How we improved our “dating game” to find new recruits

How we improved our “dating game” to find new recruits

The people in my team have rather specialized skills: they need exceptional intuition and empathy, accomplished interviewing and listening skills, and a quality-based work ethic. This has made recruiting a challenge, and we’ve discovered many mismatched hatchlings in our nest throughout the years. Were our processes and thinking dated? I wondered.

That’s why one of my quests last year was: How do I attract and choose the right qualitative CX interviewers? I woke up with a plan one morning: Let’s ask prospective candidates to do the work themselves – by assessing themselves and each other in a workshop at the beginning of the recruiting process, almost like speed dating. We listed all our requirements in an online job posting and waited for applications.

We had reasonable success with our first experiential selection process, but there were also many learnings. I knew we were doing something right when I read Tony Hsieh’s book Delivering Happiness. They also used a “speed dating” recruitment-style during their quick expansion phase. When we needed to grow our team again, I was ready to explore an even better way.

Here is how we enhanced our recruitment journey for version 2.0.

Lesson 1 from our first recruiting experiment: Limit distractions

Although the informal setting created a familiar, ‘at home’ feeling that reduced the candidates’ anxiety, the noise level in the coffee shop distracted from the conversations. The sunny winter’s day was also unfortunately exceptionally cold. Most participants sat outside because the shop was busy, and they felt that their focus often moved away from the interview in an effort to stay warm.

How we made the lesson work for us:

We choose a co-working space where we could be relaxed and comfortable but also keep the context professional.

Lesson 2 from our first recruiting experiment: Delve deeper into CV content

We provided the list of skills beforehand; however, we found that few candidates understood the level of proficiency required for each skill (sharply contrasting with their CVs). Only two candidates felt they were proficient (not masterful) in one or two skills of the assessment skills.

How we made the lesson work for us:

As an icebreaker, we did an exercise on an active-listening – a key requirement for CX interviewers. By observing them, we could spot discrepancies between their CVs and reality from the get-go.

Lesson 3 from our first recruiting experiment: Understand how it’s easier said than done

Showcasing their skills was harder than participants thought – it’s one thing to tell a prospective employer how proficient you are, but its altogether another to demonstrate it.

How we made the lesson work for us:

We had the candidates conduct actual telephonic interviews with our team. This more closely mirrored the actual work they would be doing. The candidates also seemed less out-of-sorts because the outcomes were much clearer.

Lesson 4 from our first recruiting experiment: Allow for inflated or depreciated egos

We found a significant gap between how candidates saw their own capability and proficiency and how others assessed them. While most believed they we competent themselves, their peers (and our team) did not share their views.

How we made the lesson work for us:

Given that personal bias is ever-present and that the process’ inherently competitive nature affected realistic self-assessment, we omitted this component. Instead, we only relied on our own team’s feedback as they 1) had not seen the candidate before, 2) had had no prior knowledge of their CV or background 3) could objectively assess the interviewer’s skills and approach.

Lesson 5 from our first recruiting experiment: Keep it close to the real thing

Although pairs assessed each other’s face-to-face interviewing skills, our business’ primary channel of CX interviewing is telephonic. This was a major shortcoming, because telephonic interviews require additional layers of proficiency, e.g.
• the ability to hold a conversational space despite the device barrier
• the ability to ‘read‘ non-verbal cues
• the ability to connect with credibility very early in the conversation
• a strong voice and clear questioning techniques.
We realized that the recruitment assessment should mirror on-the-job actions as close as possible.

How we made the lesson work for us:

This time around candidates interviewed members of our own team telephonically, and they were each given a framework. Our team were given a set of criteria and the assessments were done online in real-time. This gave us a clearer view of their real interviewing capabilities as opposed to their perception of their own skills.

Overall, the quality of the candidates at our second experiential selection day was the best to date. Most passed our assessments, which proved that we had developed a far more robust process.

Our strategy in a nutshell

Clearly communicate your non-negotiables

If candidates are required to have access to a car, or hold a degree, we asked the candidates to confirm it. Candidates often apply for multiple jobs, and by the time a prospective employer contacts them, they might have forgotten the criteria.

While access to a car might have been clearly stated in your ad, the candidate could have applied without noticing the requirement (or might have applied nevertheless). To avoid wasting each other’s time when an interview is scheduled, ask them for confirmation.

We were therefore very clear and upfront about the context of the position. Our online ‘event confirmation’ required the candidates to verify the non-negotiable requirements. This meant we knew all the participants were aware of the requirements and that they met them.

Assess on actual job tasks

After our first initiative we reconsidered how we tested the candidates’ actual skills against the skills claimed. We decided to emulate their actual job task as realistically as possible.

Create a background story

We invented a background story for the interviews: the candidates had to interview a “customer” (a member of our team), about their experience with a brand. They were all given the same instructions and scenario.

We also briefed our team members on the same background story; however, they could prepare their own unique reaction (based on how they personally felt about the scenario). They therefore augmented the interview with a story that were ‘real’ to them, making the interaction more authentic.

We based our internal assessment tool on what we believe the ideal candidate’s attitude and abilities should be. Even though we provide extensive internal training, we all agreed that our interviewers should have the inherent ability to connect with people.

Therefore, during the interview, we need to see the candidates be naturally curious, listen actively, and adeptly facilitate the conversation as a researcher. Although these skills could be developed, it would unfortunately require too much input from us as employers.

Involve your team

Who better to spot an excellent interviewer, than someone who does it every day? We have an extremely proficient team of interviewers, made so through years of experience, consistent coaching and regular quality assessments.

Because they have mastered their skills by navigating their way through different personalities over the years, they can accurately assess if the candidate is “holding the space”, or properly building rapport, by really (actively) listening.

The final two stages of our recruitment journey will commence after the current national lockdown.

Our next step is to invite a selection of the candidates to our training programme. To be considered, they must pass an open-book online assessment. This is to make sure they are familiar with our client’s brand and our interviewing style.

Our training programme has been adjusted so that they can prepare remotely, and includes videos, slide decks and online interviewer manuals. The entire focus of the training is to embed the skills through a very practical approach.

The second, and final, step entails an assessment of competence; and successful candidates will be asked to join our team. Trainees who do not master the skills and are not offered employment, will receive payment for the time they invested.

We are excited to see how the redesign of our selection journey pays off.

Ask us at The Consumer Psychology Lab, a customer experience consultancy, to partner with you on your quest to become more customer-centric and design your voice of the customer programme with insights derived from real stories. We are passionate about customer experience, and skilled in CX qualitative reviews.

SHARING HASHTAGS: #qualitativeresearch #cx #interviewing #research #emotions #skills

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