Theresa McLeod-Treadwell, Program Services Director at Salvation Army was recently tasked with a big job: oversee the opening of a new shelter, the first designed for homeless women in the York region. As one can imagine, the launch of Belinda’s Place involved countless details, not the least of which was the hiring of 16 new staff members.
A daunting task to be sure, but what most concerned McLeod-Treadwell about her significant to-do list was the time and effort it would take to find those suitable candidates. Recalling earlier attempts at hiring employees for the organization, she cites frustration. “It was gruelling. When you just put out postings and people just send in resumes, you’re reading them all day long. Days and days,” she shares. What’s more, she adds, candidates have become really good at mentioning the “right things” on resumes and avoiding the wrong ones. Inevitably, when meeting them for an interview, you often find the person in front of you is vastly different from the impression already formed. “Sometimes it’s a big waste of time,” McLeod-Treadwell says of the process.
This time around she was determined to find a better way to discern which candidates were ideal, embodying the desired commitment level and skill-set that were integral to the jobs. Finding quality people was more important than ever. “Every single person I hired was going to be working with the vulnerable population and would have a substantial influence on people’s lives, they would be part of the fabric of their lives,” McLeod-Treadwell explains.
And she had another seemingly ambitious wish: that they wouldn’t spend a year just on the interview process. After all, “The interview process is not fun for people interviewing or for the people doing the interview so it’s really important that I bring in as few people as possible because you don’t want to hire one person and then tell 20, ‘I’m sorry you didn’t make cut.’”
A pre-interview screening program that works
In fact, ever since she began planning for Belinda’s Place, McLeod-Treadwell had been searching for a pre-interview screening program to help assess candidate suitability for particular roles. McLeod-Treadwell knew a bit about psychometric assessments and was interested in their ability to measure candidates' suitability for a role based on the required personality characteristics and aptitude. In short, psychometric assessments are able to scientifically identify the extent to which candidates' personality and cognitive abilities match those required to perform the role. McLeod-Treadwell conducted a lot of research on various psychometric assessment programs but was having a hard time finding “the one”. One program, for example, used psychometric testing but was focused more on hard skills. Those can be taught, she says. “I’m measuring for soft skills, things likely to be innate, like level of compassion and understanding for oppression.”
So when she saw CharityVillage had introduced a new job posting service called Talent Predictor, McLeod-Treadwell was delighted. “This was just perfect and great timing.” The program uses an online application process for candidates and collects all the applications and resumes in one place for the employer to access. The Talent Predictor postings include a variety of questions in the application process that are customized by the hiring organization, and also enables the applicant to complete an online psychometric test to assess their soft skills and suitability for the job and working environment.
In June, McLeod-Treadwell posted 16 positions using the new program, covering everything from outreach to frontline drop-in workers to supervisors. Each job was different, with its own unique qualifications and expectations so they had to be posted differently too. Set-up was simple enough. A fan of trying out new things (“I prefer to learn by playing with programs”), McLeod-Treadwell jumped in head-first. “I wanted to see how far down the rabbit hole I could go with the program and how much it could really do.” Turns out, she was impressed.
The program and process were user-friendly and straightforward, says McLeod-Treadwell, adding she only had to connect with CharityVillage staff a couple of times for clarification and citing their customer service as top-notch. When she added the organization’s HR Specialist, business manager and executive director to the program, it took only a bit of time and perseverance to get everyone setup. That no one required any follow-up directive is a further indication of the program’s ease-of-use.
Of the program’s many attributes, McLeod-Treadwell particularly appreciates the way the Talent Predictor assesses answers to the customized questions, basing them on two factors: whether candidates are capable of doing the job and whether they’ll thrive in it. “It’s very important,” she says. “You may have someone who’s very capable but can hate the job and won’t thrive. That’s not good for productivity. That’s a breeding ground for compassion fatigue.”
A more efficient, organized approach to hiring
Because candidates are asked a number of pre-set questions that are tailored to the particular type of job they’re applying for, it’s important to be as specific as possible when setting up the postings. Candidates then assess how their skills and experience match these detailed requirements and if a candidate indicates a good match, is asked to ‘prove it’ by writing a short statement about their skills or experience Says McLeod-Treadwell, “I made sure that I picked the job category that most reflected the job so that the suggested skills and experience questions would be relevant.” She then added five of her own queries to the mix, focusing on the applicants' level of understanding for anti-oppression work, wrap-around casework principles and mental health issues. She also noted that she had the option to customize even the automated questions.
To those using Talent Predictor for the first time, she advises them to make sure the job posting is a good reflection of what you really want. “Don’t put in things you don’t really need.” And, while the suggested questions are helpful to get you thinking, if you can add a few extra ones that speak directly to your particular requirements, the tool will be even more helpful in helping you to find the best candidates. “See what the program offers and play with it.”
Talent Predictor includes a built-in scoring system that allows employers to easily determine candidate fit and whether to short list a candidate for further evaluation. It was a real time-saver, says McLeod-Treadwell. “Talent Predictor helped with the first round of candidate evaluations, allowing me to really dive deep into exploring the cover letters and resumes of the candidates with the highest likelihood to be the best hires. Once you’re ready to set up interviews, you can easily refer to this customized ‘short list” you’ve effectively created – with your top candidates listed on top each time you open the screen." In McLeod-Treadwell’s case, a large number of candidates scored high. Wanting to filter those top candidates further to those living in the local area, the tool helped to narrow the search accordingly.
Talent Predictor allows multiple members of a hiring team to share a common view of all job applications. Hiring team members can review and comment on applications without having to be in the same room or to rely on oft-confusing and messy back-and-forth emails. “The hiring team does not all work in the same building and that feature saved a lot of time and energy,” enthuses McLeod-Treadwell.
Improving the interview process
"Talent Predictor helped tremendously to narrow the field and also accurately predicted how well the candidates would interview,” she says. “The predicting capability was uncanny, almost every individual scored extremely close in the three-panel amalgamated scores as they scored on CharityVillage.”
They then created the interview questions based on the job posting. Though many were already enumerated – and answered — in the pre-screening process, the interviewers made sure to ask the question in a different way so they could bring in real-life experiences. The approach was helpful and she advises others to do the same. “We purposely created a twenty question interview for each posting based on the task list in that posting, with each question being worth five points so that each candidate could score a possible 100,” McLeod-Treadwell explains. “We wanted to compare the scores to those on CharityVillage, which turned out to be a great tool to help our decision making process.”
In all, the organization received approximately 1,000 applications, averaging 100 quality (and pre-assessed) applicants per posting. Of their old hiring methods, that included hundreds of emails inundating inboxes and lots of confusion, she says, “it was an awful process.” And this time, with the help of the Talent Predictor and its pre-screening capacity to measure soft skills that will never show up on a resume, 75% of people who came in for interviews were a perfect fit. “They had exactly what we were looking for – deep compassion, understanding etc. even if they lacked technical knowledge.”
McLeod-Treadwell and her team then interviewed 30 people and hired 16. And, though they spent one week of 12-hour days to complete the process, she’s confident they saved three weeks of added effort. And let’s not forget the cost savings. Less time on interviews means less money spent renting out the conference centre, where the interviews took place, and feeding the interviewers. And less time spent on the whole hiring process means more time available to move forward with the productive and good work of the organization.
Finding the right fit for employers and job seekers
It seems the process so far has been win-win. Laurie Hudson-Gruenig, who now oversees landlord engagement at the new shelter, was practically hired on the spot. “It took us five seconds to figure out she was the right person, because we had all of the insight from Talent Predictor in advance,” says McLeod-Treadwell, adding the new employee is doing phenomenally and they’re thrilled. As for how she found the application process, Hudson-Gruenig is equally positive. “The screening really helps narrow things in terms of knowing if this job is right for you,” she says. After all, interviews work both ways, she adds. “You want to ensure you’re working for the organization with the right fit. And CharityVillage does a lot of preliminary steps that helps foster that.” A fan of the new tool, she’s also a fan of CharityVillage. “It offers more than just job postings, it’s very thorough in terms of connecting employers with employees, with positive communications pieces on both ends.”
Elisa Birnbaum is a freelance journalist, producer and communications consultant living in Toronto. She is president of Elle Communications and Publisher & Editor-in-Chief of SEE Change Magazine and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.