The tech firm's ambitious plans to hire 1,000 workers serves as a reminder about the challenges — and best practices — when it comes to high-volume hires
[Please note this story was written before the COVID-19 pandemic so information may be out of date.]
British Columbia got some good news recently with Shopify’s announcement that it plans to open a new office in Vancouver. The Ottawa-based tech firm is looking to hire 1,000 employees later this year, focusing on back-end developers, data engineers, mobile developers, web developers, product designers and product managers.
But staffing a whole new office is a huge task — and even more challenging for an employer like Shopify, says Jeff Aplin, president and CEO of the David Aplin Group in Calgary.
“For the most part… they’re looking for very well-educated, highly skilled, professional-level job categories, which makes it even harder given the labour market is so tight in Canada, and in Vancouver specifically.”
When it comes to mass hiring, a huge challenge is the speed-versus-quality continuum, he says.
“There's the old management principle of ‘Hire slowly and fire fast,’ and when it comes to mass hiring, the temptation is actually to hire fast,” he says. “It’s really important to try to have patience in a mass hiring.”
Employers often cast too wide a net and find many unsuitable candidates, says Aplin.
“If you put too many unsuitable candidates in the funnel to begin with, that's really going to impact how effective and efficient your outcomes are.”
Aside from sourcing people in the first place, one of the biggest challenges is employers still have to be critical in the hiring, says Barend Raaff, CEO of Harver in Amsterdam, a pre-employment assessment platform.
“If you hire a lot of people, there are often a lot of misfires and then mishires — they leave shortly after they're hired. So that's turnover and attrition, and that cost a lot of money. And that is also very bad for morale.”
Typically, recruiters spend just seven seconds assessing an application — and that’s not accounting for a mass hire when time is so important, says Somen Mondal, CEO and co-founder of AI recruitment provider Ideal in Toronto.
“People are spending too little time on an application, which leads to inaccurate results. So, accuracy is the first problem.”
Secondly, because there are often too many applications, companies typically review only about 10 per cent of them, he says. “They're selecting people from a smaller pool. They're waiting till Friday looking at the last 10 people that applied.”
Because of all that, recruiters start using bias in making selection decisions, consciously or subconsciously, says Mondal.
Solutions to mass hiring challenges
While technology can be a huge help, it’s important not to lose sight of the human element, he says.
“The most success that we've seen is having the same number or having a reduced number of interviews, but hiring the same number of people. So, you're selecting the right people in the beginning, but you're spending more time with them. We found the most successful [employers] keep the process human, have a human involved, in the interviewing process, and have a structured interview process that's scalable and consistent.”
In a high-volume hiring situation, you have to treat applicants as if they were your best customers, says Raaff.
“That means make the experience personalized but also incredibly human,” he says. “If you treat your applicants badly, they talk about you in a bad way. And if they are your customers, they will leave you. So, [it’s about] personalization and treating them fairly and in the right way.”
One way to be diligent and avoid too many unsuitable candidates is to narrow job descriptions, says Aplin.
“Then, for anybody who may be a candidate, but they may be unsuitable, you put them in a different lane for later… you're way better off screening somebody good out accidentally than hiring the wrong person accidentally.”
Employers should also consider a virtual bench, he says.
“You want to add depth to your candidate pool while you're doing a mass hire. If anything, you want to have people ready to go on short notice because not all of your hires will work out… You don't want to have to go back to the drawing board, you want to have that depth and virtual bench of those talented candidates.”
When you’ve finally staffed up and the office is full of new hires, it’s important to maintain communication, says Aplin.
“The feedback loop needs to be almost constant for the first 90 days. Because the employees are going to see stuff that they need to feed back to management… and then, likewise, management needs to provide feedback.”
B.C. ENJOYS TIGHT LABOUR MARKET
Unemployment rate in January
Expected job openings until 2029
Average house price in Vancouver
Average rent for an apartment in Vancouver
Sources: Statistics Canada, WorkBC, Zolo, CMHC