Analysis Of Recruitment And Selection Process Of SG Cowen

SG Cowen’s multivariate approach in their hiring decision process stems from their need to hire new outside associates. Under Rae’s new strategy, SG Cowen widened their selection base, increasing their “core business schools” from the top 10 schools to the top 25. This approach was effective as it allowed SG Cowen greater access to potential candidates without being crowded out by other industry giants who had greater hiring capabilities and needs. Interested candidates were the top of their cohort, and would also remain loyal to the company, which in turn reduces employee turnover and wastage of human capital investment.

Next, recruiters were posted to the school to organize on-campus programs; these programs were conducted by banking and not human resource professionals. The recruiters were also responsible for holding company presentations and “informational interviews” prior to official interviews. This was interesting as the banking industry usually employs HR hiring managers. SG Cowen’s use of banking professionals enables them to field technical questions on the spot while giving specific replies to job queries rather than banal generalities. What stands out to me was the emphasis that Rae placed on defining the company’s culture and identity during the presentations, an increasingly important influence in today’s modern world. By ensuring that recruiting team captains are able to clearly explain “who we are, what we do, what distinguishers us from competitors, and what are the next steps”, potential candidates are painted a definitive picture of what to expect once they join the company. However, the efficacy of using banking professionals in the big picture, as this strains their already hectic work schedules and imposes additional responsibilities on top of their regular work load, which would compromise their job performance and overall company outlook.

The two rounds of interviews are also an innovative approach. The first round allows the company to test for cultural compatibility, while the second during “Super Saturday” provides a detailed analysis of candidates’ potential. Though time-consuming, these 2 rounds of interviews, followed by a hiring meeting between all interviewers, allow for a meticulous process that identifies every candidate’s SKAOs, while ensuring that multiple point-of-views are taken into consideration to eliminate biasedness.

In SG Cowen’s evaluation form, there are multiple evaluation criteria, which can be reorganized into more appropriate categories based on the Theories of Person-Environment namely: Person-Job Fit (PJF), Person-Group Fit (PGF) and Person-Organization Fit (POF).

PJF is defined as the match between a person’s knowledge, technical skills and abilities, and other requirements identified through job analysis. This is important for SG Cowen as employees with high Person-Job Fit possess the necessary industry skills to excel in the investment banking sector. Moreover, they will be pushed to their maximum potential, increasing dedication and investment in their jobs, resulting in greater job satisfaction and retention. Being a banking firm, SG Cowen will want to hire individuals with the optimal skillset to boost the company’s performance and maintain their year-on-year profits.

PGF is characterized as the match between the new hire and his/her immediate workgroup with priority placed on quality interactions within the group. The importance of PGF is due to the VUCA nature of the modern world demanding increasing emphasis on work teams in organizations. SG Cowen is correct in requiring candidates to be able to work in both cohesive and effective work units, especially given the boutique sector it competes in, which requires close working relationships between clients and bankers.

POF is the congruence of an individual’s personality, beliefs and values with the culture and values of an organization. The results of good POF are hard to quantify, but many benefits can be attributed to it such as: increased worker satisfaction, organizational commitment, and organizational identification. Identification of an employees work values can be useful in optimizing the configuration of work groups, as well as assessing the suitability of an individual for promotion.

Consequently, by accounting for all 3 Person-Environment Fits, it is possible for SG Cowen to identify the ideal candidates that conform to the company’s cultural values, and are willing to personally invest themselves to developing the company and their careers.

SG Cowen’s key success factor would be the employee-centric company culture that it cultivates, enabling the talent-development and cohesiveness of its employees. To that end, the company’s recruitment and selection process can be considered a predominant contributing factor. From the beginning, Rae’s objective was to “build a culture through hiring”. SG Cowen starts its recruitment phase by making it very clear that they are looking for driven, passionate and loyal individuals, part of the rationale why they were willing to expand their selection of core business schools. The selection phase is also influenced by the company culture’s emphasis on not just the individual’s raw aptitude, but also his attitude and values. As such, they tend to hire candidates that will conform to the company’s values and expectations, which is evident from the recruiters’ investment in face-to-face interactions with candidates, and their ability to hire based on their personal feelings and impressions, rather than solely off a formalized scoresheet.

There are 6 key steps to an effective Talent Acquisition Strategy. Though SG Cowen’s current approach appears effective, having achieved most of the steps, there are a couple of improvements I would suggest. The current approach is rather out-dated, having been implemented at the onset of the 21st millennia. To keep up with the times, the company needs to integrate its recruiting and selection processes with technology. For instance, it can learn from DBS and develop its own AI recruiter to vet candidates preliminarily. This will reduce the man-hours required of the recruiting bankers, as the AI will be able to “review resumes, collect applicants’ responses for pre-screening questions, and conduct psychometric profiling assessments on candidates”.

SG Cowen is an interesting case study to learn from. Firstly, the company’s recruitment and selection process are very methodically thought out, with Rae have pre-planned most of the process. This demonstrates the importance of developing a very clear and detailed Talent Acquisition Strategy. Secondly, Rae was able to invoke organizational change within the company, and convince both top management and the recruiters to be onboard with his strategy. He involved many key players during workforce planning sessions, and clearly delineated to them what his vision is, why it’s important, how to achieve it. This outstanding example of leadership is crucial in instigating change and overcoming resistance through inducing the correct philosophical mindset, similar to Lewin’s model of change.

Lastly, the importance that SG Cowen places on Person-Environment Fit is enlightening. The amount of time and effort spent by recruiters to get to know candidates not just through their paper credentials, but on a personal, human-to-human level is critical in letting candidates feel like they’re deserving and special, and forms the inception of what the company culture is like from the get-go.

03 December 2019
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