Finding the Needle in a Haystack with LinkedIn

August 15, 2011

In our search for my new assistant, we quickly realized that conventional methods and job descriptions weren’t attracting the right types of candidates. We could attract people who had the qualifications, but it was difficult to gauge whether or not their values and principles align with ours. Finding candidates with the right mind-set – who are happy, healthy and create their own reality – is extremely important to us.

I recently read an article in The Globe and Mail that made me realize our company is not the only one that does this. It noted that in a recent survey, 92 percent of respondents from thousands of companies choose candidates based on mind-set rather than skill set. Our company, along with thousands of others, wants candidates who fit well within the company culture. While we can teach a person new skills, we can’t change their personality or values.

We have a small, in-house staff and contract with senior specialists from around the world. My assistant would need to not only support me in all degrees of my responsibilities, but also communicate well with our clients and specialists. Completing a variety of research and written communication tasks were also critical to the role.

After a fruitless three-month search, one of our advisors suggested posting the job to LinkedIn. We decided to take this a step further and revised the description to start with what we looked for in a person and then describe what the job entailed. We wanted someone who is happy, healthy and creates his or her own reality. Someone who takes care of and invests in themselves and their community. Someone who demonstrates our company values, including integrity, respect, and collaboration.

We purchased a single job posting on LinkedIn. Within two weeks, a number of highly qualified candidates applied, and we brought in the top ones to interview. One of those finalists was Cheryl Saito. She has a strong interest in sustainability and experience as an administrative assistant.  She wanted to move into communications, so she typed “writing and editing” into LinkedIn to see what she could find. Although the job wasn’t specifically tagged for those roles, it came up in her search because the terms were in the description. She turned out to be a great fit, both in mind-set and skill set, so we offered her the job. She’s made my life a lot easier, and we’ve become more effective and efficient from having brought her on board.

We absolutely plan to use LinkedIn for future recruiting. It is such an incredible tool. Finding someone who has a mind-set aligned with ours is like looking for a needle in a haystack, so it’s absolutely necessary to look in as large of a haystack as we can. Given the number of people on LinkedIn, it increases our chances of finding that needle. From my perspective, there isn’t any other recruiting tool that can compete with LinkedIn today.

To learn more, watch an interview with Rodney and Cheryl on YouTube.

Rodney C. McDonald is the President of McDonald & Hardess Sustainability Group, a virtual company that works globally with senior decision makers and their organizations to achieve sustainability results.