Recruitment insights

Hiring a CFO

Recruitment Success Stories: How we partnered with WWF to find their next CFO

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Amidst never-ending pressure to cut costs, increase revenue and sustainably plan for the future, a CFO’s tasks are more complex than ever. It is critical that companies hire financial leaders with the strategic – not just technical – acumen to drive organisational success.

With this in mind, in 2019 we partnered with WWF Kenya to recruit a visionary CFO with the ability to align people and processes to the bigger picture. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF)’s mission is to conserve nature and reduce the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth in over 100 countries. In Kenya, WWF has worked with the government, society and private sector organisations for over 55 years to improve the lives of the communities and wildlife that call Kenya home.

As Victor Komu, HR and Administration Manager at WWF Kenya noted, there was a fine line distinguishing the successful hire from the shortlisted candidates. There were three key factors that contributed to their selection:

Culture Fit

It is critical that hires for WWF Kenya not only reflect the overall vision and mission of the company but that they also embody and contribute to company values. Hiring for culture fit is essential as this ensures that new hires effectively integrate into the workspace. Speaking on the values which they look for in individuals, Victor said: “We pride ourselves in our core values which are credible, responsive, inspiring, collaborative and innovative.”

In order to attract a great culture fit, it is important that employers invest in their employer brand, meaning the public image of their culture as an employer by former, current and prospective employees. With this in mind, in order for WWF Kenya to attract a credible, responsive and innovative CFO, these values had to be reflected in their employer brand. To achieve this, they ensured that their company values were visible on their company website, articulated in the job advertisement and discussed during the initial interview.

Besides the organisation’s personality (values and beliefs), it is also worth including aspects of the job pace (timing, dress code etc) and organisational structure. Indeed, the increasing value of companies’ employer brand was solidified in our recent survey of 1,200 employees in Kenya, which highlights key insights and recommendations tailored specifically for Kenyan companies.

It is undoubtedly important to hire for skills and experience fit. However, when you hire for culture fit as well, you’re ensuring a better chance of retention and satisfaction.

Technical competency and experience

A CFO should be able to create strong and solid policies, be both hands-on and strategic and be of added value to the senior management team. As Victor explained, the ideal candidate for WWF Kenya was “someone who has a strong grasp of global accounting standards, experience that traverses audits, financial transactions, treasury management and of course is a team leader.”

The emphasis on past experience, and in particular, international experience in this case, was important in ensuring that the ideal candidate had a detailed understanding of a range of functions, stakeholder priorities, market influences and the challenges of global business. Further, it was essential that the ideal candidate demonstrated the ability to be able to lead the accounting and financial decisions of WWF Kenya in a forward-thinking, strategic mindset. This was determined through multiple structured interviews with different stakeholders and functional-area assessments.

For an organisation as large as WWF Kenya, open roles can attract up to 900 applications. The Shortlist platform was particularly beneficial during the assessment stage, which ensured a data-driven vetting and review process. Work sample assessments helped WWF Kenya to determine candidates’ capabilities with a high degree of certainty.

Leadership and influencing capabilities 

Mary Kaigera, Chief Financial Officer, WWF Kenya (placed by Shortlist)

Leading the financial direction of a global institution demands a candidate with the ability to influence decisions. When you’re hiring a CFO, you’re hiring a leader. A 21st century CFO should be proficient in leveraging the connection between data and people, driving strategies with a strong financial underpinning and can be a trusted authority on data-driven action planning. The suitable candidate for WWF was therefore someone with the ability to positively influence others, push initiatives and ultimately have an impact on executive decision making. Within the team, a great CFO was one who could engage effectively, be responsive to changes within the workplace and encourage the growth of other team members.

The role of the CFO is multifaceted; a financial gatekeeper, a coach for the entire finance team, an outstanding communicator and a judicious visionary. After partnering with WWF Kenya to understand each of these unique requirements, we successfully identified the ideal candidate for their organisation. So far, Mary Kaigera – WWF Kenya’s new CFO and Shortlist placement – has done an excellent job in personifying all these responsibilities!

Millennials at the workplace

Millennials at Work: Let’s bust the top four myths

750 500 Yvonne Kilonzo

The ‘me me me generation’, ‘narcissists’, ‘lazy’, ‘the joking generation’…there are probably more problematic names you have heard associated with millennials. Millennials, born between the 1980s and early 2000s, form a huge chunk of the global workforce and are steadily becoming key business decision-makers in the workplace. While the impact this generation has had on the workplace and the economy cannot be overlooked, there still seems to be a pervasive negative buzz around millennials at work.

How can this generation be better understood and equipped for success in the workplace? Let’s debunk some millennial myths as we explore some of the ways we can create a work environment for all generational employees to thrive:

Myth #1 – Millenials are obsessed with technology 

The gripe that millennials cannot go a minute without checking their phones may not be far from the truth.  However, given that this cohort was brought up right in the ascend of technology… it follows that phones, computers and tablets are a key part of their lives. This could, in fact, be a win for companies that millennials have no hard barriers between work and home life. This means they would work from anywhere at any time to beat deadlines.

Being the most connected generation in history, with the exception of Gen Z of course, millennials seek to make the best use of the technology available to them. At the workplace, this group wants to use the latest technology for efficiency and productivity. Getting stuck in old technologies while laying claim that millennials are slaves of new technologies could keep your company from achieving the best results. As we all know, slow internet and clunky systems frustrate both the old and young.  Consider taking what is available in your company a notch higher, to enable the new generations to perform at their best.

To further demystify this generation’s attachment to technology, a study shows that millennials actually prefer face-to-face communication to emails and texting. This goes to show that while they may make the best use of the new technologies for your company’s productivity, they are still interested in in-person conversations, for instance, when receiving or giving feedback.

Myth #2 – Millennials feel entitled and all they care about is money

A Shortlist survey that sought to understand what candidates value most in potential employers recently revealed that millennials are more interested in competitive salaries and promotions than any other age groups. However, while this stands true, it is fair to note that good pay is important to all employees. We are all hungry for opportunities to step up in our careers just as millennials are; the only difference is that millennials daringly ask for what they desire, and are more likely to move on to another job should they not receive the fulfilment they seek. This does not mean that they are selfish or entitled; rather they are brave enough to demand what they want while other generations may shy off or play cool.

This insightful report by CNBC further emphasises that millennials value opportunities to grow more than a competitive salary. An organisation that offers opportunities for professional development and pays fairly hones a high performing workforce. The key takeaway here? Millennial satisfaction does not come down to bean bags and 24-hour coffee.

Myth #3 – Millennials’ career goals and expectations differ from those of older generations

Millennials have been said to have career goals and expectations that are different from those of older generations. Top of this list is the hope of making a positive impact on society. While there is truth to this, doesn’t the need to make an impact cut across individuals from all generations? Rather than view this as a mean value, organisations should support these projects as they are important in affirming employees’ need to be part of a bigger picture. In addition to this, it further bolsters a company’s image and employer brand, which helps to build client relationships and stand out from competitors.

It is also true that millennials are different when it comes to switching roles, jobs or expecting internal promotions. Unlike the older employees, such as baby boomers, who could stay in the same job for long and some from start to retirement, it now seems rare to see employees hit the 3-year mark. This does not necessarily make millennials less loyal compared to the older generations; rather, it means that they seek to be challenged, have a clear career path and to feel valued at work. This calls for managers to do what they can to support the dynamic younger generation workforce.

Myth #4 – Expect a medal for participation

You are probably already familiar with the statement that millennials expect a prize for everything they do…even being last. However,  this not true. According to an IBM study, a fair and ethical boss means more to millennials than praise for accomplishments. The research further shows that Gen X are more likely to want a boss who compliments their work, while baby boomers would prefer a boss who solicits views from them than millennials would.  It’s not that millennials always expect constant acclaim and think everyone should get a trophy for participation. What they want is a manager who is transparent and open to giving them feedback for self-improvement which you would admit, cuts across all generations.

It is important to note that, millennials will represent 50 percent of the entire global workforce by 2020. This is, therefore, the ideal time to stop shaming them and instead nurture their creativity, passion and ambition to achieve success and make a world-changing impact. Rather than consider millennials a generation of weakness, let’s recognise them as diverse risk-takers who are shaping the future of work.

Further given the current competitive hiring climate, the talent available to you directly impacts your company’s ability to deliver its goals. It is therefore important to develop the best strategies to attract top talent among millennials. These range from culture, management style,  recruitment and retention approaches that benefit all employees.

Millennials are encouraging us to challenge and improve workplace practices that are ultimately beneficial to all employees. If anything, the workplace evolution doesn’t end here, Gen Zs are already joining us!

gender-neutral hiring process

Moving towards a gender-neutral hiring process

7952 5304 Mridvika Raisinghani
Image: Shutterstock

New Harvard findings show our technology-based approach is levelling the playing field for female job seekers in India.

One of the main reasons we started Shortlist was to help eliminate the biases that so many job seekers face during their application process. This is especially true for female candidates, who continue to encounter bias and discrimination—sometimes due to reasons that are unconscious to hiring managers. So how do you introduce objectivity into such a human endeavor to create a gender-neutral hiring process?

Imagine all the different steps involved in the screening process alone. Each one has historically been tilted in favour of male applicants: from the user interface that candidates experience (usually developed by male designers), to the wording used in application questions (full of male-gendered language like “ninja”), to opportunities for candidates to self-report their strengths (men consistently overstate these relative to women) to the signals employers are given by recruitment teams (usually leading with the name, not the assessment results).

One of the founding principles behind Shortlist is to move away from the archaic CV-driven recruitment process to a world where candidates are given the opportunity to demonstrate their competencies and fit for a role. We believe that technology isn’t a panacea to eliminate all bias in recruitment, but when used correctly, can be a powerful tool for helping create a gender-neutral hiring process that supports trained human resource teams to produce significantly more objective and ultimately better-performing hiring outcomes.

New independent and peer-reviewed research, published in partnership with Shell Foundation and the UK’s Department for International Development, provides fresh evidence that we’re on the right track in our goal to eliminate gender bias in the recruitment process.

As part of their Masters in Public Administration programme at Harvard, Rachel Levenson and Layla O’Kane spent weeks analysing the Shortlist hiring process in India to help understand how a technology-based approach to hiring, underpinned by competency-based assessments, would affect the gender breakdown of the candidates we submit to clients for interviewing and hiring. Levenson and O’Kane statistically analysed key metrics in our candidate database, reviewed our screening logic, and spoke to our recruitment teams, clients, and jobseekers. They also analysed the broader Indian job market to establish a baseline around gender inclusion to help place conclusions about Shortlist’s model in context.

We didn’t know what they would find.

The paper that resulted from this work, “Gender Inclusion in Hiring in India,” has validated that Shortlist’s approach provides a gender-neutral hiring process for candidates. What does this mean? Among several other key conclusions, the researchers found no signs of gender bias in the evaluative stages of the hiring process. Once women complete their application, they are equally likely as men to be shortlisted for the job.

The authors also developed other key insights about gender in the recruitment process, including the reality that women are more likely to apply to jobs for which they meet all the minimum selection criteria as compared to male applicants. This insight points to the drawbacks of employers including a laundry list of “nice to haves” masquerading as “requirements” in their job description. We’d encourage you to read the full paper, or at least the Policy Brief.

At Shortlist, we’re proud that over 70% of our leadership team and 65% of our overall employee base is female. While many of our clients use Shortlist specifically to help diversify their teams, we know that we still have a long way to go.

For instance, we need better data to point to the performance of female candidates to prove to skeptical hiring managers what we already know from seemingly endless anecdotal evidence and decades of combined experience in management and recruitment: that on-the-job performance is a function of competency, intelligence and attitude, not gender.

The researchers themselves highlighted several gender-related questions worthy of additional research, including how to attract and hire women who are seeking to re-enter the workforce after family leave. We also need to examine the organisations that have created a gender-diverse workforce across seniority levels and the practices they used to achieve this. We also need better data and examples that point to how we can reduce bias in the recruitment process for other minorities, such as LGBT or disabled candidates, both of which face discrimination when applying in many markets.

This research has pointed to ways in which we can meaningfully foster a gender-neutral hiring process during recruitment. At Shortlist, we’re actively working to further improve our process, including helping to diversify the workforce of sectors like energy that have traditionally been dominated by men. We’ll be highlighting examples of employer best practices and using data to connect the dots between recruitment practices and on-the-job performance.

Send us your ideas and watch this space as we continue our journey to level the playing field for jobseekers.

kenya talent acquisition trends 2019

Talent acquisition trends 2019: Top seven in Kenya

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Shortlist surveyed 200+ talent recruiting decision-makers across Kenya to understand the top talent acquisition trends for 2019. The respondents were equally split between HR and Hiring Managers and ranged from micro organisations with less than 25 employees to large corporates with over 1000 employees.

Here are the top seven talent acquisition trends for 2019 in Kenya that the survey revealed:

Insight #1: Attracting quality talent was a key challenge for Kenyan companies in 2018

Attracting quality talent was a top challenge across most functions and organisation sizes. This was especially the case for large organisations as 63% of respondents from companies with over 500 employees cited it as a challenge.

The current job market swings heavily in favour of quality candidates, and these candidates know how in-demand they are. If organisations don’t market properly as employers, they might lose the quality talent to the competition.

Our research on Hiring in Kenya found that high performers can generate up to 7 times the annual margin of low performers and nearly twice that of medium performers. This makes hiring quality talent critical for organisational performance.

It’s time for organisations to critically assess how attractive or appealing they are to high-quality applicants. Employer branding, candidate experience and talent pipelining need to take centre stage.

The secret to attracting high-quality applicants is to differentiate oneself from other industry players, and showing top talent how joining the organisation can help them reach their career goals. Companies are increasingly required to pay more attention to their employer brand to differentiate themselves and stand out. Therefore, it was no surprise that upon investigating the challenges faced by most companies in 2018, attracting quality talent topped the list, beating out candidate sourcing and assessments among the important Kenya talent acquisition trends for 2019.

Insight #2: Improving efficiency of hiring is top among Kenya talent acquisition trends for 2019

Given the pace of change and the constant pressure to save costs, it is not surprising that managers across industries identified improving the efficiency of the recruitment process as top among the Kenya talent acquisition trends for 2019. Improving hiring efficiency is crucial for employers as it lowers hiring costs, improves the quality of hires and reduces the time spent in the hiring process.

Our research showed that organisations receive 200 CVs on average per role advertised, with some organisations occasionally receiving as many as 5,000 CVs for each role! Time is the primary cost driver especially since interviewing takes up to 19 hours while CV screening and shortlisting take up to 18 hours per role.

Screening and shortlisting should ideally be less time-consuming and the time saved can be reallocated to other tasks requiring a more human touch. There is a need to effectively manage the high volume of applications received (mainly due to the use of online job boards) by leveraging on technology to provide effective solutions for efficient screening.

Insight #3: Companies are leveraging on technology in their recruitment

While technology has found its way into the HR ecosystem, most organisations in Kenya are not fully leveraging on technology; 67% of organisations are using technology during sourcing, and this number drops drastically to 18% during onboarding. Adoption of technology at the sourcing stage does not translate to improvements in the interview stage because of a high volume of unfiltered candidates getting to the interview stage.

Adoption of technology during the assessment and screening stages need to increase for organisations to be able to improve the efficiency of their hires. The utilisation of technology during the hiring process is most effective when used at the sourcing, screening and assessment stages, as this narrows down the number of applicants to those with the highest potential for the job, thus saving both interviewers and interviewees time.

At Shortlist, we help employers navigate the hiring process by using evidence-based digital methods that identify the most qualified candidates for the position from the vast pool of applications sent before proceeding to in-person interviews.

Insight #4: SMEs leverage on technology more in the hiring process

Our research found that SMEs leverage technology more than larger organisations. This is probably because SMEs often have limited bandwidth in their recruitment teams. They, therefore, turn to technology to make up for this deficit. In the past, the large corporates had a built-in advantage of advertising widely for roles simply because they could afford it.

There was no way that an SME could spend the kinds of money needed to use traditional advertising and spread the word in the same way that the established titans could. Hence there was a clear demarcation within the business world between the haves and have-nots.

Technology has blurred those lines to the point where it’s difficult even to see where they once existed. In particular, social media has given the opportunity to small businesses to advertise their vacancies in much the same way that business giants can.

Insight #5: Sales top the list for the most important position to fill in 2019

Nearly half of our respondents listed sales as the top position to fill in their companies this year. There could be several reasons for this. One could be the general attrition rate in sales; the voluntary turnover rate for salespeople is generally higher than for other positions. When salespeople aren’t happy in an organisation, they are more likely to leave than other employees.

Sales is a naturally stressful and performance-demanding job, so attrition will usually be higher because assessing performance for sales unlike other jobs, is in-your-face. This is also exacerbated by the fact that most employers don’t have a well-designed, mature sales process; hence performance is more dependent on employee quality.

On top of that, many companies face challenges finding the right talent for their sales teams and often end up making the wrong hire costing the company time and money. Right job fit has a massive impact on sales staff turnover as employees with ‘right fit’ have a stronger motivation and positive attitude towards their role making them more productive, effective and tend to stay longer.

Having a challenge with assessing for job fit? Read more on how we think about assessments: The Art and Science of Assessments

Insight #6: 96% of companies plan to increase their hiring volume this year

Kenyan businesses ushered in 2019 with a high sense of optimism for business growth. 96% of our survey respondents expressed the intention of increasing their rate of hiring. 52% of the respondents expect their organisations to increase their hiring volume by 20% or more!

While making more hires can be a sign of company growth, it is important for companies to remember that quality hires are the key to the growth of the business. To improve in this area, companies need to update their hiring processes constantly to attract the best candidates.

Insight #7: Hiring managers are looking for a good balance of soft and hard skills

When evaluating who they will hire in 2019, 44 % of respondents rated the candidate’s business skills, experience and job skills as very important. While business skills may get one’s foot in the door, employers are typically looking for a more balanced employee who also possesses soft skills that are not readily apparent on a CV.

Talent Acquisition Trends for 2019  – Conclusions:

Sourcing and hiring talent can be a difficult, expensive and time-consuming process. Our survey revealed that most organisations are looking to become more efficient and increase the quality of their hires. To get ahead and ensure they secure the best talent, companies need to embrace new recruitment strategies and incorporate technology in the recruitment process.

Download the complete e-book: Talent Acquisition Trends for 2019.

Want to learn more about the Kenya talent acquisition trends for 2019? Download the full report here.

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What Kenyan employers want — Digging into our 2018 data

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When an employer works with us to recruit for an open position, we tailor an online application to include screening questions and assessments that gauge for the must-have skills they’re looking for. Once they’ve reviewed their list of top performers on our Talent Gallery, hiring managers get to provide feedback on their reasons for rejecting and or moving a candidate forward to the interview stage. After running over 200 jobs in 2018, we have a ton of data on what pushes a candidate over the line from “maybe” to “I need to meet them!”

On our Talent Gallery, employers give us feedback on why they decided to advance or decline candidates

Here are some of the main reasons, and corresponding tips for both hiring managers and candidates:

Assessment scores: High performance on skills assessments was one of the top reasons that hiring managers decided to move a candidate forward on the Shortlist platform. Prioritizing candidates based on assessment scores is a smart way for recruiters to spend their valuable interviewing time with candidates who have already shown they have the ability to perform on the job. After all, last year we found that SMEs in Kenya are spending around 19 hours conducting interviews for a single role!The Shortlist assessments approach is based on 85 years of research that show that cognitive tests, work samples, and structured interviews have the highest predictive value in understanding how someone will perform on a job.

Tip for hiring managers: How can you increase the value of assessments in selection? Learn from our white paper on Science of Hiring on Kenya.

Relevant experience: Experience remains a top factor in why an employer would choose to move forward with a candidate. This is because it gives the hiring manager the assurance of the candidate’s ability to apply relevant skills in the job for productivity. A degree qualification used to be a major deciding factor in who got the job, but since there’s been a rise in the acquisition of degrees over recent years in Kenya, employers are forced to focus more on experience.

Tip for candidates: Highlight key experiences in your job application and resume to avoid the chance of an employer discarding it without a second thought.

Potential: Candidate potential appeared to stimulate greater interest than actual accomplishments. In every instance that a hiring manager highlighted the potential of the candidate on our platform, the candidate ended up getting hired! For the hiring managers, candidates who had demonstrated an initial aptitude for their technical abilities and behavioural competencies stood a higher chance if they were considered to have future potential to make a bigger impact than the role they were applying for at the time.

Tip for candidates: As an applicant, use this to your advantage by emphasizing your future value, in addition to past achievements when applying for a job.

Tip for hiring managers: You probably know that performance is what you do, potential is what you could do. Here is a guide on hiring for potential over experience.

Culture Fit: Like potential, culture fit was a sure predictor of getting hired in 2018. What is even more interesting is that all the hiring managers who highlighted the culture fit were from Small and Growing Businesses (SGBs). Culture fit is crucial for SGBs mostly because they require a different approach from bigger companies, often seeking candidates who take initiative, seek growth opportunities, and are comfortable with ambiguity. The impact of hiring a great fit or a mismatch if often amplified in SGBS due to the small number of staff. Further to this, a study also shows that 84% of recruiters agree culture fit is an important factor in recruitment compared to skills.

Tip: Is the candidate someone who will perform well in your work environment and collaborate effectively with your existing team? If your answer is yes, then they are most likely a good fit. Successful companies such as Netflix and LinkedIn are already hiring for culture fit!

Stability: Although the least considered factor in recruitment, hiring managers remain cautious of profiles full of short job stints as they may be a sign of being unstable or disloyal. However, our data shows that if a candidate has the right experience and high assessment scores then hiring managers are likely to overlook the job-hopping. There’s no doubt about it — you will have to invest resources for a winning recruitment process, and wasting time, money and energy to hire someone who may not stick with you can be frustrating.

Tip: Before you write off candidates with meandering job history, adopt techniques for assessing job hoppers to ensure you don’t miss out on a star recruit.

All in all, recruitment is a test for both hiring managers and applicants. Candidates need to bring their best foot forward to stand a chance of being selected, while recruiters need to pick the best talent to ensure productivity and avoid spending so much time and resources in rehiring.

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