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How to hire for digital transformation

Emulating the success of AirBnB, Uber and other high profile companies using digital transformation to disrupt the market has become a goal for many companies.

What this requires, though, is a rethink of the skills your company requires and the types of personalities you employ. You need to create a new culture around this approach and hire accordingly.

A perfect illustration of this is a scenario we at Zebra People encountered recently.

I was at a digital art exhibition a couple of weeks ago and met a young talented artist who was keen to take his ideas into a different sphere…

We were working with a high street bank who were looking to create a culture of innovation and disruption. Not an easy task, as I’m sure you can imagine, for a large corporate organisation.

And yet that young artist popped into my head – this could be the guy for them.

I made the introduction and they hired him.

They loved his physical art installations and his attitude – it didn’t matter to them that he didn’t have the usual web, mobile or tablet projects in his portfolio.

If you’re serious about digital transformation, you also need to hire for cultural fit – here are some tips:

Be suspicious of extreme positivity

Candidates who claim to be all singing and dancing always ring alarm bells for us. Also when folk lack humility that’s always a concern. We particularly buy-in to candidates who discuss learning on a project and from team members.

Find out their attitude to failure

I can’t emphasise enough how important this is. Firstly – those that admit to mistakes are people who are self-aware. Early into my recruitment days a client told me that if someone at interview doesn’t admit to screwing up a project he won’t hire them: a) they have no self-awareness and b) often folk learn from mistakes.

Don’t rely too heavily on your intuition

This might sound strange when you’re hiring for cultural fit – and your intuition does play a role – but it’s very important to measure people against the same criteria. I have had a gut feeling that a candidate isn’t right, only for them to change my mind over the course of the interview. Some people are nervous or take time to warm up (especially with my interview style as I’m pretty direct)

Don’t assume candidates are well-rehearsed

We often need to help candidates create structure and be aware of the interviewer’s time restraints. We also frequently have to remind them to focus on their key successes and individual responsibilities. If you are interviewing without the help of an agency it’s important to bear all this in mind.

Offer training

If you are determined to hire based on cultural fit, you will open up your possibilities if you are able to train your candidate in the specifics of the role. Over the past five years in digital we’ve seen a sharp rise in companies offer better training opportunities with more structured development plans and review processes. Those that flourish do!

Consider using an agency

Of course I’m going to say that when that’s what I do, but I genuinely believe it’s the best way. An important part of our service is in meeting our clients and understanding the culture and the stakeholders the person will work with – so we act as the first round of interview. We can imagine the different personality types needed in a fast paced start-up or a large corporate and really streamline the process. We give the best chance of a candidate remaining in the role, which is what the end goal is for everyone.

What are your top tips?

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