Is Your Recruiting Strategy to Screen People In or Out?

I was taught how to recruit, well really screen people for jobs, before I even graduated college.  Working for a large insurance company as a summer intern between my junior and senior year, I was given a glimpse into the world of corporate recruiting.  It really wasn’t recruiting.

Everyone on this corporate “recruiting” team was welcoming to me and they divided the selection process up amongst the “recruiters” to show me how it was done. 

I was taught that the process of selection, “recruiting” as they called it, was screening people out, not in.  

Yes, we needed to make a hire (or as was the case in customer service and claims classes LOTS of hires at once), so we needed someone in, but the mindset taught in the process was to weed people out.  

The weeding came in the form of pre-screening questions. If you answered “no” to any one of them, you were automatically out.  The system kicked you out before I even saw you.  Most of these questions related things like required education and experience.  For which I now question why they were “required.” 

The weeding came in me and my fellow “recruiters” screening people out based on their resumes. For any number of logical and sometimes illogical reasons. 

The weeding came in interviewing people and, again, tossing them out for a number of logical and illogical reasons. 

And sometimes, if the pool of candidates was particularly good and we needed another mechanism to weed, we’d toss in some kind of assessment.  Well, actually all those classes we were “recruiting” for in customer service and claims had an assessment before I even saw you too.  Don’t waste my time or yours with an interview if you can’t pass our “test”. 

The mindset instilled in me was to get people out until you land on the one that is the least bad and hire them!

It has taken me 15+ years to realize that the method I was taught, which always seemed to not sit quite right with me, but for which I couldn’t put my finger on as to why was because it doesn’t lead you to the best hire. 

This revelation, or AHA! moment, came to me as I was listening to a podcast by the Neuroleadership Institute on growth mindset.  

The Co-Founder and CEO of the NIL, David Rock, asks Priya Priyadarshini, General Manager, Employee Career and Development at Microsoft what they do differently now that they have adopted a growth mindset.  She responds:

The first thing that really just immediately comes to my mind is our Chief HR officer, our Chief People Officer, Kathleen Hogan, who had done a post a couple of years ago. And we really sat down as an HR leadership team to talk about who are the people who we are hiring? If we are truly going to double down on diversity and inclusion and bring people from all walks of life, all sorts of experience, truly being the global company we are, do we screen in people? Or do we screen out people at the get-go? When we are meeting with people, like, I is my brain always thinking about what are the things that will help me quickly eliminate this talent? Versus what should I truly deeply watch for that will help me think about the potential of what this talent is going to bring to the table? How they are going to add to the cultural fabric of Microsoft? 

So this concept of addition versus elimination has been really, really powerful. And it’s easier said than done. But it really requires a growth mindset on the part of the candidate, first of all, to apply to Microsoft, and how we make that attractive and compelling for them. The hiring manager, the GTA, the global talent acquisition processes, how we reach and our outreach, and all of that. And that’s been really powerful. 

And a very small example of that would be, today, my team runs a global apprenticeship program, which is a 16-week program called Microsoft Leap. And it’s really that. We are inviting people to take that leap with us. And we have people from all walks of life, returning moms who used to work in a completely different industry. And for them, it’s about how do people have to confront their own fixed mindsets? I don’t have a computer science degree. Microsoft! My gosh! It’s a software company. It’s a tech company. Do I even belong? And so that whole notion in itself requires so much around growth mindset for all parties involved. So that’s just one.

So, how do we shift the paradigm to screening people in because it gets us the best talent? 

  1. Realize what paradigm you are operating in now.  Are you screening in or out?  Map what steps in your process lead your brain to think “in” or “out”.  Awareness is the first step. 
  2. Adjust thinking to cultivate changed “priorities, systems, and habits” (NIL has a lot of resources on this to develop a growth mindset).  Some  examples: 

Changed priority:  We have been focusing on time to fill in hiring as a key metric, now we are focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion (pick any number of metrics here) as our priority. 

Changed system: We are going to engage with marginalized and/or underrepresented populations and draw people into our applicant pools. Microsoft’s Microsoft Leap program described above is a good example. 

Changed habit: I am going to teach my “recruiters” how to look at a resume and find potential transferable skills instead of binary criteria for screening purposes. Or maybe your changed habit is not to require or look at a resume at all! 

3. As mentioned in the changed habit example, you’ve got to train and reinforce the skill through leading with patience, practice, and rewards for those that deploy the growth mindset in hiring, or in any other arena.  Some of these reinforcements come naturally once a growth mindset is continually practiced, but leaders need to model and instill it through their behavior as well.  Who knows if I’d still be a “recruiter” today if I was taught to screen people in instead of out?


How do you cultivate a growth mindset in your hiring practices? 





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Mary Ila Ward