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Three steps to evaluate newly required skills on a budget

Since COVID, so many things have turned upside down – how people interact and engage, how they shop, and what they buy has all changed. The walls of the workplace, the balance of work-life, and the construct of a team has all changed. With such profound shifts, what it means to be successful has shifted with it. Teams are now required to achieve goals, execute tasks, and solve problems they have never experienced. In other words, the demands of jobs are changing.

For example, internal training and onboarding must be adjusted to physical isolation and remote workforces, marketing and sales must adjust messaging to COVID-era priorities, HR must handle new and continuously changing regulations, floor managers must adjust and enforce distancing, and on and on and on.

To obtain newly-required knowledge, skills, experience, etc., there are two approaches to take – either train your team or augment it.

But, if your team doesn’t have those abilities, then how do you evaluate them in others?

If you have the resources, you could hire experts - consultants or staffing specialists – that will help identify those perfect hires to fill in the gap.

But, if you don’t have the resources, there are still things you can do to help ensure you are effectively evaluating talent for new capabilities.

Here are three steps to evaluate those new abilities without a large price tag.

1. Look inside

While one team may be facing new skills and abilities, it doesn’t mean the skill is new to the organization. Look across departments and functions and see if someone is already doing what you need for a different purpose. In other words, look for internal subject matter experts (SME)s.

If you have internal subject matter experts, interview the SME(s) to:

  • Identify the requirements. What is a MUST have to look for in new candidates. Make sure the requirements are optimized for transferable skills to take full advantage of the candidate pool.

  • Create descriptions and questions to evaluate the capability. What is success, how do you measure it, what are the challenges and how to identify and address them. Understanding the what, how, and success will feed both the descriptions and questions to ask in order to effectively attract and evaluate talent.

  • Diversify the hiring team. If appropriate, ask one or more of the SMEs to be part of the hiring team to help evaluate the new capability(s). Not only will they fill in a gap for evaluation, but they will also help to reduce risk of bias by adding another voice to the process.

But, what happens if you don’t have a SME or if the SME is just one facet of what you need? Time for step 2.

2. Research

A little knowledge can go a long way, especially when it comes to holding substantive conversations to evaluate talent. Luckily, for most skills and abilities there is no challenge to finding information – though there may be the opposite challenge of too much or opposing information. The key is to understand enough to ask the right questions and know when something doesn’t sound right, but not to know all the answers or to be able to execute on tasks (that’s what you are hiring the new person for).

Here are a few tips when researching.

  • Use Multiple sources. There is a lot of conflicting and misinformation out there. To reduce the risk of having a single opinion or inaccurate ‘fact’ sway your candidate evaluation, use multiple unrelated sources (different authors, organizations, and reference material).

  • Use Multiple formats. Different formats are optimized for different types of information. An infographic is great for data, a blog for explanation, a whitepaper for detail, video for emotion, marketing material for style, market, buyer perception, etc. Using different formats will give a wider range of understanding of the skill/topic.

  • Set time limits and keep focused. Research can lead to all sorts of interesting paths linking to new content. This can be alluring, especially when shedding light on a skill that the team needs. Before you know it, hours you can’t spare have passed and your three topics away from the original intent. Setting a time limit and keeping the goal in mind will help avoid this.

Even with research, in order to really understand, especially if you don’t have an internal SME, is to talk to people who do. This brings us to step 3.

3. Ask for help

The great thing about so many skills and abilities is that there are a lot of people that have them and many of them are happy to jump on a call for 30 minutes to tell you all about it. Experts and practitioners can shed a lot of light on what is required and how to evaluate and measure success for a given skill or ability.

Finding the experts depends on the skill/ability you are searching for. In this time of physical distancing, you can’t walk up to people easily, but you can find them virtually. Corporate websites and LinkedIn are good places, as are social media-based interest groups, associations, and community virtual forums. Other sources include comments on articles you liked from step 2 and referrals from your network.

Here are a few tips to soliciting a little expert advice.

  • Be respectful. Don’t ask for too much – 30 minutes is usually acceptable when asking for a little friendly advice. Also keep in mind they are doing you a favor so cater to their schedule as much as possible, take care of the logistics (calendar invite, dial-in information, etc.) and don’t forget to send a thank you message after the conversation.

  • Be prepared. Have the questions/topics ready so that you aren’t wasting their time or yours. This is the same content covered in step 1.

  • Talk to multiple people. One person is one opinion. That opinion will be influenced by specific experiences, preferences, level of skill, and motivations (i.e. is the person looking for a job, a consulting engagement, just helping). Since it is not always possible to fully understand the influences, talk to multiple people so you get a clearer picture of insight vs. opinion.

Bringing it all together

The skills and abilities required for success are constantly shifting and, with the effects of COVID, the shifts have become tectonic for so many positions. In the scramble to gain new skills and abilities in our teams and organizations to keep up, we are being forced to hire for skills we don’t have or have never needed before. If you don’t have the resources to engage consulting or staffing experts to help, it doesn’t mean you have to search in ignorance. Prepare before you attract, evaluate, and hire by interviewing internal and/or external experts and doing a little research.

Identify what candidates need to succeed with new skills and abilities so you can attract and evaluate the right talent. You can do it, we can help. Career.Place is an anonymous candidate screening tool that removes bias and provides a platform for employers to effectively evaluate skills. For more information, contact us at

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