Beyond the Resume: Crafting a Recruitment Strategy for a Diverse and Dynamic Workforce

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Beyond the Resume: Crafting a Recruitment Strategy for a Diverse and Dynamic Workforce

It has long been known that hiring right sets the foundations for great results. Whilst this isn’t to take away from excellent internal training and induction processes, starting with a higher calibre candidate increases the effectiveness of all your post-hire strategies (you do have them, right? …Right?). First, as the author, as it does become relevant, full disclosure: I am in the older category, being in my Forty-Thirteenth year. Whilst many say this shouldn’t matter in a recruitment process, an experiment we undertook recently indicated otherwise.

The Age Experiment in Recruitment

Our experiment was to send through some resumes to professional resume companies for feedback and also to send them to professional recruitment companies for feedback. The feedback we received from the experiment is the basis of this article and confirms why we still use ‘ancient’ (quoting here) methodology in our recruitment process.

Please note: We did not assist or change any of the resumes; the candidate wrote some, and some were professionally produced (the results of which are another story).

Told you it would be relevant.

Age Bias: An Unintended Barrier

Almost every organisation gave the same feedback when a resume illustrated experience before 2010. You leave yourself open to age bias, and companies want the same experience for younger candidates. Whilst laughable, I think one of our subject candidates summed it up best when she said, “f* off, it took over 30 years to get that experience, can we microwave experience now?” or when another stated, “that’s bull… I have made and learned from mistakes a younger candidate hasn’t even thought of yet, great risk strategy!”.

You may not believe you’re doing it. Still, it is quite real, and you need to be conscious of the experience and potential leadership qualities (at any level within the organisation) an older candidate brings.

The Value of Experience in a Team

Elite sporting organisations already know how effective this is, so they specifically bring in more mature, experienced players to help settle the younger crop and lead them. Older candidates offer hard and soft skills that can be leveraged to improve the overall performance of your company.

Young Talent: Beyond the Date of Birth

Age bias also works the other way; some of our younger (under 21) candidates were given feedback to remove dates that might indicate their age, as this may affect their chances of getting an interview (unless the position specifically states a junior role).

To this, we say, look at the type of person they may be, who they might become, and how you can help shape that.

Personal Anecdote: Choosing Potential Over Experience

(story time) … I was once advertising for a PA, had heaps of choices, plenty of experienced people, few in the middle and some young (future) guns. I chose one of the young guns because they were inquisitive, showed great attention to detail, were willing to ask questions, and turned up to the interview strong enough in their own skin to be themselves. I put some effort and time into mentoring, and we became an awesome team!

Recruitment and Innovation: The Missing Link

Interestingly, over the past two years, there has been so much noise about innovation and pivoting. Yet, how we recruit stifles our ability to have the right people to enable this. Younger, inquisitive people ask naïve questions, those in the middle to challenge and offer alternatives, and those with experience who have the ability to discuss potential outcomes or consequences from their years of experience. If you are only recruiting some ingredients, you are missing the target.

Critical Recruitment Considerations

The point we’re trying to make is to consider the following:

  • What skill sets are not negotiable?
  • What skill sets can we train?
  • What sort of human do we want in this team to fit properly?
  • How can this be displayed within a resume?

The Resume Conundrum

This last point is the perfect segway into our second.

Have you ever wondered why all resumes are starting to look identical or even sound identical? The answer is simple: many recruitment processes now use technology to shortlist for them. This saves time and culls the herd into a much smaller group.

The ATS Dilemma

The culling includes those with a resume that would stand out, but the computer cannot pick up their details as the resume isn’t formatted appropriately for the system.

This was also commonly reflected in the feedback we received, such as ‘your resume was very well presented and looked great; however, when we ran it through a popular ‘applicant tracking system’ (ATS), it scheduled an unsuccessful message.

The Quick Rejection Phenomenon

I was curious about this, so we used some of these resumes to apply for positions each person was suited for across various levels, industries, and role types. The record for the unsuccessful message was 13 minutes.

Yep, 13 minutes from receiving the ‘We received your application’ to ‘We reject your application message’.

Now, especially for senior roles, this is ridiculous. The way these tracking systems work, as with anything computerised, they are programmed to see things a certain way and anything outside those parameters is discarded.

  • Choice of words: you now appear to require a resume specific to each advertisement, ensuring you use the same phrasing within the ad itself. It’s not the computer’s fault; it doesn’t know any better.
  • Formatting: if the ATS companies could openly share their formatting, this would save some poor choices!

The Human Touch in Recruitment

It is important to note that the person who received the record for the quickest rejection also had the record for the quickest phone call! An employment agency that actually reads their resumes for senior roles took one look, and from the ‘opened by employer’ to phone call, it was 30 minutes, an appropriate amount of time to absorb their wealth of experience.

At the time of publication, I am unsure about the result of this call. Remember, this was an experiment; some of my volunteers were in it solely for the outcomes as they were already in positions where making these sorts of choices is important (using the technology or not).

To be clear, we believe there is a place for this technology, but selectively used based on the requirement of a role, with checks in place to see who ‘fell out’ during the process as a quality assurance measure.

Overcoming Unconscious Bias

What is affinity bias? Affinity bias is where we are drawn to those who look, think and act like us. It is the death of diversity within your organisation. Let’s assume you now have a shortlist.

When you are interviewing them, are you aware of your unconscious bias? Are you thinking about how they align so well with everything? We like the same footy team; I have also travelled to Asia, attended that school, or anything similar.

You should be thinking about what they bring that is different from what we already have, and how their thinking will assist in improving our current systems and processes. Sure, make certain they have the right personality type and communication style so they fit in with the rest of the team, but remember (geek alert!) the clones lost the Clone Wars! This makes sense because if everyone is the same, then competing with them becomes easy.

Affinity bias normally starts with the job ad itself; when advertising, you must ensure you are not using racial or cultural bias in your language.

Language and Cultural Sensitivity in Recruitment

Suppose a candidate sees language that is racially or culturally insensitive.

In that case, they just won’t apply, regardless of how often you use the word diversity in your ad or website! Language is important.

I was beautifully picked up when I was discussing the importance of understanding the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mourning process and how these employees require more time off.

I used the language of ‘more time off than normal’. I was quickly picked up on by an Indigenous colleague who asked me, ‘What is the opposite of normal?’ when I responded, ‘Abnormal, I guess’, they asked if I thought that Indigenous culture was ‘abnormal’. Of course not. I was shocked by the implication of my words; I apologised before responding.

The lesson was exceptional, painful, but exceptional. Our language needs to be considered for the ears, not the mouth.

This is what I now mentor my clients and mantra to myself. Inclusiveness can feel like hard work, but it isn’t. It is one word – empathy.

Empathy within a work culture creates high-performing teams, longevity (reduced turnover) and stronger bonds.

Be aware that your unconscious bias does exist. We all like people who like what we like and have shared experiences. However, we all NEED people who broaden our horizons, challenge our beliefs, and treat us with respect and empathy.

Building a Recruitment Strategy That Works

It all starts with the design of the position and the requirements of the role:

What are the non-negotiables compared to the nice-to-haves? (For example):

  • Qualifications – do they need them, and what do they bring without relevant experience?
  • Industry knowledge – vital, or is something to be gained from understanding how other industries approach this work?
  • Years of experience – does this matter? I have met people with 15 years’ experience, but all I see is 1 year’s experience 15 times in their actions and thinking.

What sort of human are you after? (For example):

  • Analytical
  • Innovative
  • Social (remember, introverts are quite awesome too! We are also less work)
  • Structured

Now, you need to look at how you manage the recruitment process, how senior the role is, and whether an ATS would pick up on the requirements we listed above; if so, how we program it to do so.

Next, the ad is probably the most important aspect of your process:

  • Is it written to be inclusive?
  • Does it illustrate the benefits of working with you (we haven’t even touched on making the most of the ‘great resignation’)?
  • Does it give real expectations of the role?
  • Have you indicated the recruitment process and what it might involve?

Shortlisting and interviewing

How are you shortlisting:

  • who is involved in the interview process, and at what stages are they involved?
  • Have you looked for affinity (or other) bias amongst the team?
  • What is each specific person looking for in the process?

Finally, we get to everything that isn’t covered here:

  • How are you approaching the offer process?
  • What induction processes do you have?
  • How often will you (or someone) catch up with them to see how everything is going?
  • Have you discussed a career plan (if applicable) with them?

The Final Takeaway

With respect to induction, regardless of the role, you need to have a solid process that covers the entirety of your probation period that introduces the new employee into your organisation with specific KPIs, so you both can measure how they are going and have the expectations clear and known.

The reasons for this are plentiful and for numerous other articles, so for now we will leave it there. With that said and with plenty for you to think about, I ask again. Is your recruitment process sabotaging your results?

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