May 18, 2021

Vetting on Skill & Cultural Fit (Not Salary History)


Partner at Hirewell. #3 Ranked Sarcastic Commenter on LinkedIn.

Episode Highlights

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Hirewell partner James Hornick, talks with Hirewell Senior Recruiter and Account Manager Ryan Brown about the hiring and recruiting environment now that the Illinois No Salary History Law is in effect. We’re in favor of the law because it’s good for candidates and reduces salary inequalities that can chase people for their entire careers. But because we now have one less metric to factor into the hiring process, we all have to get better at what we do and hone our hiring game. This may not be easy for those of you doing this on your own. 

Fortunately, you have this episode of the podcast at your service.

This conversation focuses on the importance of knowing what you’re hiring for. For example, is it an executional or leadership position? Do you work in a structured or unstructured environment? Are you looking at hard versus soft requirements, and are the hard requirements truly hard requirements at all? James and Ryan also discuss how to vet candidates and which questions to ask. 

This is a great conversation and we’re excited to share it with you.     

Related Blog Posts

Employers Can No Longer Ask You How Much You Make. Here’s What That Means for Your Job Search
Illinois Bans Employers from Asking Job Seekers About Their Salary History. Here’s What that Means for Your Company

Partner at Hirewell. #3 Ranked Sarcastic Commenter on LinkedIn.

Episode Transcript

So welcome to episode nine of the Hirewell recruiting insights podcast. I’m your host James Hornick a partner at Hirewell. Joining me this week is my colleague Ryan Brown. She’s one of our senior leaders on the HR recruiting team a lot of you might know her. This week’s actually kind of a- it’s an interesting topic for us.


 Long story short, we’re going to discuss things that will make you better at recruiting. And I guess that’s always kind of the goal of all of our podcasts, but specifically we’re going to talk about some more tactical things. I’m evaluating candidates mainly because I’m moving beyond salary history.


So the no salary history law, Illinois was passed fairly recently and just took effect and it’s really caused a paradigm shift in recruiting. So we’re not going to get into the specifics of the no salary history of law. I think I’ve talked about that a ton.  I wrote a blog post on it, but I guess the quick snapshot is we’re very much in favor of the law.


 I think it was very much important in terms of reducing from the candidate side, reducing salary inequalities. There is definitely a phenomenon where people were biased against or underpaid or whatever in their previous job. If you’re asking salary history questions, those inequities are rolled forward and frankly can chase you around the rest of your career if that’s the way if that’s being allowed.


So we’re glad that that’s gone. But that being said from the other side, from a recruiting standpoint, and I don’t know if you’ve seen this a lot yet, but I’ve talked to a lot of people that I don’t want to say are frustrated, but it’s made their job harder. It’s one more data point that you just don’t have


and I think from a recruitment standpoint just to kind of put into perspective, it did have value it just it wasn’t always fair, which is why it’s gone. But you could tell a lot if you weren’t a full-time recruiter and weren’t very experienced if you knew, or someone worked and how much they were making.


So. The most extreme example, just to put into perspective. If you know, there was a software engineer who worked at Google and they made 150K or something like that. You knew one they’re really good because they worked at Google because they only hired good people. And 150K you knew they were pretty high up in terms of the grand scheme of the devculture there.


So with that gone it’s now not as- I would say even for experienced recruiters, people who didn’t need that level, like are more advanced in their game. No better ways of kind of vetting people. It was still a good verification point. So if you were talking to somebody in any digital HR, whatever kind of concept, whatever area, and you are able to make an assessment how skilled they were


 if a lot of times you would find out their salaries, right, where you thought it’d be, because your assessment was pretty spot on. But every once in a while there was someone who was either way higher, way lower than you expected which could mean they’re out of whack or it means your assessment was just way off.


 And so for that standpoint now that you no longer have that data point available, you need to make sure you get better. Even if you’re experiencing to make sure you know what you’re doing and it can hone your game that way you’re doing the best evaluations possible. So one thing that is not talked about very much I don’t have really anyone say this is that


it’s really skewed the playing field as well, too. So companies with experienced recruiters, and this is both internal and external. So external recruitment firms like ours, who have very skilled recruiters and internal firms who have very senior recruiting staff, this law was really good for them because the harder it is for everybody, the people who are more experienced, the more benefited them. The people that makes it definitely harder for are the people who are doing it on their own people who maybe have an HR person who does recruiting some of the time


and it’s not their primary job, or people who maybe have a very junior recruiting staff. And really this podcast, this LinkedIn live is dedicated towards those people because Ryan and I want to talk about what you should look at and how you should look at evaluating candidates. Are you ready? I’m ready.


All right. So I talked way too much. So I’m putting you on the spot now. So there are three areas we talked about and kind of doing the prep for this, and first was understand what you’re hiring for. Right? So within that, there were a few different areas, but Ryan, why don’t you kind of take the lead on this.


Happy to, I could talk for a little while now. So when I think one of the first things you have to really consider when you’re recruiting, whether you’re a senior recruiter or someone that’s just starting out, or like James mentioned an HR team of one, you really have to understand what you’re hiring for.


And I think there’s a couple different areas to really dig into when you’re starting to think about that, that you have to have kind of ironed out before you even start the process. I think one of the first ones that we chatted about was kind of the executional versus leadership and what we mean by that is tactical versus strategic.


And so there’s a couple of things to consider within that as well when you’re starting this to really think about. Is this a new function? Like is this a role that you haven’t had at your company? And before that you’re just starting to build out and if that’s the case you don’t really have a benchmark yet to really understand what the breakdown is going to be between the tactical versus strategic aspects.


And I think you have to really hone in on that with your team and what you’re at least expecting the role to be, and understanding that breakdown before you even start interviewing candidates. That’s where- it’s probably one of the biggest areas where I see people really spin their wheels in terms of trying to recruit and hire is when they’re not exactly sure what the role breakdown is.


And then they spend tons and tons of times talking to people then realize halfway through it they aren’t sure of and what they need to hire for. So absolutely making sure you have that figured out first. Totally. And then I think on the flip side of things, if this is like a replacement hire, right, maybe you’ve had someone that’s moved into a different area within the company or left for whatever reason, you should have some type of a benchmark then to understand what part of this role is tactical,


what part is strategic? You can put it into a percentage that makes things even easier, but I think it gives you a good chance to kind of stop and evaluate too like is this breakdown even accurate, right? Like you might initially have thought the role was going to be 50, 50 maybe it turns out it’s more 60, 40, or whatever.


It gives you a good kind of pause to understand where the breakdown really is. And why did the last person in the role leave. Was it because their skillset or their expectations weren’t in line with what you had or did the job itself actually change from what it was when they first came aboard and do need to reevaluate


when you make the replacement hire. Yeah, totally. Okay. I think in addition to those understanding whether or not an environment is structured or unstructured, and I think sometimes people make the assumption that this is like a big versus a small company culture. Right. And that’s not always the case, but I think it’s one of those things you have to really think about it,


I think a good example to consider is a lot of startup organizations are more of an unstructured environment. So someone has to kind of thrive in that ambiguity and be able to kind of navigate those difficult areas where things aren’t really ironed out the processes aren’t in place yet.


 I think at the same time also thinking about larger companies those are more structured environments they might be more matrix like considering those components before you start the hiring processes. It’s also important.  Kind of adding on to that is just because someone comes from a structured environment and you’re an unstructured environment


doesn’t mean they’re not a fit because a lot of times we see candidates that actually what they want. So it’s more just awareness of what environment do you have making sure you’re kind of locked in on that. And if you are in a smaller unstructured environment, and you’re talking to someone that comes from maybe a large organization and it’s much more structured at least have that conversation and try to understand it what it is they’re looking for that way


 they may be that perfect fit because maybe this exactly what they want, but maybe it’s not and you have to make sure that you kind of understand that as part of your process. Totally. I think to even go a little bit further off of that there are some times where you might be in an overly structured environment, right?


Like we see that a lot with larger companies, but certain divisions or teams could be unstructured. Maybe it’s a new division, a new team, and you’re still building things out. You need someone that understands that. AndI think it’s really essential for the person that’s going to be doing the interviewing


to know those kinds of nuances as well. Yeah. We see that a lot with maybe older legacy organizations that are doing some sort of digital transformation or technology transformation where they’re building out a new product line. So there a lot of the organization might be very regimen and structured, but maybe this new area, new division is very much run like a smaller, more agile start-up type division so. Totally, totally. And then hard requirements versus soft requirements and there is a difference between those two. A hard requirement would be defined as something that is essential to be able to perform the day-to-day functions of the job, right. A soft requirement is something that’s more nice to have and it’s a bonus


it might propel someone to be a bit better in the role. But on top of that, I think when people start kind of the hiring process they’re putting a lot on the table in terms of this would be the ideal candidate. And I think when you’re in this process you have to be really honest with yourself and with the hiring managers and with your team to think about is this really a hard requirement or is it a nice to have because if you have too much on the table it sometimes becomes really hard to fill a role.


Absolutely. And I think that also kind of dovetails to like the second thing we want to talk about here is vetting candidates without knowing their skill sets. So it’s really hard what we’re talking about with understanding hard requirements versus soft requirements is really hard to do. If it’s a brand new skill set, if it’s something that you yourself haven’t done before, you may be trying to envision what you need in this role.


And I think. Anybody who’s been in business has seen maybe you’ve taken on a job like this. Maybe you hired for someone like this and you realize a lot of the stuff you thought was important, really wasn’t and vice versa, the roles when they come into actuality, a lot of times different than what you need.


 So, but kind of getting into the next phase of this is vetting candidates. Now I guess I want to say that this is more of a- I don’t want to say technical cause we at Hirewell we work in a lot of different areas of recruiting, but more in terms of the skill evaluation.


So on the tech side, this will be technical and digital marketing, HR, it’s kind of getting into the specifics of what people actually do. One thing you need to do if you are in that situation where this is not your job,  if your recruiters, can be if you’re a hiring manager, if you’re a business owner, but you’re hiring something that’s new to you is that you need to make yourself an expert


and whoever is having these frontline conversations with candidates that, you know, have a skill that they don’t know then personally do the best you can to educate yourself. You just need to frankly need to know enough to be dangerous, but if it’s some sort of functional role, like a marketing role or some sort of business role, make sure you’re able to wrap your head around what the business objectives are


that way you’re able to talk with people/ candidates knowledgeably. First about what you’re doing, then also understanding what they’re getting into. And this really kind of applies to everything, whether it’s an HR, finance and accounting and whatnot. So and also I would say getting past that the core aspects of the job-


actually I’m kind of fumbling through this you want to pick this one? I think I kind of go a bit further on, on what you’re saying, James, this is a really good opportunity to not only lean on kind of your internal colleagues or those subject matter experts that might be in those specific divisions or even leveraging outside recruiters like Hirewell we are really good partners in those specific areas because that’s all we do all the time.


 So I think when you’re betting a candidate without skillset knowledge, you really have to build that baseline knowledge to like James said at least be dangerous. And I think when you’re utilizing those internal subject matter experts or the hiring manager or your partners here at Hirewell, even having like initial conversations after you’ve chatted through a job to be like, “Hey am I really understanding this 


is this going to sound like I know what I’m talking about”. And kind of practicing your way through that before you even begin having conversations with candidates. What questions would you ask? So actually getting into this in terms of if you’re trying to understand someone’s skill and this is a first-line conversation, a phone call, or maybe a first interview.


And you’re just trying to get a gauge for how deep they are in a certain area. What would you go with? I think one of the first questions I asked most candidates I’m talking to are what are the core aspects of your job? And that gives me a really solid understanding most of the time of where someone is, where they’re spending the majority of their time in terms of that breakdown on a day to day basis.


And then to even go a bit further on that, like what are you best? After someone shares that like what are the areas that you really focus in on? Where are you spending the majority of your time?  And that I think gives you a really good idea of where someone is coming from in that sense.


And to take things even a step further from that, it also gives you a good sense of like being able to align things with the critical needs for the job, right? Like when someone’s sharing something with you without you probing them” Hey,  is this a part of the role that you’re focusing on?” It gives you a good idea.


If they’re talking about something that’s completely left field compared to what you need, it gives you a good idea that they’re just not focused on what it is that you need. Yeah, absolutely. Okay. What else do you have any other questions? Yeah, a ton  so how do you define success? I think that’s always an important question to ask candidates because people define that differently, especially in professional settings.


 So I always ask that first and then to kind of dovetail off of that a bit more it’s like, how would you describe the top one or two things that you’ve been most successful at? And I think that gives a good chance for a candidate to share their wins and losses. And are they able to kind of articulate that story and does it align with the things that they’re focusing on in their role?


So I think that these are all very kind of open-ended questions, which is key when you get someone talking you, whatever it is that they’re talking about. Typically if you have a job where you’ve got multiple types of needs, making sure whatever aspect they’re gravitating towards and whatever things they want to go deep on is within the realm of what you need to hire for.


Yeah. Job history. Yeah, this is a big one. I think there’s a lot of gray areas when you’re talking about job history. I think first and foremost you really want to understand why people have made the changes they’ve made in their career, right. And I think a natural instinct for most recruiters is to see someone that


has longevity, that’s made moves in their career where they’re probably being promoted and things like that taking on additional responsibility. But just like with anything in terms of answers and talking with candidates, there’s always a gray area. We’ve talked and some good detail about some of those examples and where the traditional sense of job history and why people have made moves


 don’t always have to be that kind of black and white vision that you have. Yeah, I think that the key thing is too is dovetailing into like another part of the discussion when a half here, you’re also trying to evaluate people in terms of their personality and we actually put some time into thinking about how we can tell an audience of basically everybody with all different companies.


When you’re talking about personality and culture fit it’s always going to come down to your organization specifically and every organization is gonna be different. So there’s not necessarily,  a recommendation we can make on what personality or culture fit. I had to find that to something you very much need to come up with on your own.


There are certain things I think that every company wants. Everyone wants people who are transparent, everyone wants people who are self-aware, everyone wants people who are kind everyone’s people who are good communicators. Digging into once you’ve evaluated your own organization, understanding who’s going to be a good fit and what type of candidate you’re looking for.


The motivation, the point is really what it comes down to and what really drives somebody. And I think that’s where understanding where these job changes are, why they made them, you know, where they money motivated, did the project come to an end and they no longer- there was nothing interesting for them to do anymore,


 did they want to take on broader responsibility? Like these are the types of things you want to definitely key in on and understanding different reasons why people may move us with throughout their career and then doing an evaluation to see if- how that lines up with what you have to offer.


Totally. Yeah. Anything else you wanted to cover? I think one of the other things that we didn’t get a chance to touch base on yet is a question about understanding where someone sits in an organization to. Sure. This can be really key as well because every organization is structured differently,


some are flat. You also want to dig into is someone an individual contributor, have they managed people in the past? And then like we mentioned these are really open-ended questions and a lot of senses. And I think letting the candidate in some sense kind of drive those conversations really gives you an opportunity to answer a lot of these without having to ask super specific questions, gives you a good idea of their motivators, what they’ve done, and you know why they’re looking to make a move.


I think in terms of takeaways,I think it’s summing all that up there was a lot we kind of threw at you there. And if, if some, like, for some of you, I’m sure this is all stuff you know commonly, but our hope is that that some of you who are like know, taking on some hiring challenges like this on your own.


 You are going to get some value out of the stuff we talked about. So hit us up any time. The most important thing I think is making sure that you’ve take the ownership of giving yourself or finding the domain knowledge, talk to other people in your organization. If you’re hiring for accountants, if you’re hiring for HR people, if you’re hiring for digital marketers whatever it is, If it’s not your area, making sure you bring yourself up to speed


because the other side of knowing how to vet people to understand they’re a fit  for your company is building credibility and there’s no way you can do that if Pretty much everyone you’ll be hiring for probably is getting calls from other people. And if you don’t present yourself as being knowledgeable or having taken the time to really understand what it is they do you’re definitely shooting yourself in the foot.


So that’s the one I think definitely has kind of two aspects of it. One is making sure you know, how to evaluate people, but two making sure you establish credibility. So they realize, you know what you’re doing and you’ve done your due diligence and you really understand their skillset. So I agreed.




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