Saving Candidates From Slipping Off The Interview Cracks – Tim Sackett [Interview]
About Tim Sackett
Tim Sackett is a recruiting executive and the president of HRU Technical Resources. He is fondly known as the World’s Foremost Expert in Workplace Hugging and has been listed as one of the most influential HR experts by a multitude of global organizations.Known for his unique views and added wit, to all of his keynote addresses and blogs, he brings with him a great experience of 20 years in human resources.
We have the pleasure of welcoming Tim Sackett today to our interview series. I’m Aishwarya Jain from the peopleHum team before we begin just a quick introduction of PeopleHum. peopleHum is an end-to-end one view integrated Human Capital Management Automation Platform. The winners of the 2019 Global Codie Awards that is specifically built but for crafted employee experiences and the Future Of Work. We run the peopleHum blog and video channel, which receives upwards of 200,000 visitors a month and publish around two interviews with well-known names globally every month.
Welcome, Tim. We’re thrilled to have you.
Thank you for having me. I enjoy being here.
Our pleasure, Tim.
Tell us a little bit about your journey that brought you to this amazing place here. What is your inspiration to move forward in life?
It’s interesting, I actually got involved in talent acquisition originally because my mother started recruiting company back in 1980 and she was a single mom so she would call Engineers, IT professionals, Database administrators, and all these people, having these conversations on the phone as a young child, I would just sit in my mom’s bed with TV’s volume off and she would have this conversation so I was kind of born into talent acquisition.
I also think through this talent acquisition piece I got involved with HR, got my master’s in HR and decided to try that out for a while as well and then through circumstances, my mother decided to leave the company, and then I came and took that over about 10 years ago, and I’ve been doing that ever since.
My mom was probably the biggest inspiration for me to get started in the field and then I have had so many mentors and great minds throughout the last 20 years that I’ve been able to work with that has kept me energized like this field is constantly changing. I mean, obviously, we’re going through a gigantic change right now across the world with a pandemic.
I think that everybody’s relying on HR professionals and leaders to come forward and say, ‘How are we going to handle this? How are we going to handle our people? How are we keeping all these things together?’ So it’s to me, that’s probably the biggest inspiration.
Wow, that’s wonderful and that’s very nice to say that your mother is your inspiration.
Can you tell us a little about the workplace hugging movement? What brought you to be the foremost expert on workplace hugging?
I think it wouldn’t be easy now it might get us arrested and put in jail. We can’t go around hugging people, for the fear of giving them COVID. So it started years ago, I’m just a hugger, right? So I’m a person that if I see somebody personally, professionally if I know them if I feel like I have that kind of relationship instead of shaking their hand, I’m probably going to give them a hug.
So a couple of things happened, one was I wrote a blog post about it, and it went viral. Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, shared it on his network from LinkedIn, so this is before everybody could share content on LinkedIn after that it went pretty viral, probably like a million people within a couple of days read it. I was getting calls to come on interviews for radio stations and all that, so it was kind of like little quick 15 minutes of fame people wanted to talk about, the rules of hugging at work.
Then the #MeToo movement happened, then I just became, this middle-aged white guy on stage talking about a hugging at work and I’m like, ‘okay that’s probably not the best thing’ then the virus happened and now I could kill somebody if I hug them. So I don’t know how big it’s going to be, but people keep sending me messages during the lockdown saying they can’t wait to see me give me a hug when they are finally released, there’s give me a lot of pent up hugging people want to take place when we’re all done with this.
Absolutely, I think once we’re out of this pandemic everyone’s gonna rush to hug each other, and then it’s going to be viral all across.
That would be for sure.
We heard a keynote address regarding your views about “Failing is the stepping stone to success”. Can you tell us what shaped your thinking to believe that failure is not something that leads us to success?
I kind of got frustrated with what I call ‘Hustle Port’, in the US Market, especially, there’s a lot of people that believe we should constantly hustle. Again, I’m not a disbeliever of that kind but I believe we should really be, pushing each other to get better and all good stuff. I always set high expectations for myself, but with that came this belief that we need to fail more, we need to fail faster.
There were always motivational speakers, out talking about failure is the way to success. I’m kind of a logical, data-driven person in my mind, I’m thinking, wait a minute, If I keep failing, failing, failing, failing, failing automatically it doesn’t lead to success. Now the concept is that people are like, if you learn from every failure, eventually potentially you’re going to be teaching yourself the best way to do it. I also have three sons who are very athletic. I have a wife who was a college athlete and very athletic and what I saw there was completely different.
The more you fail in athletics, your mind starts to really make you believe that you’re going to fail the next time as well. If you’re playing baseball and you strike out a 100 times in a row when you go up to bat for the 101st time, your brain isn’t thinking, ‘Oh, great this is the time I’m gonna be successful, your brain is like I’m gonna fail again’. So what you see then is failure, failure, failure actually, leads to more failure and it’s not that you’re not trying harder, It’s not that you’re not learning from it. It’s that psychology you just beat down to believe that this is a problem.
So, what I find is that if you can find ways to be successful little by little, in that kind of example, instead of trying to hit a 100 mile an hour fastball, now I’m going to just toss you a ball or I’m gonna put a ball on a T and have you hit it and learn how to really get your swing down then I’m gonna toss you a ball, and then I’m gonna go behind the screen and just toss it a little faster and little by little, you’re having success. Now, when you go up to bat, you’re thinking, ‘Oh, I have this’ because you’re building up that psychological belief, the motivation that you’re gonna be successful.
“I’m not a believer that failure leads to success. I’m a believer that we have to help our employees find little bits of success so that they have the competence and the motivation to move forward to that next piece.”
That they’re now they’re gonna truly believe ‘Hey, I can be successful at this’.
Right. So you think that you probably subconsciously if you’re just thinking about one failure, it leads to another and it leads to another, and then it just becomes a chain reaction that you cannot succeed.
You just lose confidence, and when you take a look at people who are really successful one of the things that they always go back to, they just have this confidence that they knew they could do it. Well if you fail, fail, fail, fail, you don’t know you could do it. You think you’re gonna fail again versus like, little by little success and then, you start having that confidence that you’re gonna be successful.
That makes sense and it’s very interesting that you take a different view on this, it’s really nice.
Yeah. I think the hard part for leaders, that is to really find out, how do I help my people become successful instead of throwing a giant project on them that you think this is gonna be really difficult I don’t know if they’re prepared, maybe you start to give them pieces of that project that you know they could be successful in and then all of a sudden, turn and look backward and go, ‘Oh, gosh, I just completed that. I just did everything’ they were successful because you gave them things they could be successful at.
So, at this point in time, how do you think leaders can make their team successful? Because it’s such a unique environment and everyone’s remote. Leaders and managers are not used to this. How do you think they can be successful?
I think we tend to want to have a really high empathy right now we need that as leaders. Understanding that people are being put in a situation they might not be super comfortable with. I think there’s a big part of the population that thinks they want to work remotely, like if I worked at home, I could be so productive, and then they get home and they find out ‘Oh, gosh there’s a lot of influences coming in that really hurts me from being productive’.
The best leaders that I see right now are really holding their teams accountable, with certain things. They’re checking on and off and they’re making sure that people are doing things they’re not just saying, ‘Oh, well, just go home and do the same thing you’ve been doing, and that’s going to work out.’
Well, they know that people are probably going to have a harder time being more productive or being as productive so I want to make sure to go out there instead with really great measures, and then check in to find out, ‘Hey, what if you’re not meeting those measures then, How can I help? What can I do to help you be more successful?’
Because that’s the world we live in we’re not gonna shut down everything for months on end and just think, ‘Oh, it’s gonna be fine’ There’s still a lot of businesses out there that have to perform. We do a lot of defense work with the US. All of those employees that we have on those projects are still going to work every single day. They still have to produce things so it’s up to leaders to make sure that they’re being as productive as they can. So it’s not a time to just go, ’Oh, it’s gonna be okay, we’re all being nonproductive and, just keep watching Netflix’.
“We have to really hold people accountable now more than ever.”
What do you think about recruitment in these times? Because again it’s a time there are some companies still hiring. What is your advice to such people?
It’s difficult because there are some very specialized companies that are still hiring. I think there’s so many companies that are not, and I see so many recruiters and recruiting organizations within corporations that they’re laying those people off for getting rid of those people.
I think what I see is that even the best companies, even in a position where most of their workers aren’t necessarily working full time they’re using this time in recruiting talent to actually better themselves they’re saying, ‘Hey, what’s that talent out there that we never could get that now might not have a job or might be underemployed let’s go after some of those people and get them lined up to be on our team now’.
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Also we had so many of us struggling a month ago to find talent so we probably held onto some talent that wasn’t very good just because, like, ‘Hey, I know Timmy, he’s not really that good at this, but he’s better than nobody so we’re gonna hold on to Timmy’ well, maybe now Timmy has to go away, but we can upgrade Timmy’s position and find someone much better.
The best organizations coming out of the pandemic will better their talent the worst organizations will basically just try to cut costs and get rid of all the talent that they have. I know from a business standpoint, some of us have to do that to survive. But I think even if you only keep 1/10th your talent, 25% of your talent, make sure that the people that you’re keeping or that you’re in those positions are the best possible talent in the marketplace, those organizations are going to be better in the end.
Right. There’s also a lot of behavioral testing and assessment tools out there.
Are they important for candidates’ selection and can you help us with some techniques that we can use for behavioural assessment?
We talk about the future of the talent acquisition tech stack and where this is going to come when we get outside of the pandemic or recession or whatever happens worldwide. I think we believe we’re going to have more candidates applying to our jobs. If that’s the case, then we have to ace assessment technology so that’s going to be a huge part of the tech that’s coming out of the pandemic.
I think what we learned from 2008-2009 that looked like a great recession was that what we tried to do with the tech stack was filter, filter, filter, filter. So instead of having 10,000 people apply to the job by the end of the process, I only had a 100 that made it that way. What we thought was, ‘Oh, that’s giving us a higher quality of candidate’. What it gave us was somebody who survived all the hoops that we made them jump through so it was survivors at the end, it wasn’t the best talent.
So what I think the modern recruiting tech stack is going to try to do is to say, ‘I want all of 10,000 to come in and have a great candid experience make it very quick and easy for them to apply and so I need an assessment that’s not going to be cumbersome that’s not gonna be time-consuming but that’s really going to give me a high degree of a higher quality of candidates’.
When we take a look at things like the two highest variables of quality of hire, it’s going to be one is cognitive ability, agility to learn those things or the other one is a natural job work sample, right? Can I see them doing the job? If I can, do they do it well? Those are the two highest correlated kinds of pieces that we need.
A behavioral assessment have definitely evolved over the last decade. I think when we take a look at a typical behavioral assessment, we take a look at the personality profile or something like that. I don’t know if I’m a huge believer of some of that stuff, whereas people are like ‘Oh, we’ve used these for 60 years’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, we’ve used it for 60 years and for 60 years it has been crap right. Has it been good?’ so it’s like it hasn’t given us a better quality of candidate.
For me, I’m looking to cut flat out cognitive ability because smart people, people that can actually learn quickly and process information quickly are ones that we know can come up to speed really quickly for us in any environment, whether you’re hiring for IT or you’re hiring for a Bus driver, cognitive ability and that doesn’t mean educational ability that just means cognitive ability is really good then really the hard part of that is trying to develop a really fundamental fast work sample.
There’s some tech out there that people could do work samples on that I think is really great to get a higher quality of candidate but I think coming out of this, we definitely need a higher usage of assessments across the board because we want to make sure every candidate potentially has access to the job and that we’re getting the highest quality of candidate out of all of those not making people jump through hoops.
Even for candidate engagement which is a very big parameter in this entire recruitment process, do you think chatbots can really help in candidate engagement?
Oh, no doubt, I’m a big fan. My friend Madeline Murano aptitude research has shown that having a chatbot on your career site will double the amount of applicants per posting that you have. Now again, if you’re old school thinking going I don’t need more applicants we have too many applicants. You want as many applicants as you can.
What you want is technology that will give you the top applicants of those that sorts matching technology, but I think it is definitely something that we have to be looking at and I love the combination or the hybrid chatbot, where let’s say I had a really really difficult time to find position, like IT positions, even though we have high unemployment, maybe I’m still not getting many candidates to apply to this job.
So I want a chatbot. That would probably be AI driven at the same time as soon as I have somebody that I think is interested that I think is good. I want to have a real human come into the loop, right? So it’s a pass off, where the chatbots stop, where do I then introduce a real human so that I could make sure I don’t lose that candidate, because chatbots have been there, they’ve really increased over the last couple of years in terms of their ability, but it’s still limited versus you and I having a conversation with a person.
Right. So you can use that for the starting process of it but you need human intervention to put your process and take it ahead.
Maybe not for every position. If I have a position that’s low skill, no skill. I have hundreds of thousands of people applying. Maybe the chatbots screening technology can basically run all of that for me. I’m going to get good enough, for my hire. When it comes to really low candidate positions, I need that hybrid motto. I want to start with a chatbot but I also want to loop in a real human eventually.
Especially if you have a lot of gig workers, if you have contract workers, you can definitely use the chat bots to make that process more smooth, right?
In today’s world, no matter what your age, I think we’re all comfortable at this point using chatbot technology. No, one goes ‘Oh, I’m not gonna answer that’, I can ask a chat about something. It’s like, just come on, get over yourself.
What about softwares used to engage employees, HCM software, do you think it’s actually going to improve the experience of employees?
Yeah. I mean, again it’s difficult because we go back to the great recession in which we came out of that was, when we had high unemployment, we tend not to really think about the employees experience, because there’s 100 people waiting to take your job if you screw up or if you were not happy. That’s kind of an old school model of thinking. I think the last decade has shown us that if you want to be competitive, you want the best talent you have to have a combination of a great employee experience, which I mean at that point, we need to go out and say, ‘What can we do to keep good engagement?’
I’m not a big fan of we constantly have to raise engagement. I think it’s a never-ending story that eventually you get to a point where you’re going, ‘Okay, we’re at 98% engagement. What else do we have to do to get people engaged?’ I don’t want to get into that game. What I want to do is to say, ‘Hey, what’s a baseline of engagement?’ ‘Do we feel like our culture is really good?’ If it is then I’m fine with where we’re at, but you still have to measure that and understand, ‘Hey do I have certain groups or certain managers or leaders who are bringing engagement down in their areas’ then ‘How do we assist them and help them?’
To me, I think one of the biggest things I’ve seen is when you take a look at like Slack and Microsoft teams and some of these communication vehicles that are allowing teams to interact with each other especially remotely, but also even within organizations.
We started Microsoft teams and using that in my team they engage with each other now before it was, Hey, when they came to the office, then they would be engaged, right, because they’re all kind of together and they see each other and they stop by and have a cup of coffee. Now I see on Microsoft teams where my people are engaging with each other, not just during the day, but at night on the weekends, and they’re sharing stuff and, like the engagement level from a communication side, has really gone through the roof.
“I love those kinds of technologies that are allowing our people to engage when they want to engage. Not just between 8-5 or from Monday-Friday.”
Right, interesting that you can mention this engagement.
I know that you have a lot of engagement surveys being sent out. Do you think that’s essential to what’s really happening in the organization?
Good leaders and smart employees know how to kind of game about some of the engagement. I also think that sometimes we get held hostage by people who just are negative overall. I mean, no matter what we do with our assessment technology and how good we are, interviewing there’s gonna be some people that kind of slipped through the interview cracks and then you find out that they’re just kind of a negative personality. Nothing you could do is going to make them happy. I tend to tell people it’s not my job as a leader to make you happy. I’m never gonna make you happy. Either you’re a happy person, or you’re not a happy person.
I tell leaders all the time if you want a happy culture, you want happy employees then hire happy people, you know, that’s the easiest way to be happy. You could double their salary, and within three months, they’re going to be unhappy again. Like it’s just that’s just the way it goes.
Absolutely, that makes a lot of sense.
For my last question, if you have any other important sound bytes that you’d like to provide our audience?
I think all of us right now are on our heels a little bit, with this coronavirus and with the pandemic that has done to us, we’re not sure how to act. I think the one thing I could do that I could control in my environment is one, ensure that I’m being transparent with my employees, having real conversations with them, at the same time I’m still a huge believer that we have to increase our talent in any way we can.
If you went from 1000 employees to 500 employees, you better make sure those 500 are the best freaking 500 employees you have in the world working for you. That’s what you can do right now. That’s what you can control. I can’t control if you know the government’s going to say, ‘Hey, you can go back to work next week or next month or next year’ I have no control over that, so I can’t focus on that.
I can focus on my own talent, my own people and making sure that I’m either getting the best talent or I’m making the talent out better already through an HR through learning through all that we do. I think it’s so important right now to control what you could control and not worry. You can worry about everything but try not to worry about the rest.
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Yeah, I think that’s an important message to try to keep sanity and positivity at this point in time. Thanks a lot. Well, it was nice talking to you, Tim. I really appreciate your time with us and you sharing your views. I think that our viewers have learned a lot, and me personally too.
Awesome. Thanks so much and also I write every day at my blog Tim Sackett.com, so people who want to hear more, catch up on the blog.
Absolutely. Take care Tim.
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