What one can conceive and believe, one can achieve.
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 Desmond Lim.
Desmond Lim is the Co-Founder and CEO of Workstream, an automated hiring platform for companies hiring hourly workers. He is a graduate of Harvard and MIT Media Lab, former Product Manager at WeChat, and investor at Dorm Room Fund. He is based in San Francisco and lived in Boston, London, and Singapore.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! First, please tell us what brought you to this specific career path?
My parents only ever finished 4th grade, so I witnessed the struggle that they faced as hourly workers at an early age. Then in college, I founded my first business, a Thai food restaurant, where I had to hire hourly workers. I got to witness how frustrating both sides of the hiring process can be, and I was determined to help both businesses and workers to find a solution.
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?
With Workstream, we use texting and automation to help companies hire quickly and efficiently. As part of the screening and interview process, we provide speedy follow-up and automation, which our customers generally love. However, clients have told us that when rejection templates are being sent to applicants, they wish the rejection text messages could be sent at a delayed rate instead of being sent instantaneously. The main concern here is that the quick rejection can seem like it came from an AI or bot because people don’t usually make decisions quite as quickly without Workstream.
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? Please share an example of each idea.
The first thing that I consider when hiring is the concept of excellence over experience. In my experience, someone who is committed to excellence tends to be focused on delivering quality in their work. For example, if I were to hire a chef at a new restaurant, I’d prefer to hire the chef that cooks the most delicious food, as opposed to the chef who has worked at many restaurants.
Another thing to consider is how the individual being hired will fit into the culture of the company. I think that it’s important to consider how someone’s personal values align with company values because this will indicate how well they’ll fit into the company’s culture. For example, in a customer service role, I’d look to hire individuals who truly care about the wellbeing and satisfaction of others, because it indicates to me that they’re going to fit in effortlessly amongst coworkers, and not only do well individually but also work well amongst other team members.
This brings me to my next point, which is company values. When hiring at Workstream, we specifically seek to hire people who embody our values of: Humble and Hungry, Everyone does customer success, Direct feedback is a gift, Don’t lose the human touch, and Be frugal. Each and every one of these values is important for our employees to embody on an individual level in order to keep our values strong at the company level. These values all pertain to work ethic and can be referenced in the interview process to help narrow down candidates.
The personal aspirations of potential employees can be highly indicative of how they’ll fit into a company. For example, if a company were interviewing for a management position and the job candidate stated that their long term goal is to work for themselves from home, it could be an indicator that their personal aspirations don’t line up to the company’s mission and that they really aren’t so invested in the role after all. Whereas if a candidate’s long term goal is to be a great leader, they’ll likely make for a great manager.
Engagement is another quality that goes a long way. When someone is great at listening attentively and asking thought out follow-up questions, it signifies to me that they’re a great learner. Hiring someone who is invested in learning is a great investment because they’ll always be growing within their role. For example, if I were hiring a project coordinator and they were clearly fantastic at listening, I’d be more likely to trust them to communicate effectively between many team members.
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?
First, I recommend building something that people love. When you have a quality business or product, it differentiates and speaks for itself. Sincerity and transparency would be my second suggestion. People are loyal to companies that feel honest to them. Lastly, treating employees with respect. When your employees are happy, your entire company’s foundations are stronger.
What are the 3 most effective strategies you use to retain employees?
1. Treat them with respect.
2. Make sure that they’re truly invested in the work they’re doing/ being a brand that they can be proud of.
3. Excellent communication! Making sure employees feel heard.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
My passion, and a big motivating factor for the work I do, is to give back to the blue-collared worker economy. This has been a huge part of my identity throughout my life and it is a cause that is near and dear to my heart.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” and how that was relevant to you in your life?
“What one can conceive and believe, one can achieve.” I fully believe that as long as you work towards a focused goal, you can overcome any challenges along the way and attain that goal. For example, both of my parents were hourly workers who never went to school, but I was lucky to be able to go to college, and later worked hard to attend MIT and Harvard.
We are very blessed to have some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, 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?
If I could have lunch with anyone, it would be Stephen Curry. I love basketball and played for my home country, Singapore, as a starting point guard.
Impressive! Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!