What qualities do businesses today look for in job candidates?

Hint: They care less about your skills, and more about the size of your ego.

Whether your organisation is a disruptor or an established entity facing disruption, the challenge for everyone remains the same in these turbulent times – how to secure and retain top talent.

As several business leaders, entrepreneurs and HR heads shared at a series of panel discussions hosted by Trellis Asia recently, the challenges might be universal, but their staffing approach has been anything but straightforward. 

Maintaining a consistent culture

For cryptocurrency platform Monaco, a company founded only in 2016, the talent acquisition journey has actually been fairly smooth-sailing so far. 

“Bringing serious leadership talent on board brings up a few questions, one being ‘Is it difficult?’ The answer is no. We’re in a hot space and we’re a hot company right now,” CEO Kris Marszalek shares candidly.

He reveals that Monaco’s strategy is to go after the most senior talent, the best advisors and the best minds globally to work with the company by offering very competitive compensation and benefits.

“Once we hire them, they then bring in their own rockstars. So we build gradually and expand while maintaining the culture, which is key.”

And this culture, says Marszalek, comes down to an individual’s clarity of mind, ability to learn and move fast, and the ability to be humble – three things the company strongly looks out for in all candidates.

“I’m not just looking for professionals with blockchain or cryptocurrency experience,” he says. 

"There is no space here for huge egos. We discuss, not argue."

Humility matters more than skills

The same thing could be said for paid video streaming platform iflix, where a person's characteristics matter more than their skills and knowledge. Founded in 2014, the service has raised over S$200 million in funding this year alone.

“We value deep humility here. You must have the ability to 'take the piss out of yourself,'” says founder Mark Britt, adding that this is a quality expected especially from senior management.

“One of the realisations we had is that insecure leaders are the greatest constraints on the business. That’s why I hope I can build a business I can no longer manage.”

These values have served the company well through all the challenges of an ever-evolving world.

“Every time you think you have figured out what you think you need to do, the world has shifted a bit again,” says Britt. “These are the important lessons we have learned.”

Looking inwards

For a more established player like Credit Suisse that is facing massive disruption from many small but increasingly powerful financial technology start-ups, hiring innovative talent in particular, has not been easy.

“In terms of hiring, we’re still very traditional and there’s no way we can compete with the Googles of the world, because of compliance; we’re a very heavily regulated industry,” says Francesco de Ferrari, Managing Director and Head of Private Banking Asia Pacific.

But the world today, he adds, is such that companies don’t need to employ innovative people to innovate. They simply have to partner with other more innovative firms, something that Credit Suisse does.

Another important consideration is the fact that those hires would not be the right cultural fit for more traditional set-ups.

“If we hire those types of talent, they will not thrive in our environment,” says de Ferrari.

Instead, he believes renowned businesses should also look at further developing their own people to meet their innovation requirements. 

“The internal landscape is often underrated and overlooked. Most of my employees used to be salespeople, but today, they’re all experienced from frontend to backend.”

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