THE ART OF CONNECTING IN THE FREELANCE ECONOMY
I recently had the pleasure of spending time with Ed Evans, EVP of People & Culture at Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts. We’ve had several in-depth conversations about company culture, and among his many insights, the one that resonated with me the most was, “The people you put closest to your guests are your most important employees.”
At Soundings Connect, “guests” are synonymous with “customers,” and our customers are the organizations who look to us to find talent for their meeting and event needs. In addition, the people we put in front of our customers are not employees, but freelancers. While these factors make our hiring equation much different than Four Seasons, we still align on the following two missions:
We must find the highest quality and most relevant people to serve our customers
We must create a safe and value-based environment for our people to thrive
People often ask if it makes me nervous to have freelancers working directly with our customers and representing our brand, given they are people I do not manage and may not have deep relationships with. I can now happily say the answer is no. Has that question kept me up at night in the past? Absolutely. It was the core problem I had to solve before starting starting Soundings Connect.
So, how do we confidently place freelancers with our customers to deliver on our brand promise? We looked beyond “work experience” and developed a model based on massive amounts of research and detailed conversations with HR professionals, behavioral scientists, business leaders, employees, and freelancers.
Our proven success rate is the result of our five-step process:
1) Multi-step screening and application process
First, we make sure the candidate has the experience we are looking for. In some companies, like Four Seasons, candidates can be hired for attitude and are trained for skill. Because our business model is comprised of a network of experienced meeting and event professionals, we can offer opportunities for growth, but they must come with an initial skill.
If the candidate appears to have the necessary experience, we dig deeper into their qualifications through a more thorough application process based on skills, behaviors and referrals.
2) Authentic conversations and interactions
I firmly believe behavioral interviewing has a place in the interviewing process; however, it is not a strong tool to evaluate character. To understand character, we need to get to know people personally and authentically. We need to make sure people not only align with our brand but with our customers as well.
Another important quality I seek out is emotional intelligence. While some signs of EQ can be pulled from behavioral interviewing, there are key indicators that can only be seen through interactions with others.
Because I have a network of freelancers all over the map, I create opportunities to meet in person when I am traveling for business or conferences. It is important for me to see how they interact with me face-to-face as well as with the people in the surrounding environment (ie. other freelancers, servers at the restaurant, other patrons at the coffee bar, etc).
3) Experience and behavioral based interviewing
We use experience and behavioral based interviewing for a few reasons. First, the act of doing it shows us a few keys things: does the candidate prepare for meetings, are they comfortable under pressure, can they communicate clearly, did they create a strategy for the interview, etc. Next, it provides a deeper dive into their experience and the scope of the projects they have worked on. The stories used during behavioral interviewing also highlight how the candidate works with others and the type of environment they are likely to thrive in.
4) Strength based assessments
While strength based assessments are typically used as internal team building tools, I am a huge advocate of using them during the hiring process. The reason is simple: people are happier and more productive when they know their strengths and are given a platform to play to them. Don’t we all want work with happy productive people?
In short, it allows us to go below the surface to ensure we are pairing the right freelancer with each customer. For instance, a freelancer with a top strength of command would not be the best fit for a customer who wants to call all the shots. However, a customer focused on high level strategy may need a freelancer with command and executing strengths to implement their ideas.
By focusing on freelancers’ strengths we are able to increase the odds of successful customer matches and highly functioning teams.
5) Word of mouth
I love referrals! Referrals are the best compliment and, when coming from someone I know and trust, make my job that much easier. Many of our candidates at Soundings Connected are by referral, and in fact, we are poised to be a referral-only network in the future. Regardless of how the candidate discovered us, they are each filtered through the same screening process, but it does mitigate risk when the referral comes from a respected source.
Additionally, we do our due diligence with references, even though we’re very aware that a candidate will only list positive references. We put in the effort to have a conversation to better understand the work the freelancer has done in the past.
If you value high quality people, we know you’ll appreciate our methodology for finding passionate freelance talent for your meeting and event needs. When you have a role to fill, big or small, allow us do the heavy lifting to save you time and increase your success rate.
Tracy Judge, MS, CMP
Founder & Chief Connector