A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

This article is exactly 1,000 words long. It contains instructions on how to draw a picture. Drawing the picture will have a profound affect on your ability to think strategically. It will also make you a better recruiter. Now grab a pencil and a blank sheet of paper.

First, draw a circle approximately four inches in diameter. Label this “The Hiring Landscape.” Now draw three one-inch diameter circles within the larger circle: one close to the top, one in the middle, and one at the bottom. Label the top one “The Hiring Team,” the middle one “The Recruiting Team,” and the bottom one “The Candidate Pool.” Within the hiring team circle, put a bunch of dots representing the number of different people involved in making the hiring decision. Make some of these dots blue, indicating how many people on the team know the job, can interview accurately, and can recruit top talent.

In the recruiting circle, put the number of people servicing the hiring team. Usually this is one to three — including a recruiter, a sourcer, and an admin person. Fill up the candidate pool with as many dots as there are candidates. Make three or four of these dots red. These are the people you want to hire. Now begin by answering this question: “Why is it so hard to consistently hire top people?” If you didn’t look at the picture, you’d come up with stuff like:

  • Too much competition for top talent
  • Moving job descriptions
  • Lack of consensus
  • Managers aren’t very good at assessing competency
  • Managers aren’t very good at recruiting top people
  • Job descriptions aren’t very compelling
  • Recruiter competency varies from great to not-so-great to bad
  • Our comp packages aren’t very competitive
  • No one takes the process seriously

But if you looked at the picture closely, you might come up with some variations:

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  • Recruiters and candidates are in a subordinate position to the hiring team
  • There are too many people on the hiring team making decisions
  • Not everyone on the hiring team knows the job or how to interview
  • There are not enough resources on the recruiting team
  • There are too many bad candidates and not enough good candidates
  • It’s hard to separate the good candidates from the bad ones

Send me (lou@adlerconcepts.com) any other ones you came up with. Now let’s start redrawing the picture. First, put the candidate pool at the top. Within this pool, put more red dots and fewer black dots. Then put the recruiting team and the hiring team below this, but on equal levels. Leave the dots the same for now. What does this rearranged picture describe? There are two huge strategic points made by this slight shift in positioning. For one, top talent must drive the hiring process. If you want to hire more top people, then every aspect of the hiring process must be in a subordinate position to this objective. This includes some of the following:

  1. Ads must be compelling and excite the best to apply rather than excluding the worst from applying. This is a huge shift in perspective. To pull this off, your jobs must be much easier to find.
  2. Don’t assume that passive candidates don’t read your ads. Even referred candidates look at these ads before applying, so they are important. Equally important, you need exciting copy to send to those potential candidates you’ve direct-sourced either via Internet data-mining or using LinkedIn, ZoomInfo, or Jobster.
  3. Make sure your whole interviewing and hiring experience is designed to “wow” a top person. This means it must be professional, engaging, and challenging. If great people aren’t referring other great people as a result of the experience, you need to improve your current process.

These types of changes will start increasing the number of red dots in comparison to black dots. The other critical shift here is putting recruiters on a par with their hiring managers and the interviewing team. Recruiters must become partners in the process. They can’t be in a subordinate position. They must be considered subject matter experts on this cross-functional team. This means they get as much time as needed to develop the job description. They don’t need to present more than three or four candidates for any position, and every candidate recommended is interviewed. Their advice is trusted; they often lead the panel interview; and they always lead the candidate debriefing session. When recruiters are true partners, the whole dynamics of the hiring process changes. When fewer candidates are seen, personal productivity soars. For one thing, searches don’t have to be done over again. When recruiters lead the interview and debriefing session, consensus is more easily reached and it’s more accurate. Emotional decisions are minimized and the best overall person usually prevails as the one offered the job. This is heavy stuff — and all you had to do is rearrange the circles.

Now I want you to draw a heavy line about two inches long in the center of the big circle. Put a label on this titled “Performance Profile.” This is your stake in the ground. The primary reason why you’re not seeing enough top candidates, why the recruiting team is presenting too many unqualified people and the hiring team can’t reach consensus, is lack of understanding of real job needs. Traditional job descriptions are boring and exclude the best from even applying. A performance profile describes the top five or six tasks and challenges in priority order. This is the stuff the person taking the job needs to do to be considered successful. The performance profile is the real job. Here’s the picture I see. The needs of top people dominate the landscape. Recruiters and everyone on the hiring team are equal partners in the hiring process. The performance profile becomes the tool used to attract top people and the standard to compare all candidates against. This is a picture worth 1,000 words.

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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