It's been clear for much of 2020: amid disruption and uncertainty, not to mention cost pressures, companies need to be increasingly discerning about the type and quality of talent they hire. This puts tremendous pressure on the hiring process, and on the people who execute it—the recruitment professionals responsible for finding, evaluating, and proposing talent.
Unsurprisingly, recruiters have been rushing to upgrade their skills. LinkedIn's Future of Recruiting Report found that this year, recruiters in the Asia Pacific spent quadruple the time learning as compared to in 2019. The reasons are multiple: hiring demand during the pandemic has been erratic at best and highly specific to industries, while virtual recruitment is forcing recruiters to hastily learn their way around new tools and methods. On top of this, LinkedIn's report also found that many recruiters see their role changing to encompass new aspects such as employee engagement, requiring the whole new skills in itself.
Learning to become brand representatives
Phuong Huynh, Head of Talent Acquisition, Asia, Sanofi, believes that the capabilities of recruiters are crucial to the future of talent acquisition. And just as the report indicates, they will have to develop new skills, especially ones that will help them become valued business partners and brand representatives. Speaking at LinkedIn's recent Inspire series virtual event, she said:
“I encourage my team to look at the recruitment of the position as part of a bigger picture. They can become a talent advisor to the hiring manager, and a talent scout for the business.”
What does this involve? Firstly, the entire approach to recruitment has to change and become more personalized and humanized. Recruiters need to move away from looking at recruitment as a process—with its connotations of impersonality and viewing candidates as commodities—and start viewing it as the human experience it is. “The moment you start viewing candidates' journey as an experience, you will try to make it unique and customised,” Phuong says.
If the journey is to be an experience, then the evaluation of candidates must be less of an assessment based on narrow specifications and fixed metrics, and more of a mutual exploration. Calling this a game-changer for recruitment, Phuong points out that candidates are no longer willing to just sit there and wait to be picked. “They want to get to know the company and explore whether the opportunity is right for them. You are inviting them to a journey where both parties are observing the fit.”
This is where engagement comes in: the hiring conversation, she says, should go beyond just filling a role. It should introduce candidates to a potential future in which they are employees of the organisation.
All this, however, requires the ability to gain the hiring manager's buy-in, and here, Phuong suggests five skills and skill sets that recruiters should acquire in order to take on this broader role.
Questioning skills, or elicitation: the ability to ask thought-provoking questions that can trigger hiring managers' thinking around what the best results for the job might be, both now and in the future. “At Sanofi, our recruiters are encouraged to go beyond the questions in our checklist in discussions, to really talk about team dynamics, about diversity, about fit,” she says.
Information or Data presentation skills: the ability to present hiring managers with an expanded view of the market landscape and provide them with relevant data around the availability of talent.
Insight generation: the ability to make the data more impactful by offering insights based on one's own close awareness and knowledge of the markets. “How can we ensure the data is more impactful to our stakeholders?” Phuong asks.
“I believe, for this to be successful, we need to move away from just presenting data, and move towards reflecting our practical and local knowledge.”
Intentional story-telling: the ability to identify the key insights that the hiring manager needs to take away, and to ensure that they are thoroughly and memorably communicated. “Remember to repeat the consistent messages that you want, whenever you have the chance to talk to them,” she advises.
Solution creation: the ability to build on what has been presented earlier and articulate a constructive solution that works for both the recruiter and the hiring manager. This, says Phuong, is the key to developing the partnership between recruiter and business. “Remember, no hiring manager will be engaged fully if they don't see that you are really committed!” she points out.
Learning to become a talent advisory function
In the view of Adele Png, Head of Talent Acquisition, APAC, KONE, recruiters need to be able to function in a talent advisory capacity. Her team has extra reason to do so at the moment: as she shared at LinkedIn's Inspire series virtual event, KONE is currently undergoing an organizational transformation, with all the attendant uncertainty, and as a result, hiring managers are not always clear about what competencies they need.
“All the more does this require talent advisory—understanding where the transferable skill sets are, and then influencing the hiring manager,” she says.
That level of uncertainty adds a whole new layer to the capabilities that recruiters need. They need to be agile, Adele believes; more flexible and less quick to judge, capable of thinking out of the box, and finding ways out of what might otherwise be perceived as dead ends. And most importantly, they need to be able to adapt to a fast-changing situation.
Upskilling in anything that can improve capabilities
Unsurprisingly, Adele has been investing in upskilling her team since even before COVID-19. She targets a very broad range of skills and improvements that might help the team scale and do more with less: AI, better methods of assessment, candidate engagement, streamlining processes, cross-functional skill sets—anything, she says, that would broaden the mindset of her recruiters.
“For example, the Southeast Asia teams used to operate as a silo,” she recalls. “The Philippines team would only work within the Philippines, the Malaysia team would only work within Malaysia. But I introduced the concept of getting them to cross-train each other on functions—finance experts cross-training IT experts or sales experts.”
What other skills are needed? Communication, she believes: within her own gathering of multinational teams, language can be a great barrier even when everyone is speaking English. And definitely data analytics skills, simply because data plays such a huge role in understanding why strategies are working, or not working, as planned. “I think it's very important for the team to know what data to use and how to arrive at the right conclusion,” she observes. “If you have high attrition, or if no one's applying to your job, you need to learn the root cause: is it poor branding, is it the location? Talent acquisition more than ever needs to be effective in problem solving, and that really comes from understanding the data and the storytelling behind it.”
A role in driving diversity
Closely related to the recruiter's role as talent advisory is the question of how the talent acquisition team can influence diversity. As an engineering company, KONE faces the same difficulties with finding and elevating female leadership as much as the rest of the industry. This is a fundamental of diversity for the company, Adele says, and one that is still a journey for them.
“How do we bring people from different experiences, different backgrounds, outside of the industry, together and still get them to operate organically as a team?” she asks. “It's quite a lot to deal with.”
But it is her team's job, she believes.
“Diversity starts from talent acquisition. When we hire in talent acquisition, we hire with diversity in mind, and inclusion. And we build that culture of acceptance and understanding, that it's a great thing if we can embrace all the different ideas, all the different thoughts, and come together as a whole. Initially, it's quite difficult, but once they start to work together they love it, because they can get that different perspective and learn so much more.”
Ultimately, like it or not, recruiters are heading down the path of being a business partner and trusted advisor, with a hand in everything 'people' in the business—from humanizing processes to finding the fit between people and jobs to shaping the organization's diversity. They need to provide solutions to the business, ones that are relevant and useful; and to do that, they need to upgrade their skills and capabilities.