How Important is a Sense of Belonging to a Candidate Looking for His or Her Next Position?
Work is work, right? It’s not necessary in the adult world, is it, to feel like you “fit in?” But if we’re thinking realistically, no one enjoys feeling left out, and beyond the obvious visible diversity considerations, there are the subtler differences in background, experience, education and personal interests that should come into play when we contemplate inclusiveness.
Consider this scenario:
During his second interview, John briefly runs through his professional background, highlighting the roles he feels have helped prepare him for the one he is interviewing for.
The manager nods and smiles, reading his resume. “A state school, huh? That’ll be a nice change from all of the Ivy leaguers we have here. We’ve got six people here from Harvard alone. And they all seem to have followed each other from company to company.”
Toward the end of the interview, John asks a few position-related questions, then asks if the company sponsors any employee events.
The manager lights up. “Oh absolutely! I hope you like golf! We seem to have golf gatherings every other week. Oh, and lots of happy hours – we don’t make them mandatory, but it is a bad career move to skip them.”
John, who has never enjoyed golf but has frequent evening theater rehearsals to attend, knows at that moment he probably will not take the job if it is offered to him. He has a feeling his lack of participation in the after-hours gatherings will work against him.
As a hiring employer, are you possibly making it more difficult to hire – or keep – employees who can bring something new to the table? Think about John, who already knows how he is different from his potential colleagues and that his already limited and precious personal time would have some more “unofficially mandatory” demands placed on it. Neither of those concerns will affect how he does his job, and yet they may directly affect his overall work experience at that company.
To join… or not to join?
Your company sponsors a biweekly laser tag session with pizza and adult beverages at a local facility. Though it runs after hours, the company has had a high percentage of participation in the office and is pretty proud of this fact. You think it will also be a great selling point for those candidates looking for a little fun with their work colleagues. However, before highlighting your fun group activities to prospective candidates, ask yourself if:
- There are any “unwritten rules” around your laser tag gatherings. For example, are employees who participate in the biweekly laser tag sessions seen as more dedicated or more “part of the team” than those employees whose personal obligations or preferences lead them to not participate?
- When it comes to plum work assignments or promotions, who gets them? Is it usually those who make appearances at after-hours events, or are they earned based on accomplishments and experience?
- Do employees who participate tend to leave those who don’t out of things? Even subconsciously? Do the non-participants get ignored in the lunchroom or omitted from coffee runs?
Alma maters that matter
If you’ve got a fairly large company “alumni club” of sorts, say from a common school, Greek organization or previous employer, it is easy to fall into the “all for one and one for all” mindset. There is probably a good chance many candidates will also be mined from the same background as the people who love to refer friends and former classmates for open positions.
What, though, does this mean to a new candidate coming in to interview?
- Will candidates be judged based on WHICH school he or she attended rather than the degree earned? Or, will otherwise qualified candidates be passed over or omitted from the screening process if they did not attend a four-year university at all?
- Do candidates who are a part of a previous employer’s “alumni club” always seem to be chosen over someone who has a different work history but is equally, and perhaps slightly more, qualified?
Not only is it important during the interview to highlight the skills and knowledge you feel each candidate can bring to the table, it is also important to bring attention to any skill or knowledge similarities you see between the candidate and employees already on the team, as well if a difference in that area will help your company.
“I see you have a background in benefits administration. That is great! One other person in the department has a similar skill set. We need all the help in that area that we can get.”
“I am very happy to see you have extensive experience in benefits administration. It is the one specialty area we are lacking in the department, so your expertise would be a real help.”
Caution: Comments that highlight differences – or similarities – in gender, race, nationality, or other protected classes should be avoided completely.
Try not to chase away a candidate who just might bring the right mix of knowledge, skills and experience with them to your organization.
Some quick do’s and don’ts:
- DON’T lead candidates to think they have an inside track to a fast hire because of a shared sorority/fraternity experience, alma mater, or past work friendships or let candidates who don’t have a connection to feel they would have a better chance if they did.
- DON’T immediately dismiss or make assumptions about a qualified candidate who has a vastly different education or career path than others in the company; consider that a fresh perspective may be an asset to your team.
- DON’T assume all candidates should share the same interest in your workplace off-hours activities, keeping in mind that everyone has his or her own interests, outside obligations, and other time demands.
- DO try to keep most interview questions and comments knowledge, experience, and skill-based.
- DO highlight work or experience-related commonalities between candidates and your current team as well as any new skills or knowledge the candidate can bring to the table.
- DO give all qualified candidates that come in to interview a fair chance to impress, even if they do not have shared friends, classmates, or past work history.
At the end of the day, consider the impact that participation – or the lack of it – in offsite, after-hours events has on current employees and work to correct any possible bias issues. Also, try to keep in mind that during the interview process, something that may be a draw to one candidate is a deterrent to another. Don’t judge someone’s qualifications or suitability for a job based on the level of interest he or she shows in your company events.
Click the link to view the recent blog: How to Deal with Discriminatory Clients or check back for more on human resources, payroll, insurance and benefits.