The more I think about it, the more I come to the conclusion that the hiring process is more like a game of poker than an adult conversation. It’s all there: Employers and candidates keep their card close to their chest; everyone is careful not to reveal their real expectations or limits too much; people are guarded lest they raise a red flag. Both parties also make a game of bluff [“We have a very competitive compensation package,” and “I love working from the office,”]. All you would need is a green felt table, and the look would be complete.
But is that really what we should all be aiming for?
Dishonesty by omission may seem like a necessary evil, but the short-term victory it provides can have long-term consequences. When the pink hue fades, the reality of compensation, benefits, expectations, and work culture can cause new hires to re-evaluate their position. Indeed, missed expectations push 80% new employees to justify leaving a job within six months.
It’s a game where, it seems, everyone loses. The employee returns to the labor market disillusioned. Recruiters lose their commission. Meanwhile, dedicated employers struggling with understaffing are losing productivity.
Surely it’s time to find a better game.
Honesty is the best policy
In my opinion, employers need to rethink how they qualify potential talent.
It starts with empowering hiring teams to be honest. Transparency has become something of a watchword in today’s workplace, a world that increasingly emphasizes the employee experience as a competitive advantage. Data shows that 87% of employees expect transparency from a future employer, while 51% would consider switching to a more transparent employer on compensation. For employers looking for a competitive advantage in a candidate’s market, transparency adds a lot but costs little.
Transparency, however, must start with recruiters.
Although recruiters do not hire or train candidates, they are the first point of contact between employer and employee. They set the tone.
Recruiters can set the tone of confidence by:
- Adopt an outbound approach to recruitment: This is where they take proactive steps to find talent that matches open jobs. They don’t string candidates together and keep them “warm” while they wait for the right opportunity.
- Being candid about working conditions: This is where they promote the benefits of an employer, but are also transparent about potentially negative aspects such as understaffed departments, internal friction, and impending acquisitions.
- Being honest about expectations: This is where people don’t find out about shifts in service orientation or toxic cultures until after they signed the contract.
Although honesty is the best policy, it does not make things easier. Transparency is difficult to achieve when it comes up against many professional and cultural norms, especially during the hiring process.
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But it is doable. Here are a few tips :
* Transparency starts with culture: If you want to make transparency a primary virtue, create a corporate culture that encourages honesty. Recruiters, internal or external, often have their finger on the pulse of an organization. They have the inside scoop and are in an ideal position to have the kind of candid conversations that appeal to top talent. Hiring teams can also bring serious, down-to-earth realism to subsequent interviews. Have a “it’s really like that“Candor is a radical break but it’s often a breath of fresh air for the wary candidate. It also gives the employer the opportunity to set the tone for a relationship of trust. People like those they can trust. For recruiters who fear the repercussions of sharing too much information and being too open, HRDs need to break that culture and create a new one. Leaders can lead by example by modeling honest conversations. Set up mock interviews and ask tough questions. Create internal discussions around transparency. Make organizational challenges an open conversation.
* Knowledge is power : If you want recruiters and hiring teams to be transparent, give them the resources they need to do so. Recruiters and recruiting teams need a detailed understanding of organizational best practices, company culture, team or department dynamics, compensation and benefits, and type of opportunities career development that candidates can anticipate. They must also understand – and be free to communicate – why there is an opening in the first place. Hiring managers need to make recruiters and hiring teams internal content and culture experts. This is especially important for outsourced recruiters who may not be as familiar with internal dynamics. In general, the more a recruiter knows, the better they will be able to assess a candidate’s fit. The more a candidate knows, the more comfortable they will be with committing.
* Make transparency a winning condition: The only way to foster transparency is to make honesty pay. For example, recruitment agencies usually offer incentives with commissions at the time of hiring. Instead, evaluate and compensate recruiters six months after a candidate’s placement, or based on the candidate’s seniority or performance, shifting the focus from short-term gains to long-term sustainability . Incentivize hiring teams by combining performance bonuses and birthday rewards for new hires with rewards and recognition for staff who vet them. At a broader organizational level, recognize team members who are willing to have difficult conversations about internal practices and culture. Monitoring of eNPS reports and individual meetings. Repay the opening by the opening.
keep it real
If radical transparency seems intimidating or overwhelming, that’s because it can certainly be both. It’s hard to learn a new game. But, as the past few years have shown, we all have to adapt or die.
The tough point here is that if you and your team are unwilling to recognize and work on what’s wrong with your organization, you can’t expect a new hire to reconcile it. No job is perfect, so own it.
Setting that tone and changing the game with radical transparency can have equally radical internal and external impacts. Honesty about table issues such as job descriptions, pay rates, and working conditions creates the opportunity for more meaningful conversations about employee experience, company culture, and changing expectations about individual and collective relationships at work.