Today we’re talking about an often unpopular topic: Hiring.
Hiring is probably one of the most important people management disciplines. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most neglected. While we are offered training courses on “Leadership”, “Communication”, “Conflict handling” etc. in abundance, courses with the title “Effective Hiring” or “Interview Optimization” are rare. And that may well have something to do with the complexity of the subject.
If only hiring were as easy as shopping: You look for the best employees online in a trustworthy portal, according to your own requirements, quickly check the star-rating and read a few reviews. Then you press “Order” and after 1-2 days your highly motivated colleagues will arrive at your place. And if it turns out that things don’t work out so well, then there is a 14-day exchange right. Yes that would be nice. Unfortunately, that’s not how it is.
Because finding the right employee is an intensive, time- and money-consuming affair. Here are a few thoughts on hiring that can make your life a little easier.
One thing up front: Hiring good talent is a very complex issue that managers looking to fill their positions don’t always have complete control over. Outside of their own sphere of influence are often issues such as employer branding, salary bands, market interests, specialist working time models or specifications such as It stacks (java/maven/spring vs scala/sbt vs JS stack etc). To go into this would require a separate article, which is why we will focus on topics that can also be changed directly.
Although we’ll be looking through the lens of the IT professions, I’ve tried to keep the information as general as possible. Nevertheless, not every challenge will be transferable to other professions. In some areas, however, there will be parallels.
Since, as I said, the topic is very complex, we will deal with it in a small series. In the first (this) article we will highlight the basic concepts and look at what roles there are in the hiring process. In the second part, we will look at “sourcing and marketing”, i.e. how to get candidates in the first place. In the third part we will prepare for the interviews, and in the fourth part we will go into the interviews and how to make a decision.
Of course, hiring is much more complex (reducing attrition, multicultural hiring, diversity, etc.) and will allow us to add more articles to this series in the future. We will do that at an appropriate time.
So this is not meant to be an all-encompassing series where we cover every topic related to Hiring, but is more geared towards those who are just getting started with the topic, or are looking for some targeted food for thought.
But for now, let’s get started with the basics.
The war for talents
What often makes hiring (especially in IT) so difficult these days is the war for talent. It started shortly before the turn of the millennium and was mainly based on two factors.
Firstly, the Information Age that began in the 70s/80s, which required more and more information technology specialists. The systems became more complex, more software had to be produced – but the necessary specialists were not available and had to be trained first. For example, it was not until the late 1990s that the new IT professions (IT specialist, IT systems clerk, etc.) and corresponding apprenticeships were created in Germany – much too late to keep up with the demands of the explosively growing economy.
Secondly, Germany’s declining birth rates from 1960 onward had an impact – there were simply fewer people to train.
And today? Growth and the accompanying need for skilled workers continues unabated. And that makes it difficult. Where there is more demand than supply, there is always increased competition. And, as we all know, this is supposed to stimulate business, but it can also be exhausting.
The Hiring Manager
Of course, the war for talent is not the only reason why it is difficult to find the right employees. Even in environments where the supply of candidates is greater and the competition is lower, it is still necessary to make candidates aware of your company and then make the right choice.
And for that, you need someone who is responsible for success, or failure – the Hiring Manager. The Hiring Manager is often the future supervisor of the potential candidate, can also be a special role of the Talent Acquisition Team or another person who has strong interests in the recruiting process – for example, the department manager.
The Hiring Manager’s role is so important because he must understand that only one person is responsible for the success of the process, and that is himself. It is not uncommon to see that the Recruiting Department’s job description is simply thrown over the fence and then the expectation is that a few weeks later the new employee can be onboarded.
But far from it, that’s not how it usually turns out. If you want to build/expand a team, you have to do it yourself. Hiring Manager is not only a title, but also a lot of work.
The most important tasks of the Hiring Manager include:
Clarifying needs and pitching headcounts – If you are the boss of your own company – congratulations. Then this task is very easy. Otherwise, you will usually have to explain clearly why you need additional staff. This can take a long time, depending on what has happened in your company. So don’t start too late.
Create a job description – And please in such a way that potential candidates are also interested in the role. We will devote ourselves to the subject of job advertisements in more detail in the second part.
Tap into networks, disseminate job advertisements – candidates must be made aware of your vacancy. So you have to announce the good news on your channels and relevant platforms that the employees want to hire. Because if nobody knows that you are currently hiring, hardly anyone will apply.
and, if necessary, change or expand sourcing measures Check funnels- If, despite intensive efforts, no candidates contact you, you have to check what could be the cause. This can be for a variety of reasons and it cannot be easily resolved.
Pre-filtering of applications – applications have to be viewed and a decision has to be made as to which candidate will advance to the next round and who will unfortunately not make it further. Even if you have support (see below), it is still your job to make sure that the right decision is made in this step.
Interview with the candidate – Of course, you won’t hire a candidate without putting them through their paces. There are one or more interviews for this. You are also responsible for this.
Make Eligibility / Recruitment Decision – Once the interviews are over, you need to make a decision. Top or flop. Yes or no.
Track success and, if necessary, develop counter-strategies – And of course you have to keep an eye on important key figures in order to be able to adjust your process if necessary.
If you are a hiring manager, be aware of your responsibility, because no matter how much support you get, in the end you are responsible.
This does not mean that the other roles in the hiring process are not important, quite the opposite. Only when all roles work together effectively can you recruit properly.
Your partner in Crime
Fortunately, many companies have hiring support in the form of recruiters, talent acquisition partners, sourcing. They support you in bringing the job postings online, help you with their expertise to optimize the wording of your ad, write to candidates, support you in filtering the applications, get in touch with candidates, organize contract issues and support you with relocations if necessary.
In other words, they relieve you of many difficult and unpleasant tasks. So be grateful that you have them and treat them accordingly. Because your Talent Acquisition Partner is your partner in crime. Think of them as your strongest ally in not getting lost in the war for talent.
Even if you’ve conducted hundreds of interviews as a hiring manager, they are the experts on all things hiring. Use their knowledge and experience wisely.
It is advisable to have weekly meetings with your recruiter during the hiring phase to talk about progress. This way you could counteract faster if the hiring pipeline is “dry” again or if an unusually large number of candidates have not been taken recently.
A good hiring manager/recruiter team is one in which the hiring manager acknowledges the recruiter’s expertise and the recruiter can understand the pressure and stress that is on the hiring manager. Such mutual understanding is important for successful collaboration.
And the emphasis here is on collaboration. For example, you can sit down with your Talent Acquisition Partner and go through applications that have been received. This way, you can explain what technologies or traits are the important ones, or what keywords you look out for. In turn, the Talent Acquisition Partner may be able to teach you how to improve your mindset interview.
In any case, you should coordinate who asks what questions in the interviews. Nothing looks more unprofessional than if the candidate has already heard half of the questions an hour before.
Talk it over and learn from each other. This helps to get a better understanding of each other’s role.
The Talent Sourcers
In some companies, in addition to recruiters or talent acquisition partners, you will also meet employees who are specialized in finding the right talent in the market – the talent sourcers. They scan networks and portals, write to potential candidates and make them aware of the company or a position, organize events to meet candidates, and so on.
Talent sourcers usually have a large network they can draw on. This can be an advantage for you if you have not yet built up such a large network yourself. They know how to write to candidates to make them like the job and to tell them more interesting information about the company.
On the topic of sourcing, be careful not to over-source. It can be tempting, with the right approach, to write to hundreds or thousands of candidates at a time so that the hiring funnel is as full as possible. Loosely based on the motto: A lot helps a lot. The more candidates you have, the greater the selection.
But what sounds so tempting at first glance can quickly backfire. Namely, whenever you don’t have enough people power to process the incoming applications promptly.
If, for example, 200 of the 2000 candidates contacted find your job interesting, you will have to look at 200 application documents in a short time. If you take only 5 minutes per application, you are already at two full working days (16.6 hours), in which you do nothing else. If you then find 40 of these candidates interesting, you are suddenly confronted with 40 hours of interviews – plus preparation and follow-up.
Can you do that in two weeks, you say? Well, if you manage to fit all the candidates into your and the candidates schedule and have nothing else to do, maybe. But honestly, how realistic is that? It’s more likely that these 40 interviews will take place over the next few weeks. And what does it look like if you’ve written to a candidate about how great you think they are, but then can’t offer them an interview date for another four weeks? Think carefully about how much you and your team can handle. Over time, you’ll get a sense (or will have collected data) of what a healthy funnel looks like for you.
Involve your team in the process
Time and again, the question arises as to whether one should have one’s own team interviewed or whether it would be better to involve colleagues from other areas in the interview process. There can be several valid reasons for both sides.
For example, if you want to hire people with skills that are not available in your current team, then it is of course advisable to access subject matter experts from other departments, or to get freelance support if necessary. For example, if you want to add a data analytics team to your department, but don’t yet have these skills around.
In addition, external interviewers can take a more detached view of the interview process and evaluate the candidates more neutrally. Bringing in people from outside the team can help make the right decision by asking questions and challenging the team. For example, a colleague from another department can bring in experience that you have not had in your team before. Therefore it can be useful in the interview process not only to rely on the expertise in your own area.
Personally, I would still advise you to include as many people from your own team as possible in the process. After all, they will work most closely with the new colleague. In addition, they know the specialist requirements for their own team best.
When the question of whether to have your own team interview with you comes up, you hear concerns from hiring managers from time to time.
“What if the team picks someone I don’t want?”
“How do I look to my team if I hire a candidate they didn’t want?”
“What if my team doesn’t interview candidates neutrally and prefers which ones because they think they’re nice?”
The answer to this question is trust. Let’s face it, if you don’t trust your own team, you have a whole other problem.
If you hire a candidate that your team isn’t completely convinced of, you’re going to have reasons for that – be open and transparent and explain those reasons. And also explain to your team that you’re making your decision for the good of the team, because you’re the only one accountable for the success of the team, and if things don’t go your way, you’ll get the boot. So you have an intrinsic self-interest in hiring the right people.
As mentioned above, it can make sense to use interviewers outside your team or department if none of your employees have the technical skills to conduct the interview, e.g. if you want to build new skills …
But there is another good reason why it can be helpful to not only have your own team conduct the interviews, and that is system blindness. Anyone who’s been through several hundred interviews will know this: You can be woken up in the middle of the night with a request to do an interview. And you just ask, “For what role?” and “Where’s the candidate?” and off you go.
But who says that just because you can start your interview immediately, that it is good? Everyone needs to evolve, so it makes sense from time to time to bring external people into the process to observe you and give you feedback. Or you observe to learn from them. External input can help you improve on a regular basis. Because no matter how experienced you are as an interviewer, there’s always a trick or two to learn.
In the end
To summarize once again: Hiring is (mostly) not an individual task, but a team sport. Only when everyone involved pulls together is it guaranteed that the process can proceed quickly and efficiently.
Ooops. And we almost forgot one role in the whole interview process – the candidates. For sure, without them, nothing works. But how do we get all the great talent? That’s exactly what we’ll look at in the second part of the series.