Do you know that recruiting is one of the least efficient processes in an organization? Transaction costs (cost per hire) are large and there is almost no effort being made to connect that cost with delivering value (quality of hire).
At conference after conference, I hear the same old measures being touted proudly: cost per hire, time to fill, number of interviews to offer, and so forth. It seems like no one is measuring the effects of our recruiting activities. Senior executives are asking what value we are delivering to them, and sadly, few of us have any answers.
Recruiting is one of the few functions that has not examined in-depth what it does and how it could begin to do things differently. As long as we find people in a timeframe our hiring managers accept, we think we are doing a good job. There are no standards, few expectations, and no real improvement targets for the majority of corporate recruiters.
Maybe we should just blow the whole thing up and start over. There is no time left for evolutionary tweaks.
Many recruiters feel that there are too many things they cannot control, so they just do what is historically accepted. Yes, they do have to deal with a lot, including fickle hiring managers, rigid compensation schemes, corporate culture, and geography. But so do managers in other functions.
Manufacturing managers have had to learn the discipline of keeping costs at rock bottom while improving quality and increasing output. They do this against a backdrop of highly variable customer demand, supplier uncertainties, and the impact of national and international disasters.
Finance has transformed itself over the past decade, reducing the cost and time it takes to close the books each quarter, enforcing better cost-accounting measures, and moving everything to the computer.
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For decades, recruiters have been using the same techniques for finding, enticing, assessing, and hiring people. All of these steps are based on a number of assumptions.
I have identified more than a dozen commonly held assumptions, but I think these five are the most dangerous:
- Only passive candidates are the best.
- It’s not possible to keep people as candidates for more than a short time.
- Most candidates want to apply with a resume and don’t like online screening or profilers.
- Each candidate will have to be interviewed in person.
- There is no way to show a direct correlation between the sourcing and interview process, and the eventual performance of the candidate.
I contend that all of these assumptions are either plain wrong or need to be challenged for their relevance in an information- and Internet-based world. Let’s look at each one.
- Assumption #1: Passive candidates are the best. Everyone is at least a semi-active potential candidate. Sure, they may not be hitting the job boards, but if offered a new and more challenging or better-paying opportunity, most would be interested in learning more. I have never understood why we believe that a person not actively looking for a new job is “better” than one who is looking. Those who are looking may well be the ones with initiative and curiosity. They also may be the ones who have the foresight to explore new careers or move to a more stable organization. A truly passive candidate probably lacks the initiative to look for another job or is so completely happy that they are never going to leave. Whether a person is an active or a passive candidate should make no difference at all. What should always matter is whether they have the skills and qualifications to perform effectively for your organization, and whether they fit our culture and share our passion. People who are lured away by money or titles may not be the ones you really want.
- Assumption #2: It is not possible to keep people as candidates for more than a short time. While we can get into long (and often legally oriented) discussions about what a candidate is, I use a simple one: anyone who expresses an interest in working for our organization and who has the basic qualifications and skills for some function within our organization. Your goal is to build a talent pool of interested, qualified people to tap instantly when a position is open. People who have expressed an interest in you and meet minimum requirements are like jewels. As our economy picks up and talent becomes scarcer again, you will be very glad to have these people in your network. Most people like to be kept in the loop and informed about potential openings, even when nothing is available at the moment. Simple communication tools and a collaborative attitude can keep most people interested in your organization for a long time. Nothing is worse than the bounce-back email and the black hole where most people end up. Talent pools are distinctively different than resume databases, and offer more value to both the candidate and the organization.
- Assumption #3: Most candidates want to apply with a resume and don’t like online screening. Did you enjoy writing your resume? This assumption that people like to write resumes is just plain wrong and most of us don’t have a current resume at all. Even if they do, they often have not included the things you really want to know anyway. There are better ways to get information about a candidate, including online forms and questionnaires. The data collection can be done in creative and iterative ways that make it much less painful to the candidate and yet gives you the information you need. I will discuss many new approaches to this next week.
- Assumption #4: Each candidate has to be interviewed in person. Interviews are very poor predictors of success or performance. A good behavioral interview may improve the prediction by a bit but still not raise it much above chance. While it is in human nature to want to meet and like a person we are going to work with, this meeting should not be equated with skill or ability assessment. There are hundreds of excellent, legal, affordable tests available for more accurately screening candidates. These tools, combined with a website also designed as a screening tool, can greatly improve your ability to select candidates who have the capability, the motivation, and the skills to perform. It is possible to entirely skip the interview and get better-quality candidates than you do today.
- Assumption #5: There is no way to show a direct correlation between the sourcing and interview process and the eventual performance of the candidate. If this is really true, we should all start circulating our resumes for new positions. We will have to begin showing how what we do adds to the output of our organizations, or our functions will be outsourced to those who can. Recruiters have put too much focus on measuring activity, and not any on measuring outcomes. In the end, how a candidate performs and how much they contribute are the only criteria that matter. Quality can be measured in a dozen ways: how quickly a new employee can perform the job, how much capacity she has to take on new functions, how many sales dollars she brought in, or how much money she saved us. These can be tracked against source, qualifications, and recruiter.
Assumptions are dangerous because they limit thinking and creativity. They shackle us into channels that may once have worked well but are not as good today.
We need to blow up our current processes and rethink what we do just as if recruiting had just been invented. With a fresh view, we may open possibilities we have never dreamed of.