What the Oscars Can Teach Organizations About Hiring Strategy

February 26, 2016 at 8:30 AM by William Clarke

oscars 2016

The world’s most glamorous trade show kicks off this Sunday and millions of people will be glued to their televisions.  Yep, it’s that time of year again: Oscars season. If you’re a movie buff, the Academy Awards is can’t-miss TV of the highest order – but what does that all have to do with recruiting? Well, these movies have a lot to say about the world we live in right now, and the world we live in right now has everything to do with recruiting.

Not quite convinced? Read on.

Culture Matters

Culture is hugely important to every organization. Several of this year’s best picture nominees expertly drive home the role culture plays within organizations, none more so than Spotlight.

spotlightcast.jpgWhy should recruiters care?
In Spotlight, a four-person team of Boston Globe reporters goes up against one of the most powerful organizations in the world to uncover a decades-long cover up of abuse by Catholic priests. How did a tiny group of reporters overcome such incredible resistance to find the truth? Simple: They don’t give up. Empowered by their editors and highly motivated, the team gradually uncovers the true extent of the conspiracy even though they are blocked at every turn by the church and its allies. It’s a powerful story of the impact just a few people can have on the world, but it’s also a story of what happens when institutions forget what they stand for and compromise their values.

Organizations are only as good as their culture, and culture is created by actions, not words. Look at your own company. How does your actual culture reflect your company’s mission and values? Is there a strong sense of accountability and loyalty? Do people collaborate and tie their work to the company’s bigger goal, or are decisions self-serving? These questions should give you an idea of where the company stands and where it needs to improve. The thing is, no matter how big or small your organization is, culture impacts everything you do. If you’re not certain how to get a sense of your company’s culture, here’s a good place to start.

The Power of Bias

Like Spotlight, The Big Short is based on a true story. This one, however, is the story of the 2008 financial collapse, specifically how a handful of investors, bankers, and hedge funders saw the financial meltdown coming before anyone else. They made a fortune betting against the housing market while every other government and financial institution was caught completely off-guard.

Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling in The Big Short.

The film asks: How did this happen? How do thousands of professionals miss something so obvious before it’s too late?

The answer might surprise you: Bias. Finance prizes itself on being an industry focused on empirical data, but the entire financial industry, mortgage industry, and government falsely believed the housing market was invincible, even when the data said otherwise. Over and over again, the protagonists in The Big Short patiently explain to other people why the housing market is doomed to collapse. Despite their factual, data-driven evidence, they are dismissed and laughed at by their peers. It’s an incredible example of both the destructive power of bias and its prevalence among even the smartest, most-educated, and successful people.

Why should recruiters care?
Biases are one of the biggest issues we contend with in hiring and, whether you realize it or not, they are present everywhere. It’s a reminder of how important it is to constantly evaluate your own habits and tendencies. Not sure how to identify biases? Try this: Take a look at your employee referral program. Is this where most of new hires are coming from? You could be at risk of building a homogenous team. Even better, try this these tools and tactics to vet your job descriptions for unconscious bias. The more effective you become at reducing bias, the stronger your pipeline and hiring will be.

The Virtue of Simplicity

This day and age, it’s tempting to over complicate things. We have more tools, resources and information at our fingertips than ever before, yet at the end of the day, our goals as recruiters still rely primarily on our ability to effectively tell a coherent story to the right people.

Brooklyn stars Saoirse Ronan and Domhnall Gleeson.

That brings us to Brooklyn, the Academy Award-nominated film about a young Irish woman who moves to New York to find work in the 1950s. The film is relatively straightforward, especially compared to many other contemporary films, but what it does it does very well. Brooklyn stood apart this year in due in large part to the strength of its acting, the universality of its story, and pitch-perfect execution. There’s no big plot twist at the end, no flashy special effects, very little melodrama and no massive action sequences to keep audiences interested. Rather, it’s a story of work, family, love, hardship, and perseverance. It’s a quintessential human story, and that’s what makes it so powerful.

Why should recruiters care?
When it comes to recruiting, we are all storytellers. Consider how you’re telling the story of your company to candidates. Next time you’re writing an email to a prospect, a job req or even a social media post, consider the basics: why you’re writing, who your audience is, how they will benefit, and how you want them to react. Check out our example below:

Who: Jane Doe. An experienced and talented designer. 
Why: They appear qualified for an opening at the company. 
Experience: 8 years of progressively increasing responsibility at highly successful startups and technology companies. 
What we offer: Great company culture. Competitive salary and benefits. A chance to help build a product and lead a team in a high-growth environment. 
Next steps: Set up a short phone chat. 

Sample message: 

Hi Jane,

Hope you’re well.

I came across your work on Dribbble and wanted to touch base. My company, Entelo, is on the hunt for a talented, experienced designer to join our team. With your extensive work at Oracle and Salesforce and more than eight years of experience in the SaaS space, I think you might be a great fit for a senior design role here at Entelo.

We’re a well-funded technology company building a powerful search platform incorporating over 275 million social profiles to improve the overall recruiting process, and we’re building out our design team. Some of our customers include Facebook, Box, Netflix, and Lyft. With our team still growing, this is an opportunity to join in a senior role and help lead our product design development from the ground up.

Let me know if you’d be open to a quick explanatory chat with our team and we can set something up.

Will Clarke

Personalization is imperative. But it’s also crucial to
avoid cliches, provide the necessary context, clearly state your intentions, and propose next steps. You’d be amazed how effective clear and straightforward messaging can be at engaging candidates, and encouraging them to respond.

The Power of Human Connections

The Revenant, Mad Max, and The Martian are technical marvels defined by their use of innovative film techniques and modern technology. Each tells a story with virtuoso action sequences set against vast landscapes using perfectly rendered practical and special effects.

Leonardo DiCaprio can put any movie on the map.

Yet, despite all the bells and whistles, each of these movies is firmly anchored in place by their lead performers. Why? Because empathy and compassion remain the single most important part of any story.  Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron combine to give Mad Max the narrative cohesion it would otherwise lack.See, explosions and sword fights are cool, but they don't do much to tell a memorable, affecting story.

There's a reason none of the Transformers movies have achieved the greatness of Saving Private Ryan, Braveheart or even Gladiator. 

Imagine some of this year's best picture nominees without their leads. Absent Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant would be a glorified episode of Planet Earth.

Without Matt Damon's winning turn as astronaut Mark Watney, The Martian would seem more like a History Channel special than a triumphant story of human achievement.

Matt Damon brings every ounce of charisma and charm he has to raise the stakes of the Martian.

If not for Tom Hardy’s guttural mutterings, raspy voiceovers and Charlize Theron’s much needed if occasional exposition, Mad Max: Fury Road would be a really high-budget version of the old Playstation classic game Twisted Metal. None would resemble the Academy Award-quality film's they turned out to be. In other words, characters are important. That's why Hollywood's biggest stars get paid the big bucks. 

Why should recruiters care?
In recruiting, you are your biggest resource. Sure, you have a product and a brand, but you and the people in your organization are what make your company more than just a logo. It’s about far more than your location, salary, fringe benefits or most recent funding round. It’s about who you are and what your company represents.

How do you put your company's humanity front and center? Personalize your outreach. Use social media content to tell your company's story organically. Get a sense of who your candidates are and where they hang out online instead of blasting out generic messages to 1,000 people and then crossing your fingers. It takes more time, but the benefits are worth it. 

Creativity Will Never Go Out of Style 

Much has been made over the impending apocalypse when machines will replace humanity and jobs will all but disappear. Be that as it may, strategic thinking and creativity remain valuable skill sets that can't be automated and, more importantly, no one ever has enough of it. If you look at this year’s best picture nominees, the one constant is that creativity, originality, hard work and integrity will always bubble to the top.

If you’re not forcing yourself out of your comfort zone every now and then, you’re not going to be the best recruiter you can be. Whether it’s moving to a new city or country to find work, traveling to Berlin to orchestrate a Spy swap between trigger happy Cold War powers, or having to think yourself out of a completely unparalleled snafu on Mars, creativity and innovation are talents in demand.  

Do yourself a favor and think about the ways in which you can shake things up on a consistent basis. Whether it’s eliminating bad habits, creating new ones or just reading thought-provoking books every now and then, don’t let yourself stagnate. The best recruiters are constantly improving their craft. Big movie buff? Share your thoughts on this year's race and any recruiting lessons you may have in the comments. And if you haven’t seen this year’s Best Picture nominees yet, do yourself a favor check one or two out. Between the eight films nominated for best picture, there is something for everyone. Trust me.

                      candidate experience and the employer brand