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What Candidates Are Looking for in Their Future Employer, with Heenle Turner

Recently on the Human Capital Innovations Podcast, Heenle Turner, HR professional and Vice President of the consulting company All In, had a conversation with Jonathan Westover to discuss how companies can cultivate the best candidates for job openings.

“We all want a players, we all want five star employees. But it's a challenge right now to attract and then it's even more of a challenge to retain them and keep them around and engaged and really highly productive within our teams and within our workforce”. One of the best first steps to take is to “... be very specific in the details of your job posting and be clear about what it is you're looking for in your candidates and what expectations you have for them”. You need to share “... what your core values are and what your expectations are with your hires and with your candidates [to make] sure that we’re a right fit, like, not only for the skill set, but for the mindset as well.” Not doing this almost always results “... with a mismatch unless we just get super lucky”.

Another important aspect to developing job descriptions to find desired candidates is “... to be thoughtful about required versus desired qualifications. We artificially eliminate a huge number of potential people in the candidate pool depending on how we articulate that.” “If something is actually really required, by all means put that down. But if it's not actually required, don't list it.”

There are two main points that you want to avoid when developing a job listing. “You either have this generic posting that doesn't actually fit the current needs, and then you have people that go to the other extreme where it's so detailed, where they have so many requirements, that you're like, what person actually fits this?” You want a happy medium with telling your candidates what is expected of them while still allowing room for growth and creating a variety of options so you can choose the best option for the job. "So keep your distinction there and think about the type of person that you need in the role in terms of where their strengths are and that should be the work that they're doing."

You can listen to the full episode at, or anywhere you listen to your podcasts, just search “HCI Podcast”.

Read the full interview transcript below:

Welcome to the Human Capital innovations Podcast. Hi, thank you for having me. It is a pleasure to be with you. You're joining us from Southern California. I'm south of Salt Lake City in Utah, and today we're going to be talking about hiring practices and really focus in on what candidates are looking for in their future employer. So oftentimes we talk about this from the other angle. We talk about what employers are looking for and what they need. But in a tight labor market, I think it's also very essential that employers understand what the candidates want, what the candidates are looking for, and if they're not getting it. If you don't have a good holistic employee experience in your workplace, starting from the recruitment process, the hiring process and everything, then people will opt out, they'll go somewhere else and they have choice. So we're going to be exploring what candidates are looking for in their future employer and unpack that a bit as we get started. I wanted to share Keenall's Bio with everybody. Kenal Turner is a certified HR professional with a passion for helping businesses succeed. She has provided HR consulting services to more than 200 businesses varying in size and industry. And her experience in sales, customer service, and people management has uniquely positioned her to partner with entrepreneurs and business leaders to recruit and retain a team of their own. Five star employees. And I think that's what we all want. We all want a players, we all want five star employees. But it's a challenge right now to attract and then it's even more of a challenge to retain them and keep them around and engaged and really highly productive within our teams and within our workforce. Anything else that you would like to share with me or my audience by way of your background, your personal context before we dive on into the conversation? No, I think you said it well, and I think we can just jump right in. Okay, so let's start on the employer side. What would you be telling employers right now? What is like the top few pieces of advice that you would give them as they're going through the hiring process? If they're looking to hire great people, two things really come to mind. One is you really, as an employer, you really need to be very specific and intentional with your recruitment process. So be very specific in the details of your job posting and be clear about what it is you're looking for in your candidates and what expectations you have for them. And the goal really should be to attract people who are interested in meeting the requirements that you have. And the more specific and detailed you can be with what you need, the better. So, for example, we recommend using a job posting that includes the key, like three to five key responsibilities, plus what the success metrics are for those responsibilities. So being very specific and intentional with that job posting so that the people who apply for the role get a good understanding of what it is the needs are. And then people who read that job posting and look at that detail and are turned off by it, they're eliminated, they kind of self eliminate out. So that's like one big thing is be very specific. The second thing is really just to paint a good picture of what it is to work in your organization. So that means thinking through and sharing what your core values are and what your expectations are with your hires and with your candidates, about working together and being supportive to each other and how everybody kind of interplays and just making sure that we're a right fit, like, not only for the skill set, but only but for the mindset as well. Yeah, I love both of those and it's implicit in what you're saying. But perhaps if we step back even a little bit as you're trying to think about how to articulate those key components, that requires us to have a really clear understanding of what we need from this new employee that might join our team. And the reality is, what I see over and over and over again in organizations is they have kind of recycled job postings and so they might update them a little bit, but it's essentially kind of the same thing they've used for the last decade with little tweaks and updates along the way. And my question to them is, is this actually serving you and your organization, this version? Or can you start over from scratch sometimes and recreate something that actually is up to date that aligns well with the actual lived experience of employees in that position, working with those teams and what they're expected to do. There's so often a mismatch between what the posting is and says, even when it's detailed, and what the organization or the hiring manager actually needs and wants. And it's because they just don't even take the time to update things and to make sure it's well aligned. So if we want that alignment and we want to make sure we're actually actively seeking out the right people with the right fit, with the right skill sets, competencies and capabilities, that means we need to do our work upfront in terms of job analysis and just understanding what's actually needed before we get to the point of actually recruiting for that position. Otherwise, it's almost inevitable that we're going to end up with a mismatch unless we just get super lucky. Right. And another thing trend that I find with mishires is it does start from that job description and that initial hiring process or recruitment process where you see the person who's interviewing candidates prepping for the interview a few minutes before the person walks in, right. Or, you know, Googling interview questions or Googling things to ask in an interview or Googling, well, what should my job description look like? And it's a very interesting phenomenon because although it may seem like an easy thing to do, it's not really going to find what you're looking for. Right. You're not really looking for the generic, average, most common answer, which is what Google will provide you. You're looking for something more specific to your organization that truly is that perfect match. Yeah, it's just like we tell job seekers that you need to tailor your cover letter and resume to every job. Right. Same thing. Like, if you're an employer and you want to actually hire for good fit, you better not just be randomly Googling and trying to find generic postings or generic interview questions. You better be a little bit more sophisticated than that and be able to tailor specifically to your organization, your context, your needs. That does take more time and more work. And so that's why it often doesn't happen, because people are busy and they're doing a thousand things and, oh, by the way, yes, right now I have an interview I need to do. Okay, I got five minutes. Let me do something real fast. I understand why that happens. The decisions that we make in terms of bringing people onto our team. Those are big, far reaching decisions that cost the company a lot of money and will either help aid in the overall team dynamic and productivity and innovation of your team and bringing value to the market, or it could severely hinder your ability to do that. And so you want to get it as right as possible. It's never going to be perfect all the time, but if you are thoughtful and strategic and planning in advance, that can take a lot of the guesswork out of it, and it can make sure that you have that alignment that you were talking about a few minutes ago, which I agree is so, so important. Something else that I would just say in relation to this is we're thinking about that job analysis step and creating the job description and making sure there's that alignment and clear articulation of what the key metrics are and their key responsibilities. I think it's really important to be thoughtful about required versus desired qualifications. We artificially eliminate a huge number of potential people in the candidate pool depending on how we articulate that. And there's a lot of research on this. So let's take, for example, if we just look at gender bias and we look at gender differences men will tend if they if they see a posting that's interesting to them. Again, this is a generalization, but generally speaking if men see a position that's interesting to them and they check the box on, say, 40% to 50% of the required characteristics or competencies, they'll say, yeah, I'll go ahead and throw my name in the hat and see what happens. Women on average, they need to be able to check the box in 90 plus percent before they even feel like they can apply. And so if something is actually really required, by all means put that down. But if it's not actually required, don't list it. Maybe put it in suggested or recommended qualifications or whatever, but don't require it because we know that that's going to eliminate a lot of potential female applicants. And then if we talk about like, women of color or other diverse populations, they will end up self selecting out before you even get to have the chance to interview them. So if we're trying to cast a broad net and have this big funnel to bring in good people, let's make sure that we're doing what actually makes sense around those requirements. Another one that is kind of my own little pet peeve is it really bugs me when organizations have some arbitrary number of years of experience on a particular competency. Because I'm like, what does that actually mean? I could have five years of crappy experience doing X-Y-Z? That doesn't mean I'm any more capable or qualified than anyone else. It just means I have five years of crappy experience. Whereas you could have someone who has a year of awesome experience, someone who's a self starter, who's a learner, someone who's willing to has passion and energy and is willing to put in the work to do it well. I would, you know, every day of the week, I would rather have that second person than the first person. Yet because of the way we set up our systems, a lot of times we give preference to those other people who actually aren't going to help us succeed. So we need to just be thoughtful about all of that. Yeah. And another thing, like when I'm explaining your sort of when we talk about basic qualifying questions and kind of entry point into sort of the real, like at the pool of consideration, you really have to think about what's the minimum level of level of education or experience necessary. And a big, I think, point of confusion is people or probably a lot of business owners or managers look at the people on their team and they say, okay, well, this person has 15 years of experience, but they've been working for you for ten years, so I need somebody who has 15 years of experience. So for instance and that's just not the case, right? You have to think about what the job is and really understand if you need any experience at all or if anything is trainable, right? Especially when it comes to like, systems. Like you don't need experience using this, this or this. You could probably train somebody in that. So you have to distinguish between what it is you want. And oftentimes people just take something that they found on Google or to your point, something that they used ten years ago and just change the date and be like, oh, here we go. And they wonder why there's no candidates out there. And it's like, Well, I mean, there's candidates, but every job posting is exactly the same. Yeah. Or the other thing happens. So you either have this generic posting that doesn't actually fit the current needs, and then you have people that go to the other extreme where it's so detailed, where they have so many requirements, that you're like, what person actually fits this? This is like the unicorn kind of position that if you think you're actually going to get a decent pool of candidates with all of this long checklist wish list of things that you think the ideal candidate would have, well, guess what? Like, good luck, we're not in fairyland. You're not going to get that person. We have to have a reasonable level of specificity and clarity and alignment around what we need, but also not overly restricting and limiting ourselves in the pool of potential candidates we can get. And all of this gets communicated initially through that job posting. Once we get past that, then you start, hopefully you have a good screening process, a good interviewing process, all of those things, and then eventually a good on boarding process and such. Let's switch the script a little bit now and look at it from the other point of view, from the candidate point of view. Because again, today it's a tight labor market. So potential employees and potential workers, they have more power, they have more voice, they have more options, they can go a lot of places, especially if they're talented and skilled, they have a lot of options. And companies are really fighting over these people who are really great. So what do you see these top candidates? What are they looking for in this future employer? Because just like in an interview process, as an employer, I'm interviewing somebody that might work for me. Hopefully there's a good fit. But on the other side, and I tell my students this all the time, you are interviewing the company just as much as they're interviewing you, and you are looking for a fit also because you don't want to pigeonhole yourself or have your career derail because you end up working for a Crummy boss, for a Crummy organization. So it does go both ways. What types of things do you see candidates really looking for in their future employer? There's two main things that come to mind. One is they're looking for that sense of community, right? So we're all human and we all want to belong and have a community. So we have our home community, right, that we may have a family, a spouse, maybe we have kids and we have a little community that we form there and we have a kind of good trend going with food and adventures and such. And then we have our college friends that we occasionally talk to, but there's this connection there that is kind of a lifelong connection. And now we're looking for our work community and we're looking to have a best friend at work and another community that we're part of. So that's one area where people are, I think are looking for the right people to spend their time with. And I feel like especially now postcovid people had a little bit more experience spending maybe more time with their family and maybe they saw that their community at work wasn't as awesome and maybe not worth being away from their other community. So let's see if we can find something that's a better fit. Let's see if there is something out there that works a little bit better for me. And then the second thing I think they're looking for is they do want to. It's the sudden epiphany that wow, time is limited, time is something I do need to value. Should I really be doing something that I absolutely love? And the truth is, yeah, probably. So they're looking for a little bit more of a better fit. I've had several conversations over the last few weeks where a friend that I know said my boss told me that we may be calling everybody back into the office, it may become a mandatory thing over the next month or so. And he said, okay, well, just full transparency, if that happens I'll be putting in my retirement papers. Because he's like, it's just not worth it. Like driving for 2 hours, Bay Area traffic for what? Really, for what? So a lot of reflection I think has happened over the last few years that has impacted the output of, I think humans in general and it's trickling into the workplace. Yeah. So as you're describing that, what I'm hearing is that candidates are looking for of course, ongoing flexibility in how, when, where they do their work. So whether that's hybrid, remote, in person, whatever everyone's desires and needs are different excuse me, in relation to that. And so they want that kind of flexibility. They also want work that they derive meaning and purpose from. So they don't want to do mindless work. And where people may have, a few years ago even been like OK, I'm willing to pay my dues, I'm willing to do this crummy work, this mindless work, it's soul sucking, but I'll put in my time. The organization will see my commitment to them, my loyalty, I'll be rewarded etc. And that's not playing out. They just kind of keep on getting piled on and especially as there's been a tight labor market and people leaving and you're not able to replace everybody, people's burdens get deeper and heavier and heavier, deeper, deeper and so the burnout gets higher and people are just saying no, this just isn't worth it. I'm not going to endlessly put out more effort, time and energy for an employer that actually has no commitment or loyalty to me. And so they're reevaluating and they're taking stock of what's most important and so they want stuff that's meaningful, that's purposeful that's going to help them develop in their career and they expect that from their employer. And if they're not getting it, they're probably going to leave or at least they're going to recalibrate their effort. That gets into the whole conversation around quite quitting and such. I think it's also just super important to recognize as we think about what candidates are wanting right now, that of course we make generalizations across like age cohorts and there's some insights that come from that. But we also need to just recognize that everyone's different, everyone's an individual. And so we need to have ongoing conversations with our people as leaders. We need to talk with our existing people, have stay interviews, try to understand why they're there, what they need, what they want, so that they hopefully don't leave, so we can support them. That also give us better insight as to what we need to be communicating to potential people who might join our team so that we can enhance the employee experience, so that we can become an employer of choice. So that people, top notch people will want to come to us and word spreads. I mean there are platforms out there, glass door reviews, et cetera. Like there are ways that people share that information. People know the great places to work. They know the crummy places to work. And you better be thinking about that and putting in the time and the effort to make your place a place where people want to be, where they want to stay, where they're going to actually suggest to a friend, hey, come work with me at this place because it's awesome. And you'll actually start to build that reputation, and it will be easier for you to get great people. Candidates want to work in a place like that. They want to work in a place where they get excited to get up in the morning to go to work, to do something really cool, where they feel supported, where they have the resources they need to do cool things. And that's not to say that nobody expects to love everything they do. 24/7 they know that you go to work and they're going to be sometimes you have to do stuff you don't like no one's suggesting that and this is a straw man. I hear people say like oh this entitled younger generation, they just want to have their cake and eat it. Too. Nobody's suggesting that. Everyone knows that there's stuff you're going to have to do in any job that you don't love. But if it's so out of whack where you're doing like 90% of stuff you hate and only like 10% of stuff that is filling and energizing, you're not going to keep that person and the story if you can find ways to redesign the work and balance that out a little bit. So, yeah, people are doing stuff that maybe it's not their favorite, maybe it's not what they love to do, but it needs to get done. Okay. Design work in such a way that those things can happen, but that every day someone has a chance to do energizing activities, soul filling rather than soul sucking activities, so that they get reinvigorated in the work that they're doing. I mean, and you really need to make, I think another, I think another thing to consider, too, is, is the person the right fit for the role? Because somebody who is a math major, actual science major, you know, people who like patterns and numbers, like they can sit and spend all day on a spreadsheet and work through that. And that is invigorating and that is exciting. Not for me, but for some people it is. If you have the wrong person and if you have the right person but they're in the wrong seat, you know, you're going to struggle and it's going to be a mismatch. And to your point, too, you can't overwhelm the person and give somebody who loves numbers and spreadsheets and such and put them on a sales call and be like, oh, you're also going to be responsible for sales. So keep your distinction there and think about the type of person and that you need in the role in terms of where their strengths are and that should be the work that they're doing. And in some cases, if your roles evolve, then you should be doing some type of evaluation to see if there's another area where the person might be a better fit. And if it's not a good fit, then that's okay, too, because I don't think putting somebody completely out of their preference zone is a solution because it's going to inevitably lead to an unsatisfied person. Right? Yeah, absolutely. So ultimately, let's again think about the needs of the individual, have that open communication. And this isn't, I guess, part of what I'm hearing you say, and what I also am trying to reinforce is this isn't a stagnant thing. It's like, okay, we have a job, we have a posting. It's going to be adjusted slightly over time. We're going to hire a person, they're just going to do these things and that's just going to stay the same. That's not the world we live in. Things evolved, things evolve rather rapidly. And so if we're not doing regular analysis and redesign of work and realignment, then we're going to end up with mismatches. Even if the person hired for the position was a perfect match five years ago, that doesn't mean they're a perfect match today or in a year from now. So we need to constantly be thinking about that and the shifting and evolving roles and duties and tasks that people need to perform. And yeah, let's give those people that are data wonks. Let's give them more opportunity to do the data stuff. Those people who are people, people who are salespeople, let's give them the opportunity to do those things while also perhaps reinvesting in our people so that they're getting the reskilling and upskilling attention needed so that they can grow into a shift, you know, perhaps an evolving role or shifting role or new opportunities. I'm an introvert. I'm not a salesperson. I'm passable. Like, I can have those conversations with people. I can do things reasonably well. But I'm never going to be a great salesperson. I know that about myself. I need to be passable, I need to be competent, but I'm never going to be great at it. So let me focus on the areas of my strength to make those even stronger. Let me reinforce the areas of my weakness so that I can at least not be a detractor from other people and then look for alignment. And if you're investing in your people, if you're helping them develop themselves, that's also going to help you bring more meaning and purpose into the work that they're doing. Even if they're doing stuff that maybe they don't love right now because they see that there's going to be future opportunities because of these new skills that they're developing. This is the world of work that we're in. This is the world of work that this is the reality that we have to respond to if we're going to attract and retain really great people. Well, this has just been a great conversation. I know at the time I need to let you go here in just a minute. But before we wrap things up, I wanted to give you a chance to share with the audience how they can connect with you, find out more about your work, and then give us a final word on the topic for today. Sure. So if you would like to contact me, please send me an email and you can add my email to your show notes. You can also text higher rate to four one, one, three, two, one. And that will give you some great resources on all about attracting and recruiting for the best of the best. So just go ahead and check that out. And that was higher, right? The 41132 one. And my last big piece of advice here for those recruiting today is when you ask a question to your candidate, give them time to respond. So try your best not to feed them the answer. Try your best to be comfortable with that awkward silence and let your candidates respond so you can hear what they have to say. I love it. Thank you so much. It's been a real pleasure. I encourage my audience to reach out and get connected, find out more about what you know can do for you. And as always, I hope everyone can stay healthy and safe, that you can find meaning and purpose at work each and every day, and I hope you all have a great week.



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