Elevated Talent Acquisition: Tips for Successful Hiring in 2024 with Ken Schmitt (Ep. #93)

Published on
February 13, 2024
Wendy Hanson
Co-founder and COO
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Welcome to a new episode of Building Better Managers! I’m your host, Wendy Hanson, and I’m very excited to introduce today’s guest – TurningPoint Recruiting Founder and CEO, and author of The Practical Optimist: An Entrepreneurial Journey Through Life's Turning Points, Ken Schmitt. 

In this episode, Ken and I take a deep dive into the current landscape of hiring, uncover challenges and changes that organizations need to address to level up their acquisition processes, and provide tips that ensure they’re bringing on the best fitted candidates. We cover a lot in this episode, so be sure to check it out and take note of all the valuable strategies and insights that can help you boost your hiring process!

Meet Ken:

With 26+ years of experience as a recruitment professional, Ken and his team have leveraged their high-touch services to place nearly 1,000 of the nation's leading professionals.

Committed to Deepening Impact: Ken is the Founder of the Sales & Marketing Leadership Alliance. There, he spent over a decade interviewing leaders monthly about how to better make an impact in the business world.

As a leader himself, Ken has a deep understanding of how to support professionals in channeling both the logical and the visionary pieces of successful leadership.

View the episode transcript

Welcome to the Building Better Managers podcast, where we talk with top leadership professionals about strategies you can use today to create a happier, more engaged, and productive workforce. Now, here's your host, Wendy Hanson, the co-founder of New Level Work and the chief of culture and community.

Wendy: Welcome. Well, I hope your year is off to a great start. We saw layoffs in 2023, especially in tech companies. We now need to look at hiring and sometimes very unique positions that will increase an organization's productivity. In the U.S., we have SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, and they did a study that said the average cost per hire is $4,129. Yikes! 

Another survey done by CareerBuilder found that companies lose an average of $14,900 on every bad hire. Every time you hire someone, it costs you money. And, hiring an inadequate candidate costs you even more money. And, oftentimes people don't take a stand on that soon enough and it really costs the whole organization. There are many reasons, some obvious, for hiring the right folks for the job. If you are understaffed for too long, you will lose people on your team and burn people out. When you hire the right person, it will help the culture and the morale. It also allows the team and onboarding to build collaboration upfront, which is really important. How you bring somebody in and what their first day of work looks like is very important. 

Today's guest has made hiring and leadership his career. I'm excited to have Ken Schmidt share his wisdom and ideas. As always, we share tips you can use immediately, which make us more productive. So, let me tell you a little bit about Ken. With 26 years of experience in the recruiting industry, Ken Schmidt is the founder and CEO of Turning Point Executive Search and the author of The Practical Optimist: An Entrepreneurial Journey Through Life's Turning Points, and the host of the Practical Optimist podcast. Ken and his team at Turning Point have leveraged their high touch recruiting services to place nearly a thousand of the nation's leading sales, marketing, operations, finance, HR, and C-suite professionals in a variety of industries, ranging from tech and software to healthcare and life sciences. 

In all of his endeavors, Ken supports professionals in channeling both the logical and the visionary pieces of successful leadership. In addition to moderating domestic and global leadership models, he is founder of the Sales and Marketing Leadership Alliance, where he spent 11 years interviewing CEOs, business leaders, and entrepreneurs on a monthly basis about the best way to make an impact in the business world. 

Welcome Ken, I'm so happy to have you on the show. 

Ken: Thanks so much Wendy, I'm very excited to be here and looking forward to our conversation. 

Wendy: Yes, even the prep for our conversation excited me. So that's good, you know?

Ken: I appreciate that. 

Wendy: Yes! What do you mean by practical optimism? That's the name of your book, Practical Optimism: An Entrepreneurial Journey Through Life's Turning Points. And, you say that quote, belief combined with effort produces results. And, I think that has something to do with hiring, leadership and productivity. 

Ken: Yeah, exactly. That's a good question. I appreciate you asking. Yeah, so I think the balance that I try to maintain in my own life, both professionally and personally is that practical optimism. And, I wrote the book actually as a bit of an homage to my parents as well. I get that practical optimism from my parents. My mom is the practical side. She was very methodical, brilliant woman, certainly very innovative and disruptive in her own right in the real estate industry. But a little bit more careful, if you will, I guess probably the best word to use, a bit more cautious. Whereas my dad is kind of the quintessential entrepreneur type personality where you say yes to everything and figure out how to do it later on. 

I think it was Reed Hastings who said, being an entrepreneur is like jumping out of an airplane and building the parachute on the way down. And, that's my dad, the optimistic visionary, that kind of focus. So, having that blend is really important. And I think back to that quote from the book about belief plus effort is what brings results. You're not gonna have results if you're only focusing on one or the other. If you're only focusing on just the optimism or the belief side that things will go well, things will come around, things are always gonna be great and have this kind of naive Pollyanna approach to life, then you're gonna be sorely upset and also surprised many times along the way. 

But, also if you don't put the effort into it, right, and you don't have that willingness and desire, but also energy around putting the workload into it to get things done, then you are definitely not gonna get the results that you're looking for. So you've gotta be both practical and realistic. and measured in what you do, but also have that note of optimism and belief to support that. 

Wendy: Yeah. Somebody once said, and I can't remember who it is right now, but hope is not a strategy. But then a friend of mine, Dr. George Woods, who's a neuroscientist said, hope is a strategy, because if we don't have hope that something is gonna happen, then we're probably not going to get there. But I love, you know, it has to be combined with taking the right actions. And, when you look for a job, you need both of those. So- 

Ken: Yes, yes. And, I think if you're in the HR world or if you're in recruiting or you're an entrepreneur, you've got to have that note of optimism, right? And, willingness to try things and be innovative and disruptive. Otherwise, you know, why are you doing what you're doing? Because you're doing it because you want to impact people and make a difference and help them through their careers. Help your internal hiring managers, your internal clients, if you will, customers, to bring the right kinds of people into their team to help impact that team. 

And, the same thing is true for me on the outside as an outside search firm. We wanna really help our clients and give them access to and provide value to the talent that they may not see otherwise on their own. So you've gotta have that note of optimism there, otherwise you're doomed to fail. 

Wendy: Right. Now, anybody looking for a job, whether they have a recruiter or not, people need to understand what's their employment brand. And, I think that is so important. So what can someone do to get clear on their employment brand and exactly what is it? 

Ken: Yeah, good question. So, I'll answer the second question, the second part of that. First, you know, an employment brand is really kind of what you are known as and known for as an employer. A lot of companies think so much and spend so much time around the mission and vision and focus around what is their product and service going to be? Is it software? Is it technology? Is it a consumer product? Those kinds of things. And, they look at that as their brand. But they don't take as much time to think about what their internal brand is. And that really comes down to how are they perceived by current employees, even by former employees, and by the marketplace at large. 

We have a lot of clients that are prospects that come to us and we know that they're not really known as being a very good place to work. They have high churn rates, they don't treat their people very well, they may pay them well, but they don't last long anyway. So those are the things that really feed into your employment brand and whether or not you're gonna be able to attract A players or not, because you have this reputation out there. So, that's really kind of what I see as the definition of an employment brand. How do you operate internally? How are you known and what do your employees think about who you are? The first part of the question, how do you figure out what that is? Honestly, just ask your employees. I think so few companies take the time, they have the time, but they don't always take the time to really understand what their employees are thinking about their organization. 

I hear a lot of organizations out there and leaders that are afraid to do an NPS score or they're afraid to do an internal employee survey because they're not sure what they're gonna hear. Well, if that's the case, if you're avoiding it for that reason, chances are pretty good that there's some issues, right? And, you've got to face them head on to make any kind of change out there as well. So I think it's important-And the reason why employment brand is so important is that if you're a company, this is not a judgment, it's just kind of who you are. If you're a really hard charging, very driven, 70, 80 hours a week kind of an organization, pre-IPO or creating a very disruptive technology, and people are expected to work a lot around the clock, then you don't want to go out and try to hire somebody who's a brand new parent, right? Who wants to be home with their family, right? 

And again, it's not a judgmental thing. It's a, let's make sure that the people that we hire and that we're bringing on that we're attracting are aligned with who we are as an organization. So, really simple things like that. 

Wendy: Yeah. And, I'd like to flip that around too, because I was thinking, what is your employment brand as an individual? You know, because we all have a brand of how we're known. And, if you're going out there in the world looking for a job, you need to be clear on what your brand is. Can you speak to that at all? 

Ken: Yeah, that's a really good point. You do for sure. And I think even more, I've been recruiting for 26 years, as you said in the outset, right? But this is so much more important these days than it's ever been having your own employment brand. Because people tend to stay at companies for a short amount of time. When I first got into recruiting, If you change jobs more than every 10 years, you were considered a job hopper, which just seems ludicrous today, right? Because now, if you look at the BLS statistics, the average tenure is about 4.1 years, and that's across all generations. It's about 2.8 for millennials. 

It's actually not even that much better when it comes to baby boomers either. So now, if you're going to be in a job two, three, maybe four years on average, like you said, you've got to have that employment brand. What are you bringing to your current employer and what might you bring to your future employer in terms of an impact and a value add? So, are you the kind of person that thrives in a more chaotic, unstructured, kind of up and coming fluid environment? Or, are you somebody who prefers a larger organization that's really codified all their policies and procedures, it's very structurally sound, there's really not a lot of deviation from the norm, but you're really good in that kind of an organization. 

Again, neither one is right or wrong, but the importance is knowing who you are and where you thrive and being able to articulate that to a potential employer about what kind of impact you're gonna make and where you bring the most value to the table. Some people are really, really good at, you know, I ask candidates all the time, you know, if they're a senior executive, are you looking for a president CEO role or are you adding more value as a really strong number two, number three or divisional leader? Not everybody can be the CEO. Right? Not everybody is really cut out for that. 

People might think they are, but do they really have that skill set? It's very different out there. Same when it comes to being a really strong individual contributor, where you're not leading a team, as opposed to leading a team. And, it's two very different things. I had a, I jumped on my own podcast a couple of weeks ago, I had somebody on named David Newman, and he had this great metaphor for promoting people into leadership. He said, just because you're a great swimmer, doesn't mean you should be the lifeguard, which is a great way to look at it, right? Because those are people that are really good at individual contributor roles and activities. Doesn't mean they're gonna be good at training or teaching or taking care of others that are also doing that. So, that's again, part of owning your employment brand. 

Wendy: Yes, great point. And, I love that metaphor about lifeguards and swimmers. 

Ken: Exactly. I told him I would always reference him for it because I really liked that metaphor. So, it's a great one to use. 

Wendy: He's a smart guy, yes, I know him. As HR folks are hiring, what would help regarding the clarity of job descriptions and the elimination of some limiting terms that are in there? Because people do get caught up in, okay, I need this, this, this, and this. So, speak to me about that a little bit, that might give HR folks that are listening that need to do some hiring or hiring managers that are looking at things, that they're partnering with HR, but they're the one that's going to do the final hire decision. 

Ken: Yeah, that's a great question. And, I think we see this all the time because we're brought in as an outside search firm to work with the head of HR and the hiring manager. Sometimes they have an internal recruiting team but many times they don't. And, it's amazing to me, I kind of chuckle as I'm saying this, but it's amazing how often that we're on a kickoff call or status call as we're going through the search and we're asking questions or bringing things up and the hiring manager will say something to us about the job as a really important aspect or component to the job description. And, we ask the question, we're able to kind of tease that out of the hiring manager. And, the HR professional has never been told that. They’re there taking notes saying, ‘oh, wow, I didn't realize that’ because the hiring manager never communicated that to the hiring manager. I'm sorry, to the HR manager, HR leader. And so, you know, that communication internally is just so important. And, you can't just- I think a lot of companies default to, you know, we just had our VP of Sales leave. All right. Who has the last VP of Sales job description? Do you have it? Do you have it? Where is it? Let's find it. 

They pull it down off of the digital shelf. They dust it off, right? They might make a tweak here and there, but really small things around the edges, rather than saying, okay, let's use this older job description as the framework. Now, let's assess what do we need today? And, more importantly, what will we need tomorrow going forward? What's the make-up of our organization? Do we really need somebody from the industry? 

That's one of the things that job descriptions tend to really emphasize. When the reality is 70% of the time, when a client comes to us and says they need someone from the same industry, and we kind of, again, kind of peel back the layers and kind of dive into that, it turns out in seven out of 10 cases that they don't really need that, largely because they already have a really strong domain expertise in that department, in that organization, that already brings that industry knowledge. And, what they truly need is someone with, you know, more innovative, disruptive ideas. That's one example. So, really taking the time to sit down, hiring manager and HR leader together, right, to make sure that, hey, let's recruit this job for what we need today, not what it looked like the last time we filled the job. 

So, that's really, really important. And, I think also to your question about the language in there that's very limiting, this is something I think it's really very unconscious and people just don't realize, but we've all seen the research out there that if a male candidate sees a job description, as long as he believes that he has 60 to 65% of the qualifications, he's going to go ahead and apply, right.? And, of course, LinkedIn makes everything so easy. You just hit one button and now you've applied, right? Now, if the same job description is presented to a female candidate, the odds are, unless that candidate feels like they have, you know, 80 to 90% of the qualifications, that female candidate is not going to apply. So, if that job description has a lot of male oriented, male dominated, you know, type language in there, then chances are it's going to turn off a lot of female candidates. 

Things like, I just saw a job description this morning that used the terms, you know, hunger, hunger for this, hunger for that, you know, bold, direct, strong personality, strong willed. Those are all, you know, stereotypically male, you know, traits, if you will. And, again, if a female candidate looks at that and says, well, I don't consider myself strong willed. Am I really bold? I'm not sure. They might be a very, very well-qualified candidate for that job, but they're not going to apply because of that limiting language. That's a really good example. 

Beyond that, we see so many organizations that are trying to create a more diverse workforce, which is very admirable and it really needs to be done. It's been needed to be done for a long time now. But again, back to the language and the job description, we all know that there's a much higher percentage of white males that have four-year college degrees, whereas minorities, people of color in general, and even females, it's not as high of a penetration. So, if you're trying to build a more diverse workforce, don't require a four-year, traditional four-year degree in a job where as long as you have the commensurate experience, that's gonna be just fine. 

Because again, you're gonna knock out all those diverse candidates because they don't have a degree and they don't feel like they're qualified enough to apply for the job. So, those are some of the things that you really need to look at in the job description to really adjust that language and really go through it with a fine-tooth comb. There's even software programs out there nowadays that you can use, that you can put your job description through and get a sense for, okay, where if anywhere is this job description biased one way or the other? How can we change up the language in this? 

So, I think that's a really good opportunity to really build out a more diverse team overall. 

Wendy: That's great. And, I love that you bring up, how do you make a team more inclusive and diverse? And, that statistic about women has been out there and it's so true because we look at something and say, well, I don't have all of it. So, one of the things when we were talking about reviewing job descriptions, make sure that you have some of your women on teams look at that job description and give an opinion about that, because it just is that male oriented language, especially when you're looking for salespeople. 

Ken: Yes. Very true. Right. 

Wendy: Go run and kill your meat, you know? 

Ken: Exactly, right, right. 

Wendy: They sound terrible! 

Ken: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, hunger. Well, and I think there's so many- 

Wendy: …somebody who's inclusive, you know? 

Ken: Right, right. 

Wendy:...knows how to work with other people and bring teams together. And yeah, we need to be able to call out some of those skills. 

Ken: Very much so. No, I agree completely. And again, that's where it comes down to sitting down internally, not just looking at the old job description, but really crafting what you need today and tomorrow, not what you had before. 

Wendy: Yeah. Now, in many companies, including our company, there are a number of leaders who participate in the interview process for top candidates for bigger jobs. What are some tips to onboard folks into what is needed for certain positions? How do you bring the team together so that everybody's coming from not the same angle, but other angles that are important to look at this candidate and then bring all the information together? 

Ken: Yeah, I really think it comes back to communication. I've been married to a marriage and family therapist for 31 years, so communication is very big for me, both personally and professionally. I keep using that term. But communication is key, and again, I think it's two things. A, it's making sure, to your point before, that not only do you have a diverse team looking at the job description, but also a diverse team looking at the actual candidates. And, I'm not just talking about diversity of gender or age or ethnicity, but also different functions, different... perspectives and different lenses that they're gonna look through when they look at this, especially for smaller companies in particular. My company, we have eight employees, so any one hire makes a big difference, has a big impact. If it's one of 10, 15, 20,000 people, well, maybe not as impactful, but still can make a difference, especially if they're toxic, right? So, I think that's really important is understanding, okay, so who are we gonna bring into the interview process that's appropriate, that's going to be able to give us that perspective. 

And, then secondly, the second piece of that communication aspect is making sure that everybody understands their role. So let's say you're gonna have a panel of four interviewers. Sally, you're in charge of looking at this person from a tactical perspective. How do you think they're going to perform in terms of the day-to-day activities that we have as an organization? Tom, you're in charge of looking at this person from a leadership perspective. If they're gonna be moving into a leadership role, great. Are they ready for that? Maybe they're coming in as an individual contributor, but the expectation is that with proven performance, this new hire is gonna be in a leadership role within six or 12 months. So Tom, you're in charge of looking at it through that lens. 

You know, then you've got somebody else on the other side who's maybe in a totally different department, and you wanna ask them, how will it be to interact with this person given that you're in marketing and we're trying to hire somebody in IT? How do you see that collaboration going? So, really communicating and effectively and clearly kind of defining each of those roles. The other part of that is making sure people understand, yes, you're part of the interview process, but hopefully not everybody on that panel has veto power. We see that as a big bottleneck time and time again with our clients where, especially again, for smaller companies, even more so for those that are family operated, they wanna be respectful of their other family members or their other executive team. 

And, so they bring in eight, 10, 12 people to the interview and everybody thinks that they have veto power, that they're the one that's gonna decide yes or no, thumbs up, thumbs down. When the reality is, hopefully, two, maybe three or four folks depending upon the makeup of the organization and the level of position, two or three or four people are gonna have true veto power and the rest are there to provide data points, right? Because you wanna make sure they understand what their role is in that interview process and so they don't feel surprised or offended or disrespected if they recommend against hiring, but you hired the person anyway. It's a matter of compiling all the data points, not just one person's individual perspective. 

Wendy: Yeah. Well, that's such a good point. Yeah. And, you don't want everybody feeling like I'm going to have a say in this or I'm not going to be happy with what the answer is. And, we want different perspectives. I especially like that you went out of not in this department, you talk to somebody in IT if you're going to be hiring somebody who's not going to work there because they know more about the culture. And you brought a word up that screamed culture to me, toxic. You bring on a toxic person. How do you test, because cultural fit is so important and we are hearing now that people, when they're looking at jobs, they're saying, tell me a little bit about the culture in the company because they know how important that is. So, when you're interviewing or when, how do you really judge for culture fit? 

Ken: Yeah, so, we judge on that based on not always, you know, kind of what people say, but also how they say it. For example, we do a lot of leadership recruiting for marketing and sales and operations professionals. And, those roles have to be collaborative. Now, it wasn't as important 26 years ago when I first started recruiting. There were still a lot of silos back then. Fast forward to today, and it's very, very different. Everything is so much more circular versus linear, and very collaborative. When you're screening candidates in general, you got to make sure that you're asking them, tell me about some times where you interacted with and had to rely on somebody outside of your department, outside of your domain expertise to get the project done or the budget approved, whatever it may have been.

And, so you're asking those kinds of questions. We call that process pulling back or peeling back the layers, right? One layer after another. And, you're really looking for how they are responding. So, if everything that went well that they're talking about, they're saying, I did this, I did that, I accomplished this, I was able to do that, right? And, then when you ask them, so tell me about some examples of situations that maybe didn't go so well, where you didn't get the project completed, or the results were not what you expected, or the clinical trial ended up not showing any efficacy at all, whatever the role might be, tell me about that. And, if when they talk about failures, and in that case they blame everybody else, well they didn't do this, that department failed over here, if only IT did a better job with this, if only the marketing team had a better campaign. 

You know, so those are little cues you can certainly look for in terms of how toxic or non-toxic they might be. And, then I always ask the question too, rather than when you talk about reference checks, people typically will talk to your superiors and also some of your subordinates. I like to talk to peers. And, you can ask that question within the interview itself, and I always like to ask it in a way where it's making it sound very clear that you are going to be checking references. And, so you want this person to really give you a very honest answer. So, I'll say things like, so when I talk to your peers, when I talk to the head of, let's say I'm talking to a marketing leader, when I talk to the head of IT, when I talk to the head of sales in your last company, how will they describe you? What will they tell me about how you operate as a peer in that organization? 

And again, you're looking not only for the content of what they say, but also the context and the way they deliver it. Right, we all know about body language and that's, you know, 80 to 90% of what you communicate. So, if all of a sudden they're fidgeting in their chair or their hand goes over their mouth or, you know, they're leaning on their hand or whatever, or they're wringing their hands, whatever it is, now all of a sudden they've shifted their demeanor when you're asking them how they operate with other people. 

That's probably a pretty clear telltale sign about how things are and whether or not they are toxic or at least somewhat dysfunctional in those collaborative roles. 

Wendy: That's great. Yeah, because we need to pick up on those cues and the ‘I’ word all the time is just, yeah, that doesn't work in a company at all, you know? 

Ken: Not at all, not at all. And we see so often that we, and this is, you know, actually, this is my book also, everybody has unconscious bias. It's not a deliberate thing. It's not [???], it's not, you know, meant to be, you know, harmful, but we all like to be around people that sound and look and feel and have the same experiences that we do. This is true personally and professionally. So, if you are interviewing somebody, who you think to yourself, oh I can see myself having a beer with this person, or I can go to the spa with this person, or I can go out with my spouse and that person's spouse afterwards, and you're already starting to think about those personal aspects, it can cloud your judgment. And, then you overlook some of those other toxic cues. They might be a great individual and friend, but they may not be the best employee for your organization. 

So, we really have to be more objective, and that's why I think having a panel of three, four or so people interviewing from different disciplines is so important because that will help to maybe not eliminate but at least dilute some of that potential unconscious bias. 

Wendy: Yeah. And I had this lesson very early on in my life when I was in my early 20s. I was hiring and I was a director of education, and I had somebody helping me who was somewhat like an HR recruiter. And, she said to me one day, that everybody you're picking kind of looks like you. It hadn't occurred to me, you know? And, it was like, oh, now I get that. And the diversity of finding somebody who you can push back on, who has different opinions and thoughts that would add something to the team, as long as they're not that toxic person, would be really, really important and helpful to have on a team. And, looking at somebody through that lens to make sure, and I love the other examples you gave for, you know, how we have to kind of really be curious and kind of pick up on those little cues of somebody that we think that there'll be a good culture fit. That's great. 

Ken: Very true. No, very true. And, there's that expression out there, you should always hire people that are smarter than you. I kind of adjust that a little bit to say, you should always hire people that know something different than you. Because you don't want to create an echo chamber, especially if you're a CEO and there's so many brilliant scientific and engineering and data related CEOs and founders out there. And, it's really tough to push back on them because they are so brilliant and they think so quickly. But, you need people and those leaders and founders need people around them that bring different disciplines and different areas of expertise to the table so that as the bigger picture, the full picture with all of the team together. then it makes for a much stronger company versus having a team that's only composed-or comprised of engineers or scientists. Because then you get into that whole group thing and nobody thinks they have it, but I guarantee it's out there everywhere. I see it all the time. 

Wendy: Yes. And, I love that point about you have to be able to, if you're a CEO looking at people, you wanna create a safe environment and you've gotta be able to make sure that people can say, nah, let's think more about that idea, and not just go along with everything because of your position and title. I think that happens at way too many companies. 

Ken: I agree. Well, and as you and your audience knows, I mean, but this new generation, the Gen Z folks coming up, you know, they are all about transparency. I mean, way more than any generation before them. You know, I'm, I'm Gen X, you know, I have folks on my team that are millennials and some of them are my age as well. And, I have two kids that are both Gen Z. And just looking at how those groups operate differently, what they expect, you know, the Gen Z folks, they don't care about an org chart. They don't care about the old fashioned, traditional, you know, hierarchical organization where you only go to one person for an answer. They're gonna go to the person that they think has the answer no matter what title that person might have. 

And, they expect to be told and explained and shared, right? And, brought into the loop in terms of what's going on. They wanna know, even when they're still interviewing for a job before they even have accepted it, they wanna know what impact they're gonna make. How is this going to further my career long term? And, so companies have to be able to communicate that. Again, they might be there for the average of three years, they might be there for five, 10 years, who knows? But, you've gotta understand what's important to them and what lens they're using to consider a new job versus what you may have used when you came into a job, whatever number of years ago. 

Wendy: Yeah. We hear that from some people too about they're getting more interested in, ‘Am I one of the benefits that I would like to have? Do I get to have an executive coach?’ Because I've coached some people who are execs and say, ‘When I go to my next business, that's going to be one of my criteria.’ So, they want to know that there's development there for them, whether it's through professional development programs or whether it's through having an executive coach to be able to help you through things. Yeah. And, we should demand that of people. 

Ken: I agree, yeah. It's a positive change. I think the transparency and comfort level around mental health and the fact that we don't live to work but we work to live, right? And, I think that's different. I mean, it seems kind of almost anti-common sense to say that, but this Gen Z group, they are clearly living that. And, that's really important to them. So, we as leaders, as hiring managers, as folks in HR leadership roles, we have to come around to that because they're not gonna change. We have to change, right? And, we are the leaders that have to make that change. 

Wendy: Yeah, and for some of us who have been in this for quite a while, it's hard to shift that, you know? To say. 

Ken: I agree completely.

Wendy: And, we talked a little bit about this, but you know, as you're doing an interview, focusing less on those hard technical skills and more on somebody's thought process, somebody's decision making. Their strategic versus tactical roles and how they would collaborate. Speak a little bit to how would you call those out during an interview? 

Ken: Yeah, so we don't recruit for all positions in my company. Like I said, we do leadership roles in sales, marketing, operations, HR, and then C-suite. And, in every situation, we're asking scenario, behavioral type questions. But specifically around what we call the three project question, meaning no matter what role you're in, if you're a VP of sales, so tell me about the last three sales initiatives that you went through. I want to know who was involved. Where did the budget come from? Where did the initial idea for that come from? Who got involved with the final decision making? What went wrong? Who did you have to collaborate with? There's 10 or 15 questions that are secondary questions to that first one that will give you some good insight about how that person operates and whether or not they are only focused around and respect other people that are technically savvy or whether they also respect and understand and acknowledge those soft skills among the team members around them, right? 

Because that'll give you a good sense for how they operate and kind of what their thought process is. And again, back to the answers about I versus we, and well, I had to figure out how to bring marketing into this sales initiative and it was tough at first, but I work with the CMO or the VP of Marketing and we eventually saw eye to eye, here's how we did that, right? Or yeah, you know, I had to, I had, as the head of IT, I had to go to finance to the CFO and really plead my case to get this budget for additional FTEs and head count. And, I wasn't sure how to go about it. So I talked to my counterpart, who was a head of operations, and asked her how she did it last time, because I know she was able to get some additional FTEs with the same conversation with the CFO. So again, if they're giving those kinds of examples where the person is talking about collaboration, they're using examples where there's other human beings involved. 

They're not just talking about automating everything and removing that human interaction from every equation out there. Those are the softer skills, the more important skills that you're gonna see as being important for the role, but also longer term as far as building up that credibility within the organization. And I think, you know, we've all read so much about AI. I keep joking that the two most used letters in any alphabet right now across the globe is A and I, right? It's a little bit crazy. But I do think that one of the trends will be coming up is that, you know, that middle management sector or space is gonna change and evolve quite a bit because they're not gonna have to be nearly as involved in the tactical aspects of their job or their team's job. 

That'll be relegated to a chat GPT or another, you know, AI engine. And, now it's going to be more around mentoring and supporting and developing and editing and those kinds of things that are much more strategic in nature. And that's going to require the interviews that we do as HR leaders. These interviews have to change. We can't just be asking about the technical hard skills. It's also about how do you operate if, God forbid, the internet goes down? That's probably, I'm thinking out loud as I say this, but it's probably a good question to ask. What if you didn't have access to our systems or ChatGPT. How would you solve this problem? What would you do? And, I bet a lot of people out there would really take a long pause and have to think, ‘What would I do?’ Because we're all so reliant on that, but you've got to have those human skills to blend with and to compliment the technical skills. Otherwise the company is not going to be strong enough or as strong as it could be. 

Wendy: Yeah. And, I'm of the firm belief that we can never let go of those humans.

Ken: Right. 

Wendy: Because, really the impact that people have, it makes such a big difference. And when I think of AI, I was talking to somebody recently who was applying for a very senior level position, and it was a bit in the marketing realm and some other things. And, they really didn't have any background or much knowledge or interest in AI. And I said, you might want to be able to be prepared for questions in that area because I can't see anybody hiring somebody without somehow bringing up AI these days. Wouldn't you agree? 

Ken: Exactly. Yeah, 100%. If you don't know what that is all about or how it's going to affect or is already affecting the role that you're in and how it can make your job better, right? I mean, make it easier to do certain things that you probably just bemoaned having to do all the time, but it frees you up to do the more strategic activities that you like. Yeah, you should be well aware of that for sure going into any interview. I agree. And, I think most of the, I mean, there's always the doom and gloom, you know, folks out there that say every job under the sun is going to go away because of AI. That's a little extreme, right? But, most of what you read about says, you know what, AI alone or humans alone are not the most efficient or effective. 

But, AI and humans together, that creates a whole new level of efficiency and results and productivity that we haven't seen before. And, so that's where, again, where I think that whole collaboration, whether you're collaborating with another human. or collaborating with an AI, you've gotta be able to be humble enough to rely on someone or something else to help you get better at your craft. And, that's what it comes down to. 

Wendy: Yeah. We did a few episodes on AI about two months ago now. So, if anybody is interested, they can go on our website and look up podcasts and be able to see that because I think one of them was very practical about tools and one was about AI and humor. And, really what that's all about and it's quite funny. So, I think for people to whet their whistle on that, and then one of them also contains a whole list of resources that you could look at, newsletters on AI to stay up to date. So, it's part of how we need to be prepared for everything in 2024. 

Ken: That's why I love the title of your podcast too. I mean, it's all about being a better manager. No matter what your title happens to be, a better leader. There are ways to do it now that we never had. at our disposal before. 

Wendy: Right. So Ken, this has been wonderful and I think what you shared with us was really helpful to people that, if they're on an internal team, they're a hiring manager, they're an HR person in a smaller company and they don't have all this experience. You've given us some great things to think about. Now, if people have questions for you and wanna reach out, what's the best way for them to find you? 

Ken: Yeah, thank you. I appreciate you asking. So, I'm very active on LinkedIn. I'm very fortunate to have an amazing internal marketing team, so we do a lot of creation of thought leadership pieces, compensation guides, blogs, infographics. So, the website is just TurningPointRecruiting.com. And, my email is the same, Ken@turningpointrecruiting.com, that's number two. And, then the LinkedIn profile itself, you can go on our company page, you can look me up on LinkedIn also, I'm very active there. But, I love being a sounding board, even for companies that are not ready to go out to search for a certain position. but you're looking for some data, some data points, or some level setting in the marketplace, please feel free to reach out. I'm happy to be that sounding board and that resource. 

Wendy: Oh, that's very generous of you. Yes, we all need to collaborate together. We'll make this world a better place. 

Ken: Yes, I agree wholeheartedly. 

Wendy: So thank you, Ken, and thank you to everybody listening. We know what an important thing this is to bring on people who are gonna be assets to our company and assets to our team. And, we talk about people here in our company as, are they a good human? You know, we want to have good humans. We want to have that culture fit that, that you like that person, you know, you'll work together with them and they will collaborate and they may have very different opinions. And ,that's great because we need different opinions and we need diversity. 

So, think about that as you're hiring, reach out to Ken, if you have any questions and always feel free to reach out to me. Go on LinkedIn. We're always posting things on LinkedIn, and you're welcome to reach out anytime. And, if you can, go onto Apple Podcasts or iTunes and give us a little review. Tell us if we're making a difference in the world that you're listening to. So, thank you all for listening today. Have a wonderful, wonderful week whenever it is that you hear this, and we'll talk to you again soon. 

Thank you for joining us today. For more information, show notes, and any downloads for today's podcast, please visit newlevelwork.com. Be sure to join us again for another insightful interview on how to support managers and leaders in taking their teams and organizations to a new level. Until next time.

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