A Perfect 10: How to Increase Recruiter Productivity by 200%

Here’s are some common laments of the typical recruiter:

  • “It takes too much time.”
  • “Finding top candidates is difficult.”
  • “Interviewing is hard.”
  • “Hiring managers are uncooperative.”

And they’re right. Hiring top people is difficult work. It’s time- consuming. It’s hard. But hiring is also supposedly number one. It’s the most important thing companies need to do to become better. Accounting is also hard, and that’s not even number one ó it’s probably closer to number seven. Developing new products is time consuming and often leads to dead ends, and no one who works there is appreciated. Selling is frustrating and demotivating, and salespeople are under constant pressure to perform. Managing a department or a company is also hard, frustrating, and time consuming. So go ahead and complain, but it won’t help. Hiring the best is still number one ó and if you want to be part of this awesome responsibility, you’d better accept that it will be hard, frustrating, and time consuming. But there are ways to make it much easier. Here are two things you can do to make your life as a recruiter less time consuming and more productive. First, stop spending any time at all with below-average candidates. Good recruiters can’t afford to ever spend a second with an unqualified person. Second, stop sending out average candidates or the wrong candidates to be interviewed. You should never send out more than three or four candidates for any assignment. How much time is spent doing searches over again? This is an even bigger time-waster than talking with unqualified candidates. Just these two changes will give you all the time you need to find good candidates. I’ll explain how to stop dealing with the “unqualifieds” in a future article, but the trick is to use technology, more admin support, and the latest pre-qualification techniques ó before the candidate ever pops up on your new candidate availability list. Doing this is actually quite easy, but keeping to the three or four candidate “send-outs” per hire requires more effort. The rewards, however, are enormous. Some recruiters will be able to handle up to 200% the number of assignments they handled previously. One of our clients reduced send-outs per hire from six to two for call-center reps just by implementing the following advice. Sending out more than three or four candidates for any assignment really means that either the recruiter or the hiring manager doesn’t know what they’re looking for. So whenever you go above four send-outs per hire, stop the search and figure out what the hiring manager is really looking for. This is where the recruiting manager must intervene. Preparing a performance profile describing the real job will help (see my articles on how to prepare performance profiles). This is the secret behind every efficient search: knowing the real factors that drive job success. With this, you have a legitimate chance to find some good candidates. But you’ll never need more than four. The 10 Core Traits of Success With the performance profile as the benchmark for top performance, have the recruiter and hiring manager rank every candidate on the following 10 factors on a 1 to 5 scale, with 5 being the best. These are the core traits of success that every interviewer must be able to assess if they’re given the responsibility of interviewing candidates.

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  1. Self-motivation, initiative, and work-ethic as measured by conducting my one-question interview for three to four different team and individual accomplishments.
  2. Growth trend of team and individual accomplishments. Layout these three to four accomplishments on a time scale and see if the trend is up, down, or flat.
  3. Comparability of past accomplishments. Compare what the candidate has accomplished to what you need done. This is what the recruiter and hiring manager defined as successful job performance when they met after the first slate of candidates was deemed sub-par.
  4. Experience, education, industry background, skills. You need some experience for just about every job, but don’t go overboard. The bare minimum with great potential is often the best trade-off.
  5. Thinking skills. Job-specific problem solving. Ask the candidate how they would solve real job problems and then get into a real discussion of alternatives. This is my favorite interview question.
  6. Management, planning, and organizational skills. Every job requires some level of organizational skills, so make sure you ask about this during your questions.
  7. Team skills. This relates to Daniel Goleman’s “emotional intelligence.” It refers to the ability to work with others. I assign a 1 to those who are uncooperative or demotivating, a 3 to those who proactively cooperate, and a 5 to those who can persuade and motivate others. It is not measured by first impressions and personality.
  8. Leadership. This has to do with the ability to communicate a vision and then make it happen. It is a relative measure that needs to be compared to the size and scope of the job.
  9. Environment and cultural fit. This is critical. In your questions, make sure you know the underlying environment of the candidate’s major accomplishments. Then compare this to your own situation. This is not measured by first impressions and personality.
  10. Overall talent and potential. This is a combination of everything, including intuition and gut feel. But emphasize work ethic, trend of growth of accomplishments, and team leadership. This is not measured by intelligence, assertiveness, and verbal communication skills.

Recruiters need to rank their candidates on these 10 factors. Proof must be provided for all 4s and 5s. Use examples from actual accomplishments to justify the rankings. Then send this ranking form along with the candidate’s resume to the hiring manager. Make it a rule that hiring managers must disprove a 4 or 5 ranking before dismissing a candidate. Disproof is found by digging deep into a candidate’s background and demonstrating that what’s described is actually not as advertised. Surprisingly, in the process of proving and disproving a more accurate assessment often emerges. If it turns out that the candidates the recruiting department is sending out are weak, you’ve discovered that the problem is weak sourcing ó not weak interviewing skills. This is great information to know. You’ve just eliminated a major time-waster and improved hiring efficiency at the same time. Now you can go about improving the quality of each sourcing channel. We’ll discuss how you can do this in future articles. For now, start comparing the recruiter and hiring manager 10-factor assessment for the same candidate in combination with send-outs per hire by recruiter. If you’re a manager, it’s important to always intervene if there is a wide discrepancy between assessments or when the number of send-outs exceeds five per assignment. It’s a clue that something’s amiss. This is how you can use metrics to manage yourself or a recruiting department. As a result, you’ll also improve cost per hire, quality per hire, and time to fill. What I propose might not be the most sophisticated means to measure candidate quality, but it’s something you can implement quickly. It’s far better than complaining and making excuses. The best performers are always improving processes. The best recruiters need to do the same. (Note: As many of you know, I host two monthly online discussion groups where we explore topics like this in greater depth. One of the discussion groups is exclusively for those in corporate recruiting management where we focus on metrics for recruitment management. The other group is exclusively for third-party recruiting management. Here we discuss everything about managing a recruiting practice. Both groups are sponsored by POWER Hiring, Staffing.org, and ERE. If you’re on the corporate management side you can join by sending me an email at corpmetrics@powerhiring.com, and for third-party recruiting management the email is recruiters@powerhiring.com. I’ll be presenting much of this information at ERE’s ER Expo 2003 West in San Diego in March, and hopefully we’ll get a chance to meet there. This is an event you won’t wan to miss if you want to be on the leading edge of recruitment management. Also, if you’d like a white paper prepared by Fisher & Phillips on why using POWER Hiring’s performance profiles are the best way to both minimize your legal exposure and maximize your hiring effectiveness, send an email to whitepaper@powerhiring.com.)

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).


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