Kathryn Minshew has always been fascinated when asked, “What do you want to do with your life?” When she was younger, Minshew was captivated by stories of CIA agents, ambassadors, and television characters like Alias’ Sydney Bristow – so she thought the answer to that thought-provoking question was the U.S. foreign service. However, it wasn’t until 2007, when she was working in a U.S. Embassy in Cyprus, that she realized her idea of a career in the foreign service was a stark contrast from reality.
Several years later, and after a stint at consulting firm McKinsey, Minshew continued to be frustrated with existing job search and career tools.
“Why couldn’t candidates see inside a company’s office and hear directly from employees before applying,” she recently recalled to HR Daily Advisor. “Why was most online career advice so bad? In late 2011, I finally took matters into my own hands and founded The Muse, a platform designed to help people find a career path and search for jobs at companies whose ethos, benefits, and values align with their unique professional needs.
“Over the past ten years, we’ve helped millions of people make career decisions and connect with companies based on values alignment, which I love,” she added. “And Covid has made our work more important than ever. I’ve been waving the flag for company authenticity and candidates finding the right “fit” for years, and at this point in the pandemic it feels like people have never been more ready.”
Under Minshew’s leadership as CEO and Founder of The Muse, the career platform has pioneered the concept of values-based job search and was recently named one of Fast Company’s 50 Most Innovative Companies in the World.
In our latest Faces of HR, meet nationally bestselling author and future of work expert, Kathryn Minshew.
What’s your favorite part about working in the industry? What’s your least favorite part, and how would you change it?
I absolutely love working in Talent and HR because of the incredible impact we can have on peoples’ lives. When someone is happy and engaged in their job, they tend to do better work and their personal relationships and happiness outside of work benefit as well – and the opposite is certainly true!
That said, working in HR can be frustrating as well. HR leaders aren’t always given a seat at the table, nor the data and systems to do their jobs effectively. One of my personal biggest frustrations is the focus on the “cheapest applicant,” which I think has damaged the industry. For most full-time roles, overly focusing on “getting a butt in the seat” as quickly and cheaply as possible actually hurts us, because it takes away what should be the focus—making the right hire, who will be successful long-term. The more teams can orient themselves toward making quality hires, even if the trade-off is a bit more time or cost, the better I’m seeing them perform. We need to get HR leaders, CFOs, and others on board with measuring the right metrics when it comes to talent—and “fast and cheap” is not always it!
How can company leaders make HR a value within their organization?
This is such a big one for me. CEOs have been saying “Our people are our greatest asset” for years, but most organizations don’t act like it. In order to truly value HR and set it up for success, leaders need to do three things. First, equip HR with the tools, data and goals to prioritize the company’s success, not just what’s easiest to measure or control. This means looking at hiring as a process of finding the best candidate, not just the fastest or cheapest. It means connecting pre-hire and post-hire data so you can understand retention and what factors affect it (including whether certain recruiters or channels are better than others).
Second, listen to your people, and be willing to accept criticism alongside praise. Your current employee base can tell you so much about the health of your business: Are people happy, productive, and engaged (and why / why not)? Who is leaving, and is there anything you could change to convince them to stay? There is so much to be gained by collecting employee feedback, but you must be willing to accept and consider it all—good and bad—or the exercise isn’t useful (and employees will soon stop sharing). Does this mean you have to accept every single complaint as fact? No, not necessarily. But approaching employee feedback with the mindset that they have taken a risk in sharing, in order to help the organization, become better, will get you a long way.
Third, give HR a true seat at the table. This means HR has a presence in executive team meetings, and their data-informed perspective is part of key company decisions. If employee feedback points to changes that need to be made, they have the support to make them. The top companies that The Muse works with have been doing this for years, and it makes a world of difference in their team environments and cultures.
Where do you see the industry heading in five years? Or are you seeing any current trends?
Covid has accelerated a lot of key trends, especially people seeking values-aligned work. This doesn’t mean that every company has to have a lofty mission or save the whales, but that candidates are getting clearer about what they specifically want and care about in an employer—and they’re doing their research before deciding which companies to join. At The Muse, we see very clearly that companies who know who they are – and communicate that authentically to the market—are much more successful at hiring than companies who don’t understand themselves or can’t communicate it. We have a product called BrandBuilder to help companies get feedback from employees on what the ethos, values and employee experience is like, and it’s fascinating to see the results. Whether a company uses our tool or another, it’s vitally important to understand your culture and employee experience—in the words of your people, not leadership —and to communicate that externally.
What are you most proud of?
Each month, 6-8 million people use The Muse to make career decisions and connect with companies based on values alignment, and I love that! It makes me incredibly proud when we get an email that someone’s life has changed, or they found a new job at a company that’s a great fit, because of our platform and resources.
In addition, this year we’ve gotten even better at designing the platform and job search tools to reflect candidate preferences. For example, we’re currently the only platform where jobseekers can look for jobs based on specific benefits (paid maternity or paternity leave, tuition reimbursement, etc.) or leadership attributes (female founded/led companies, Black founded/led companies, etc.). We’re constantly in conversation with jobseekers to understand what factors they care about—and with employers to understand what they’re offering or seeking to highlight. It’s a fascinating place to be!