SmartRecruiters Hiring Success Journal

Webinar Preview: Interrogate Your Hiring Process

Webinar Preview: Interrogate your hiring process

A software expert gives us a preview of the upcoming webinar ‘The Impact of Recruiting Technologies: Now and in the Future’ with the most effective tools for identifying and combatting negative bias.

An engineer by trade, Alistair Shepherd studies systems until he understands them enough to build them better. The human system interests him most, which is why five years and seven months ago he started his own company, to create software that optimizes team building and collaboration.

London-based Saberr is a lean crew of HR experts helping over 1,000 companies in 49 countries to hire and manage teams. As the founder, Alistair laughs easily and is always asking himself questions: Where are my weaknesses? Where are my strengths? Am I being authentic?

His favorite word seems to be “interrogate”, but not in a two-way mirror police station sort of a way. He uses it more reflectively: interrogating systems of hiring, interrogating methods of collaboration, and interrogating himself.

We get a chance to share in what he’s learned through all this interrogating like bias can be good, or that a high-status university doesn’t necessarily mean a candidate’s right for the job.

Bias and recruiting, what’s the first thing we need to know?

Hiring is a process of bias towards skill and experience. We hire a candidate based on their probability of success. We determine this probability based on a checklist. You know what you’re looking for, whether it’s a list of skills or a list of qualities, you have certain things you think are important for whatever position. Where we run into trouble is when we include things in the list that aren’t relevant to a person’s probability of success. That’s negative bias, and the scary part is, most people don’t even realize when they do it.

If negative bias is often perpetrated unconsciously, how do we check ourselves?

When data is a central part of your recruiting process you can make transparent and understandable measurements of a candidate’s qualities. This becomes especially important when considering cultural fit,  an area where it’s really easy for bias to sneak in. When there are metrics about a candidate’s values or work style it becomes harder to spin a negatively bias decision to yourself or others.

One phrase I hear a lot from recruiters is that “they just know” who will work for a certain role, and that can be true, but I would encourage that person to put it to paper. Make a list of those things they “just know” and see if that list really holds true to how they judge candidates. Step outside yourself. It’s the best place to start.

Can you really use metrics to assess cultural fit?

Yes! You absolutely can. The problem is most people don’t know how. I’m going to go in-depth on this subject during the webinar next week so suffice to say for now that it both can be measured and codified and it should be measured and codified.

Tell us about building your team from scratch at Saberr.

As the founder, I ended up hiring everyone, including the CEO. What I had to do was really interrogate myself on, well, myself. What supplement did I need? What qualities would compliment me? It was a giant process of figuring out where I’m lacking.

Who was your most memorable hire?

Definitely Tom Marsdon, our CEO. Here I am interviewing someone who’s 15 years older than me with such a wealth of experience.The importance of this hire really can’t be overstated because I would be relinquishing so much responsibility to him. It’s daunting to give away so much control of the enterprise you created.

How do you get over the fear of letting go?

Sometimes you walk into a meeting with a particular idea of how something needs to be done. The idea of using another method is scary because what you want to accomplish is extremely specific but once you realize that you and your team are on the same page as far as goals, the differences in approach become interesting instead threatening.

What did you do wrong in hiring?

My weakness is to oversell things. I was in pitch mode, just talking up my company to whoever would listen. I’ve learned to let our work speak for itself. It’s great to be enthusiastic, but tempering that excitement in order to give an authentic view of the company is important.

Are CVs still relevant?

CV’s are one useful data point amongst many to evaluate when hiring someone. They are helpful for understanding the depth and breadth of experience. What they do not tell us is the quality of a person’s skills. And what they can do is distract an interviewer with irrelevant information like hobbies, university, or grades which aren’t usually indicative of future performance.  

What’s a good indicator that someone will be a successful hire?

For me, shared work values are the best indicator towards positive work performance. Find out what motivates them and see if that fits in with your team.

I like to ask people to describe an ideal work environment. I push to get specifics. If they simply say collaborative it’s not good enough. I need to know if the way they work will be what they get out of the job. I don’t want to lead someone into a job where I know they won’t be happy.

What do you want people to take from your webinar next week?

The point about using cultural fit as a data point that can be measured is extremely important. When you put in the work to codify your culture and values than you can interrogate it and questions whether it is good or bad. It’s a test and that’s good.

I also am a champion of incremental change. Most teams approach Saberr with ‘let’s turn this bus around’ mentality. Rarely does someone think ‘ everything is perfect we just need to do more of the same.’

Taking one team at your company, identifying what is right and building on those positives can make all the difference.

Tune in November 29th at 3 pm GMT for more thoughts from Alistair as well as other experts.

Kaya Payseno

Kaya Payseno