By this point, it’s been well established that we’re entering a new economic reality: Rising interest rates, sky-high inflation, and geopolitical uncertainties have put an end to more than a decade of unrestrained growth across the tech industry. What’s clear is that current market conditions mean that the days of growth at all costs—and hiring with reckless abandon to fuel that unsustainable, short term growth—are a relic of the past.
As with any tumultuous time, this is a moment where companies will be forced to take a critical look at their established way of doing business, and the ones who adopt more thoughtful, efficient processes in response will continue to thrive. In particular, leaders will need to shift their mindset towards hiring for quality in order to help their organizations thrive as they encounter a new set of challenges.
Why the way we hire has to change
The current situation has revealed that one of the key areas in need of transformation is hiring. We’re already seeing the unfortunate aftermath of the haphazard, short-sighted hiring practices of the past decade resulting in layoffs at a slew of high-profile companies and many other companies dropping forecasted headcount growth by 30-50%.
Disorganized, inconsistent, and low-quality hiring processes may have gotten companies through periods of hyper growth, but they won’t fly in this new world because they’re unsustainable and setting teams up for failure. When you were on a rapidly rising tide, it may have been okay that some sub-par players would slip through the cracks. But now, every hire is a priority hire. So, it’s time to stop the slapdash hiring.
What does slapdash hiring look like?
- Sending new interviewers into the wild with no training and little regard for a common understanding of what good looks like
- Prioritization of quantity and speed over quality
- Unstructured interviews and hiring processes riddled with bias
And how does quality hiring compare?
- Deliberate thought and planning to determine which hires you really need to enable success
- Consistent, fair, rigorous interviews that create a great candidate experience and lead to high-quality hires
- Intentional focus on assessing for culture and values
The reality is hiring well has always been an imperative from a financial perspective—each high-quality hire will raise the productivity of your organization and have a meaningful impact on the output you’re able to achieve. In fact, studies have shown that top performers at tech companies are 800% more productive than average performers. An essential component of quality hiring is understanding and quantifying that economic value so that you can optimize for it.
Few things will have more of an impact on the trajectory of your company than hiring. To win, you have to treat it with the care, thought, and resource it deserves.
How thoughtful leaders should approach hiring in the new normal
Quality hiring doesn’t happen without intention and a clear purpose. Here are a few principles I think are essential for leaders to keep in mind as they prepare for what’s ahead and shift the way they think about hiring.
Treat every hire as a priority hire
In a world where efficiency and quality trump unchecked growth, it’s necessary to treat every hire like it’s a priority hire. For each open role, invest time and thought into precisely aligning on the skills and experience candidates must have to provide the impact the organization needs. Make sure hiring teams are well-calibrated on what good looks like. And while it can be tempting to fill a much-needed role as soon as possible, don’t compromise on quality in favor of speed. Now more than ever, every hire matters.
Keep the bar high, no matter where you are
I’ve had conversations with a lot of talent leaders recently about how the impending economic challenges are affecting their hiring plans. Some of them say they’re opening headcount in less-expensive locations or fully committing to remote in response. It’s essential to make sure that quality and culture don’t decline as you do this. The bar should remain the bar no matter where people are. This will require more concerted efforts to ensure there’s agreement on what good looks like and what the strategy is to identify and attract people who meet that criteria. Transparency, training, and alignment will be more important than ever.
Don’t abandon the progress we’ve made so far
I’ve been disappointed to see that in many of the recent tech layoffs, entire teams focused on areas like DEI, candidate experience, and Learning & Development have been let go. This lays bare an ugly truth: that many efforts in these critical areas have been lip-service only. The layoffs reveal that these teams were likely never truly an integral part of the organizations’ approach to team building. The current conditions can’t be used as an excuse to abandon the progress that’s been made to develop fairer, more consistent, and more inclusive hiring practices. We need to build hiring processes where fairness is a fundamental and inextricable foundation, not a superficial wrapper that can be added or removed on a whim.
Get real about culture
Much has been made about the candidate-led market that defined hiring in the post-pandemic era of the Great Resignation. This had many positive effects including empowering candidates not to settle and challenging organizations to build truly employee-centric offerings. However, it also could encourage an environment where hiring teams wanted to appeal to every candidate at all costs. This meant that teams were more prone to present sterile, vanilla versions of their culture that could appeal to anyone. Excelling in the market we’re entering is going to be more difficult than ever. It will require companies to be more honest—with themselves and with candidates—about what type of culture is going to enable the team to weather the storm and thrive on the other side. I encourage leaders not to shy away from taking a more opinionated stance on this. To do this, it’s important to first clearly articulate your culture and then determine how to consistently assess for it in your hiring practices, including aligning on the competencies needed to underpin it.
It’s time to focus on quality hiring. If not now, then when?
With a singular focus on growth for so long, it’s not surprising that quality hiring has taken a backseat. Now that there’s a new set of challenges to tackle, the smartest teams will use this as an opportunity to build high-quality hiring processes that elevate the trajectory of their organization. It’s time to start hiring smarter, more thoughtfully, and like we understand what’s at stake. If not now, then when?