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How To Recruit For A Job Of The Future

How do you interview someone for a job that hasn’t existed at your company yet and avoid making a bad hire?

How To Recruit For A Job Of The Future
[Photo: Flickr user Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, University of Texas at Austin]

Experts posit that jobs of the future will include roles such as neuro-implant technician, 3-D printer design specialist, and virtual reality experience designer. While it may be hard to imagine a time when such positions will be part of the regular employment landscape, not long ago, jobs such as iOS and Android developer or chief happiness officer didn’t exist.

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Candidates looking to make a leap into an emerging role need to shore up related skills, think about reinvention, and perhaps focus on an organization focused on social good to boost their portfolio and work with a purpose. For recruiters hiring for emerging roles, it’s a bit trickier, according to the experts at Caliper, a talent-assessment firm that uses data to map the strengths and weaknesses of managers and employees.

These jobs are gaining traction because they are data driven: In an age where Big Data is more than a buzzword, it’s embedded in almost every business. But the jobs are more than the sum of numbers and analysis. The best candidates will have an equal supply of facility to analyze data and the soft skills that constitute creative approaches to collaboration and problem solving.

Thomas Schoenfelder, Caliper’s senior vice president of research and development, says that there are several ways for hiring managers to assess the applicant’s skill with data analysis.

Shoenfelder recommends asking the candidate about a problem they had to solve. He suggests qualifying it as one that they were not provided with much information to inform the decision, and asking first how they went about identifying and gathering the correct data.

The candidate should be able to detail the process they used for analyzing the facts, and what criteria they used to base their conclusions.

The line of questioning shouldn’t end there. Schoenfelder also advises taking a slightly different tactic that includes asking about an experience where data had to be analyzed in order to make a decision. What process the candidate used to ensure the conclusion was sound, as well as the end result, offers another look into the interviewee’s reasoning and experience. So does asking them to describe a situation that called for careful consideration to ensure the conclusion drawn was correct. “What were the stakes involved, and what sort of due diligence did you perform?” Schoenfelder asks.

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Likewise, asking the candidate to discuss the business impact of a decision made after gathering information from multiple sources can also show how they proceed with analysis. The kicker comes from asking how they might have improved the outcome, now that they are reflecting on their procedure.

Schoenfelder advises the hiring manager to listen carefully, not only to how the candidate gathers and analyzes data, but they should also pay attention to:

  • How they reached conclusions based on a convergence of evidence from multiple sources
  • Checked the accuracy and validity of information used
  • Applied current research, findings, and developments in pertinent fields to own work
  • Reached decisions and conclusions based on trends in data

The hiring manager tasked with interviewing a candidate for a position that has yet to exist at their company may want to throw up their hands and walk away. How do you hire a chief collaboration officer, for example, when collaboration is something everyone acknowledges but not many understand how to do? (The Motley Fool’s CCO is Todd Etter, and his background is teaching improv.) In this case, Schoenfelder advises pursuing a similar line of questioning to ascertain the applicant’s thought processes in their previous jobs.

He suggests asking about a situation where the candidate had no previous experience or guidance to proceed. How did they react and step up to the challenge? Ditto for describing a project that lacked a clear structure to follow. How did they make decisions and what was the end result? How do they tackle new responsibilities that forced them to stretch beyond their comfort zone?

Listening for evidence of maintaining a positive attitude and remaining calm in the face of uncertainty as well as the ability to work with limited or insufficient information is important, says Schoenfelder. If the candidate can demonstrate that they are able to assess and take risk, and when necessary, to make decisions when little guidance or information is provided, that’s a plus.

If a millennial applies for one of these emerging positions, it might seem like they have an unfair advantage. The generation that’s been digitally spoonfed doesn’t hesitate to connect to global social networks. They are comfortable with the inherent risk of job hopping and contract work, and are well suited to take on a job of the future. However, Schoenfelder says there is a way to avoid generational bias when interviewing a candidate who might be over 40 for a chief happiness officer or other unprecedented position.

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“The best defense against it is to use objective tools,” he explains, “such as behavior-based structured interview items and personality assessments that provide standard questions for all candidates.”  

It’s also key to avoid making a bad hire. Management consultancy Brandon Hall Group found that while as many as 95% of companies admit to offering jobs to the wrong people each year, those that ask the wrong questions and don’t evaluate the interview are five times more likely to make a bad decision.
 
 

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About the author

Lydia Dishman is a reporter writing about the intersection of tech, leadership, and innovation. She is a regular contributor to Fast Company and has written for CBS Moneywatch, Fortune, The Guardian, Popular Science, and the New York Times, among others.

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