Caroline Stokes
Credit: Rachel Nixon

Stokes, shown with her recent book, knows what to look for in a new recruit

Stokes is the keynote speaker at our February 12 event, Help Wanted: HR Strategies That Work

“Talent is the biggest driver of success, and a recruiter’s job is to get the talent,” writes Caroline Stokes in her new book, Elephants Before Unicorns: Emotionally Intelligent HR Strategies to Save Your Company. The self-described human capital entrepreneur did marketing and PR for firms like Sony Computer Entertainment Europe and Nokia Corp. before moving from the U.K. to Vancouver in 2006. Seven years later, after a stint as a B.C.-based executive search partner and coach for the London office of Australia-headquartered Natural Selection Group, Stokes launched Forward, a headhunting and coaching firm with clients that include Electronic Arts Canada and Microsoft Canada.

How do you find the right people for an organization?

Start by figuring out where the organization is going, what problems it needs to solve and what sort of people it needs to solve them. That requires lots of conversations beyond the usual, Let’s put an advert up and then interview a whole bunch of candidates. People get very frustrated when that typical process happens because you’re getting 100 applicants that aren’t applicable. Does the job description really resonate with where the company is going and what the opportunity is?

What’s the best way to approach a candidate about a position?

Most people, if you’re talking to somebody who’s a perfect candidate, have no interest in moving on. You’ve got to captivate them with an opportunity that is truly compelling. We’re not talking about title and salary. How are you connecting to their why and the mission for the organization? I like to ask, How would you like this conversation to start? You immediately get them focused in the mode of what is it that they want. This is about the candidate. Get them engaged from the very beginning.

How do you integrate new hires?

On day four, we bring all of the stakeholders in the organization, as well as the new hire, together and ask: Where is the company going? What is the company vision? How is this new hire going to be a part of that? About day 50, I do the midterm check-in with the same questions. We don’t do any reflection on what has happened or what bumps came along the way because it’s not a shame and finger-pointing exercise. 

What about retention?

One-to-ones on a regular basis to identify what the challenges are, what the opportunities are, areas for development and so on—that’s how you retain people. Open dialogue, open communication, lots of collaboration.

Any tips on keeping people engaged over the long term? 

As I explain in my book, “A surefire path to employee disengagement is to stifle their interests in tasks that fall outside their job descriptions. ‘You can’t do that—that’s a marketing thing.’ Or ‘We don’t need you to lead that training; that’s what we have a training department for.’ Effective people leaders see their employees as varied, complex individuals. They expect team members to do their jobs, but they’re always interested in their employees’ unique interests and passions, and they strive to draw these out within the context of their assigned tasks.”

On Wednesday, February 12, Caroline Stokes will be the keynote speaker at Help Wanted: HR Strategies That Work, hosted by Contemporary Office Interiors. Following her talk is a panel discussion, moderated by BCBusiness editor-in-chief Nick Rockel, on attracting and retaining the best professionals in today’s career market. 

The panellists:

Max Brunette, partner, Gowling WLG

Kandrice Cantwell, CEBS, ISCEBS fellow and partner, Montridge Advisory Group

Jesse Garcia, workplace knowledge consulting lead, Herman Miller

Jeff Harris, founder and CEO, Impact Recruitment

For tickets, click here. Use code BCBVIP for a 15-percent discount.