How do I hire the best person for the job?

What should you look for in candidates?

How do I hire the best person for the job?

Things are looking up for organisations in Asia. A recent study found that nearly half (42%) of companies in the region cited plans to hire in 2021. Also, while the earlier half of 2020 saw a sudden stop in recruitment activities, with firms choosing to freeze or reduce headcount to sustain the business, there was a more optimistic approach to hiring towards the final quarter of the year, said Michael Page.

Another survey uncovered similar findings: more than half (56%) of employers in Singapore said they were looking to hire this year. Meanwhile, seven in 10 leaders who have been hiring said it’s been challenging to fill job roles due to a ‘severe skills gap’. Overall, three in five employers cited the job market as ‘bleak’, reported NTUC LearningHub.

READ MORE: Five tips for conducting a remote interview

What should you look for in candidates?

Despite the challenges, employers are pressing on. However, these age-old questions will likely pop up for recruiters: what should you look for to hire the right person for the job? What’s the best determinant of a good recruit? Qualifications, experience, or candidate fit? The list could go on as employers approach the process knowing that the wrong candidate can prove costly and a time-wasting affair.

Interestingly, a 2019 report by Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) found that employers have been looking beyond academic qualifications when hiring for PMET roles, or professionals, managers, executives and technicians. The report found that employers placed a stronger emphasis on skills or relevant work experience.

Now with the pandemic in full swing, a new survey found that about half of employers in Singapore are open to hiring candidates without prior relevant experience. The caveat being that candidates must have undergone some form of industry-related training or have professional certs to their name. This is likely because many employers (72%) have found a lack of candidates with the required skill sets or on-the-job experience, said NTUC LearningHub. Leaders (67%) are thus willing to hire applicants with ‘micro-credentials’ to close the dire skills gap in their workforce.

Of course, the studies didn’t consider other equally critical areas of recruitment, such as culture fit or attitude, but with all the difficulties around finding candidates with the right qualifications, experience, or skills, are employers in Singapore ready to hire for potential instead?

How common is ‘hiring for potential’ in Asia?

Hiring for potential is considered as one of the most progressive ways to build your teams. Some say it’s a forward-thinking approach to recruitment, as you’re considering the candidate as an investment and a fit in your long-term talent strategy. Unfortunately a study in 2019 found that one in two hiring managers in Asia remain reluctant to evolve their strategies and stick to what they know instead – considering candidates based solely on experience, according to Robert Walters. This, despite evidence that a whopping 94% of candidates hired for ‘potential’, instead of credentials, have been retained in their jobs.

READ MORE: 1 in 2 hiring managers in Asia ‘reluctant to evolve’ their strategies

When asked why they didn’t hire based on potential, leaders said the following:

  • Preferred a candidate who can ‘hit the ground running’ (49%)
  • The role is very technical and requires experience and skill sets (46%)
  • It takes more time and work to train (36%)
  • Difficult to identify a good fit (36%)
  • Believed a candidate with qualifications and experience will show up (30%)
  • No time, resources, and expertise to offer training (30%)
  • Worried about candidate’s ability to ‘learn quickly’ (17%)
  • Difficult to assess potential (16%)

READ MORE: Recruiters blasted for myopic hiring process

Hope for change in Asia’s recruitment landscape

Despite all that, two leaders believe that Singapore is changing. Neil Jones, regional managing director of APAC at AMS, for instance, shared with HRD that he’s “definitely seen really progressive shifts in policies to proactively” change the recruitment landscape.

The team at AMS, formerly known as Alexander Mann Solutions, has seen organisations push towards hiring candidates with a 70-30 ratio between technical skills and potential. There have also been companies that set quotas and deliberate efforts to “remove the old-fashioned mindset” of hiring only professionals with industry experience.

“It is changing slowly and we’re probably in second gear of five at the moment,” Jones told HRD. “It would be remiss for me to say the whole world’s changed and we’re ready for a new way. It’s kind of a work in progress.”

Rebecca Dakin, head of HR APAC at AMS echoed his thoughts.

“[Employers are] saying, ‘we need something different now’,” Dakin said. “Actually we need to think differently. To the point around some kind of ‘older views’ on the way that we acquire talent, I think that there’s an acknowledgement that educational institutions are not necessarily going to have the type of skills in all instances that we need.

“So they’re thinking very differently. I really do think most organisations are starting to get that. It may not be across the board but it may be in very specific pockets. I think we’re starting to see that as a real trend.”

READ MORE: Revealed: Five recruitment priorities for 2021

How to hire for potential

When asked how employers can assess and hire candidates with the highest potential for success and growth at the company, Jones shared how companies are using “more rounded way of assessing individuals”, with some even using blind interviews to avoid any risk of subjective biases.

Hiring for potential means assessing qualities like curiosity, growth mindset and resilience, so you can depend on a wide array of tests to determine the best candidate for the job. To keep candidates engaged, you can even gamify the process, instead of depending solely on the traditional method of a two-way interview conversation.

“Most progressive organisations now have a whole battery of tests looking at psychometric assessment, intelligence quotient, and adaptability,” he said. “Even when you hire for digital skill sets at the moment it’s a bit pointless because two years later the technology will be gone and replaced by something else.

“What we’re encouraging organisations to think of now is to hire for growth mindset, curiosity, willingness to learn and change, and resilience to change. People with a teamwork and collaboration capability because the concept of the hierarchy is increasingly almost dead, and we have far more dynamic, virtual teams where people from different levels are pitched into projects together. There’s a lot of stuff around core competencies, as opposed to just technical, functional skills in the way we’re looking at the battle for talent.”

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