S4 E111 | CXR Podcast: Adam Gordon looks beyond candidate backgrounds

Adam explains how checking boxes doesn’t always get the right candidate for the job, sometimes it’s the one with the most determination and ability to do the job well despite their past experience.

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Chris Hoyt, CXR 0:21
Alright, so we got Adam Gordon with Candidate.ID on we don’t we don’t really have an agenda for what to talk about, we’re just going to catch up. But Adam, we’re sort of in the green room. And you bring up something really interesting. And now now My head is spinning, because I want to talk to Adam Gordon the employer. So and and how Adam does some hiring. So we, you know, we were having kind of an interesting chat around what you know, should CVs be required? Should interviews be a little longer? Or should they be shorter? College degrees, do they matter? Are we hiring from background? Are we hiring for potential? And you said something kind of interesting. You’ve got kind of an eclectic, inbound staff coming in? Can you talk a little bit about that? And then let’s, let’s get back in it.

Adam Gordon, CandidateID 1:04
Yeah, absolutely. So up until the beginning of this year, we were looking at what’s the person going to be doing. And we were writing job descriptions and job adverts which say, this is what you’ll have experienced doing. And then what I really, really exciting thing happened in February this year, I posted an advert on LinkedIn. And the first applicant came through within 10 minutes, 15 minutes. And I looked at her background and went, Oh, good, good CV, but not relevant for us because she’s worked to enterprise rent a car. And so I thought, there’s not really she started as a graduate, you know, management training program or something like that. So she’s probably really great. But she’s got no experience in SAS technologies. And she’s got no experience in talent acquisition or recruitment marketing. So I just sent her a message and said, Look, you’ve got great, great CV, but you’re not going to be for this job, I’m afraid. And before I press send on the message, I got a message from her, telling me why she knew she was a wild card. But why we should see her. I sent the message, I sent that message, forwarded it to the hiring manager Shona in our team and said, Look, she might be quite interesting, Shona me a message straight back. This is one evening, by the way, and said that she sent me a message as well. So she’d actually gone and find out who was the hiring manager, even though it was me who placed the advert. And she said, you know, I’d really like love to talk to you about this job as well. And because of the way that she pitched herself, we both said, Look, we need to give her a chance, because she could be really quite interesting. And we did, she was one of about 40 people who applied probably one of six or eight that we saw. And she got the job, and she is superb. And she’s superb, because she worked to enterprise rent a car, where you’ve got to determine how are we going to get that car from that place to this place? Are we going to have enough things here to satisfy those customers? We don’t quite like to me quite like, how am I going to have enough candidates coming in here for this hiring manager, and over there for that hiring manager. And it was like, honestly, the experience is so similar. And so she was able to convince us that she was able to jump over walls, you know, climb under walls, go round them, you know, and what we realized from that hire is what we need for that job is yes, people with professional experience. But if they can convince us that they can work out problems to solutions, and then that’s what we need not experience in recruitment, or employer branding, or recruitment technology that actually doesn’t matter for customer success is the ability to solve problems quickly and multiple problems at the same time. And so, you know, that’s what just what we realized that it was a, we have now hired four more people, all of whom also one of whom has some experience in recruitment, but three of them don’t, but they’ve all got the same personal characteristics.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 4:15
Okay, so I’m gonna I’m gonna be the devil’s advocate here, though. So at an organization that your size or with a leader like you this epiphany of hiring, right is is an easy thing to sort of go crazy with go viral with like, take some action on it and learn from but what if I’m, what if I’m the recruiter at a big company, and my hiring manager is doesn’t want to see anybody who doesn’t check the boxes of previous experience? How am I going to get that across the finish line? Am I never going to get the enterprise Supergirl? Am I never going to get the guy that comes out of construction that’s going to change our business. I mean, how do I get to make a difference as a recruiter that way?

Adam Gordon, CandidateID 4:55
Yeah, I quit. Yeah, well, maybe. Maybe. Maybe Be or stay and try and achieve influence? I mean, you’ve got it. You know, a lot of people talk about what are the best skills to be a recruiter. And I do believe that some kind of a sales skill type background is a really good one to be a recruiter, because it’s all about achieving influence and encouraging people to do the right thing by, you know, selling them the benefits of whatever it is you want them to do. So most recruiters have got probably a staffing agency type background, or some other kind of sales background. And if you have that, you should be able to convince your internal stakeholders because it’s exactly the same thing asking people to do what you want them to do, or to consider your opinion on something. And I think that probably is a head of talent level, you know, initiative to look at actually, should we abandon professional experience? And look at or specific experience for the job?

Chris Hoyt, CXR 5:56
Yeah, there might, there might be a balance. I mean, we were talking a little bit earlier, like we have seen since I think it largely, you know, I hate to say this, I’m just gonna be really blunt, I think largely with all of the social unrest that was happening. You know, at its peak, I think that really opened to the eyes of a lot of employers and a lot of talent leaders to start looking at talent a little differently. Right, and really, you know, really taking a hard look at how they’re hiring, and the impact of how they’re hiring. And I think some really began to shift and begin to hire for potential, looking for things like learning agility, looking for things like that scrappy, sort of get it done mentality versus someone who’s got a pedigree, right. And one of the one of the super schools that typically gets get hired from and I we see it more and more, but I am scared Adam that, that it’s good. And I again, I hate that I’m gonna say this. But if you’ve been doing this long enough, certainly in this in the States, if you’ve been doing this long enough, the the feeling of the importance that is around diversity hiring seems to come in waves.

Adam Gordon, CandidateID 7:04

Chris Hoyt, CXR 7:04
This is the longest wave we’ve written for a while. But typically what happens we see this sudden increase in hiring DE&I people, yeah, or heads of diversity. And then you know, a couple of years and all just kind of dies down, we find something else to be excited about. And then the wave comes back after a while. So this is kind of an interesting shift and the way that we’ve been running for a long, longer time than typical, then typically, we’ve been looking at it.

Adam Gordon, CandidateID 7:29
Yeah, and you know, you’re right. And so I, I’m just gonna, I’m just gonna tell the truth, I was born in a kind of upper middle class or a background, I went to a very sort of prestigious boarding school. I’ve not I obviously, I’m a white man. So I’ve not had very many problems in life that other people maybe get, because of who they were born, how they were, how they were born. And so, you know, I’ve learned a lot in the last during the pandemic, and one of the things I’ve learned is this, I call it college degrees. And why, you know, I said to you, I’ve said to you before that, my personal belief is that they’re the enemy of recruitment. And one of the reasons I say that is because I see job adverts out there, which are like, we’re looking for a chief marketing officer, you need to have minimum 20 years experience, minimum 15 years in leadership. And, and then and you need a college degree. And I’m looking at that going, why would anybody need a college degree to do that job?

Chris Hoyt, CXR 8:32
Especially 20 years experience, x years of leadership, like, what point does a degree have,  it just it doesn’t matter anymore?

Adam Gordon, CandidateID 8:34
I know, I mean, the 20 years experience is a nonsense Anyway, you know, somebody could, somebody could be better qualified to do the job with 10 years experience than many other people at 20. Because they’re just brilliant. They’ve got brilliant minds. But unfortunately, by saying that you need a college degree, you are excluding a lot more non white people.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 9:02

Adam Gordon, CandidateID 9:03
And that’s a, that’s just a big problem. And we need to, we need to get rid of that. And maybe we need to legislate against it, because I think it’s going to be very tough to get every hiring manager out there to accept that just because they went to, you know, Yale, you know, you don’t need to be you don’t need to go to Yale to be a brilliant you know, person in that team.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 9:30
Yeah, I you know, I remembered So even as far back as when I was actually filling Reqs like I just remember the mental state that headspace of my hiring managers. And in theory all of this was good but when it came down to the hires they needed in their function, the that the all those grand ideas didn’t apply anymore. They needed what they felt super comfortable with. They needed all those boxes checked and that degree not that one and from that school, and you know, that kind of thing.

Adam Gordon, CandidateID 9:58
I when I when I worked To PWC, I joined PWC. In 2004. I joined a team of I think it was six. Maybe I was the fifth into the team. I was the first person that hadn’t joined that team from Michael Page. And the five people who subsequently joined the team all came from Michael Page, there was only one of those me who hadn’t come directly from Michael Page. And the honest truth is they were also they were all called things like Sebastian, Orlando. I mean, they were all really posh.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 10:33
Yeah, Disney is what are you saying? So

Adam Gordon, CandidateID 10:36
it was, you know, I look at that thing. Yeah, that was that was possible, probably the least diverse team that I ever worked in. But what they did was they worked out a formula for the right type of person that was going to work for them. And it did, but it was definitely the expense of diversity.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 10:54
Yeah, and I don’t know if there’s actually a it’s not like writing a pop song. I don’t know that there is a formula that works every time the right way. You know what I mean? So for hire, I do think that it is this is the art part, right over bending, I do think it is about being flexible for what the business needs, but also realizing the people component of that, and hiring differently every time. And I think that’s probably a pretty hot debate. And it depends on what you’re hiring for. You can hire call infill call centers, classes of 12. Every other week, you know that like a machine, but when it comes to hiring people that are going to be representing your business, or changing your business or influencing I think the people in your business, I don’t think you can use a formula.

Adam Gordon, CandidateID 11:36
I agree. I think with that number of people, a team of 10, it was quite easy to kind of just get at the clones. But this was also really interesting. So that team was, we were within a broader team of about 80 people. And we all went to like a weight day type thing. And we did all did the Myers Briggs test. And we were told to stand in a line according to what our results were, my team was all at one end, we were all together. And then the next team was there. The next team was there, all the teams were in, you know, all next to each other. So, you know, that was that was a pretty interesting, pretty interesting, you know, eye opening thing for me to see the way that they’ve been hiring.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 12:20
Yeah, that’s, that’s fascinating. all lined up. feels a little weird, though.

Adam Gordon, CandidateID 12:25
Yeah. And it was from it was from external business development people, then the kind of internal business development bid writing people, there was internal corporate marketing people there was then internal comms people, there was external comms people. I think we’re at the end. And it was all there was like, extrovert through to introvert. Basically, that was it. It was the line from extrovert to introvert. And that’s the way that that works.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 12:49
That is interesting. Well, you’re in an interesting position, I think you’ve got sort of an interesting perspective of, you know, given the specialty of what your business does, and the exposure, you have to a tremendous amount of leaders and practitioners in the space and then being the hiring guy, right? Being the hiring manager or running those functions, I think you’re at a really interesting point to make some, some risky decisions and brag about them paying off or not pay off.

Adam Gordon, CandidateID 13:15
Yeah, but I really do believe but know that know that we know the personal characteristics that work for that particular team. This is our customer success team. Yeah, I think I think we kind of we kind of know that actually, it really opens up the talent pool for us as well, because I’m quite determined to hire in Glasgow, where we are Glasgow is a city of about 800,000 people. So it’s a decent sized city, but it’s not like, you know, New York or something. So there is a there is a finite talent pool, but because of the way we’ve identified the personal characteristics, more so than the industry background, or the job title that people have had before, it does, it really does open up, open up the talent pool for us.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 13:54
So Adam, that raises the question, I got to ask if you How are you determining the characteristics? Are you using an assessment tool? Or is it a little, a little bit of a discussion that you’re having? How does it go?

Adam Gordon, CandidateID 14:05
Yeah, it we’re not using an assessment tool. And that’s actually very interesting. I was at an event last week with resources leaders down in the south of England and I was actually amazed to hear how few people were using any kind of assessment tools and a lot of them were not using anything and some of them by design some of them by choice. Refresh.. one of them one of them’s a bank, which is refreshingly refreshingly personal experiences, is what their kind of, you know, customer proposition is and that’s what he

Chris Hoyt, CXR 14:40
I thought you were going to tell me that was the bank name. I’m like, that’s the worst bank.

Adam Gordon, CandidateID 14:45
That’s, that’s their, that’s one of their, that’s their like, customer proposition is refreshing the human experiences or something like that. And so as a result, they refuse to do any kind of automated assessment on on humans, which means they probably there’s a lot of bias, of course built into the way they hire

Chris Hoyt, CXR 15:04
Our HP as a slant to the hiring process. Yeah, yeah.

Adam Gordon, CandidateID 15:07
I mean we know so how do we how we’ve decided those are the personal characteristics is because we’ve we’ve watched Customer Success spectacularly fail in you know quite a few scenarios and gone “Why did that fail?” And then we worked out what we didn’t have what what what, was it we were lacking and not just in an individual but maybe in a small group of individuals. What was it that they they weren’t applying to solve that problem and we worked out what it was

Chris Hoyt, CXR 15:36
Nice. Well, Adam, always always good to catch up love to have you on the show. Thanks for joining us today.

Adam Gordon, CandidateID 15:41
Thanks so much. Great to talk to you again Chris. All the best

Chris Hoyt, CXR 15:45
Hopefully we’ll see you soon at a real conference somewhere someday.

Adam Gordon, CandidateID 15:48
So yeah, absolutely.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 15:51
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