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Aug 3, 2022

It’s a well-known fact that – in these tight labor market times [there are more than 11 million job openings right now] – it’s candidates that continue to hold the balance of power.

Added to the misery is remote hiring. It makes recruitment harder still. Just think about it: when an impressive head office is stripped away, all that’s left to sway potential hires are the people on the other side of the Zoom interview.

So what does all this mean for recruitment right now?

To me it seems like we need to tackle things at the root of the problem. We know that a key driver for determined job seekers is finding companies that align with their values. As such, it’s seems obvious to me that HRDs must rethink their traditional hiring practices – practices that can often feel transactional, combative or exclusionary. They must focus instead on creating a values-based interview experience.

Here are a few steps we’ve taken at Gusto, that have enabled us to grow our workforce by 80% in the last year:

1) Showcase values by talking about people over revenue

When I was being interviewed myself remotely last year, many of the people I spoke to focused on business revenue and performance – metrics I could easily track down through my own research. I was seeking a company that aligned with my personal values and career goals, conscious that my decision would impact not just myself but my family. Long-term business trajectory was only part of the equation.

The hiring process is an opportunity to engage a job candidate – from emails to interviews to the final offer. The goal should be to make each step as human as possible.

One way we do this at Gusto is through our Values, Motivation and Alignment (VMA) interview, where each candidate speaks with someone who isn’t directly affiliated with the role they’re applying for. We take a break from assessing technical qualifications to ask a candidate about their passions and what motivates them. Instead of saving these questions for the last five minutes of an interview, we create the space to have meaningful conversations.

Inclusivity is often a big focus of these interviews. For example, we’ll ask a candidate about a time when they made an environment they worked in more inclusive, or a time they felt excluded and how they addressed it. These insights not only help us get to know a candidate, but allow us to apply the insights to our culture so that new hires feel included from day one.

When it comes to making a job offer, we treat it like a celebration. Finding alignment between a company and a candidate is hard and it’s important for it to be celebrated for the difficult task it is. Don’t just tell the candidate they’re receiving an offer; tell them why they’re receiving an offer. Reaffirming why a candidate is a fit is a great way to build excitement about the role and company.

2) Build inclusive applications and job posts

Job posts and applications speak volumes about a company’s culture and how it treats people. This digital footprint is often the first interaction a candidate has with a company.

The language used in job descriptions can help everyone see themselves at the company. So, instead of building job posts exclusively around a list of requirements like years of experience or skills, use verbs that can better speak to the true needs of the role. Our engineering job posts list things like “experience leading cross-functional projects” and “experience empowering technical teams.” There are a variety of ways candidates may have gleaned these experiences, which helps ensure we’re not looking at candidates who’ve only come from a narrow path.

I’m also a strong believer in the power of salary transparency to help address systemic inequities. We list salary ranges on each of our job descriptions. It’s another way we turn company values like transparency into action. Compensation data gives employees crucial information and helps set them up for success in the hiring process.

Job applications can themselves make an impact. Be intentional about the ways in which candidates can choose to describe themselves. Ensure there’s a range of options, from pronouns to ethnicity and gender identity. Not only will this allow candidates to self-identify, but it also provides valuable data that can help catch biases in the hiring process and make it more inclusive. For example, if folks from a specific geography or ethnic background are falling out of the hiring process consistently, it’s something we need to look at more closely so we can address the underlying cause.

3) Hire teams that are elite but not elitist

Hiring is about more than filling quotas. It’s about creating a narrative that will help candidates decide whether they align with a company’s values and mission. These will be different for every company.

At Gusto our narrative involves building a team as unique and complex as our customers, which means we value grit and technical excellence over pedigree. It also means we invest in engineers with varied backgrounds. Hiring from diverse backgrounds and hiring talented engineers quickly are not mutually exclusive – that is a false binary. Some of our best developers have included a former music major, exercise physiologist and administrative assistant. This isn’t just about expanding our talent pool; it’s about living our values authentically.

One step here is to let go of the traditional, narrow hiring mindset that there is one right type of candidate or one right career path.

To get away from this, try making a list of what isn’t required for a job before writing the job description itself. For example, is a college education truly necessary? What about a specific programming language? What hard skills can be taught, and what soft skills cannot be?

4) Create equitable experiences

We have shifted to a remote-only hiring experience for all candidates, regardless of whether they’ll be working in one of our offices. Why? It helps ensure an equitable experience and an even playing field for all job candidates. What’s more, steps like this stand out to job candidates who are looking for clues about a company’s commitments and the way it treats people.

There are hundreds of companies vying for talent, and many of them boast exciting mission statements and lucrative compensation. At a time when every company promises to change the world for the better, the hiring process has become a way for candidates to judge authenticity.

The way you recruit is a litmus test, so let your values shine throughout every step.

While the current labor market presents many challenges, I’d argue it also presents an opportunity. Companies that have historically struggled to compete with large powerhouses can attract talented people by rethinking traditional hiring and leaning into core values.