Photo credit: newyorker.com
“Your talent determines what you can do. Your motivation determines how much you are willing to do. Your attitude determines how well you do it.”
What Lou Holtz, former football coach and lifetime motivational speaker, did not realize is that he was describing the core challenge and opportunity of recruiting:
How do you figure out what candidates can do, how motivated they are to succeed, and what kind of attitude they bring before even meeting them?
Based on our last 4 years in Kenya building a digital recruiting platform from scratch with a local team and local recruiting partners, we strongly believe in and recommend the “What It Takes” approach for better hiring.
We find that this practical assessment based method gives Hiring Managers the ability to objectively measure skills, motivation, and attitude candidates bring before a face to face interview.
What is the “What It Takes” approach and why does it lead to better hiring?
Instead of wasting your time looking over CVs, trying to use grammar and formatting to understand a person’s ability, try something else.
To create a better hiring process, we recommend basing all of your decisions on a systematic, objective screening process that makes job applicants show you they have the skills to do the job, instead of just telling you.
At Duma Works, we do this through a rigorous analysis of the job opening with our clients, and the creation of a customized set of screening tests to put applicants through.
For this article, I’m going to skip through the job analysis and get right into the screening process, but if you are interested, I’ve built a case study that can help you think about how to analyze your job openings more deeply here.
Step 1: Identify the Skills the Job Requires
The first step is to understand what the day-to-day at work activities look like for your job opening and the skills (soft & technical) candidates will require to get the job done.
Examples of soft and technical skills include:
- Proficiency in a specific language
- Knowledge of Salesforce software
- Proficiency in Powerpoint
- Understanding of SPSS
- Itinerary planning on a budget
- Client relations
- Critical thinking
The next step is to create specific questions to evaluate each one of these skills, along with a grading rubric to assess the candidate’s performance on each question in an objective, consistent way.
N.B. Creating a grading rubric is HUGELY important, do NOT skip that step!!
Step 2: Build a Screening Test To Assess Each Skill
This step consists of a rather tedious and creative process to build case studies that a candidate will need to complete.
When creating the case studies, you should think about what skills you are assessing and how concretely you will be able to judge a candidate’s ability based on response.
I think the best way to illustrate our process is based on examples (again, showing, rather than telling! :))
Case Study 1: Junior Level Field Sales Manager
Imagine you have a job opening for Junior level Field Sales Manager. The day-to-day activities they will engage in include responsible for (a) recruiting a sales team, (b) managing a sales team, and (c) reporting back to HQ in Nairobi. The skills they require include: Recruiting, Managing Sales Team, Creating Reports, Communication, Leadership.
To test candidates for these skills, we would do the following:
- Issue a basic questionnaire to check to assess their interest in the role and confirm they have the right specific experience level, educational background, and communication skills
- Issue an advanced technical skills test with a practical case study to test for the 3 skills above. For example:
Imagine you are managing a team of 5 field sales staff in a rural area of Kenya who are approaching micro and small enterprises to begin accepting mobile money at their kiosks and shops.
A – When recruiting for your sales team, (a) Describe 3 methods you would use to source for candidates in the rural region, (b) What 5 key experiences or skills would you look for in candidates, (c) Describe 3 questions you would ask candidates during the interview to assess these skills.
B- Create a report template that you would use to keep your management in HQ in Nairobi up to date with sales targets for your team.
(a) What KPIs would you track and how would you prioritize those KPIs? (b) What anecdotal information would you include in the report, (c) how many times per month would you issue a report and why?
Do you see how practical testing is a way of having candidates prove to you that they have what it takes to do the day-to-day activities that will be required of them on the job?
Case Study 2: Entry Level Monitoring & Evaluation Officer (NGO)
Imagine you are hiring for an Entry Level Monitoring & Evaluation Officer at an NGO responsible for (a) data collection and data entry, (b) community organizing, and (c) basic data analysis. Skills required are therefore: Data Collection, Data Entry, Organization, Community Organizing, Leadership, Data Analysis, Knowledge of Excel.
Here’s how we would test for these skills:
- Again, issue a basic questionnaire to assess education level and skills. I would also throw in some multiple choice questions to test their knowledge of functions on Excel and basic logic questions.
- Issue a technical test to assess for the three skills above. For this, I would include an Excel file with some data points to assess both their ability to analyze on a quantitative and qualitative level.
- On the quantitative side, I would include some incorrect formulae and calculations in the Excel file and ask them to find the mistakes.
- On the qualitative side, I would ask them what other data points they might need to collect from community members to make a viable recommendation to the NGO. I would ask them what types of questions they might ask community members in order to gather these data points.
- For community organizing, I would ask them to give me an example of potential partners in the community they would approach to work with to gain better access to the community.
For all these screening tests, I would create a grading rubric with grades from 1-5 for each question, pegged to different levels of excellence of answers.
Creating a grading rubric isn’t hard, it’s just another step you need to do to create this systematic recruiting process. To make things easier for you, I’ve created a template for how to build your skills tests and grading rubric here.
Step 3: Assign someone responsibility for managing this process
Whether you want to do this in-house or hire someone else to do it for you, that’s up to you! Every organization is different and sometimes it is helpful to begin creating the process internally so you get a deep understanding of how it works and its benefits.
Despite being more time-intensive to set up, we’ve found the What It Takes approach definitely pays off in the end and yields a better hiring process. For us, this is mainly because of the following:
- You gain an objective standard for all job applicants in your recruiting funnel
- You begin creating a systematic approach to recruiting that can be scaled and delegated to other team members
- By creating a standard, you give yourself the ability to reflect on your hiring process so you can analyze and improve it as your company grows
Most importantly, you assign someone responsibility for managing this process. If no one is responsible, it will not get done, and you will find yourself hiring by CVs and relying on gut instinct again.
This approach to recruiting does take a bit more time to set up, and requires a deeper understanding of the job type you are hiring for. It is difficult to build this process while you are in the middle of handling compliance, culture, payroll, and all the other things you manage.
If you don’t want to do this in-house because you’d rather focus your energy on actually running your business, I would encourage you to try using Duma Works.
We’ve built a system that’s a blend of human touch and digital as well as customization and scalability to help you create a What It Takes-based, systematic recruiting system for your organization.
Duma Works already has a database of screening questions to use for specific roles, and our amazing Placement Success team can offer you guidance as you think through what strategic goals your job opening will seek to fill.
Another benefit of using us is that we’ve created a software to execute this recruiting process at scale. So instead of you personally looking through a thousand screening tests, our software and Placement team can do that for you within 5-10 business days.
I hope this article and the resources I’ve included are helpful to you.
If you have any questions, want to chat about your recruiting process, or want to learn more about Duma Works, please visit our website dumaworks.com or reach out at [email protected]. I’m always happy to meet new people, exchange new ideas, and build new partnerships.
You can also check out other articles I’ve written about What It Takes based recruiting like this one here.
THANKS FOR READING & HAPPY HIRING!