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Hiring in the education space is hard. As employers, hiring managers, and human capital professionals in this sector, it’s imperative that we find candidates that not only align with our job descriptions, but that also line up with the mission and values we hold dear.
Sometimes, the process of finding such individuals can seem painful. But with each hire, we uncover valuable lessons that make the hiring process a little less daunting, a little more streamlined and much more successful. In this blog, we explore four common hiring traps we often see education employers fall into and how to avoid them.
Hiring Trap #1:
What Employers Often Do: Hire For Culture Fit
What Employers Should Do: Hire For Values Fit and Culture Add
We all gravitate toward people like us. People who look like us, come from the same places as us, went to the same schools as us, dress like us, have the same political views as us, like the same music as us, share the same religious beliefs as us, etc. It’s an undeniable part of human nature.
If you hire like that, you’ll miss out on diversity in perspective, thought, customer understanding, and problem-orientation, to name a few.
Now, you wouldn’t hire like that, right?
Well, have you ever passed on hiring someone because they weren’t a “culture fit”?
If you answered “Yes”, well then, perhaps you actually have hired like that.
Here’s the truth: you should pass on people who don’t align with your organizational beliefs and values. If your organization has a deep-hearted belief that ALL children have worth and deserve an excellent education that prepares them for a successful life of their own choosing, then you MUST pass on hiring an individual that does not align with that belief.
If your organization values promptness and is heavily deadline-driven, then you should pass on hiring a JobSeeker who turns in an exceptional work sample two days late without prior communication.
But most of the time, that’s not what we mean by culture fit.
When we say culture fit, we’re often talking about whether they’re the type of person we’d enjoy hanging out with at the next team lunch, having a drink with at the next organization happy hour, or catching up with Monday morning around the proverbial “water cooler”. The old “would I want to be stuck in an elevator for an hour with this person, or stuck on a 4-hour layover with this person” test.
And if you require that type of alignment, you’re short-changing your organization.
Rather than looking for someone who fits your personal culture, first see if that person fits your organizational values. If they align, then evaluate what they can add to your current culture. Take note of what’s missing from your culture and what you would like to see. Then, identify which candidates exemplify those traits.
Be sure to emphasize your core values and what you’re looking to add to your organization’s culture during the hiring process. This can inherently set the table for you and your candidates to have more inclusive, insightful conversations throughout the selection process. Hiring candidates that add to your organizational culture, rather than conform to it, will broaden the perspectives on the team, deepen your understanding of others (including your customers), and deepen the available talent pool.
So, yes, you need to have employees who share your values and mission-alignment, but if you don’t completely “click” with them, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Don’t hire yourself; hire someone new. You may be pleasantly surprised by what you’ve been missing out on.
Hiring Trap #2:
What Employers Often Do: Hire People Who Have Done It Before
What Employers Should Do: Hire People Who Can Grow Into The Role
We tend to overvalue having done the exact job before. Of course, we want to make sure that the person we onboard can fulfill the foundational responsibilities of the role. However, basing hiring potential off of experience alone presents a few potential downsides. For one, looking for people who have done it before unnecessarily shrinks the pool. As a result, searches can take longer (there are fewer people to consider), you may end up paying more (they’ve done it before, so they want to earn more), there may be greater turnover (they get bored and move on to the next role), and your pool may be less diverse. While this experienced hire is likely better on paper, many organizations are not factoring in these additional costs.
Looking for people with transferable skills maximizes the talent pool. It allows you to consider new people that others might be missing. You’re more likely to find someone with the amount of salary you have budgeted. Your pool of diverse candidates increases while your time to hire likely decreases. And it brings in fresh perspectives.
While they may not get up to speed quite as quickly and will have a bit of a learning curve, organizations often forget to factor in these added benefits, only holding the cons against them.
The first step in this process is to clearly delineate between your must-haves and nice-to-haves to help you avoid this problem.
For example, let’s say you have a fundraising role to fill. Is it an absolute must for a candidate to have fundraised two million dollars before? Or is, perhaps, significant sales experience sufficient as long as you already have an experienced grant writer on the team that will be supporting them? Is it really worth passing on this person and leaving the role open for potentially 6 months or more while you search for the perfect person when you could hire the slightly “less experienced” person, provide them some training and PD, and then turn them loose months earlier?
Having a clear idea of the core tasks, values and skills needed to perform the role, as well as understanding the possibilities and risks that come with taking a chance on less experienced candidates, will help you reduce the feeling of buyer’s remorse once you either bring a less-experienced teammate on board or choose to pass on a candidate in hopes of a future candidate who has performed the exact role before.
Hiring Trap #3:
What Employers Often Do: Act As If They Have All The Power
What Employers Should Do: Realize Top Jobseekers Possess Immense Power
Although education is still a highly sought after field of work, let’s face it. It’s not THE popular cause like it was 10 years ago. With unemployment at an all-time low, organizations must strategize more efficient ways of navigating and connecting with a shrinking pool of candidates. The competition for jobseekers with marketable experience, career progression, education and professionalism has set a new precedent for how education organizations hire. Or at least it should.
This is a consumer’s market and employers no longer have the luxury of having the upper hand in how they want to hire. Top-tier jobseekers are evaluating you as much as you are evaluating them. So act like it.
Top jobseekers have many options, both inside and outside of education. You are not the only job they are considering. They are interviewing elsewhere. Those qualified candidates are shifting the paradigm by pushing back against long, convoluted hiring cycles, one-dimensional compensation packages, and the lack of non-salary benefits. If you take too long to meet them where they’re at, another organization that moves faster can hire them right out from underneath you.
Speaking of meeting the candidates where they’re at, we can all agree that unicorns are myths – they don’t exist! So, stop trying to always hire a unicorn. Yes, you need the right person. But don’t set the bar so high that you pass on really great people for imaginary ones.
Instead, take a holistic perspective. If you pass on someone because they need to make $3000 more than the role is budgeted for, do so fully aware of the fact that continuing the search will result in greater search costs and greater organizational costs because the role sits vacant. This doesn’t mean you hire the person; what it does mean is that you factor those costs into the decision and make a conscious choice if those costs are acceptable.
That’s why it is imperative that education organizations are intentional about putting their best foot forward during the recruiting AND hiring phase. You have to adjust. Treat jobseekers with respect. Move fast. Impress. Compete.
In our blog “The Improving Economy and Recruiting”, we breakdown how employer marketing, increasing resourcing and coordination of the hiring-cycle and recruiting for potential (as we explored above) can proactively meet recruiting challenges head-on and position organizations to attract the best talent to serve their teams. If you’re having trouble in any of those areas, that blog is a good place to start.
Hiring Trap #4:
What Employers Often Do: Assume Great Managers Know How To Hire
What Employers Should Do: Realize Managing And Hiring Are Different Skillsets
In the education space, as well as in other sectors, managers are expected to wear many hats. It comes with the territory. While this expectation is standard practice, we should acknowledge that in the case of managing versus hiring, both require different skill sets.
Most managers became managers because they were excellent at executing their day-to-day tasks and showed great promise in helping others do the same! While this is extremely valuable, it doesn’t necessarily mean they know how to properly recruit and hire a new team member.
For instance, you may know a great finance director. You would expect that person to have stellar knowledge and expertise in everything finance because that’s their forte. But if you ask them to create a strategy for prospecting, interviewing, cultivating, and ultimately hiring a new team member, they might look like a deer in the headlights. That’s not their day-to-day function. Yet, as human capital professionals, we often source stellar candidates and then turn them over to hiring managers who don’t know how to properly handle them.
They take too long to schedule their interviews. They don’t respond to candidates in a timely manner. They create impossible work samples. They prioritize their day-to-day work at the expense of the candidate. And ultimately the candidate withdraws from the process, and the hiring manager turns to you and asks for more candidates. You’ve been there before, right? But here’s the lesson – it’s likely not their fault. No one taught them how to hire! We just assumed they knew how, and then got frustrated with them when we realized they didn’t.
That’s why it’s important to provide the right level of consistent support, training and resources for our hiring managers to thrive during the selection process so that they can facilitate the process correctly. Join them during the hiring process. Co-interview. Help them develop the timelines associated with each step, who is going to conduct/participate in each step, what the work samples will contain, what prompt follow-up communication looks like, etc. Teach customer service. If we take the time to show, guide and empower them through the process, with enough practice (think Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours rule), they’ll eventually be able to spot, prospect and onboard awesome candidates.
If this method sounds more involved than you can commit to, consider hiring external support if necessary. At WorkMonger, we specialize in recruiting and prospecting qualified candidates for non-teaching roles across various functions and organizations. We understand the direct and indirect implications of hiring the right people in the education space and its overall impact on our children’s ability to learn and excel. This understanding gives our team a keen sense of awareness to the nuances your role and the experience, skill sets and soft skills required of your new hire.
This type of support can allow your hiring managers to do what they do best, which is to execute tasks and successfully lead their teams!
We hope these tips enhance your current hiring process and equip you with the insight you need to find the right candidates for your team. If you have other best practices that have worked for your team, feel free to share them with us in the comments. We’ll be glad to hear from you. And if you know of anyone else who could use this blog, share it on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.
Until next time: Stand out. Do good.