring managers to get involved in hiring, get some momentum going and you’ll see that the proof is in the pudding.”