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The Best Question A Potential Hire Could Ask During an Interview

We've all been in an interview before, and we've all heard the standard list of questions. After working with DRYVER for a couple of years, I've seen a lot of questions and asked even more about the recruiting process.

While speaking about the future of work around the world though, I realized quickly that the job description isn't really a description of the job at all. It is merely a skills and requirements checklist, offering very little understanding about the environment and cultural 'fit' of the job.

And so, when we look at the typical job description, we often wonder why there isn’t anything on it about the people they are going to be working with, how conflicts are mitigated, and what employees like to do in their spare time.

Although it might seem a little odd to consider talking about employee's favorite activities outside of work, we have to remember that in many cases today, the skills required to do the job may not be as significant a differentiator as the culture and the experience while at work.

But during an interview, how do we get a full understanding of what the experience at work is like? Especially in larger companies, how is it that we know what lives employees live both inside and outside of work? Does HR really know the experience of all of the departments and the people in it?

In some cases, maybe not.

A question that we believe is very important in the recruiting process is to ask the recruiter if it is possible to have a 30-minute coffee with an individual who is already in the position. And for employers, offering an opportunity for the potential hire to have a conversation with an existing employee already in that position is a great idea for a few reasons:

  1. They will give authentic responses.
  2. There will be a better sense of trust developed.
  3. The responses will be more accurate, as they will be coming from someone who is living the experience.
  4. They may realize there is a good sense of fit.
  5. They may realize there is no fit at all.

While it seems like understanding there isn’t a fit is a bad thing, it actually saves a lot of time and money. To get a better understanding of not only the job that needs to be done and the skills associated with it, but the people as well, it is very important.

In our findings, we’ve seen that there is an increased need to have a sense of belonging and fit in the work that we are doing. As we know, work isn’t something that is as transactional as it used to be, and we can take it places we wouldn’t have dreamed of even a few years ago—think emails in bed or conference calls in the car. The fact that work is so much ‘bigger’ than it used to be requires us to have a better understanding of what the experience entails. Getting a better idea on what the team dynamic is like, how they work together, and who they are outside of work is an important part in understanding if there is going to be a fit.

It seems to me that everything we have been doing, when it comes to technology and recruiting, is about speeding up and being ‘faster’ and ‘more efficient’ than we’ve been before. But through the work we’ve been doing at DRYVER, and seeing that workplace anxiety is going up, satisfaction is going down, and the need to feel a sense of belonging increasing, taking a few minutes to slow the process down and have a meaningful conversation between current and potential employee during the recruiting process can’t be understated.

Rethinking HR

Moore's Law states that every 18 month, the sophistication of technology doubles as its price halves. Already, the internet has helped put entire industries out of business, with Blockbuster serving as just on example. The PS3, now a household gaming console, was only years before its market launch a $55M United States governmental supercomputer and national defense project. Other routine jobs, in banking, insurance, medicine and law will gradually move in the same direction. Ernest Hemingway famously asked how a person goes bankrupt. The answer? "Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly." This has been the case in many industries, and yet is still hard to imagine the scale of change we will see in the coming years.

It might seem unusual that human resources should consider how technology is transforming fields like medicine and law. And yet, we feel there is danger in failing to grasp advances in machine learning, automation and other forms of technological change taking place in knowledge centres such as Boston, San Francisco, Cambridge, England and Waterloo. In The Second Machine Age, MIT professors Eric Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee (B&M), write that innovation as it happens today is characterized by three key traits: it is a) exponential, b) digital and c) combinatorial.

For those unable to read the book in full, Entrepreneur First CEO Matt Clifford's Huffington Post article entitled "Five Things I Learned from the Second Machine Age" serves as a useful summary. He writes, for instance, that "'Combinatorial innovation means there are more ideas than ever, but finding the good ones is challenging," an important point raised by B&M. But other scenarios are much less optimistic. Responding to B&M's point that once-valuable inputs to production such as "whale oil to horse labour" are no longer needed, even at zero price, he writes as follows: "This is the scary stuff: horse labour plummeted in the first two decades of the 20th century; human labour might in the 21st."

It is not clear whether human labour will plummet in the 21st century, as was the case with horse labour in the century prior. But the possibility alone requires that human resources be considered a strategic function in business. On this front, Canada lags behind the United States and United Kingdom, where competition for talent is fiercer in cities with higher concentrations of people and educational institutions.

A fundamental rethink in human resources is required. When engagement is viewed under the microscope, it is clear that it can’t be viewed as a binary topic. Though employees can be ‘engaged’ or ‘disengaged’, we must look at deeper drivers such as abilities for mentorship, cross-generational communication and opportunities for personal growth - that is, ensuring that a company helps bring a person's "best self" to work as discussed in the work of Boston-based Rhodes Scholar and Advisor on Millennial Women issues, Christie Hunter Arscott.

More importantly, however, the human resources function as it is commonly understood needs to be re-imagined. As several examples of what this entails, we encourage that companies consider the following questions:

  • How does a company think through the relationship between humans and machines?
  • What trends at a global scale are shaping the future of a particular industry? For instance, the electric car company Tesla, as well as startups such as Uber, will shape the automotive industry as we know it - a reality that will affect workplace culture in the traditional oil and gas sector.
  • What skills do employees have that either facilitate or hinder interaction with machines?
  • To what extent do human resources teams consider technological competency when hiring for new employees?
  • How will companies attract and retain employees based less on the prestige, brand or compensation, and more on deeper motivators that contribute to "fit" between the company's shared purpose and individual's values?

The "End of Work" has been trumpeted over the past centuries; however, there is a real possibility that we will transition into a world where machines - with their superior algorithms and sophistication in solving technical problems, in fields as diverse as medicine, law and engineering - will either complement or replace people. This means that traditional human resources will no longer suffice; what will be required are people leaders with experience and appreciation for learning across sectors. Combinatorial innovation, as discussed by Clifford and B&M, will lead to counterintuitive and unexpected changes in industries, and therefore, in the ways in which their people are engaged.

It is for this reason that "HR Leadership at All Levels" is imperative. The companies that relentlessly recruit and develop curious and driven people - with strong endorsement and oversight from senior management - will lead the way in a future where the scale and pace of change are historically unprecedented.

Emerson Csorba and Eric Termuende are Directors and Co-Founders of Gen Y Inc., a workplace culture group focused on the future of work and cross-generational engagement. They speak and write for institutions and companies such as the University of Cambridge, Coca Cola, World Economic Forum, Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism and The Economist.

Why Your Company Needs to Flip Your Recruiting Process on It's Head

Why Your Company Needs To Flip Your Recruiting Process On It's Head

Co-written with Sam Sawchuk

In order to start recruiting the best talent for your company, you need to flip the model on its head.

The job ‘description’. That document we’ve all seen when applying for a job (often while applying for tens of others at the same time) is typically a two-page document that doesn’t really describe the job at all. So often we see this document not describe the job, but simply list the skills and requirements. This de-humanized document usually states that the individual has to be proficient in x, y, and z, should have a certain amount of experience, and certain education requirements.

It's not just you who has seen the breakdown in the effectiveness of recruiting -- the market sees it too. There has been a massive consolidation of the recruiting market - LinkedIn acquired by Microsoft, Workday acquired Identified, and most recently Randstad acquired

Why is this happening? Because employers like you are looking for a way to secure the best talent in the easiest way possible and it starts by giving candidates the ability to tell their story.

In Silicon Valley, one of the world’s most competitive talent markets there has been a surge in recruiting startups over the last few years. Most notably, the San Francisco-based technology, company, HIRED, has flipped the model on it’s head.

HIRED connects the right talent with the right opportunity using a 2-sided approach, where the curated marketplace allows candidates and clients to discover their perfect match more effectively and efficiently. The company is currently focused on sales people, marketers, developers, designers, product managers and data scientists.

HIRED's model allows employers to apply to candidates — and there is an important lesson in this model, as an employer you have to be able to effectively tell the story of your company, it's culture and its people to source the best talent.

Now how can you flip the model? It is essential that an actual description of the job is added in order to get a sense of the values and experiences at work. If we can do this, we can differentiate companies, people, and positions from one another. Here are three things to consider adding to the job description.

  1. Tell a story of someone who is already in the position

Telling stories of who is in the position already and what they like to do both during and outside work is important when getting emotion and feeling across. If work is something we do more than anything else in a day, it is important to know who the new hire is going to be working with and what that experience might look like. Do the hike on the weekend? Travel? Are they die-hard Blackhawks fans? How do they do their work? Where from? How philanthropic and community-centric are they? All of these things will really help understand who is working at the company and what life they are able to live as a result.

2. Articulate what a day in the life of an employee looks like at work

Understanding what a day in the life of an employee is like is great for determining fit. Depending on the working style of the applicant, there simply may not be alignment, and that is ok. Determining this before hiring is far better than after. Are employees expected to work overtime? Weekends? In teams? Meet with their superior often? What is the environment in the office like? Headphones in? No headphones at all? Pet-friendly? Knowing that some people will thrive much more in the environment established and bringing them to the forefront will save countless hours and dollars in the long run.

3. Reverse-engineer the job and give it a new title

What really needs to be done by this new individual when they join the company? Are they really an Analyst, Manager, Executive Assistant, or something else? Consider reverse engineering the job description to really understand what needs to be done and then call the job whatever fits best. The worst thing that can happen is to hire someone based on a traditional job title because it has traditionally sounded good, only to see that the job has evolved and become something that the title no longer supports.

It's time that you flipped the model and told your companies’ story to candidates. The further away we can get from the standard, nearly template job description, the better. Telling stories, understanding employees, and optimizing the workplace environment based on people and fit is how we can proactively create great places to work.

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