Up until a decade or two ago, most companies took a standardized approach to hire talent. The HR department posted a detailed job analysis along with a list of skill sets required for the role. This was followed by short-listing potential candidates based on their professional and personal backgrounds. And, the last step involved the extensive interview process which often went on for over a month. Cut to 2019; the recruitment industry has undergone a massive transformation.
With the workforce becoming increasingly globalized, the hiring process, too, has changed drastically to meet the requirements of new jobs. These changing times mandate a shift in how companies hire and retain talent. In today’s increasingly digital era, hiring managers are looking beyond the academic qualifications of candidates. Despite the fuss over graduating at the top of your class, good grades alone are not enough. There is an increasing emphasis on skills such as design thinking, problem-solving, adaptability, and empathy; all of which are indispensable to current as well as future job roles. Let’s take a closer look:
Design thinking and problem-solving in today’s evolving job market
Whether a company requires a software developer or an interior designer, design thinking is identified as an essential skill irrespective of the job role. Design thinking is defined as the cognitive, strategic, and practical processes by which design concepts (proposals for new products, buildings, machines, etc.) are developed by designers and/or design teams. But, it’s more than that.
The origin of design thinking dates back to the 1960s, and the term was coined quite recently by Tim Brown, the former CEO and president of IDEO. According to Wikipedia, however, John E. Arnold was one of the first authors to use the phrase. While initially design thinking was considered relevant only to the design industry, it gained prominence in the business world at the beginning of this decade. Publications like Forbes and Harvard Business Review have repeatedly emphasized the necessity of adapting design thinking to gain a competitive advantage. The definition of design thinking has evolved over the years, but it is essentially a problem-solving method which follows a systematic approach. It is also referred to as a way to identify challenges, gather relevant information, come up with potential solutions, refine ideas, and then test the solutions. The core concepts of design thinking include empathy, brainstorming, prototyping, and storytelling.
When it comes to hiring, recruiters therefore seek someone who has the ability to take timely decisions and generate creative ideas to resolve existing and new issues at the workplace. This explains why leading companies are replacing the age-old interrogative rhetoric interview process with interactive methods of discussion. While the former only explores a candidate’s technical skills, interactive discussions help the recruiter to attain a deep understanding of their design thinking capacity.
How to test a candidate’s design thinking and problem-solving abilities
A candidate may have all the required skill sets but can still perform poorly in a job. This is because he/she may lack design thinking capacity, which is crucial for many job roles of today. Now, the question is, how can recruiters test a job applicant’s design thinking ability? A few organizations have already started exploring various ways to understand how an applicant uses his/her skills, experience, and technical ability while finding realistic solutions to a particular problem. Specially curated tests, for example, can be used to determine someone’s design thinking and problem-solving skills effectively.
Large corporates like Facebook takes a multi-dimensional approach to hiring designers in their team. In the initial stage, the company brings the hand-picked candidates on-site to demonstrate their work in front of the core designer team. Their work is then subjected to a rigorous scrutiny session. This helps the recruiters to understand the thought process behind each design. The candidates are even asked to find a solution to a hypothetical problem. Julie Zhuo, the VP of Product Design at Facebook, says that her team often asks the job applicants to design a common interface, such as a microwave in less than an hour. This practice gives them an idea of how an individual tackle a big problem.)
Design thinking is no longer just associated with the design world, as it can be strategically implemented across various industries to solve complex problems. Hence, hiring employees with design thinking and problem-solving skills is not an option for companies; it’s a necessity. However, the responsibility of recruiters extends beyond hiring. They must create an environment which promotes empathy, experimentation, open-mindedness, and out-of-the-box thinking. Organizations across industries and verticals have started realizing the crucial role design plays in creating a value proposition and driving business growth. We can take a cue from Search giant Google, which carried out a two-year research project across 280 teams to find out what makes an innovative team. The company’s Creative Skills for Innovation Lab, or CSI: Lab helps teams as well as individuals to not only creatively, but also innovate using design thinking.) Individuals, on the other hand, can improve their design thinking ability by reading books, attending online classes and physical workshops. Just like any other skill, practice is the key to master design thinking.