1 Submission 1 Hire … I Dare You

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 9.02.57 AMLet me tell you a story.

This is one of those stories I have been saving away in the vault for some time, knowing that while I worked as the head of talent acquisition for a large branded company, I could never tell it.

The following is a true story. Some of the names and job titles have been changed to protect the innocent, or guilty. 🙂

Some years ago I was looking to hire the ‘lead of global talent unicorn wrangling’ who would directly report to me but would spend a lot of their time partnering with other functions outside of talent acquisition. Being that we (Recruiting) are meant to lead by example, I put a very detailed job description together with the key success criteria of the position: Expected competencies and behaviors that needed to be assessed and performed; technical and functional skills required; and a focus on team/cultural dynamics. I also drove an Intake meeting with key business stakeholders who this role would interact with on a monthly basis to gather their input and support outside of just my own function. In particular, one of these key stakeholders what the Chief ‘needs to be a strong partner of TA’ Officer named Sally.

Sally was a very smart business leader, but in the past had made the recruiting function’s lives miserable. Note: No need to go into the details for this story but I am sure you have some of these leaders in your business as well. 🙂

Since the ‘lead global talent unicorn wrangler’ would be working very closely with the Chief ‘needs to be a strong partner of TA’ Officer’s team and herself, I wanted to make sure we were all on the same page way before we even saw our first candidate. Fast forward to the end of the meeting: we had clear alignment on the role, requirements, interview loop, and even how we needed to sell this opportunity to any senior candidates. I even sent all stakeholders and executive summary of the outcomes of the discussion, agreements, timing, and next steps.

After two weeks of the search going live we received our first candidate for the role. They were located not exactly where we were hoping the role would sit, but given this was a global role, we had agreed to have flexibility of this person not sitting in HQ.

I was first to interview and was super impressed with this person’s background. They were spot on with what we were looking for except the location. I knew this was a minor obstacle vs a roadblock.

Nice job by the recruiter in charge for the search!

The second to interview the candidate was Sally, the Chief ‘needs to be a strong partner of TA’ Officer who was also very impressed with the candidate’s background, skills, and competencies to perform the challenges of the role going forward.

The rest of the interviews went well with all agreeing that our candidate would be a very solid hire.

Let’s take the story forward to the following Monday after the last interview.

Ring, Ring, Ring Ring …

[ME] Hi, this is Rob.

[Sally] Hi Rob, this is the Chief ‘needs to be a strong partner of TA’ Officer, how are you. {Note: I am altering here a bit as people don’t speak this way, but I needed to tee up the context of the conversation for you}

[ME] Very good for a Monday as I was just about to call you to discuss our ‘lead of global talent unicorn wrangling,’ but you beat me to the punch. What’s up.

[Sally] Rob, I wanted to let you know that both myself and the team were very impressed with the candidate.

[ME] Great to hear, as I was too.

[Sally] Rob, I was calling to check in on timing to see our next candidate.

[ME – Slight Pause here] Why do we need to see more candidates?

[Sally] Well, normally I like to have something to compare to versus expecting that we can make a decision after just the first candidate. I can’t make a decision like that!

[ME] Understand. May I ask you a few things Sally?

[Sally] Sure.

Article Continues Below

[ME] So if we all agree that this person meets all the key requirements of the role and what we want to achieve strategically together in the next few years, and everyone on the interview loop said “Hire!” why do we need to see anymore candidates?

[Sally] But, there could be better candidates out there. There could be a candidate just like them and they could be in our HQ location.

[ME] Agree there could be, no disputing that. I would be interested in your thoughts then, given that we all agree they are such a strong candidate. What happens if we take the extra month to find and interview more candidates only to land back on them and they are no longer available? Great talent goes quickly, as you have seen in the past. We all agreed upfront what we needed and we are comparing them to the role requirements. I want to be sure on this point Sally, as didn’t we all agree this candidate meets all the requirements, don’t they?

[Sally … Long, long pause and silence on the end of the phone]

[Sally] Rob, you know what, you are right. We do not need to see any more candidates. Let proceed as I think they would be a great asset the organization.

[ME] Thank you Sally, thank you!

I am not going to go into the moral of the story (your all too smart for that) but rather throw out a dare. A secret probation double dare of sorts. I dare you as a recruiter, a leader, a manager, a sourcer, the next time you have the opportunity where this comes up with your business, hold your ground and make the hire.

Yes, I know there are lots of dependencies here: A hiring manager needing to tighten up on the requirements; a solid and comprehensive intake meeting to ensure all key success criteria is agreed to, and assessed by all involved; and so on.

Some of you will be saying, “Rob you were the hiring manager and you know better. You’re not like most hiring managers we have to deal with.”

Yes you are right, but it has not stopped me doing or trying this over the years regardless if it was my hire or the businesses. When every opportunity arose like this I pushed back and the outcome was more positive vs negative.

You are not like most hiring managers either. You know better. You’re meant to guide, advise, and consul them. Yes at times it’s a very tough conversation because they are the customer.

To be frank, we will never individually or collectively get to a utopian end state of 1:1 for all of our positions, but we can sure as heck try, can’t we?

So I dare you to aim for a 1:1 hiring ratio. I dare all of us to push back more often, especially when we know the right decision is being made and not default back to the business to wanting to see more. I dare us to all bring the collective ratio of candidates submitted to hires down.

P.S. The ‘lead of global talent unicorn wrangling’ is still in their role today, many years later. 🙂

Rob McIntosh is a talent acquisition leader at Honeywell’s Connected Enterprise business. He is a senior talent executive with 20+ years of global recruiting experience spanning four continents where he has consistently delivered results through building high-performing teams for Fortune 100 companies in senior leadership roles for McKesson, Avanade, Deloitte, and Microsoft. 

As a public speaker his articles, presentations, and case studies have been shared and downloaded over 50,000 times. He is one of the early pioneers of corporate sourcing functions and the co-founder of SourceCon. He is the primary content, strategies, tools, and case studies provider for the Human Capital Institute Talent Acquisition Strategist Course & Certification and ERE Media’s Talent Advisor course.

His strategic advice is constantly sought after for use of advanced metrics/analytics to help tell the business story around the value of talent acquisition, and how to scale delivery while improving quality of hire through optimal talent org designs; shared services, CoE, offshore, outsourcing, and hybrid talent acquisition structures. 



15 Comments on “1 Submission 1 Hire … I Dare You

  1. Rob
    Great article! It really hits home for me as I am dealing with this exact issue. The difference I have is that the CEO, whom I have only worked with for a couple months now, is set in his ways from years of evaluating multiple candidates for every position. I have shown the CEO and team that the candidates I present are fits for the role, both skills and personality but the whole “that’s not how we used to do it” reply keep rearing its ugly head. Any suggestions on how to train my hiring team and not lose candidates along the way, besides sending this article to each of them?

    1. @matthilleary:disqus – if you have 3 critical “changes” you want to make w/ your client then space them out so it feels organic. do the most important 1 now, then 2 & 3 on the future searches

      1. Jeremy – thanks, that boils it down nicely….hopefully there is time to space them out.

  2. Rob,
    Thanks for the story on one job, one candidate, one hire. As an agency recruiter, I’ve had several of these experiences, one was with Intel needing a SAP Integration Manager for a huge global project. We found the guy, an expat in Saudia Arabia not exactly where they wanted, but would relocate him to Oregon office. This hiring manager called me due to my work experience with many of the managers at Intel. In our getting acquainted meeting, we discussed all the particulars of the job as you described in your story. We used our “best practice approach” that would save him a lot of time reviewing resumes and only submitted 3 solid on target candidates that met compensation, location, skills, experience, culture, etc. He phone screened all three picking the guy on the other side of the globe. While waiting for the candidate to come in for onsite interview, the manager called to see if I had any more canidates. I reminded him that we had set the best practice approach and should this candidate fall off for any reason we would go back to the drawing board. Never had to do that. I’ve had several other slam dunk placements with different companies, one for a Storage Architect and another one for a Zen Virtualiztion devleoper (one of a kind). The offer was made the same day the candidate interview. Needless to say most placements don’t go that well, but I like to set expectations with the hiring manager as it is my job as a recruiter never to send a resume on someone who isn’t qualified and waste anyone’s time. Thanks for bringing back some good memories.

  3. Bobby – love to hear stories like this and more from others.
    Matt – I can give you a couple of ideas but this could be a great opportunity for the community to weigh in with their best practice thoughts as well.
    I had one similar previous executive who insisted on 10 candidates because he track the ratio historically took 10:1. Funnily enough he was a Six Sigma guy so I could use the same language he understood. I asked him was he not concerned that as a six sigma person 10:1 was causing a lot of “waste” ( 9 defects so to speak). He agreed. So, I said lets partner to find out where the challenges were that were stopping us getting initially to a target of 5:1 and go from there. I think what is universal that most business people should understand is that looking at all the candidates + their own team involved in the process is very time consuming. I have even put a $$$ figure on how much time and energy they expend on looking at so many candidates. Usually the same explanation comes back that the reason they look at so many is because a) they are not sure what they are looking for b) they think recruiting sucks at finding what they think they are looking for. In both cases this comes back to the better job you do on setting expectations and getting agreement/alignment in the initial intake discussion then the greater your chances of success are I have found. When hiring managers did start to drift back into bad behaviors, I was quick to pull out the agreed to intake doc (this is key – they signed off on the initial intake doc), and remind them that every time they move the goal posts on a search they are adding 3-4 weeks to every search.
    Would be interested in others POV on this as well as I still to this day think the Intake Session is the most critical thing in filling a position.

    1. Rob – thanks! I have had a couple of “come to jeebus” talks with the team and it turns out some of the issues were based in pre-conceived ideals that were never vetted (neither by me nor them). It is a work in progress and reading the feedback here is providing some excellent advice.

  4. Terrific read and agree that the “kick-off meeting” – I loathe the term Intake Meeting – is the most critical aspect of the recruitment process. Without a quality kick-off meeting, no matter how many times the skill set has been sought, filled, etc, the ensuing search will have problems.

    Your story reminds me of the multiple times I have asked hiring managers that when they were ready to propose or were asked by their now spouse did they pause and ask if they could have six more months to see if someone better was out there. I am over simplifying the story but it drove the point home.

  5. Mark – great comments. I wonder why we still have so many companies and recruiters skim by this step and then complain about their hiring mangers asking for so many candidates?. Seems obvious that do this step right and you fix a lot of downstream problems.

  6. @Matt Hilleary – I think the reality of the situation is that you’re going to butt-heads with HM’s at times. The trick is having the data to support your arguments. This could be the intake doc, hiring/interview ratios and averages, TTF, etc.

    I’ve always felt that the eternal interview process is seemingly at the worst at the lower salary levels. I specifically remember last year when we were looking for an EA. One of our Recruiters was taking the lead. They met with somewhere around 8 candidates with 2 of them being very good… and the “cooks in the kitchen” weren’t making a decision. I sent a very long email to the 4-5 HM’s that were involved. In short, I stated that we had surpassed the amount of applicants necessary, the amount of quality candidates necessary, the amount of screening calls, and the amount of interviews in order to make a decision. Basically, I said that we’ve had success based on these numbers going 5 years back… and now we’re suddenly having an issue?? I asked them to explain to me where the problems were because this hiring case was seriously out of wack. They didn’t respond, but they made an offer the next day.

    To wrap that in a nice little bow of advice – bring predictive analytics to the table. 😉

  7. This stories remind me of my own experience where our Hiring Manager at a senior level was looking for a technical guy interviewed 80+ candidates in a span of 90 days…everytime we confronted he came back with “different reasons”…when I joined them had to take all the historic data and we offered 5 of those 80+ …….Thanks Rob

  8. Emmanuel/Scott – Great comments and I think you have clearly called out one of the things more recruiters and companies should do……Bring facts and data to the discussion which takes the emotion out of the conversation. I 1000% agree.

    Now the issue is a lot of people reading this will say a) We don’t track that data b) We don’t trust our data to share with HM’s c) We don’t know how to position the data to tell the right story to influence and change HM’s perspectives.

  9. Rob: Great article and quite true. I happen to be very fortunate to work with highly experienced CXO’s a the “right” startups and have not found this to be an issue. I was retained by a client in January to find 2 of the same position. I presented 3 and they rated them 1a, 1b, 1c. Great problem to have and we closed 2 in a very timely fashion.

    In the world of corporate and contingent agency recruiting I your story is a perpetual problem and you’re preaching to the choir. The problem is that decision makers have been doing things in such an ineffective way for so long, they don’t know how to do it any other way and often are reluctant to see things differently.

  10. Thanks for weighing in Carol. I hate to say it and people might not like hearing it, but when I hear the problem is decisions makers have been doing it this way for a long time, I think we (the collective Recruiting/HR we) have to also take the blame for not re-educating them.

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