You cannot dominate the marketplace without first mastering the workplace.
As a part of my HR Strategy Series, I’m talking to top experts in the field to teach prospects what hiring managers are actually looking for, while also supporting business leaders in their hiring and retention strategies. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Courtney Underwood.
Courtney Underwood is an HR Alignment Strategist. After more than a decade in corporate America, Courtney founded Kassar Consulting to help entrepreneurs and leaders navigate the business of people.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! First, please tell us what brought you to this specific career path?
I appreciate any opportunity to share more about the business of people! In college, I majored in Organizational Communication, and I was fascinated at the connections between healthy communication and a thriving workforce. I’ve always been passionate about helping people feel connected, understood, and empowered in the workplace, and my career has reflected that. The field of Human Resources is vast, and I’ve held roles that span the breadth of what it covers: Recruiting, Onboarding, Performance Management, Engagement and Retention, and Policies and Procedures. I had a sincere desire to take that knowledge and help companies on a larger level, as having the right people in the right position is a game-changer for increasing both peace and profits. Founding Kassar Consulting has allowed me to do just that.
Can you share the most interesting or funny story that happened to you since you started this career and what lesson you learned from that?
Any HR professional will tell you that the stories write themselves! One that comes to mind occurred when I conducted an HR Audit for a large corporation with several locations throughout the country. A key finding in the audit was that there weren’t any defined reporting structures, so my analysis revealed that some roles were technically reporting to 8 people! This obviously affected engagement, as the staff members that held these positions were beyond stressed out. Before the audit, Management wondered why that position had such high turnover — I definitely helped solve that mystery, and made key recommendations to improve their retention, saving them both time and money.
Wonderful. Now let’s jump into the main focus of our series. Hiring can be very time consuming and difficult. Can you share 5 techniques that you use to identify the talent that would be best suited for the job you want to fill?
- Make sure that you’re not hiring in a silo. During the interview process, get feedback from key stakeholders that will be working with the applicant in their new position. They will be able to provide valuable insight from their unique perspective to get a well-rounded picture of the candidate before making a hiring decision.
- Realize that it is essential to hire for both hard skills and soft skills. Even if a candidate actually possesses all of the technical skills required to do the job, their personality still may not be a good fit to work with you or the rest of your team. What’s good on paper may not be the best for the company.
- Don’t hire out of desperation. Hiring reactively instead of proactively practically guarantees a lower quality candidate. At Kassar Consulting, I recommend that my clients evaluate their business needs quarterly so that they can strategically plan any new hires that they need to make. This gives them time to articulate their needs, interview thoroughly, and select the candidate that is truly the best fit for the position.
- Have a clear picture of what success looks like in the role. Take time to do the work and assess what problem the job is solving, what contributions can look like over time, and convey this to the applicant. That way, both the employer and candidate are on the same page about long-term potential and development within the company.
- Consider what the company needs, not what you prefer. For example, a common mistake that I see employers make occurs when they hire duplicate versions of themselves — same skillset, same interests, same communication style. The company often needs more diversity in talent in order to scale effectively and reach the next level.
Thank you for that — a lot of valuable advice for hiring! With so much noise and competition out there, what are your top 3 ways to attract and engage the best talent in an industry when they haven’t already reached out to you?
- Engaging talent in an increasingly competitive market requires that companies have a strong company culture. Companies that know who they are, what they stand for, and what they’re building control their narrative and the corresponding reputation. Clearly communicating this is vital — when deciding whether to accept an offer, applicants picture themselves working for their prospective employers. What are their team members like? How do people interact with one another? Does the company vision align with personal values? These are factors that all need to be defined.
- Implement a referral program. Good people know good people. More importantly, great employees know exactly what it takes to mesh with an existing team. This can save hours upon hours of screening candidates that aren’t a good fit for the organization. Therefore, offering an incentive is a small investment that can absolutely save an organization money.
- Be clear on your value proposition. I tell my clients often that the interview process goes both ways. What are employers offering their candidates? Is it personal and professional growth and development? The opportunity to make an impact? A better quality of life? Now more than ever, the promise of competitive wages just isn’t enough to stand out from the crowd.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
“Hire for attitude, train for aptitude”. Hiring good people that are willing and quick learners will lead to greater success when compared with hiring applicants that have the required technical skills but not the right attitude. You can train someone on the requirements for the role, but you cannot train them to be a good person.
Big fan of that answer. Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” and how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Don’t ask blind people to proofread your vision”. I am a risk-taker by nature, and that often requires calculated leaps that others aren’t able to understand at the time. Starting a consulting firm that specializes in building structured and healthy workplaces was no small feat, but seeing the impact of my work drives me to serve at an even greater level.
We are very blessed to have some of the biggest names in Business, VC, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private lunch with, and why?
My mentor, Nicole Walters. Applying the solid business principles that she’s shared has led Kassar Consulting to grow to where it is today. Her transparency and conviction are an inspiration.
Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!