How to Hire—and Keep—the Right Employees

In many industries, talent is the secret sauce. Employees—and what they do, or neglect to do—often determine whether a company sinks or swims. As HR leaders continue to use innovative technology to make more strategic workforce decisions, we have an opportunity to rethink how we acquire talent. As PwC put it, the most successful organizations will be those that use technology to get the best out of their people.

A truly high-quality hire is someone who will thrive three roles from now, adding value to the company in the long-term.

Companies are committing a lot of energy to talent searches, with 78 percent of CEOs saying their company relies on multiple channels to recruit. And while these practices continue to get more efficient with the help of talent management systems and sites like LinkedIn and Indeed, they don’t necessarily improve the quality of new hires. Furthermore, there is added complexity to many of today’s recruiting practices due to fragmented systems and processes. And while new technology can help attract more talent, we still don’t know if we are getting a better look at the right kind of candidates.

Sure, we have more visibility into a candidate’s job history and can draw a rough sketch of past responsibilities to determine if their experience fits the role. But a truly high-quality hire is someone who will thrive three roles from now, adding value to the company in the long term. Today’s recruiting practices are not always conducive to identifying these candidates. Yet by shifting our mindset, we can hire for current requisitions, future needs, and ultimately alter the course of the entire talent lifecycle.

Seek Diversity

One of the biggest challenges for executive leadership is making sure their company is prepared for the uncertainty that lies ahead. It’s difficult to predict the skills your company will need five years down the road, so you must ensure you’re hiring a diverse set of minds that bring together fresh thinking and a wide range of experiences to help drive better business outcomes.

A recent Forbes study identified workforce diversity as a key driver of internal innovation and business growth. The problem is, while it might be unconscious, many of us are probably guilty of defining a “culture fit” as someone with qualities similar to our own. To avoid hiring more versions of ourselves, leadership and management author Adam Bryant says we must push through the implicit biases we have in the recruiting process. This means casting a wide net and identifying individuals from unusual backgrounds, being conscious of the language used in job descriptions, and making it a point to champion those that bring a skill or talent to the table that your team currently doesn’t have.

To get a better idea of what a candidate is really like, look beyond the resume to “soft skills”—interpersonal style, communication style, and emotional intelligence.

Ask the Tough Questions

During that first phone screen, it’s likely that both recruiter and interviewee go through a familiar dance. The candidate knows what kind of questions to expect, and prepares responses accordingly. Even if you come away with a good first impression, you won’t have the full picture of what that person is like in a team setting, if they are proactive about their work, or how they handle failure—all tough, but crucial, qualities to assess in an interview setting.

To get a better idea of what a candidate is really like, look beyond the resume to “soft skills”—interpersonal style, communication style, and emotional intelligence. While the computer science degree and engineering background might seem like a great fit for a product manager on paper, to really see if an individual is a fit, we must dig deeper by being more thoughtful about the questions we ask during the interview process.

Don’t be afraid to ask the quirky, more out-of-the-box questions. Google started this trend with its infamous interview brain teasers, but Bryant suggests asking more personal questions that get candidates to open up about their natural strengths, misperceptions others might have about them, and even what qualities they like most in their parents. By avoiding rehearsed answers, you can understand more about what makes someone tick.

Don’t Downplay Internal Talent

Once a new hire gets comfortable in their role and meets expectations, the next step is figuring out how to provide enough growth opportunities to ensure they stay with the company. Notice we didn’t say “exceeds expectations.” The superstars are likely already on the career fast track, but it’s the people who are good, not great, who are the biggest untapped resource at your company.

The solid-but-not-stellar performers might very well be stellar in a role that plays better to their strengths. And, they are often more open to learning and development opportunities. Some companies encourage internal mobility by sending out emails with open positions and encouraging people to apply. Retaining good employees continues to be a top challenge, so it’s incredibly important that current employees know they have ample growth opportunities within your company.

Talent is the game-changer, and the good news is that there is never a shortage of great candidates both in and outside of your company. By shifting our mindset at the beginning of the recruiting process to seek more diverse, genuine employees, we can ensure that we are improving the overall employee talent lifecycle and building a workforce that will handle whatever challenges lie ahead.