The need to be flexible in the war for talent


As the war for talent intensifies, small businesses may find themselves on the losing end if they insist on rigid recruitment standards, according to Paul Wolfe, senior vice president of HR at employment-related search engine Indeed.

Wolfe, who has served as a VP and SVP at a number of well-known companies including Match.com, Orbitz, Conde Nast and Ticketmaster, recently spoke to Dynamic Business about the rise of the ‘job nomad’ as well as hiring practices that get start-ups in trouble and the need for organisations to be flexible.

 The seismic shift to flexible work

“Over the past five to seven years, there’s been a shift to the gig economy due to enabling technologies and a desire for more flexible work. People are increasingly looking for project-based work rather than full-time employment.  For instance, there are people who work full-time but supplement their income by driving an Uber in the evening. There are others who work on a project for a couple of weeks at one place before working on another project elsewhere. That’s the gig economy. It’s resulted in more jobs – it’s just that they’re just are shift or project-based.

Learn how to retain job nomads

“We’re long removed from the days when a job was for life. When I commenced my career as an HR executive, around 15 or 16 years ago, people had longer stints with employers. You’d look at a candidate’s resume and see they’d worked with one organisation for five years and another for seven to eight. Now it’s common for people to serve out a series of shorter, two or three year stints. It’s up to employers to create work environments where these job nomads are engaged, their motivations are understood and they have something to be excited about other than their salary and benefits. The aim is to give them the most amazing five or six years of their career, instead of a job for just two or three years.

“Relevantly, a growing number of job seekers want to work for companies with a social aspect. A lot of people attribute this mindset to millennials. All of us want to be part of something bigger, we just haven’t been as open about saying it. Millennials have just been more vocal about what they really want.

Tell your story and test for cultural fit

“There are a couple of hiring mistakes start-ups make that lead to high turnover. The first is hiring a candidate without testing for cultural fit. When a position is open but there’s no one to fill it today, it can be a source of pain and this can lead hiring managers to jump at the first candidate who’s qualified rather than having a two-way conversation to discern what that person is looking for longer term and whether they are a good fit.

“Another mistake is not being transparent with candidates. If a job candidate wants to work in a small organisation but the plan is to grow the start-up to a 1000-person company within a year or two, that candidate might not be the best fit. Being open and honest with candidates about the long term plans of the start-up, including whether there are plans to go public, is about ensuring the right match.

“In terms of attracting talent, storytelling is important – especially if you’re a start-up and not a known brand. A static job description doesn’t cut it anymore; instead, start-ups should consider hosting an event in their office to give potential candidates a sense of the work environment and who they’d be working with, and consider introducing them to the manager they’d be working for or the founders, if it’s an early-stage start-up.”

Look outside your normal hiring pool

“In today’s job market, you have to be flexible, i.e. open to hiring candidates who wouldn’t normally be in your hiring pool, because the war for talent is only getting tougher and tougher. I know of a company in US that only promotes entry level jobs to people with a four-year degree. I find that interesting because I myself don’t have a traditional university background. I went to university before quitting a year later to pursue full-time work. I later completed that four-year degree, while working full-time, but a recruiter might look at the break in my education and be hesitant.

“At a recent event in Washington, I connected with some self-taught computer engineers. They don’t have computer science degrees but they are coding at the same level as someone with a degree. To organisations who are looking for a four-year degree, I pose this question, ‘can experience in the workforce take the place of a four-year degree?’ Consider having a face-to-face meeting with candidates to discern whether their experience can substitute for not having a four-year degree. Just because somebody has a degree form a certain institution, doesn’t mean they’re going to be the best fit.”


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