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Candidate Intangibles – A Powerful Tool for Hiring Managers

Posted on: September 15, 2017

Categories: Featured | Hiring

By Greg Whitesell, Marketing Director

Besides qualifications and experience, what else is driving your hiring decisions?   Given the current employment statistics, it’s clear that employers are being challenged to look at more than most resumes present.  In times of higher unemployment, finding the right candidate for an opportunity based on hard skills and relevant experience alone was far simpler. 

The times have changed.  The pendulum has swung from what was an “Employers Market” in 2009 to the other extreme in today’s “Candidates Market”. 

Across the board, employers in all industries report challenges in finding talent.  One strategy many have engaged to combat the talent war is to increase spending on their employment brand in an attempt to pull candidates in.  According to the most recent Linked In Global Recruiting Trends, roughly 60 percent of companies are spending more than they did in 2016 on efforts to attract and retain talent.  Interestingly, the same study shows that only 32% of talent leaders view retention as a top priority, begging the question – why spend money to gain talented employees if keeping them isn’t a top priority?  But we digress.  It’s clear that in the current market, employers must take a different approach.  While increasing the recruiting budget is one way, a new approach to identifying talent is another.

Evaluate the Intangibles

For any given job opportunity presented by an employer, the pool of “qualified” candidates is likely significantly larger than it might first appear.  While very few meet all the stated requirements of the role, it’s likely that many well-educated, business savvy job applicants have strong intangibles that could make them a game-changing employee if given the chance.  But what exactly are intangibles, and how do you begin to evaluate them?

Defining the Intangibles

An intangible is, “an asset that has value although it isn’t material or physical”.  As humans, we all have intangibles.  Qualities like our initiative, attitude and adaptability cannot be readily identified on our resumes or Linked In profiles.  However, by asking the right questions and then confirming the qualities observed in speaking with references, these valuable skills begin to shine through.  A vital first step for employers is to determine what intangibles they value.  In his book It’s Not What You Say…It’s What You Do: How Following Through at Every Level Can Make or Break Your Company, author Laurence Haughten recommends that employers pose these 4 questions to themselves:

  • How important is creative problem solving?
  • Is calm in the face of the fire a must?
  • How important is learning agility?
  • Is the ability to get work done through influence and persuasion a must?

The results of these questions for each role will help discern a list of the intangibles that matter in terms of the opportunity.  When reviewing resumes, search for experiences that offer insight to the candidate’s personality characteristics.  Design questions to probe for the relevant intangibles.  For example, if the candidate must be an influencer, look for examples of times they’ve needed to corral others and gain their trust, then ask them to tell you how they did it.   If they must solve issues by thinking outside of the box ask them how they went about fixing a problem they encountered in a prior role.  By defining the intangibles that are important to you as an employer, you can then focus your resume reviews, interviews and reference calls around them. 

Considering the Culture – An Added Bonus

Essentially, the intangibles candidates possess are as unique as snowflakes – no two candidates will ever bring exactly the same intangibles to the table.  By taking the time to explore what makes each candidate tick, you’re also evaluating their cultural fit within your organization.  A recent Inc.com piece proclaimed cultural fit to be the most important factor in predicting employee retention.  In a market where finding candidates with the ideal experiences is so difficult to find, hiring candidates with more or less experience but who possess the right intangibles just makes sense.


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