Ruth Penfold-Brown

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I spent most of my career focused on recruitment. Firstly as a consultant working with clients to help them find the right human for the roles they had, and then latterly in-house with Shazam. In that time (ahem, read 18 years haha) I learnt a lot about getting the basics right. 

If you had met the version of me when I first started at Shazam, I would have been a lot more tactical and focused on filling the roles quickly. I learnt through doing that actually, a great hire isn’t always the person that can start the role soonest, a great hire comes from truly selecting the human who is just the right blend of desire and capability for the role. 

Hiring is a human thing, therefore we have to approach it as humans 

If you think about our hierarchy of needs at work, there are three things that really matter to us that need to be there. 

Those are:

  1. Trust; we have to have faith in the system and we know where we stand – think basics around pay, feeling like things are fair when it comes to people processes and promotions. When it comes to hiring that might mean things like:
    1. Do I trust that you are who you say you are? 
    2. Does the process feel fair? 
    3. Do the people represent the culture? 
  2. Inclusion safety; There are a number of brilliant thinkers on this topic, but I really love the simplicity of what Timothy R Clark has created with his 4 stages of psychological safety. Inclusion safety satisfies the basic human need to connect and belong. When we are not experiencing this, we become activated and operate in survival mode. 
    1. Do I feel cared for? 
    2. Are you being inclusive? 
    3. Do I feel comfortable to be myself around you? 
  3. Purpose; we really need to know where the company is going (as much as it does anyway) and how we connect into that. 
    1. Can you tell me who you are and where you are going? 
    2. Do I have a flavour of your values? 
    3. Can I see my own purpose aligned with yours? 

I know what you are thinking; that’s all great Penfold, but how do we build all that? 

How to build trust 

Let’s start with trust. If we want to consider how we build trust better, let’s look at the folks that seem to do that really well; marketers. If you are selling something and want someone to buy something and commit to your brand, there are ways that you can build trust. Building trust at work is even harder now that many of us are working remotely, but marketers and brands have been doing it for years. . 

There are three parts to building trust: 

Firstly unity: we have an emotional need for community as humans. If we feel a connection to others, we are more likely to buy from them. How can you create the opportunity for this type of connection within an interview? 

Then generosity or by creating a reason for reciprocity: when we give to people, we build up their reserves of good feeling towards us. The most powerful thing you can give your people is time and attention. (Side note: I once turned down a role because the interviewer kept looking at their phone!).

Lastly by being credible: going back to buying things, to buy something we have to feel like the thing we are buying is credible, therefore we need to feel like the person behind it is credible also. Sharing a little of you means giving them the chance to learn that.

Creating inclusion safety when hiring

Inclusion safety satisfies the basic human need to connect and belong,  this starts in the interview process and how you make people feel. Here are the main things that you need to think about.

  1. Communicating intentionally. In hiring terms, that means communicating in a way that maintains or enhances self-esteem so people feel valued and respected – not allowing people to be tyrants in interview processes. When someone becomes ‘bad cop’ in an interview scenario, the human coming for the interview might become activated and operate in survival mode. 
  2. Given we aren’t all starting from the same place, fairness isn’t created by being ‘fair’ – think carefully about where you can create equity in your interview process. Things like sharing materials beforehand to level the playing field for folks who work a little differently, as well as being clear on your expectations for anything you expect them to prepare in advance. 
  3. Finally, all of that can quickly become eroded if you aren’t fastidiously checking and policing your biases. Challenging ourselves to adopt an equity-based mindset will take practice and deliberate action. It will require us to question our own thinking openly and actively. Here are some prompts that we might ask to ensure we are considering equity in our recruiting decisions:
  1. What assumptions are we making about this human?
  2. Are we placing too much emphasis on the technical skills of the job?
  3. Are we open to hiring a human who can offer complementary skills?
  4. Are we open to hiring a human who can help shape our workplace culture, or do we just want a candidate who can fit into our existing culture?
The power of purpose and being honest about who we are

I learnt the power of storytelling at Shazam, where I took them on the journey to codify their culture, and have since worked with multiple companies on this. My goal with Shazam was to attract the right people in, but I quickly learned how powerful they are for the whole employee experience. 

You already have values, you just might not have codified them. Your culture is basically the accepted norms and ways of doing things for your team. Right now, maybe that is a good thing – you are perhaps smaller and everyone has access to you. 

But as you grow, you need to have an anchor that says; this is who we are and who we want to be when we are at our best. Once you know them, it’s easy to translate them for people who are interested in joining you. 

Getting real

Knowing who we are is the foundation for being able to attract the people who are truly motivated with where we are, and repel those who truly weren’t. At Shazam, when I arrived we were only sharing what we perceived to be the best of us, there was a role that the team were stuck on. We needed to hire someone to come in and rip out some legacy tech and start from scratch, whilst that didn’t seem fun to some people, the right person was truly energised by that challenge. Once we got honest about that, we hired a phenomenal human who came in and did just that. 

TL;DR, to really get hiring right: 

Be the best you – as authentic and real as you possibly can be, as a company and as a human. Values matter. 

Build simple processes – no one wants 8 interviews, you should be able to make a decision much faster than that. Design for the user. 

It is a two way street – you need to give them the chance to know you too. Share your challenges as authentically as you can. 

Be deliberately inclusive, that might mean being unfair to make things fair – not everyone is starting from the same place. 

You will hire the right people:

By them seeing how their purpose may be fulfilled with you

By them feeling like your values mesh with theirs

By them feeling valued, cherished and important

By living your values in the interview process and beyond

By being consistent and trustworthy 

If you want to learn more, I am happy to share my recent webinar on this very topic. Sign up for the link here

About the Author

I help Founders and People leaders to build and scale purposeful businesses, whilst scaling themselves at the same time.

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