Microsoft’s Head of Recruiting Shares Her Take on the Future of Hiring

November 10, 2020

Quote from the Future of Recruiting Report from Lauren Gardner (Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President of Global Talent Acquisition)  “Recruiters have to be able to answer questions on culture. They have to be able to answer questions about the company’s stance on diversity. They have to teach leaders and managers how to think more broadly about their own choices and coach them to gravitate not towards who they ‘like’ but who adds to the organization.”

Predicting the future right now might feel impossible — after all, who could have predicted everything that 2020 had in store for us? But leaders still need to look ahead and prepare for what comes next, and that’s particularly true in the talent space. 

That’s why we recently interviewed over 20 talent leaders, surveyed over 1,500 talent professionals, analyzed exclusive LinkedIn data, and distilled it all down into our latest report called The Future of Recruiting: 6 Predictions on How COVID-19 Will Transform Hiring

Brendan Browne, LinkedIn’s head of recruiting, recently sat down with his counterpart at Microsoft, VP of global talent acquisition Lauren Gardner, to discuss some of the most important predictions from the report. 

“COVID has impacted our personal and our professional lives,” Brendan says. “In the world of talent acquisition, we’ll continue to step up to meet these demands and these changes.”

Here are three key trends that Brendan and Lauren discussed, along with tips and best practices to help your team take on the future. 

1. There’s no replacing face-to-face interviews, but with the right preparations you can create real connections

Video interviews aren’t new to Microsoft: the company had been using a hybrid approach of in-person and online interviews for some time. But when the pandemic struck, they had to quickly pivot to a 100% virtual approach. 

The transition was less painful than you might expect, and in fact brought some new advantages. “There’s absolutely a cost savings,” says Lauren. “There’s [also] a shorter time invested in scheduling, which in turn is reducing time-to-fill, which is fantastic.” 

But those savings can also come at a cost. “A lot of pushback we heard early on [was that] there’s no replacement for face-to-face and the human connection,” says Lauren. That may be why Microsoft’s recruiting team isn’t planning to stay 100% virtual once COVID finally passes, and will instead return to a hybrid approach. 

To make the best of a difficult situation, Lauren recommends investing more time in preparing candidates, hiring managers, and interview teams on what to expect from the hiring process. 

Offering this transparency can help set candidates up for success and avoid any friction that might come from the constraints of a digital environment. That’s especially critical if you’re using any new tools or tech — make sure everyone’s comfortable with the technology beforehand. “The new normal,” says Lauren, “is that we’ve got to be able to use our technology and tools to create a connection wherever we work around the world.” 

2. Building a more diverse workforce starts in recruiting, but it’s the responsibility of the entire organization

“If you think of diversifying our organization as a 10-step program, recruiting covers steps one and two,” Lauren says. It’s incumbent on the whole company to ensure new hires can grow and thrive in a culture that lets everyone do their best work. 

Still, recruiters have a crucial role to play when it comes to representing that culture. They should be prepared to speak to the company’s values and what they’re doing to live up to them. “Candidates today have a lot of questions on what companies stand for [and] what their culture is,” says Lauren, “and that includes stances on diversity.” 

Recruiters will also need to be able to respond to hiring managers who don’t prioritize diversity — by encouraging, for example, managers to evaluate candidates for potential, not pedigree. That means being more of a strategic advisor who can push back and offer a data-driven perspective.

3. Internal candidates should have just as good an experience as external ones 

Internal recruiting is on the rise and comes with myriad benefits — in fact, it was already a growing trend before COVID struck. But the pandemic and subsequent hiring slowdowns has accelerated this trend and given companies reason to revisit their internal hiring processes.

In the last month, Microsoft has begun to roll out a new program for recruiters “ensuring we make the best hire regardless of the source,” says Lauren. “We’re hoping to make sure our internal candidates have as good and respectful of a process as the external candidates, regardless of the decision made.” While the company’s hiring mix might not change, the objective is to make sure both internal and external hiring processes are as fair as possible. 

Lauren also cites a new internal tool, Who Plus, a company directory powered by LinkedIn and that’s “designed to help all employees discover, connect, and grow their careers.” In helping workers connect with each other to learn about internal opportunities, it can be especially pivotal for those who find “social connection hugely important to their growth and wellbeing.” 

Final thoughts

For many of us, the future has never felt so uncertain — but that makes it all the more important for talent leaders and recruiters to look ahead and be prepared. Whenever the pandemic eventually subsides, recruiting will have to play a critical role in helping companies build back better.

To learn more about virtual recruiting, diversity, internal hiring, and all our other predictions, read LinkedIn’s latest report on The Future of Recruiting: 6 Predictions on How COVID-19 Will Transform Hiring

Talent on Tap is a video series in which Brendan Browne breaks down the hottest topics, biggest challenges, and most enticing opportunities in the world of talent. Talent on Tap will also give you an opportunity to hear from other organizational leaders, subject matter experts, and thought leaders in the space. Stay tuned for the latest.

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