Hiring for Tomorrow, Instead of Today: a Look at Challenge-Based Recruiting

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LittleJoanna Weidenmiller, CEO of candidate assessment purveyors 1-Page, is not the first person to point out that 2015 will be the “Year of the Candidate” — the war for talent’s been escalating for a while now, and Jobscience CEO Ted Elliott told us in December that 2015 would be a year in which demand for employees increases as the supply of candidates decreases (not that he was the first to say this, either). That being said, Weidenmiller does have one of the most interesting solutions for companies competing for talent in these tough times: challenge-based recruiting.

2015 poses a particularly difficult year for recruiting for two reasons. First, the U.S.’s continuing economic recovery means there are more jobs available. More than 2.59 million jobs were created in the U.S. last year — America’s best year since 1999. According to CNN Money, “Many economists expect 2015 to be equally as strong, if not better, for job seekers.” When there are more jobs, candidates can afford to be choosier; when candidates are choosier, employers have to compete with one another to get candidates to choose them above the others.

Second, the workforce is in a transition period: 10,000 baby boomers retire every day, and millennials are replacing them; by 2030, millennials will make up 75 percent of the workforce. As millennials become the most prominent demographic in the workplace, they’re forcing employers to rethink the way they approach talent. Millennials, it turns out, don’t want the same things that boomers wanted: they want communication, innovation, and social responsibility more than they want paychecks.

What we have on our hands is a situation in which employers have to compete harder with one another to attract talent while also devising ways to attract the new type of talent that’s coming to dominant the talent marketplace. It’s an unenviable position, to say the least.

In the course of my conversation with Weidenmiller, she mentioned a number of things employers have to do to succeed in courting today’s talent: implementing referral programs, strengthening employer brands, etc. While Weidenmiller shared some great insights on these topics, it was the idea of challenge-based recruiting that really struck me, because it’s an idea that I haven’t encountered often, one with the potential to really change the recruiting game for good.

What Is Challenge-Based Recruiting, Anyway?

Before we go any further, it’s best to get our bearings. To that end, an explanation of challenge-based recruiting for the uninitiated:

We’re all familiar with resume-based recruiting: employers post job advertisements, candidates send in resumes, and the hiring process proceeds from there. It’s likely that we’re all also familiar with the failures of resume-based recruiting as well.

According to 1-Page, roughly 6.8 billion resumes go out to five million companies every year. Big-name employers like Google see 70,000 resumes a week.

“There’s no possibility that anyone is reading them all,” Weidenmiller says. “[So when a company says], ‘Give us your resume,’ every candidate across the planet knows that’s just an opportunity to be rejected.”

Weidenmiller also notes that, if you put the resumes of people like Bill Gates and Richard Branson through their own companies’ ATSs, they’d likely be rejected. This is because resumes can do little but convey a candidate’s past experience — they can’t really offer a window into what a candidate will bring to the table.

“That can’t be the system,” Weidenmiller says. “There has to be another way.”

Weidenmiller believes that companies and candidates need to hear and tell the hiring story a different way. “It’s not so much, ‘What have you done?,’ but ‘What can you do for us?'” she says.

Weidenmiller says that 1-Page’s challenge-based candidate-assessment platform offers candidates and companies the opportunity they need to tell this new story. In 1-Page’s challenge-based recruitment model, the hiring company puts out a challenge, instead of a simple call for resumes. Candidates than have the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and talent by completing the challenge, and the hiring process continues from there.

“Instead of saying, ‘Here’s a list of all the things you’re going to do,’ companies can say ‘Here is a challenge we’re really facing in this role,'” Weidenmiller explains. “For example: ‘We’re going to launch a new hip-hop radio station. How are you going to do a marketing strategy? What would your strategy be?'”

Weidenmiller says this allows candidates to pitch ideas regardless of their background, their education, or their connections. The result is that employers can judge prospective talent based on what talent can do for the company — not what talent has done for other companies in the past.

“[Companies] have to be hiring for tomorrow, not hiring for yesterday,” Weidenmiller says. “The truth is these companies actually need these ideas, because they don’t actually know what’s required in that role [for which they are hiring]. It’s a new role, and [the business world is rapidly changing]. Every role is changing across the board.”

The Importance of Employee Voices

Challenge-based recruiting, then, can be a way for employers to more reliably and effectively access the best and brightest talent for their needs — but 2015 is the “Year of the Candidate,” and so we have to ask: what does challenge-based recruiting do for candidates?

Remember above when we mentioned that millennials are quickly becoming the most prominent demographic in the workforce? And that they’re looking for companies in which communication is key — companies where their voices will be heard and innovation will be valued? Weidenmiller says that challenge-based recruiting is a way for employers to show millenial candidates that their voices matter.

“Employers have to understand what motivates the candidates they’re trying to attract,” Weidenmiller says. “What’s attractive to talent [in 2015] is being able to have a voice. I think that [employers] putting themselves out there as cultures of innovation will really drive these people in the door.”

In challenge-based recruiting, candidates are judged based on their voices and the contributions they can make to the company. This shows candidates that their insights and innovations will be valuable to the company even before they start working there.

“HR knows that [candidates want to be heard],” Weidenmiller says. “They’re asking, ‘How do we talk to everybody? How do we give everyone a chance to have a voice?'”

Challenge-based recruiting may very well be the answer to those questions.

By Matthew Kosinski