You will never find a candidate who is a 100% fit!


Does a 100% fit candidate even exist or are we searching for the purple squirrel? Darn, I hate the analogy of the purple squirrel so much!

My issue with a candidate “fitting” the role is a constant struggle I have with hiring managers. Employers would put in place assessments and tests to gauge candidates’ ability to perform a job, and that’s perfectly fine. At the end of the day, they do need to hire someone that they’re confident of to be able to deliver.

The question is, “Do we really know what we are looking for in a candidate?”

  • Are we measuring the right things?
  • For the things that we are measuring, does it really matter?

We all know that passing the hiring assessment or the interview is not guarantee of performance, and sometimes a rejected candidate could turn out to be a diamond in the rough. And, one of the most famous story in recent time is about Alibaba Founder Jack Ma’s amazing account of how he’s being rejected for the 30 jobs he applied to before starting Alibaba.

What is wrong with the way we do interviews? Is there a fundamental flaw in the system? And, is there such thing as a 100% fit?

There’ll never be a 100% fit!

Let’s face it. Finding a 100% fit is impossible. There’s just no way to tell if a candidate is going to be a perfect fit for the role. Even if this candidate feels like a 100% fit, there’s no guarantee of performance.

Employers not knowing what they’re looking for

This is not in a negative way. Hiring managers usually have an idea of what they’re looking for, but what exactly are they’re looking for?

With most hiring managers, you would find a rather clear picture of what an ideal candidate would look like. However, you will also find that there is a fair bit of flexibility and also a willingness to want to understand what other skill sets the slate of candidates can bring to the team. This is interesting as you would had thought that employers would have pretty much a fix set of requirements for what they’re hiring for, but in actual fact, there is usually a fair amount of tweaking to the roles as the search progresses. This could result in a very different hire from the original requirements.

So, what are we assessing for?

All of us assesses a candidate for a combination of different things with a variety of different techniques. A common approach many us use is to identify a set of “must haves” and assess the candidates against this set of 3 to 5 items. Combined with an idea of of what the role is about, a little bit of gut feel and a lot of assumptions, we derive a hiring decision. As much as we like to feel that there is a lot of consideration and science behind how we hire, a large part of it is very subjective.

And, what is the problem?

The problem with today’s recruitment process is that we try to over complicate it too much. There used to be a model where craftsmen would identify young talents they felt is right for the trade, give them an apprenticeship and eventually they would learn the trade and strike out on their own. While we can argue that all this is impractical in today’s modern age, which I agree by the way. The point in this analogy is that hiring is often based on an assessment of potential, and success comes with the naturing of the talent that’s been brought in to do the job.

The issues we have today in our recruitment process is that we try to assess and measure too many things in a candidate which increases the amount of resources that is required to make a hire. This drives up the rejection rate and increases the time to hire translating to a higher hiring cost and increased opportunity cost of not having the person on the job earlier.

The recommendation?

I would like ask all the recruiters and hiring managers that’s reading this to try a different approach.

Look at the assessment of a candidate from a different angle. Instead of trying to hire for the perfect fit, try to look at it from the angle of assessing for acceptable risk.

What does mean?

All new hires will come with risks. Regardless how successful the candidates had been in their last jobs, that performance came as a result of the conditions and environment at that point in time when they were on that job. With that in mind, consider the following steps:

  • Build a slate of candidates that can do the job based on a clear and concise set of criteria.
  • Instead of assessing the candidates for how well they can do the job (as that was a given – they needed to be able to do the job to get on the list), assess these candidates for the likelihood to fail in the job!
  • Remove the ones that are “high risks”. However, remember that all is are relative to the candidates you have on the slate, so if you find yourself removing everyone from the list, you should re-evaluate the role and how you’ve built the slate.
  • You can use additional rounds of interviews to get this slate to the top 2 or 3 candidates
  • Evaluate this finalist slate of candidates and, and look at what is needed to mitigate the risks of them failing in the job
  • Assess the resources that is needed to be to be put in place and build that into your new hire on-boarding plan

With this, you would have a good hire that can do the job, an idea of what could go wrong, and more importantly a plan on how to mitigate this.

As recruiters and hiring managers, we all need to accept the fact that every hire comes with risks. When we change the way we look at a hiring decision from trying to “buy the result” to “building the structure”, we would naturally look at ways that the new hire can succeed and flourish in the new environment.

This way, you would had made a quality hire that could last longer. If all fails, remember the probation period was put there for a reason. 🙂

Would love to hear what you think about this topic. Share your thoughts and comments below! Happy hiring!

Eric Wong is the Managing Consultant from The Talent Shark and the CHRO forIntel Wise. His experience spans across the various human resource functions such as HR Information Systems, Business Partnering and Talent Management. Eric is also the Advisor for Workbond and currently sits on the Advisory Board of the Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS). Connect with him on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter @ErickyWong.

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The joy of startup hiring


I’d thought of doing an article to talk about the my very own start up, The Talent Shark. In the last few weeks of getting everything setup, from company registration, licenses, office space and such, I guess before we know it, we’re up and running. Looking back on the last few weeks, it’s been an interesting experience. There wasn’t a moment to relax, but all the efforts, totally worth it!

The one thing that I’ve came to realize is that with every startup, the anxiety of the founder(s) in trying to get everything right, the turning into Uncle Scrooge, and the unstoppable determination of doing a doing a little bit more, comes together in a magical concoction of emotions. I call that the “Startup high”!

Having been in startups myself as an employee, and now embarking on this exciting journey as employee #1 with The Talent Shark, I realized that there’s an enormous amount of support Startup Companies required and is often underserved.

One such area is in the space of hiring. Of course, you can go to a regular recruitment firm, or hire your own team to do it. Having spoken with quite a number of startups in the last couple months, I realized that that’s not often the smartest thing to do. In fact, that is the scariest thing to do as you’re going to either spending a lot of money with the agencies or locking in a huge chunk of capex in hiring your own in-house team.

It was interesting. From those conversations came deals that allowed me to structure a solution that best fit the startup clients. There are many things that every startup has in common:

  • The need to hire for that few key positions
  • Fluctuating hiring needs across the different months/ quarters
  • Feeling the need to “hire” every role at the get go
  • Lack of internal expertise to navigate the HR/ Hiring space
  • Trying to keep cost down to the absolute lowest possible

While there are similarities, no two startups are the same. Everyone I talked to were at a different stage in their journey with different sets of assumptions. Every conversation opened my mind to countless possibilities and working with all these startups just gets your heart racing. The passion from the founders and their relentless drive to make it work is just infectious. It’s like spending time with young people, I felt years younger already!

For example, in one of the projects that we’ve just kicked off, we were working with a company of 2 staff, looking to ramp up across different countries. To kick it off, we looked at the business plan and derived the hiring plan aligned to their business projection. For a small project fee, we’ve not only able to provide in house counsel to the founders and also the muscle to deliver on the hiring. The savings they’ve derived from this engagement is tremendous.

We’ve also had the opportunity to consult with another company in a completely different stage in their startup lifecycle. They’ve in fact done tremendously well in getting their business off the ground and were looking to scale. However, they’ve reached a point where putting more resources into the team doesn’t directly equate to an even output. This is because, the nature of their business had taken on new complexity and this required a relook at their coverage model, evaluating the load and capacity in which the talent acquisition team is managing. In this project, we work closely with the team in mapping out their process and evaluating their hiring plan in the upcoming quarter. It’s just like when you visit the doctor, you get plugged into a machine that takes readings all over your body to paint a complete picture of your health. Here, we look at how much time, effort is taken at each stage of the process. Do keep in mind that different companies have different baseline, so it’s important not to take that “industry norm” and apply it lock stock barrel to the process.

Having that complete process map allows us to work with the management team in making the right changes and investing into the right areas to get that efficiency.

While we all would agree that it’s all about bringing in the right talent into the company, I think there’s a deeper level of engagement and a more process-oriented approach in making that startup hiring process more planful and less painful.

With this, I’m going to end today’s article here. I wanted to give a shout out to all those brave folks out there that’s taken the plunge in starting up your new venture! Do share with me your journey to date. I’m sure there’s a lot of learning I can take away from your stories.

Have a fantastic weekend.

Eric Wong

Eric Wong is the Managing Consultant from The Talent Shark and the CHRO forIntel Wise. His experience spans across the various human resource functions such as HR Information Systems, Business Partnering and Talent Management. Eric currently sits on the Advisory Board of the Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS). Connect with him on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter @ErickyWong.

The future of “Work”


“Work” as we know it has evolved over the years. The organizations of today are a lot more sophisticated than those of yesteryears. I remember not too long ago, where the function of HR (Human Resources) was catering to just personnel administration and management. In fact, in those days, the “HR” function was referred to as the “Personnel Department”. While we can argue that this is merely a choice of words, we all can agree that we’ve come a long way in the evolution of the function. Today, the HR function plays a much more strategic role in the organization.

We’ve all heard about the “Gig Economy”, and the first thing that came to mind are “freelancers” and “contractors” who would engage with an organization for the duration of a project or assignment. While we are not entirely wrong in this assumption, in fact, I would say we are mostly right about this, the fundamental reason why we think this way is due to the traditional role base structure of an organization. We think of an organization as an entity with a predefined structure, and within that structure, there are relatively well-defined roles and we would staff those roles with employees (be it full time, or otherwise) to do the job.

As the organization undergo a slow evolution in its structure, the one thing that we all become very familiar with the increasing engagement of termed employees or contractors in bid of reducing the full-time headcount. Coupled with the increasing trend that tenure in employees are getting shorter, which is due to many different reasons, employees today are evaluating jobs and employment much differently than the previous generations.

This creates challenges on multiple fronts. From the organization to job design perspective and creating meaningful experience to maintain deep engagement with employees throughout their career lifecycle with the company. This also changes the way we define an employer’s value proposition (EVP).

In a recent article by John Boudreau, “Are Freelancers Your Best Performers? Applying Organizational Network Analysis to the Gig Economy” , he talked about looking at the interaction between employees in an organization and that going beyond the traditional org chart. Citing an example from Rob Cross’s work where he applied the ONA on the exploration and production division of a large petroleum organization, we can see the communication map is drastically different to the organization setup.

This got me thinking about the role in which these individuals play and how their job description (JD) would look like. (Ok, I confess. That’s because I was just rewriting the JD for one of the role I’m recruiting for).

Going along with the point that I’m making, if we dissect the “job” that they are doing and compares the individual tasks to the tasks in a project, a “job” is essentially made up of different tasks. Taking that one step further into this “gig economy” discussion, essentially, what needs to be done in an organization would comprise of many tasks. Keeping that in mind, and putting on our radical thinking cap, let’s just say, we put a price tag against each of these tasks, and have a bunch of individuals “build” a “role” by picking/ bidding on these tasks. The amount of money they make will be based on the number of tasks that they can complete and turnaround, and the premium for the “proven quality/ reliability” in completing those tasks.

I’m going to push that idea a step further. Organizations of the future can than look at this group of “Top Performing” individuals and work on a baseline retainer to buy time slots (commitment) so as to guarantee capacity.

In this model, the concept of “work” will become one that is decentralized and itemized. Theoretically, we will break free from the traditional role-based organization and move towards a task-based one. In doing so, we might even mitigate issues such as gender pay parity and workforce efficiency.

Just some crazy thoughts that I needed to get out of my system. (Must be too much JD writing this week). If you’ve made it all the way to this point in my article, thanks for the patience and attention. What’s your thoughts on this? Do share your comments and I would love to hear from you and maybe seek some assurance that I’m not going crazy! Happy Thursday (almost Friday).

Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.

Eric Wong is APAC Head of Talent Acquisition at Equinix. His experience spans across the various human resource functions such as HR Information Systems, Business Partnering and Talent Management. Eric currently sits on the Advisory Board of the Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS). Connect with him on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter @ErickyWong

Age doesn’t matter… It shouldn’t!


In a recent conversation with a close friend of mine, he commented that with age, everything seem to take more time.

It could be true in many ways. Like I can’t run as fast as I used to, but I was never fast to begin with.

However, he was referring to his job search, and how the many people he spoke with were politely turning him away. As much as he liked to believe that it’s due to his experience, but it is hard to imagine how a veteran like himself can be faulted for having too much or too little experience in something that he’s spent his whole life in.

As much as we tried to look away from conveniently attributing the lack of success to age, the signs were clear, and we ended up talking about the differences in approaching a job search.

I like to think that age’s got nothing to do with it. Thinking back, I’ve hired matured candidates, and one of things I’ve noticed is an immense amount of experience in their CV, which got me excited. It’s somewhat like finding a candidate that can do (or had done) practically everything we asked for in the JD.

As we talked about his job search adventures, we started listing out some very interesting observations and tips. While these are some generic job search tips, but my friend who’s a matured job seeker still found it very useful!

1) Chin up and keep the morale high
The truth is, regardless of age, a proper job search process will definitely take time. Yes, there are cases where the process is short. However, as you are looking to invest your next few years with an organisation, I’m sure you will also be looking to research and pick the best fit.

Thus, be prepared for a long process, and if something comes along sooner, it’s a bonus.

2) Leverage on technology
There are a lot of resources online. Such as Linkedin and Glassdoor just to name a few. A well put together online profile attracts recruiters. Some of the senior executives I know put in effort in making sure that their profile stays current and relevant.

Make use of the job alerts to keep you posted on what job’s available, so you don’t have to track it religiously.

3) Network!
It is an open secret that one of the most effective ways to land a job is through your professional network. Don’t worry if it’s not very big to begin with, work with something that you’re comfortable with.

From time to time, there will be networking sessions and conferences that is relevant to your industry and field of work. These are some of the best places to meet new people professionally.

Personally, I find Linkedin a good way to expand my network. You can start by joining groups and participating in some discussions.

Last buy not least, taking an online MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) course and participating in the discussion forums could be an interesting way to meet people of similar interest. You end up learning something new and useful in the process. I did various programs with Coursera and found it very useful.

4) Know where the jobs are
According to a survey by JobVite on Social Recruiting, 94% of recruiters use or plan to use social media in their recruitment efforts and 78% of recruiters have made a hire through social media.

Increasingly, recruiters are moving towards recruiting via social media.

This doesn’t mean that more traditional channels such as newspaper, and online job boards doesn’t work anymore. It just means that you probably find more jobs via the social media platforms.

5) What do you really want to do?
A lot of candidates I talk to seemed to be able to do a wide range of jobs. Thinking back, when you’ve been working for so many years, I can see how that could be the case.

While it is good to sound versatile, and able to take on a wide variety of tasks, sometimes, it can work against you. You can either come across as someone who doesn’t know what you want, a jack of all trade or just over qualified for the role.

A savvy candidate would first seek to understand what the role entails and speak specifically to the role and its requirements.

Having said that, being specific doesn’t mean you need to sell yourself short. You can pick up specific segment of your experience to emphasis and elaborate, addressing the specific job requirements.

I wish you all the best in your job search.

Cheers

Eric Wong

Eric Wong is Head of Talent Acquisition & Development (APAC) at Polycom, and blogs about how video collaboration can benefit the HR function on Polycom’s “The View from APAC”. Connect with him on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter @ErickyWong.

“Benefits” – attracting and retaining your best talents


In a recent newspaper article, I was impressed to see a local supermarket chain being commended for its efforts towards its employee’s well being.

Despite being a small and local setup, this supermarket chain was able to provide a host of benefits (such as bursary for employee’s children, education and renovation loans, etc.) targeting at the very needs of its employees.

One could argue the effectiveness of such personalized benefits and even the amount of work that goes into administrating them. However, to the employees benefiting from such schemes, it’s a different story all together. The schemes had helped them directly in improving their daily lives.

Looking back on my own career, and the different phases of my life, I realized that I myself have very different needs over time. Those needs had determined the career choices I’ve taken, and even right down to the way I’ve negotiated my contract with my employer.

As such, it became more and more of an urgent need for organizations today to rethink their benefits framework. I’ve always felt that an organization’s benefits framework contributes to the very soul of that organization. How well you take care or “not take care” of your employees may not be that clear for all to see, as many a times, the benefits components are buried in a ton of policies and webpages, making it hard for employees to make sense of it all. However, this doesn’t mean that employees are unaware of what’s there.

It is a very interesting observation that employees care more about the very components that directly affect them at that very moment. Thus, if it’s there, it’s good. If it’s not there, it’s bad. Just like in the story about the “blind men and the elephant”, employees would describe their experience based on what’s immediate to them.

Therefore, designing a framework that caters to everyone in the organization becomes more complex than rocket science. It is hard to imagine how there can be a one-size fit all solution. Thus, a flexible framework becomes so much more relevant in today’s context.

Since different benefits components means different things to different employees and candidates at different point of time, it makes it hard to put a dollar value on what that is worth.

A lot of times, we tend to take a simplistic approach to how much is spent provisioning for those components, however this is a case where a dollar spent does not equal to a dollar value.

Having worked with my fair share of candidates, designing an offer that makes sense to the candidate you want to attract to your organization is an art.

Personally, I find that candidates coming from organizations with creative benefits structure hardest to attract. These candidates tend to negotiate on 2 fronts, making sure that not only the cash components are attractive, and also the benefits components are not lacking.

On some occasions, where it’s not an apple-to-apple comparison, it is amazing to see that the candidates do tend to get creative in putting a dollar value on the benefits that they will be forgoing in the move. Making the final cash expectations to go through the roof.

This frustrate the hell out of staffing folks, especially those whose hands are tied in being flexible with what they can give and what’s not within their control.

Turning the table around, if the benefits structure in your organization is out of this world and creatively crazy. Coupled with a relative attractive compensation philosophy and nice corporate culture. Oh boy, I would love to see how anyone would be able to pry that employee away from you without paying through their nose.

Would love to hear your thoughts on what are some of these creative benefits that you feel is relevant and how they can help improve the way you attract and retain your best talents.

Cheers

Eric

Link


Career Savviness Survey 2013

I did a survey on how savvy we are with our careers. Here’s the finding.

86% knows their market value and only 56% feels that they are paid inline with market value!

Near 100% of the respondents feels they are responsible for their own development, but only 39% knows what their organisation had planned for them!

Read more about it here.

Cheers

Eric

BYOC – Build your own career


All of us here are pretty familiar with the term BYOD.  That’s “Bring your own device”. Depending which side of the fence you’re on, the arguments for or against will go on for this one. However, we cannot ignore the trend and the behavioural changes it’s brought along.

Recently, I’ve noticed a similar change in the way we look at our own career. It seems that we are getting a lot savvier in the way we manage and make decision around our careers.

My job in talent acquisition allowed me to interact with many candidates. A common observation I’ve made is, they all seemed to know what they want and have somewhat of an idea of where they need to be at what stage of their life.

I guess the hours spent with their career coach paid off. However, when asked the question of “why are you looking to leave?”, I’ve always got answers that would fall into the “Grass is greener on the other side” category.

However, the point I’m trying to make is, the rationale behind the candidates thinking that the grass is greener on our side of the fence, seemed to had came from the fact that they’re not talking openly with their managers on what they want in their careers.

On one hand, they had a grand plan in what they want to do and achieve, and on the other hand, they don’t openly engage with their managers and organization in making their job a dream job.

I hate to think that if this is the mindset of the general workforce, does this mean that this is happening to everyone of us?

In a recent article published on the “The New York Times” – “Hone the Job You Have Into One You Love” By SHANE J. LOPEZ, published on May 25, 2013, by studying people who love their work, he came to realize that almost none initially landed the jobs they loved; rather, they landed ordinary jobs and turned them into extraordinary ones. (Ref: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/26/jobs/honing-the-job-you-have-into-one-you-love.html)

This can only happen when you are open with your managers on what you have in mind regarding your job and career, and work with them to fine-tune what you’re doing now to what you like to be doing.

It does takes two to tango, so keep an open mind and know that it does takes time and patience to make things happen. The world is not perfect, and as much as your managers would like to, you may not always get your way. Work on the incremental steps on how to get there.

Even if you fail, you know you’ve tried. And there’s no shame in failing, but more shame in quitting. I like to believe that everyone enters into a new job with a sense of passion, hope and excitement that this is the job of a lifetime, you are going to make it happen.

The truth is, just like in any relationship, it never is as simple as it seems. Keep that passion in mind and with the right amount of effort and communication with your manager, I am sure your job will be a engaging one!

Now, if you have difficulties talking with your manager, here’s some tips.

  • Bring up your outlook calendar, and put in an invite for an hour of 1:1. The rest will fall in place.
  • Be precise with what you are looking for. It helps to write it down.

You can structure your discussion as follows:

  • Start with what you want, but don’t let this dominate the whole discussion. I would spend not more than 5 mins on this. Keep it short and sweet
  • Talk about what you like about your role now, and how that aligned with your wants. I suggest 5 mins, but10 mins tops.
  • Talk about the gaps. It can be something that you want to do, but is not doing, or something that you would like to do but is not there yet. Try to be concise about what these are and be realistic about aligning this to business needs. You can’t be saying that you want to be able to bake a cake for the team every month, unless if you’re a baker. But, what’s stopping you? J
  • Next, talk about how you think you can work on getting to where you want to be. Call out your assumptions. It’s ok to sound silly. I told my manager I wanted his position one day. The idea is to work on a plan together to get there.
  • Reach a closure. Sometimes it’s ok to disagree. It’s not the end of the world. Remember, things change. You can always revisit your plans in future. Setup milestones in which the both of you can connect again. Usually, a 6 months interval is ideal. This would give you time to work on what you need to work on.
  • You may find it useful to document this and I would suggest logging this in on your company’s performance management tool.

You may also be looking at moving across functions into a different role. I always suggest talking to your manager first, but if that is not possible, there is always the friendly HR person you can reach out to.

Also, you may also find it useful to setup time with the manager of the department you are hoping to move into. This will give you insights into the role. Share your plans with them, and you can get a good picture of what is required. One thing to note is that, moving across functions is always tough as you many not have all the necessary skillsets. However, there’s no better place than your current organization to “try” out a new role.

Be realistic about your expectations, and know that you may need to start early to work on some of those developmental areas before you make the move. I would suggest planning this at least 1 year in advance. Ask for projects that you can be involved in to gain the experience required for the move. This would also allow you to “show off” what you’ve got and earn the strips

Have you spoken with your manager today? I know I had!

Cheers

Eric