Boom! How to Handle the 2004 Hiring Explosion

(Note: Recruiters, you might want to send this article to your boss, your clients, and your CEO. It’s about your well-being in 2004.) Here’s some holiday advice for hiring managers and HR/recruiting managers, and anyone else who works with recruiters or will need recruiters to help them hire people in 2004:

  • Be nice to your recruiters. Get them a holiday gift. Maybe even take them out to dinner. Make sure it’s a really good gift, or a very nice dinner at the best restaurant in town.
  • Listen to their complaints, or just let them vent. Both are better than ignoring them.
  • Invest in them with better training, more assistance and better tools.
  • Hiring managers, eliminate your unprofessional behavior immediately. This is stuff like saying you don’t have enough time to discuss hiring needs or job specs, or being unresponsive when asked to interview someone. Never again say, “I’ll know the person when I see him or her.” It’s worth spending more, not less, time with your recruiters. If you do, they can make you famous.
  • Hiring managers, become better and more professional interviewers. My estimate is that 75% of hiring managers think they are good at interviewing, but based on their hiring results 75% aren’t. If you talk to candidates, they think hiring managers don’t know the job, make judgments about them on superficial data, over-talk, oversell and under listen. Hiring managers should listen more to their recruiters’ advice at every step of the hiring process.
  • Recruiting managers, work with your recruiters to eliminate unnecessary administrative work and redundant activity, and get them to prioritize their work better. Recruiters need a lot of help on this last one. Too much time is wasted doing the wrong stuff.
  • Hiring managers, do everything you can to minimize having recruiters do searches over again. You don’t need to see more than three or four candidates for any job, or review all the resumes.

Everything mentioned above should be doubled in both urgency and effort if you’re now having difficulty finding and hiring enough top people to fill your open positions. Next year it will be far worse. Here are a few big reasons why:

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  1. Hiring activity will increase. You’ve probably forecasted this anyway in your workforce plan, so no new news here. But you might want to determine if your recruiting team has the resources to pull this off or is at least gearing up to do it. If not, get going. If you’re not hiring enough top people today, or are behind, you’ll need to both scale up and improve processes at the same time. This is an extremely difficult, if not impossible, management challenge in a recovering economy.
  2. Turnover will increase profoundly. The current hiring downturn has been one of the longest in our nation’s history, and employee dissatisfaction is at an all-time high. Our internal surveys indicate that 30-40% of the labor force (at all levels) is ready to jump ship and look for new jobs once the recovery starts. At the recent Kennedy Recruiting Expo, more credible surveys indicated the range was closer to 50-70%. This has to do with employees being overworked, underpaid, and under-appreciated (if you don’t want your recruiters to be part of this churn, take the holiday advice noted above). Any significant increase in turnover will dramatically increase your forecasted new hiring needs. Be ready for it with contingency plans.
  3. There aren’t enough good recruiters available to pick up the slack. Start planning now to increase your recruiting staff. If this isn’t sufficient you’ll need to use more costly outside providers. Third-party recruiters and contract recruiters will soon see a huge pick-up in activity. Make sure you take care of your current recruiter team so they don’t leave. They won’t be pleased if a less competent associate is making more than them. Don’t expect job boards to solve the problem: they will only intensify it. More people will be looking. Top people will now be able to find good jobs more quickly, but everyone will be fighting for them with too few resources to do it. Hiring managers will have to do more on their own, especially those that didn’t follow the holiday advice above. Expect havoc.

However, all is not lost. The key to maintaining a reasonable level of efficiency and control rests on following some practical advice:

  1. Use the two core reasons why top people accept other jobs for organizing your resources. The first reason: the new job opportunity is significantly better than every alternative. Second, they are heavily recruited, either by the hiring manager or recruiter. Our own research bears this out, but a recent private research report by the Corporate Executive Board’s Recruiting Roundtable confirmed this. No other factors were even close. It’s all about great jobs and great recruiting. So assign your best recruiters to your most important jobs. Then let them spend more time with hiring managers and their best candidates.
  2. Brand the job, not the company. Well, this is not entirely true ó an employer of choice is a great lure. But job branding is also critical, especially for those non-branded companies. The first part of job branding is offering a great job that imbeds the company’s strategic vision into the job challenges. In fact, job descriptions should emphasize opportunities, rather than list requirements. This is the first step to job branding. The second is to make them easy to find. The best people will only spend a few minutes looking over the job listings, so make sure your jobs stand out. Outrageous, compelling, long, descriptive titles really help.
  3. Make it easy for top people to apply. Top people, whether they’re referred by an employee or respond to an ad, don’t want to jump through hoops to apply. So make applying easy. For one thing, make sure your applicant tracking system can accept resumes as email attachments and can be searched effectively this way. Minimize or eliminate the upfront questions (to three to five at most) for more senior positions. Then test the application process yourself. Time how long it takes to find the job, read the job description, and apply. Then ask your last six best candidates if they thought this was reasonable. Also, check your opt-out ratios to see what percent of the people who read your ad actually applied. Keep track of this trend. This will help determine if your system is fast enough.
  4. Efficiently searching through tons of resumes will become even more important. Get your power users to optimize your search engines by emphasizing performance terms rather than keywords. Top performers in every job use additional descriptive words to describe their results. For technical people it might be submitting patents, writing white papers, or speaking at a technical conference. For salespeople it’s achieving quota, making the president’s club, or prospecting. Also include company and school names in these searches. If you can’t get your current search engine to bring the top performers to the top of the list everyday, you’ll need to get one that will. Then only call or look at the resumes of the people at the top of listing. If the sorting is done correctly, everyone else is less qualified, so why would you even bother with these?
  5. Move fast. Time is of the essence. While there will be more top performers available, they won’t be for long. Call the best people on the top of the search results first ó every morning, every day. Then, once you get three or four strong candidates, send them out immediately and move on to another job. Keep the pipeline moving for all your open reqs. Make sure you network with all the top people you come across. Being great at networking is one of the skills your recruiters need to be great at.
  6. Don’t look at the resume of, or spend one second talking to, an unqualified person. This is probably the biggest time-waster of all. Only talk to the best candidates from your search results; don’t even glance at the other resumes. Force your employees to pre-qualify every referral, and only network with top people. Then proactively ask them, and your best employees, who the best people they know are. Pre-qualify these people before calling. Finally, figure out one dozen other ways to never again talk with or review the resume of an unqualified person. Collectively, this will give you enough time to do everything else correctly.

Bottom line: You need to be nice to your recruiters, and then provide them with the tools and training to make them more efficient. Don’t forget the holiday gift, either. Here’s another idea: you might want to get the approval process started for a pay increase. Boom. [Note: Hiring top people needs to be a systematic Six Sigma business process. This is Hiring 2.0. If you’d like to make it a reality, join the hiring revolution. Our Band of 176 will become the focus group to set the standards for these next generation hiring tools. Our first “Satisfaction with Current Hiring Tools” survey will be sent out shortly to all revolutionaries. We’ll present the results in an online conference in January 2004. This will be your first chance to join the growing number of people who want to dramatically change the way top people are hired. Separately, with ERE support, our national hiring revolution Zero-based Hiring tour is well underway. Over the next few months I’ll be in San Francisco on December 11, Dallas on January 21, and Atlanta on February 18th. If you or your organization would like to be a city host for one of these events send me an email at We’ll be visiting the rest of the country throughout 2004 with 12-15 tour stops. I look forward to meeting you in person at one of them. Be heard. Join the revolution. Become a great recruiter.]

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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