How are companies maximizing 2018’s hiring budget? I asked the expert, Elaine Orler

To celebrate our recent announcement that Talent Sonar and Talent Function have joined forces, I picked Elaine Orler’s brain on ways she’s advising clients to get ahead of this tight talent market in 2018.

Laura Mather [LM]: I was struck by this new report that contradicts the old wisdom “slow to hire, fast to fire.” How does Talent Sonar help hiring managers move quickly but focus on the right criteria for the new hire?

Elaine Orler [EO]: The “slow to hire” mantra is meant to convey to hiring teams how important hiring is for the success of their business. We don’t want people filling the ranks with bad hires just to keep time-to-fill down. But no one should be advocating slow hiring for its own sake! In a competitive job market, that’s simply horrible advice.

Instead, hire better. Use evidence-based best practices—and here I mean best practices confirmed by research, not just the “fact” that your competitor is doing it. Talent Sonar is pretty exceptional because it makes it easy for hiring teams to truly focus on what is needed for each role and then act quickly to fill it. First, hiring teams select the right skills and values; then, they prioritize those. Next, Talent Sonar makes it possible to focus on what matters in the resume instead of being distracted by someone’s gender or alma mater. Finally, your hiring teams can set up and conduct professional, structured interviews in record time. The bottom line is that when you focus on best practices, you will hire faster and better.

LM: Skilled women and minorities are available. The key is to attract them to your company, but how?

EO: They are available! Anyone concerned about the so-called “skills gap” at their company needs to know this fact. Next, develop a plan to attract skilled women and minorities. There are several approaches that have been shown to work: for example, starting a hiring task force with a cross-section of people from your company and targeted college recruitment programs.

One very scalable approach that has shown excellent results is improving your job descriptions. Research finds that really subtle language can turn women and minorities off from applying to a job because they don’t think they’ll fit into the culture. That’s an easy fix thanks to technology. Talent Sonar will highlight those problematic words in real-time and suggest alternatives. A five minute effort results in a 25% increase in female applicants, on average. That seems like a no-brainer to me.

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LM: What are some examples you’ve seen of companies addressing the skills shortage today in the right way/wrong way?

EO: The wrong way to address the skills shortage is just to throw more money at traditional candidate sourcing efforts or try to lure people in with higher salaries.  With those tactics, you’re just overpaying to reach the same exact type of candidates.

Instead, companies that have broadened their outreach to untapped talent pools are seeing the best results. Does the position you want to fill really require a Bachelor’s degree, for example? Or will several years of experience in the industry work just as well? Hiring teams need to be clear about the skills and values that are really required for a role.

You also need to ask: Are you reaching all possible talent pools? Tech is one of those industries where people complain about a skills gap all the time. But Tech companies are only attracting 16% of Black computer science graduates, compared to 40% of Asian graduates, for example. Are your job descriptions inadvertently turning qualified applicants away? If they are, you can fix that.

LM: Hiring teams that use inclusive job descriptions report an average decrease in time to hire of 16 days. To what do you attribute that incredible return on efficiency?

EO: At first it sounds almost unbelievable, right? But when you think about it, if you improve job descriptions to be more appealing to a wide range of candidates, you’re 1) going to get more candidates applying and 2) you’re going to get the right candidates applying. Job descriptions that are inclusive tend to be free of silly jargon and corporate cliches. They are better at explaining both what the role requires and what the company’s values are. In fact, the Talent Board’s 2017 Candidate Experience Survey found that the #1 type of marketing content candidate’s find useful before applying is learning about a company’s values. So when you have the right ingredients in a job description, you’re going to decrease time-to-hire.

LM: After a job posting is made using an inclusive job description, what should happen when the resumes begin to come in?

EO: I think resume review is where so many hiring teams fall down. It’s understandable: technology makes it easy to apply to a job these days, so hiring teams are under enormous pressure to whittle down the candidate pool quickly. That often leads to “pattern-matching”–looking for the exact same candidates that were successful before, or thinking that everyone from Stanford is going to be great.

What works much better in the long-run is developing a structure to your resume review process. First, decide what is actually important for the role: is it a certain kind of experience or skill set? Then actually rate each resume on the categories you selected. Compare the scores and select the best candidates to move forward. You could do this in Excel. Or you could use Talent Sonar, which makes it really quick to do and has the added bonus of removing unnecessary information from resumes, like a candidate’s name. The important thing is to be able to really compare resumes quickly but systematically. Otherwise, your team is just guessing.

LM: How is Talent Sonar different from other systems out there that do something similar? Better? Why would our potential customer welcome process change and invest in using the software?

EO: Talent Sonar is the only system I’ve ever seen that improves every part of the hiring process. And I’ve seen a lot of systems over the years! There are tools that do one thing well: maybe just job descriptions or just candidate assessments. But to truly improve hiring in a longterm way, you can’t just keep trying one-off solutions. That’s time consuming and expensive. You have to commit to a real strategic change in the way that you hire. Better hiring will impact your recruiters, hiring managers, and interviewers so, yes, it will require process change investment. But can you afford to be missing out on major talent pools? Can you afford to keep having un-trained interviewers going into important interviews with no preparation? Can you afford to keep making bad hires? I know companies that are serious about hiring as a competitive advantage will see that the upfront investment is well worth it.

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LM: Can a company afford not to address the skills shortage in 2018 and make hiring best practices part of their hiring process?

EO: No! The job market is getting tighter and tighter. Competition for talent will continue to get intense. What company is going to succeed in this environment? The company that keeps doing the same old thing or the company that wows candidates with job descriptions that speak to them and provides a relevant, seamless interview experience? The answer is clear. It’s just a matter of leadership and will to change.

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