Thursday, February 21, 2013

Stop Hiring Keywords and Buzzwords...Hire Talent and Aligned Values Instead

Security Career Coach, Security Career Coaching, Security Job Coach
I’ll soon hit the 23 year mark in my recruiting career.  For all these years I’ve seen and to this day I still see companies hire candidates whose resumes possess all the right keywords and buzzwords.  This seems to be the sole criteria for many hires. 
In contrast, I’ve also seen companies that are led by innovative, visionary, futuristic, forward-thinking leaders that set out to hire talent and who aspire to hire people whose personal values align well with an organization’s corporate values. 

What’s the difference between the keyword buzzword hire, the talent hire and hiring for values alignment?
Let’s take a look.

Hiring by Keywords and Buzzwords:
Hiring by keywords and buzzwords means that a candidate’s resume will only be reviewed and an interview will only be granted if the candidate has worked with specific tools a company currently desires a candidate to possess.  This screening process is generally handled by someone who doesn’t understand the job to be filled. They’re comparing their keyword and buzzword list to what they quickly see on a resume. 

It gets worse.  The screening process for this type of hire is simple and can frequently be highly automated to the point where an applicant tracking system can find keywords and buzzwords in a candidate’s resume and can then produce a list of “viable” candidates.  Any candidate whose resume did not contain the desired keywords and buzzwords will be passed over.
Companies that hire by keyword and buzzword are more likely to have high turnover than companies that hire with much deeper objectives in mind.  A candidate who will join a company because their resume matches the company’s job description will also leave a company when another company comes along with a job description that has more attractive keywords and buzzwords and a few more dollars.

A challenge with hiring only by keywords and buzzwords is that of expanding a candidate’s skills.  A candidate who is an expert in the keywords and buzzwords you require today may not possess the capacity, ability or desire to see the keywords and buzzwords on their resume change when an organization for example decides to change from Oracle’s products to Microsoft’s products.  If a candidate doesn’t want to see their skills change, they may leave in order to find a company that will continue to use the skills they’re comfortable with already.

What does Hiring Talent Look Like?
In a conversation I shared with my HR Director friend Mike Salisbury from Human Resource Alliance last week, we agreed that hiring talent is a better practice than simply hiring by keyword and buzzword.  Mike referred to the practice of hiring talent as a “Best Practice” in hiring.

Let’s say that a bank needs to fill a CISO Job.  A group of stakeholder decision makers in a bank may think that the only CISO candidates they should interview are those who currently work in banks. I’ve experienced this mindset more than once.  The result of this closed mindset is that CISO candidates who possess deep talent may be passed over because they don’t currently work in a bank.
Let’s say the bank stakeholder decision makers decided to hire the most talented CISO they could find.  This person may or may not currently work in a bank but they will possess certain skills, accomplishments and behavioral traits the decision makers determine a successful CISO should possess.

In this example, the keywords and buzzwords that are traditionally found in a bank CISO’s resume will be overlooked in order to find a candidate who possesses a record of accomplishment the decision makers desire.  The candidate will possess a set of personality and behavioral traits the decision makers value.  The candidate’s career track record will demonstrate a set of accomplishments that line up with what the bank’s decision makers desire to see in a strong candidate.
This approach to hiring doesn’t leave CISO candidates out simply because they don’t currently work in a bank and the approach encourages a recruiter and/or HR team to focus on identifying talented candidates who can do the job of a CISO rather than only focusing on keywords and buzzwords.

What does aligning a Candidate’s Personal Values with Corporate Values Look Like?
As my conversation with +Mike Salisbury progressed to a point where Mike challenged me to take our discussion to the next level, a level he knows I deeply understand. 

Mike knew that through my executive coaching training that I’d been exposed to the importance of values alignment in an organization.  He wondered why I wouldn’t want to take this article from discussing “Best Practices” to discussing what Mike referred to as “Next Practices”.
I couldn’t resist Mike’s challenge so here you go.  Companies that attract and hire the most talented people and companies that create great innovations are companies that take the time to determine if a job candidate’s personal values align with the company’s values.

Let’s say your company produces the world’s most innovative and cutting-edge firewall solutions.  Your company hires a competitor’s top sales person because he / she understands the topic of firewalls deeper than anyone else in the industry and he / she has a rolodex that will bring clients to your company quickly.
This sales person brings with them a huge Rolodex of potential customers.  He / She has worked hard for many years to create goodwill with his / her customers.  The sales person your organization hires is assigned to a VP of Sales who cares nothing about goodwill or customers and only cares about putting up numbers.

How long do you think the new salesperson will continue to work in an environment where their personal values of creating goodwill with every customer they touch is challenged daily by a VP of Sales who cares nothing about goodwill and only cares about numbers?

Hiring by “Next Practices”
Does the ability to attract, hire and retain talented people whose personal values line up with your corporate values come easy?  NO!

Why would anyone care about values alignment anyway?  Hire candidates who possess talent and whose personal values align with your corporate values and you’ll have employees that will stick with you through the tough times and will prosper with you when times are good.  They’ll be much less likely to return recruiting calls and you’ll very likely not find their resumes sitting on an on-line job board for all to see.
Companies that want the most talented and innovative people on board must first go through a process of determining how to articulate the organization’s corporate values.  Do you know what your organization’s corporate values are?  Have you ever gone through the process of discovering what your personal core values are? 

If the executive team in an organization can’t articulate the organization’s corporate values, there is little chance of hiring job candidates whose personal values will align with the company’s values.  When companies don’t hire with this level of consideration, they’re missing a golden opportunity to attract the most desirable employees and they’re missing a golden opportunity to create an environment that breeds retention, innovation and success.
As a certified executive coach trained by The Marshall Goldsmith Group and trained by Executive Coaching University, I know how to help my clients identify and articulate corporate values.  Companies that invest the time necessary to clarify this level of communication will attract the desired candidates.'s Security Recruiter Blog