We want to spread the message as far and as wide as we can to change these long outdated and unfair notions of overlooking under represented communities.
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 Michele Lanza.
Michele Laza is the founder of Work Wider. She has over 20 years of HR and talent acquisition experience. Michele founded Work Wider. She hopes to change the way companies hire and help make the workforce create a lasting culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! First, please tell us what brought you to this specific career path?
I didn’t graduate from college until I was in my mid-twenties. And I think that’s why I approached my career with a little more dedication to being helpful to young minds and those who are trying to find their right place in the workforce. I started in recruitment with that interest of recognizing and fostering talent and finding a compatible fit with a position or a company where they can grow and thrive. And to this day, I think that has informed everything I do at Ketchum and at Work Wider.
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?
Well, not really funny but interesting and important. In my experience at Ketchum and at Work Wider, I have learned firsthand the value of having a diverse team. I’ve learned the impact that diversity has on the ideation, the creative, the development, and the overall product. Work Wider is the outcome of these voices coming together to create a platform that is represented in all unrepresented communities. Similarly, at Ketchum, where I am SVP for talent acquisitions and retention strategies, I’ve also seen the impact that diverse hiring has on teams and the programs they deliver on behalf of clients.
Wonderful. Now let’s jump into the main focus of our series. Hiring can be very time-consuming and difficult. What 5 techniques do you use to identify the talent that would be best suited for the job you want to fill?
- Qualifications are always going to be key. So the first thing we identify are the candidate’s qualifications and it can be anything from something basic like how having “exceptional math skills” would be suited for a finance position or how “organizational skills” would be a fit for office management. Or, it can be as complex as “multi-lingual” for a position that requires communicating to various customers or offices in other countries.
- Interview. You can really learn a lot about a person in an interview because how they choose to respond to a question can be just as, if not more important, than the answer they provide. For example, if someone were to give you an answer that is supported by additional information, you can imagine the person as having done their research or someone who is good with details. If a candidate responds with multiple solutions to a question, you may glean that they have good problem-solving skills.
- Open-ended questions. During the interview process, it may also be beneficial to have open-ended questions because these allow the candidate to be more spontaneous and not keep resorting to prepared answers. Certain questions can lead to some revealing answers.
- Know what makes a candidate tick. Identifying what motivates a candidate is a key to finding the right role for them. It has become more important than ever for companies to understand that in order to have the best and the most compatible hires you need to appreciate and understand your potential employee. In the hiring process the candidate’s career goals, ambitions, their sense of purpose factor into how they will add to a company’s work culture.
- Culture matters. A recent study indicated that 67% of candidates say a company’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion impact their decision in taking a job. Companies that are attracting top talent are putting their best foot forward and showcasing their culture to candidates. This is one of the key things we define at Work Wider because we partner with companies who are committed to diversity and inclusion and our members come from underrepresented communities. Knowing that the candidate and the company have similar values goes a long way in ensuring that they will be a good match.
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?
The best talent always has the option of being selective when it comes to jobs. So, a company has to really demonstrate their intentions by being visible in the communities they serve, to be visible and participatory in causes that mean something to these talents.
- Industry-based initiatives. Being visible at and participating in industry events are good ways for the top talents in that industry to be aware of your company and to see for themselves what the company does for that field.
- Community-based programs. Anything that shows the company’s dedication to the communities they serve speaks well to top talents if a company’s culture is something they can believe in and get behind.
- Cultivating relationships. I always say recruitment begins even before you have a position to fill. It’s important to already recognize these talents and engage them on some level so that when a position does become available or the talent becomes available there may be an opportunity to connect.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” and how that was relevant to you in your life?
“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity” by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This encapsulates both the ideal goal and the motivation of what I do.
We are 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?
Too many to narrow down. But it would be great to have a personal conversation with someone like Michelle Obama not just because she’s my namesake but to really get the perspective of an intelligent, accomplished woman who was at such an important juncture of our nation’s history and had a front-row seat to shaping policies that affected the lives of so many.
Thank you so much for sharing your insights with us today!