Taking a Talent Optimization Approach to Hiring

As an HR professional, you play a critical role in optimizing talent in your organization—and this begins with making the right hires.

According to The Predictive Index’s 2019 CEO Benchmarking Report, employee-related costs constitute 55 percent of the average company’s total costs. People are often a company’s biggest expense, but they’re also their biggest asset.

When you take a talent optimization approach to hiring, you increase your odds of placing the right people in open roles. It’s all about following a step-by-step recipe with the goal of aligning your talent strategy with your business strategy. When the two are misaligned … well, you leave business results to chance.

How to Take a Talent Optimization Approach to Hiring

Talent optimization is a four-part discipline that aligns your business and talent strategies for optimal business results. At its core are the collection, analysis, and application of people data.

When taking a talent optimization approach to hiring, you’ll collect and apply people data to determine the right fit for the role, the team, and the organization.

Add talent optimization to your hiring strategy with these tips:

Create a Clear Job Description

Ever had an employee say, “This isn’t what I signed up for?” That’s because there are often differences between what we think is the day-to-day work of a role and what an employee actually does on the job. In fact, Gallup research suggests that about half of employees don’t fully understand what’s expected of them at work.

Taking a talent optimization approach means going beyond the traditional resume and work history.

If members of the hiring team don’t fully understand the intricacies of the job, finding the right candidate for an open role becomes very tricky. Taking a talent optimization approach, you’ll consider more than just the job skills and experience needed to be successful in the role. You’ll also pinpoint the behavioral drives and cognitive ability candidates need to be successful in the role.

To do this, solicit input from a variety of stakeholders, including the hiring manager, senior leaders, and the team members who will frequently interact with the new hire. You might even consult a star employee who’s currently in the role, if applicable. Ask them all to outline what they perceive as the job tasks and related activities as well as the behavioral and cognitive requirements for the role, then use this information to craft a comprehensive job posting that informs both candidates and the hiring team about the role.

Collect Candidate Data

When recruiting candidates, taking a talent optimization approach means going beyond the traditional resume and work history. Ideally, you should make an effort to gather the following data from your candidates:

You can collect this additional information through behavioral, cognitive, skills, or values assessments that you administer after the initial screening.

Using behavioral and cognitive assessments in the hiring process increases the predictability of job success to 58 percent.

This data allows you to get a holistic perspective of the candidate. You’re looking for more than job skills; you’re looking to make sure they’re the right fit for the role and the organization. Looking at the whole individual also reduces unintentional hiring bias, where we may tend to favor candidates who had good internships or went to prestigious universities.

Using the data, rank candidates based on how well they fit the behavioral, cognitive, and skills requirements. Ranking allows for objectivity—you’re determining fit based on objective measures, such as match to behavioral requirements, cognitive requirements, and necessary skills and experience—while simultaneously reducing the size of the candidate pool.

Equip and Empower Leaders to Land Top Talent

It’s shocking how many hiring managers aren’t prepared to interview job candidates. To make the best hire possible, everyone involved in the hiring process needs to be prepared and equipped or the candidate experience will suffer along with your employer brand.

Structured interviews help hiring teams prepare and lead to better and more equitable hiring decisions. Using the information about the role and what you know about your candidate, create a standard set of questions for interviewers to ask, and go over the questions with hiring managers beforehand.

To avoid redundancy, create an interview plan that clearly identifies what each member of the interview team should cover when speaking with the candidate.

If you have access to the candidate’s behavioral profile, you can ask questions to probe into any gaps between it and the job requirements. For example, if a role requires strong attention to detail and the candidate’s behavioral profile suggests this may not be their strong suit, you can say to a candidate, “Tell me about a project you were working on that had a lot of moving pieces. How did you keep track of them? What was the result of the project?”

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People data can help you find the right candidate to fill a behavior gap or reinforce a positive team trait.

Determine Your Candidates’ Cultural Fit

In addition to ensuring that a candidate has the right skill set for the role, you want to make sure they’re a good fit for your organization. If they can add something unique to the organization that will benefit where the business is headed, that’s great—but how will this person impact your company culture? No matter how skilled, driven, intelligent, and experienced they are, if a candidate isn’t aligned with your company values, they probably won’t be around for long. In the worst case scenario, whatever value they bring in with skills and knowledge will be negated by their negative impact on your culture.

Consider Team Dynamics

Before deciding on a candidate, consider how they would fit within the current team dynamic. Similar to your company culture, you’re looking for a candidate that will either fit with the existing dynamic or add something new and valuable to the mix. Be careful not to hire someone who will exacerbate existing weaknesses or clash with the current team dynamic.

People data is how you get this right. If you have the behavioral profiles of each team member, you can create a behavioral map to get a bird’s-eye view of collective strengths and weaknesses. That information will help you find the right candidate to fill a behavior gap or reinforce a positive team trait.

Implementing Talent Optimization in Your Organization

The key to successfully implementing talent optimization is to get buy-in across the organization. While it pertains to people, your talent acquisition strategy can’t live in HR alone! It’s important that senior leadership, managers, and even individual contributors are on board with the concept and implementation of designing, hiring, and inspiring winning teams.

The same CEO Benchmarking Report mentioned in the introduction reveals that people problems are one of the top challenges senior leadership worries about. With this in mind—and by focusing on what talent optimization can do for your organization—building internal buy-in should be relatively straightforward.

About the Author

Shannon Howard is a content editor and producer at The Predictive Index, a talent optimization platform that empowers business leaders to hire top talent, design winning teams, and manage people brilliantly.