To Reel in the Very Best Talent, You Need to Work All the Angles
In numerous industries, including my own, companies are in a mad scramble to get hold of the very best talent. In some cases, even entry-level candidates with the right mix of education and motivation seem in short supply. I’ve written before about the importance of developing talent from within one’s own company, but there are certainly plenty of instances when the smart move is to cast a wider net. Even better: fishing in pools your competitors haven’t considered. Or even stocking your own. I’d recommend giving the following a try:
Tap into new territories.
The prevailing wisdom among startups these days is that you can either “grow fast or die slowly.” The difficulty in achieving the former very often comes down to not being able to find the skilled workers needed to propel that growth. That was the situation facing the clients of Andela, a company that supplies businesses with software developers and other in-demand talent. The New York City-based company needed a steady supply of talent, but it wasn’t finding it locally. And so it turned its sights on the untapped potential of job seekers across the globe. More specifically, in Africa. The company recruits eager workers in Nigeria and Kenya, tests them for both high-tech aptitude and softer interpersonal skills, and then trains them in the programming languages and other capabilities clients require. Graduates then work remotely for organizations in the US and elsewhere. In explaining the program to Wired, Andela co-founder Jeremy Johnson noted that while brilliance is relatively evenly distributed across the human population, opportunity isn’t.
Grow your own prospects.
Liz Hall, head of recruitment at Fog Creek Software, faced a situation all too common in the tech world: a dearth of female applicants. What impressed me about her solution is that she didn’t simply try to channel more women toward her own company; she teamed with code academy Flatiron School on a fellowship program that moves high-performing, female Flatiron graduates into mentored fellowships at top companies in the New York City area. Hall’s thinking is that after a few years of experience as software developers, some of these women might apply to work at Fog Creek—or might recommend it to female colleagues or friends. By encouraging the flow of women into the tech world, she’s making it more likely that she’ll be meeting with highly qualified female candidates down the road.
Add the finishing touches.
One of the complaints I hear most frequently from employers is how difficult it is to find candidates with strong analytical skills. (Hence, my advocacy of training in the liberal arts.) At the same time, there’s an absolute glut of analytical PhDs on the market who find themselves unable to gain employment in their chosen fields. A London-based startup, ASI, has stepped into the breach, in essence creating a “finishing school” for PhDs who are lacking some of the non-academic skills that would allow them to transfer over into the business world. The company offers an intensive eight-week post-doctoral fellowship focused on areas such as communication and solving real-world problems. In my view, that’s just the sort of training larger companies should be offering. It’s almost always better to hire based on attitude and potential and then add the requisite skills.
Rethink your “ideal.”
I’ve been a fan of IDEO’s innovation mindset for quite some time, and so I was delighted but not entirely surprised to learn they hired a 90-year-old last year. Who better to advise them on product design for the elderly? That’s just one of many examples of companies looking beyond the expected to find just the right mix of talent to help them grow. SAP and Microsoft are among a growing number of tech companies actively recruiting people on the autism spectrum because of the unique aptitudes they bring to the job. Too often, the subconscious parameters we apply to our hiring decisions are far too narrow.
Think more creatively about the people you’re looking to hire, and you may well find the talent pool is deeper than you realized.