A People-First Approach in Recruitment Puts Businesses Ahead

By December 14, 2021 March 31st, 2022 Diversity & Inclusion, Women, Work

Life as an entrepreneur is brutally difficult and there is almost no room for error, especially when it comes to recruiting. When you build and bootstrap a business from the ground up, as I did for the last 10 years, decisions, big and small, represent a step forward or two steps back. Startups are a marathon with treacherous obstacles at every corner, taking a step back is the most dreadful of thoughts. As the Spanish saying goes, “para atras ni para coger impulso!” In other words, a step back is not an option even to gain momentum. The journey of building a business from concept to multiple brick and mortar locations, the sleepless nights, the months of working 7 days a week, the 4-5 weekly near heart attacks, and the feeling of living on the edge of sudden death taught me a thing or two. 

Here’s what I learned about recruiting, the importance of treating people with dignity above all else and working to simplify processes.

Obsessed About Experience

From inception, I recognized the opportunity I had in the platform I was carving out, one of which was to create a space where people felt seen and heard, ultimately a place people wanted to keep coming back to. I took the people-first approach and obsessed about my employees’ experiences just as I obsessed about our customers’ experiences. As a startup establishing valuable, yet simple processes was my target. I took time to create a meaningful recruitment process knowing very well this was the foundation for my growing business. Candidates from the get-go felt how much focus there was on their well-being. Recruiting, in my mind, was the ultimate golden opportunity to learn, grow, begin delivering my team member’s experience, and set the tone for our culture. 

Here’s a look at my recruiting groundwork:

  • (Pre-Interview) Studied resumes and took points to inquire about and to praise their past accomplishments. Initiated mapping out my conversation.
  • Intentionally conveyed our businesses’ story and worked on getting people as excited and energized as I was.
  • Connected the importance of each person’s role directly to our ability to propel our story forward and in unison. 
  • Conveyed genuine interest and commitment in creating a positive professional experience for them. 

This groundwork took place before the first interview question, granting a more personalized and definitively a more positive experience unlike others, one that began with an impactful job description and evolved through the life cycle of the process. The end goal was for us to learn as much as possible about each candidate, to have them walk away feeling a little better about themselves, and of course wanting the position more than when they initially applied. Post interviews and over the years, I self-reflected, readjusted, and worked on becoming better at my approach. It worked, allowing us to build happy, committed, and engaged teams. 

Mastering the Art of Conversation

Many of today’s common interviewing practices are impersonal, insensitive, unpleasant, pushy, cold, square, ineffectual… I could go on. In my opinion, most everything about these hiring practices needs to change. The process is clouded by timewasters overlooking and impeding getting to know potential candidates in depth. The art of conversation is lost and the value of making real connections with people is caught in the Wild Wild West of a dizzying collection of cool-sounding tools that claim to predict who will be a productive member of our team. They use voice and facial recognition, body language, this test, that test, clues on social media, and especially machine learning algorithms—everything but croquetas (croquettes). 

The array of hoops candidates are having to jump merits a gold medal. Don’t get me wrong some tools are helpful for time efficiency but no tool will ever substitute a good conversation. There is a desperate need to invest in mastering the art of conversation past the timewasters to a comfortable and organic way for someone to demonstrate what they are good at. The truth is there is no way of knowing with 100% accuracy if a person is the right hire much less when you add in a bunch of fluff in the process. 

Reflection = Progress

The job search process is characterized by pursuing distal goals, lacking clear pathways, and receiving little feedback, making it challenging for the candidate to feel any sense of progress.(1) The process is stressful enough adding a poor candidate experience affects people’s wellbeing. Job searching entails periods of continued challenge to self-worth and mental wellbeing, rather than a one-time negative event. Poor treatment during the interview process builds up into torment, especially in the current trying times, these practices can be most harmful. Candidates are being put through the ringer are walking out broken and demoralized. The power is in companies to simplify processes and offer good experiences.

Here’s are my DO’s & DON’T’S of recruiting:

Always Do:

  1. Hire for strengths.
  2. Work to simplify the process.
  3. Plan for 2 or 3 interviews at most.
  4. Value candidate’s time and effort.
  5. Perpetually, work on expanding your knowledge.
  6. Include salary or a salary range on your job posts.
  7. Exude professionalism and empathy at every step.
  8. Study your candidate. Prepare and plan your conversation.
  9. Self-reflect post interview. Learn, apply, and do better next time. Repeat.
  10. Hire more unknowns, they’ll surprise you with wonderful unknown benefits.
  11. If you have set questions. Consider sharing them with candidates pre interview.
  12. Throw away your preconceived box, it limits your team, company, and candidate’s opportunities.
  13. Value and hire for characteristics that will bring success to the team (trusted by many, makes others comfortable, helping others, related and transferable skills from other industries, appreciation for opportunities). These will end up being your best and most loyal hires.

Don’t Ever:

  1. Require a cover letter.
  2. Ask for unpaid pre-work.
  3. Overcomplicate the process.
  4. Set up human-less led interviews.
  5. Have endless application questions.
  6. Ask irrelevant or inappropriate questions.
  8. Keep your camera off when doing a virtual interview.
  9. Misguide your candidates on the process. Be transparent and explain next steps.
  10. Make candidates upload their resume and then input by hand the same information.
  11. Complain about your boss, how overwhelmed or overworked you are. This is greatly disrespectful to your employer and the candidate.

Imagine all the stress that could be avoided if people were treated well, if the processes did not leave candidates feeling drained and demoralized. The act of treating people with dignity and simplifying the process makes all the difference. It holds the power to set people up for wins, specially to find the courage to keep showing up and giving it yet another swing. In today’s job market, people are applying to hundreds of jobs, completing all types of creative new applications most of which require pages and pages of questions, completing unpaid pre-work projects, going through phone screenings, endless number of interviews, to many times never hear back. 

Companies must take a deeper look at their asks. Post-interview surveys and self-reflection on the effectiveness of recruiting practices are great agents for progress. Employers can’t afford bad hires and candidates should not have to endure another awful candidate experience. A positive and productive recruiting process drives employee retention and loyalty, isn’t that what we are striving for?