The Hidden Job Market
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As VP of People & Culture, above everything, my role is to hire the right people with the right skills that will seamlessly fit into our unique firm culture. As much as I love job postings, I attribute much of our firm’s success to the ‘hidden job market’ – or in other words, referrals and networking.
I take internal HR referrals very seriously, as I aim to continue to champion our firm’s leading IR program. Instinctually, our employees are motivated to refer folks that actually get hired as ultimately the referrer wants the referee to greatly represent them. Historically, internal referrals have proven to be excellent culture fits within our team – and can actually create measurable improvement for our business. Beyond our referral program, I absolutely love LinkedIn. I happen to be very active on the platform. In fact, I’ve personally met, interviewed and hired great candidates that I had never met before LinkedIn. I’m an open networker on LinkedIn and personally enjoy persistent candidates that actually reach out, are inquisitive and request to meet for coffee and/or phone chats. Given my commitment to diversity and inclusiveness, I strongly believe that I greatly benefit from being open and meeting as many people as possible. Other HR leaders might view this differently and prefer to keep a narrower online reach – but I’ve found that sometimes that tends to structure your candidate pool as rather saturated and one-dimensional. For prospective candidates, I couldn’t stress more the importance of networking and meeting many prospective employers face to face to best showcase your potential fit.
Roughly half of our job listings are never posted online – and are directly filled through the ‘hidden job market’. As much as I love job boards, it doesn’t always lead to candidates that have the right mix of technical and soft skills for the role. Technical skills, education and work experience are all incredibly important – but I would argue even less important than fit. While ‘fit’ itself has different definitions to different people - I personally define fit in the following four ways: 1) how hard the candidate is willing to work, 2) how well they can hold a conversation, 3) how well can they work with co-workers of all seniority levels and 4) how well can they over-achieve on their assigned work load. As a people person, I’ve been quite successful in assessing candidates for this important quality during phone and in-person interviews, but we’ve also began leveraging tools to make data-driven decisions and assessing candidate-culture fit very early on in the process.
The Important Part of Any Job Listings
I’ve found that it’s incredibly important to use the correct diction in your job
descriptions - those that best represent and describe your company culture. It should
really speak to your culture, preferred employee competencies and firm values.
Having said that, even if I do post the listing on a job board, it’s very rare that I would exclusively rely on the incoming candidate pool from any one job board. Rather, I will almost always send the job listing to my network of HR leaders, candidate influencers and colleagues. I’m very fortunate to have a strong community of HR professionals and support from talent marketplaces that introduce me to passive candidate that ordinarily would not be applying for jobs on job boards. Given I meet so many candidates, the process is inherently reciprocal.
Define the Importance of Candidate Humility
I would attribute many successful candidate hires to finding individuals with the right amount of humility. I think humility and humble leadership – servant leadership – breeds great culture. To be quite frank, based on recent events over the last decade, it’s becoming one of the most important candidate qualities that should be at the forefront of the recruitment process for every HR leader. One of the best examples of such leadership is Warren Buffet and his approach to culture and leadership at Berkshire Hathaway.
If you don’t believe me, read the Harvard Business Review (or any other leading publication), it seems like every other HR article highlights the importance of humility. It’s no longer about policies and just adhering to processes - it’s much more than that. Because of this, HR has taken a much more active voice in many historical non-pure HR functions – including partnering with senior executive leadership, finance and product teams to hire and build a truly humble team.
Mind you, it’s also an incredibly difficult quality to assess in a stranger. Over the span of my career, I’ve become very attuned to, as well as accurate in assessing humility by asking the right questions – including questions like: ‘tell me about a time when you had a great failure’ and what happened, and ‘how did you deal with it.’ I then listen very closely to watch the candidate’s body language, voice cadence and overall attitude as they answer the question(s). Often the wrong answer will include something like: ‘I made mistake XYZ, but I moved on from it.’ For the most part, that can be great but it’s not the strongest example of showcasing that you have humility. Some of the best answers might include: ‘I was the VP of Finance and I was leading a large team of 18 Senior Accountants and Auditors and we failed XYZ project. As humiliating as it was, I stood up and apologized to my team – it was very hard, but it was also incredibly empowering.’ In short, it’s really how the answer is conveyed; you can see it their eyes, and hear it in their voices. I can confidently say that candidates who can honestly admit failures and improve from these failures tend to be the very best hires.