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Interview: the culture of recruitment

Sheri Brissenden

Is changing the culture within a business a way to stop the great resignation?

“Taking a hard look at your culture and the individuals in your business should always be top of mind, but it’s easy for the genuine needs of profits and clients to take all the focus. Your employees should be at least as important to you as your customers. One way to stop the “great resignation” is to see your business as a new hire would, with a fresh perspective.

“Use the last few years to be as objective as possible about your work and your place in building the best company – and be honest about whether entrenched ways of working have lost their meaning. New hires are a great source of information and guidance, so asking them about their needs and how you can improve the business is an excellent opportunity to make the kind of changes that stop others from moving on. It also gives your newest employees a voice, which is always good practice.”

Do businesses understand their culture and how this can impact their ability to recruit the people they need?

“Many successful companies understand how culture impacts their ability to recruit the people they need. However, after the last two years, I think there’s a sense of exhaustion and destabilisation. We’ve had to completely change our way of working, and there’s been so much we’ve had to focus on that it’s easy to overlook culture and how essential it is. So, leadership needs to keep this top of mind. We should constantly question ourselves and ask if we are doing enough. We should always focus on being pre-emptive about providing the best workplace and permitting hiring managers to meet new candidates where they are.”

How much of a differentiator is company culture in the job marketplace today?

“The best candidates – the ones you’ll wade through 1,000s of CVs for – can go wherever they want, especially now. They don’t just want a job; they want the whole picture as they envision it, and this is an individual decision. You can’t build a new culture in a day or achieve one that meets every possible particular need; but you can work with leadership to define the culture and be a consistent voice in enhancing it.

“Good management comes down to listening and generosity. It can mean everything; most of the time, it costs nothing. The costs lie in being distracted, which is even more accessible in a hybrid or remote working environment. So, you must question yourself consistently: is this the best company I can build? Have I created something I would be happy to be a part of at every level? What am I missing?”

How can recruiters communicate business culture to prospective new employees? Are HRs equipped to include ‘culture’ in their recruiting processes?

“Communicating culture is arguably the most important aspect of interviews with prospective employees. There’s so much detail in a candidate’s cover letter, LinkedIn, CV, online presence, and portfolio that you should have a very good sense of the person and their abilities by the time you arrange that first meeting. You really shouldn’t waste the first meeting rehashing those details. Instead, you should focus on learning about the person sitting in front of you: who they are, what their hopes and aspirations are for their future and, from your perspective, communicate what works for you will be like.

“The initial interviews should be focused entirely on the candidate and have the most critical voice in the conversation. But it’s important never to forget that you, as an interviewer, are also being assessed by the candidate, so leave them with the best possible impression of what you and the company can offer them. I always feel a first interview is best served as an open-ended conversation. I’ve never used prepared questions, and I think letting the conversation seek its own level is essential.

“The question HR should ask itself is: do I see this person as the next great colleague for the team? The team is the company’s culture, and you can strengthen it or weaken it with your next hire. Will the potential new hire be happy here, and will the team be more powerful because of them? Seeing them in the round, instead of on their own, gets to the heart of the matter.

“Reaching out in a remote working or hybrid model becomes a defining factor. If someone is sitting in an office with regular interaction, it’s much easier to invite them into a culture and for them to find their feet. However, if everyone works remotely, even part-time, it becomes really important that connections are made, and this needs to be intentional.

“Everyone needs to reach out to new hires and ensure they are included, not just in work but in the company’s life. Without this considered approach, the culture will eventually fray, so just scheduling regular catch-ups becomes important. In our business, the work we do is very cerebral and demanding, so giving employees who might be working non-stop a break is essential. Just even a short time to reset, talk about what they’re doing and invite them to discuss anything on their mind is significant.”

As businesses look towards their post-pandemic futures, how critical is it for them to hire for cultural fit?

“Hiring for cultural fit has always been essential. But as we look towards a post-pandemic future, we should use this crisis to help us understand what is most important. Being in the office full-time was the measurement, but we know now that it isn’t essential. So, we have to ask ourselves: what is? What makes us a company? We’ve always had trust as key to the relationship between employees and businesses, but in a post-pandemic future, showing your trust needs to be tangible.

“Employees need to see your trust to feel secure in their work, and leadership needs to believe that what employees do is much more important than where they do it. For some old-school managers, this requires a leap of faith. But it’s a leap worth making if you want to attract and hold on to the very best employees, which is another way of saying: it’s a leap worth making if you want to stay in business.”

A version of this article previously appeared on Silicon UK in July 2022.