Many aspects of our business have changed during the pandemic. In some ways, life is easier. There is limited to no travel, less commuting on a day-to-day basis and more time to focus on priorities. The flip side of that is less human connection. The hiring process is a perfect example of adapting during a challenging time. We no longer need to bring candidates in the office for in-person interviews and the hiring process can go much faster than before; but it makes it that much harder to establish the human connection that is required to grow the team with the right people.
We are currently filling five roles at Madison Energy Investments (MEI) and the team, especially the partners who are spending an inordinate amount of time making sure we bring in the right people. We are learning a lot from this process and from previous hiring processes. While we have highlighted 10 takeaways below, the one thing we are sure of is that team fit matters more than anything.
1. Value of diversity. For some, diversity feels like a check-the-box, feel-good initiative. And maybe that helps bring light to the situation and provides opportunities to those who would not otherwise have them. We continue to learn that diversity is a huge driver of our success. We are proud of the diverse team we have built with people from a variety of backgrounds, experience and regions. Looking at the top candidates for the open roles we have, we will continue to be diligent in this area and will be stronger for that. Fortunately, many of the top universities, business schools and industry organizations value diversity, so recruiting from these pools is a guaranteed way to review a diverse set of talent. We should give a special shoutout to our friends at the Clean Energy Leadership Institute (CELI) who always provide us with a diverse, talented list of candidates.
2. Do the little things right. Every single aspect of the interview process is, well, part of the interview process. This includes the little things like how you title your resume and if you respond within the requested timeline. If we are looking for your resume later, do you think it is helpful if the document is generically titled ‘resume’? The same may be true for a financial model when you are on the job or an important contract. We also tend to give challenging, seemingly unrealistic deadlines during the interview process. This is on purpose because that is how we operate on a day-to-day basis.
3. Find an “in” – networks are everything. We value the opinion of our partners over everything. So while we cast a wide net and review every single resume that comes to us, there is no doubt that if we receive a candidate from someone we know, we will give that individual a shot. Just because we know someone, we still treat the review process with the same rigor we would for someone who has come in without a lead. It just makes the first step easier.
4. Highlight your individuality. Given the high interest in the clean energy industry, we need to understand what sets a candidate apart. Like other organizations, we value the experience in banking and consulting, but we see so many candidates with similar backgrounds. What influenced your work ethic? Did you volunteer somewhere? Live abroad? Play a college sport? Are you a chess prodigy?
5.Connect individuality and experience to value for the organization. It is vital to make this connection for us. So many cover letters are filled with “me”, “my” and “I”. Recognizing that the recruitment process is one of the only times when this is (at least partially) excusable, there are ways to do it that communicate value to the organization. For example, instead of ‘I am a self-starter and volunteered at [blank] organization,’ a better response might be: ‘It is evident that MEI is a startup that values initiative. One example I would like to share of taking the initiative is when I started a new program at [blank] organization. ‘
6. Do your homework. We share so much information on our website, on Twitter, LinkedIn, and through our newsletter, as well as frequent articles in industry publications. So, please save the questions that you could find online. Instead of asking, ‘what types of investments are you making?’, take it one step further and probe us on, ‘why Ohio is a good market despite political headwinds’.
7. Be authentic – if you are funny, be funny. If you lean more to the nerdy type, highlight something you have read lately or maybe you wrote an interesting paper while in school. If you have interests outside of work, talk about those. Most people are ‘passionate about clean energy and sustainability,’ so consider that the baseline. A good example that came up recently is a candidate told a hilarious story about how they saved a dog, how much it costs to save the dog, and then calculated an ROI based off that. Needless to say, they are getting a call back!
8. You can’t fake excitement. Not much to add to this one. We want tenacious, excited people on our team, and it is obvious when someone is looking for a job versus those looking to join a team committed to making a difference.
9. The talent pool for clean energy is competitive. For job seekers, please do not be discouraged if you are not selected for these roles or others in the industry. Keep trying. We need all the smart people we can get to solve what is undoubtedly the number one challenge facing us today. This is of course even more true during the pandemic. For companies that might need to hire, or who can afford to hire, DO IT! And please reach out to us if you have some roles to fill. We have hundreds of good candidates and we wish we could hire all of them.
10. When hiring, use the tools that are right for you. Given where we are in our journey, we have elected not to use a headhunter or recruiter. Some of the smartest people in the industry work in the recruiting sector and at previous companies, we have had tremendous success using them. At a start-up we want to take the time to find those individuals on our own because it is impossible for others to know the culture and team fit as well as we do. To get the word out, we use LinkedIn Talent Solutions and we are also using Sparkhire for one-way interviews. We have found this combination to be successful and will continue to use it in the future.
To the candidates out there, good luck and please continue to look to add value in the clean energy industry. We look forward to announcing our new team members soon and encourage candidates or others in the industry to reach out to us and continue the conversation.