As the workplace environment evolves and society moves to more flexible, decentralised ways of working, brands are increasingly seeking to tease out skills from potential employees that cannot be expressed on an old school CV.
Businesses are also waking up to the fact that a diverse workforce creates the best products and services, a reason why focus is increasingly being put on making recruitment more democratic in order to attract people from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds.
Companies like Unilever and Goldman Sachs are tapping into the power of AI to match graduates to roles within their businesses. Applicants are asked to film their answers to questions that pop up on their computer screen. The videos are then scanned by algorithms, which analyse the words used, how confidently the sentiment is expressed and how concisely the argument is presented.
Unilever also uses tech to match applicants to the right job. So, rather than applying for a particular role, graduates are matched by the AI system to the best role for them.
Meanwhile, First Direct has taken the experience offline by hosting speed dating ‘cocktails and careers’ evenings at a bar in Leeds (where its head office is based) to help the recruitment team discover more about candidates’ personalities.
Over a welcome cocktail the First Direct team explain more about the company and the various roles on offer, before embarking on a speed dating session, which gives candidates the chance to chat to the managers. Afterwards the team invites the potential recruits to get involved in a cocktail making demonstration. It’s a strategy that has seen First Direct make several hires.
It’s important to mix things up and challenge yourself to be better. It’s only by doing this, that businesses can attract the best talent.
Graham Bednash, Google
For its graduate recruitment, O2 has also moved away from traditional assessment days to focus on testing problem solving and creative thinking via ‘escape room’ type activities.
The brand is also working with graduate recruitment app Debut to offer a mobile-first approach that allows candidates to apply through their smartphone. O2 claims that not using CVs during the selection process helps to remove red tape and give candidates the best opportunity to demonstrate their “enthusiasm and passion”.
Part of encouraging workplace diversity is broadening the socio-economic diversity of the young people entering the business. This is the philosophy at BT, which since 2014 has been running the Work Ready programme, aimed at helping 16- to 24-year-olds who are no longer in education, employment or being trained for work get into the workplace.
To date, 3,500 young people have taken part in the scheme, which is designed to give them the confidence, curiosity and technical skills needed for the jobs of the future.
The programme consists of a three-week work placement combining skills development, employability training and hands-on work experience. Young people are given help tidying up their CVs, advice on interview techniques and developing their presentation skills, as well as spending time with BT employees during the intensive work experience.
At the end of the three weeks the young people go through a series of mock interviews and assessments to test what they have learnt.
Graduates of the Work Ready programme have joined all elements of the BT business, including marketing. Amy Caton, BT’s Work Ready programme lead, explains that curiosity and problem solving skills would be a good match for a move into the marketing team.
“Showing curiosity, the ability to problem solve and a desire to succeed are certainly a start. Increasingly the profession is becoming a mix of the numerical and the literal, so a solid understanding of both are certainly helpful,” she explains.
“Much of what we try to teach in the programme is about learning those transferable skills, which give people the foundation to try their hand at whatever matches their passions. A one-size-fits-all approach to recruitment does not allow for diversity, so it’s up to brands to continue to think about the way they recruit talent.”
Branding the experience
Ensuring that every touchpoint of the recruitment process reflects the brand DNA has been a real area of focus for Virgin Media. This is important as every year more than 120,000 people apply for a job at the company, when it typically only needs to hire for 3,500-4,000 roles.
“We’re in the rejection business to a large degree and so it’s very important to me that the candidate experience is a positive one, because many of those potential candidates are going to be disappointed, but they are our customers and they’re advocates in the marketplace if we get it right,” explains Catherine Lynch, Virgin Media chief people officer.
Over the past two years the company has focused on the employee experience, starting off by improving Virgin Media’s online self-serve volume recruitment tool, Volt. The online portal is designed to help people understand more about the company and the roles on offer, providing advice, tips and interview preparation.
A one-size-fits-all approach to recruitment does not allow for diversity, so it’s up to brands to continue to think about the way they recruit talent.
Amy Caton, BT
From a marketing perspective, the company is currently hiring for a CMO, a recruitment process Lynch describes as quite “high touch and traditional”. The potential CMO will be interviewed from a technical perspective by a marketer from the wider Virgin group, such as global head of brand and Virgin managing director, Lisa Thomas.
“We also use a company called YSC Consulting that looks at people’s judgement, drive and influence, and then the hiring manager obviously has a key role,” Lynch explains. “It’s a blend of the people team, the commercial line manager and different resources that fit different specialisms.”
Virgin Media has also hired an employee experience director, charged with remapping the entire experience from the moment the company places an advert through to creating a new onboarding programme that ensures employees receive the right kit from day one. Lynch explains that this is the first time employee experience has been aligned in the same way as customer experience
“I think it’s making that experience more joined up and more consistent so that we do retain the people we hire, rather than lose people in that first year because we disappointed them for some reason,” she says.
Virgin Media is also seeking to break down barriers around inclusivity and disability through its ‘Work With Me’ campaign, which is aimed at getting a million disabled people into work. In partnership with charity Scope, the programme has helped more than 300 people secure work during the first quarter of 2018, with half a dozen joining Virgin Media.
The people team also reach out to young people, attending schools and STEM careers fairs to share their experiences with 11- to 16-year-olds about what working for a business like Virgin Media is really like.
When hiring for its internship scheme, strategic insights consultancy Flamingo does away with CVs and instead asks candidates to submit a piece of work around what motivates them as people from a work or personal perspective. They are also asked to answer a question about a brand that is having an interesting impact on culture.
The answer can be given in written form of up to 400 words, as a video, a voice file or even a link to a blog. Crucially, the way the question is posed is informal, reflecting the agency’s specific tone of voice.
CEO Desiree Lopez explains that as a cultural insights company Flamingo wants to recruit people who are curious about the world.
“We sat back and asked ourselves ‘what are the kinds of characteristics in people that are most important, but also reflect the values that we have as a business?’. Curiosity is one as is being a cultural insider. Creativity is really important in terms of their thinking,” she explains.
“We also spend our days talking to clients, so we need people who have a really strong ability around expression of thought, whether that be through verbal communication or written communication.”
The new process is proving much more successful for Flamingo than the traditional CV-based approach in terms of the number of candidates the company goes on to hire, which in turns makes the whole recruitment process more efficient.
The process has absolutely given us access to individuals we don’t think we would have normally seen.
Desiree Lopez, Flamingo
“The interesting thing for us is that it’s been a much more rewarding process for our team, because they’ve been able to look at someone’s work and their thinking,” says Lopez.
“That’s 1,000 times more exciting to us than actually looking at CVs. So as a process it has been much more enjoyable, but it has absolutely given us access to individuals we don’t think we would have normally seen.”
Another benefit of the new process is that it has brought a sense of experimentation to the business and encouraged Flamingo to evaluate the way it recruits at all levels from a behaviour design perspective.
Young, emerging talent is a big focus at Google, which sees its internship programme as the perfect way to discover its next wave of employees. Students join the business for a couple of months before typically being offered permanent positions once their internship is complete.
The recruitment process generally starts online, which is the perfect way to democratise the process according to Google UK consumer marketing director, Graham Bednash.
“A lot of people wrongly assume that they need to be scientific geniuses to work at Google. So we make sure we post detailed information about each role and the particular skills we are looking for so anyone that meets the qualifications can feel comfortable applying,” he explains.
“The recruitment process is the first direct interaction that applicants have with Google, so it is important that the way we go about hiring reflects our DNA. We want the applicants to have a sense of who we are, how we like to work and what we set out to achieve from the moment that they hear from us.”
When it gets to interview stage applicants are invited to meet a variety of individuals within the business, which is especially important for marketers as they will work with teams in any department, from engineering and legal to content and government affairs.
Bednash also believes it is important that the interviewing panel represents the diversity of society, especially as research shows that women and underrepresented groups have a better chance of being hired when they are interviewed by diverse panels.
“I believe that innovation and creativity, which are key in marketing, flourish when a variety of perspectives, background and experiences are included in decision making. Also, it’s important that the people working on our campaigns reflect the diversity of the people the campaigns are aimed at,” he says.
“We continue to broaden the spectrum of schools, backgrounds and ethnicities of people we recruit, and rely on our diversity institutions within Google such as the Black Googlers Network, Women@Google and Hispanic Googlers Network, to point us in the right direction.”
Despite the progress being made Bednash stresses that Google is not prepared to sit on its laurels, particularly around addressing the persistent lack of representation in the tech industry.
“Attracting great talent is one of the most important things to get right in business. I worry that many companies’ hiring systems are broken and they do need to innovate,” Bednash concludes.
“It’s important to mix things up and challenge yourself to be better. It’s only by doing this, that businesses can attract the best talent.”