Diversity In Recruiting – Basic Training

Paratroopers take great pride in their jump boots. They spend many hours each year spit shining them to the traditional airborne gloss. On the day before JFK was elected President, I made my first parachute jump at Fort Benning, Georgia. Exiting the plane and jumping into thin air at twelve hundred feet was certainly exciting. But what I remember most about that day was seeing my own reflection in my highly polished boots and thinking: “What the hell am I doing here?”

What does this have to do with the placement business? Airborne training is rigorous and comprehensive; everything is covered; nothing is left to chance. It is so demanding and repetitious that the young trooper instinctively and almost naturally performs every necessary action and reaction time and time again because his life depends on it. Training, training, and more training.

You can see where I’m going: people in our industry, even veterans, – no, make that especially veterans – need training throughout their careers. So, the articles for the rest of the year will be: BCT: Basic Training; AIT: Advanced Individual Training; ABN: Airborne, or, Special Training; and Command Training.

Before we begin, let me tell you about one airborne training technique. When the Training Sergeant in jump school yells: “Hit it!” The paratrooper trainee must quickly assume the position of exiting the plane and at the same time yell at the top of his lungs: “One thousand, two thousand, three thousand, four thousand.” Then he must look up to visualize and make sure that his parachute is opened and deployed. Some days the “Hit it” command is given forty to a hundred times, mostly when you least expect it. The trooper either obeys immediately or does many pushups and/or laps around the field. One Saturday night I was in scenic downtown Columbus, Georgia and recognized two young GIs from my jump school who were out with two local young ladies. I walked up behind them and screamed, “Hit it!” They reacted true to their training and terrified their dates. Mea culpa.

This article will focus on the telephone, recruiting, and candidates. Believe me, this will not be an in-depth training session – just the musings of an interested player.

There it sits on your desk in the office, your work station at home, in your pocket, purse, on your belt when you are out and about: the telephone. Alexander Graham Bell’s gift to us is our lifeline to clients and candidates, the conditio sine qua non (the without which not) of our business. It is feared by some, nemesis to a few, avoided by others, abused by many, and moneymaker for those who have mastered it. Its proper use spells success and growth, its misuse ends or shortens placement careers, lessens income, and leads to abysmal failure. Here are a few bullets to jumpstart your thinking about the telephone. I’m sure you have others; if so, send them along and I will include them in a future article.

Smile when picking up the phone; the caller will hear it in your voice.

You are center stage in every phone call; people judge you on your manners.

Prepare for phone calls as you would prepare for critical conversations. Nothing makes an important phone call more rewarding and more confidence building than the hard work of good preparation.

Keep the fact that you are very busy, having a bad day, whatever, out of your phone voice.

If you take the call, have time for the person calling.

Promise to do 100 pushups every time you keep a person on hold for more than 10 seconds.

Talking to someone in the office while conducting a phone call is a double play of rudeness.

When you forget whom you are calling make a joke out of it rather than trying to be suave.

Your every phone call is an interview, a sales call, an opportunity to judge you, a chance to make a lasting first impression.

The phone is a coward’s pulpit when it is used to get angry, tell someone off, to be insulting or obstinate. People who do this usually do not have the courage to be a jerk in person.

Make sure that people who work for you have PhD’s in telephone courtesy; if they don’t, you look bad.

There is a special place in hell for people who consistently use cell phones at restaurant tables, plays, movies, churches, during conference and workshops sessions, etc. Next to genuine emergencies, the only excusable time is when you hit the lottery for $100 million!

Last, and far from least, return phone calls. Forge a reputation for returning phone calls. A fitting epitaph for the gravestone of a recruiter: “She always returned phone calls.” The best, the brightest, and the most successful always do.

Dr. John Sullivan, former Chief Talent Officer for Agilent Technologies, is a Professor and Head of the Human Resources program at San Francisco State University. He contributes to Electronic Recruiting and Exchange as well as The Fordyce Letter. In one ERE article, “Eight Simple Rules for Becoming a Great Recruiter,” he gives pragmatic guidance for learning the recruiting craft:

Read everything that relates to recruiting, your industry, business in general

Build a learning network: work with others who want to become the best

Use metrics; track what works and know why it works

Get a mentor

When you are actually recruiting:

Rely on referrals

Recognize that you are in sales

Do your market research

Focus and prioritize

Here are a few additions to Sullivan’s advice. I am sure that subscribers to TFL can add many more.

Know all facets of recruiting; be open and receptive to new ideas; embrace change and the daily evolution of novel recruiting tools and creative ways of attracting the best candidate pool.

Be comfortable with emerging technologies; brainstorm with others and spearhead new approaches for 21st century recruiting.

Have the courage to step away from the trite business-as-usual mentality; stay current by constantly learning new skills and upgrading old skills

Continually upgrade the skills of your recruiters – provide training

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How do your recruiters, procedures, techniques, approaches compare to your competitors?

Do your recruiters deliver? Do they waste too much time on the Internet? Do they network?

A young man, fresh out of business school, answered a want ad for an accountant. He was interviewed by a very nervous CEO who ran a three-man business: “I need someone with an accounting degree,” the man said. “But mainly, I’m looking for someone to do my worrying for me.” “Excuse me?” the young candidate said.

“I worry about a lot of things,” the prospective employer responded. “But I don’t want to have to worry about money. Your job will be to take all the money worries off my back.” “I see,” the young accountant replied. “And how much does the job pay, Sir?”

“I will start you at one hundred twenty thousand a year.” “Wow,” the young accountant exclaimed. “How can such a small business afford to pay me such a big salary?” “That,” the owner said, “is your first worry.”

Ed Mangahas, runs a very successful recruiting firm in Boston, and when it comes to candidates he advises: “Know your candidates well. Understanding both career ambitions, as well as specific job qualifications, are important. Most companies today are trying to get the most talent for their dollar. This means getting someone with more potential to grow with the company or expand his/her job responsibilities and scope. There is a current trend of cautious hiring for fear of committing payroll dollars too soon. I believe that trend will continue, even as business continues to rise. So being able to present a candidate that can fulfill the job requirements, but also fits into the client’s business plan for the next few years will become increasingly critical with each hire.”

How about some advice from other practitioners and corporate staffing people?

“Provide more thorough reference checks. Be flexible: let the client add some of their own questions. Provide updated CORI (criminal background) checks. Don’t sell the candidate on the company, let the company do that. If the candidate still isn’t sold, it’s probably not the right fit. This will avoid unneeded turnover.” Thanks to Ericka Lowry, Staffing Manager at Cambridge Health Alliance.

Ron Segal and Norm Lieberman, two TFL readers advise us to “get ready for rapid response to clients with pressing needs; keep your candidate records current; review and improve your candidate prepping procedures for candidates and hiring authorities do this for telephone screenings as well as face-to-face interviews; review and hone your debriefing procedures.”

Frank Miklavic, a senior consultant in the Boston area, and a former VPHR, directs us: “Don’t oversell the candidate! Give a balanced and honest assessment of your impression of the company.”

I’ll conclude with a few considerations about candidates and working with candidates. I’m sure that I am going to miss a lot, so, I invite the readers to send their bullets along and I will note them in subsequent articles.

Do your best to meet candidates in person this is critical in avoiding surprises we all have war stories to tell when we haven’t met candidates.

Check references thoroughly sharpen your reference checking techniques. Many times excellent reference checking is a powerful marketing tool that results in new business.

If you have a concern about a resume or something in the resume, get it squared away ASAP.

Give guidance and critiques of resumes; never re-write a candidate’s resume.

Follow the golden rule that never changes: “Prep and debrief candidates before and after interviews.”

See your candidates, if possible, after the offer is made and accepted. If the candidate is good enough to get a great offer, he/she is also good enough to get a lucrative counter-offer. As Barbara Cinque, a retired recruiter often stated: “He’s walking around with my money and you can bet I will keep in touch.”

Probably shouldn’t put this one in but I will. Be honest with candidates, never use them for fodder, and give them honest feedback.

Work hard for your candidates. Whether you place them or not, candidates are either PR firms for your company, or negative critics of your services.

I started this article by mentioning airborne training. It’s a nice day for a baseball story, so let me finish by describing a true incident in the playing career of Lou Pinella, the former Yankee great, and a manager who believes in disciplined training. I attended a luncheon where the umpire involved told this story.

The umpire and Pinella had a number of misunderstandings throughout their careers. One day when Lou was at bat the first pitch was questionable but the ump called it a strike. After the second bad pitch was also called a strike, Lou, in anger, turned to the umpire and bellowed: “Where was that one at?”

The umpire in a calm voice replied: “Lou, you never end a sentence with a preposition.” Lou instantaneously retorted: “OK. Where was that one at, a——?” Lou was ejected!

Next month we will focus on interviewing, the impact of the Internet, clients, marketing, sales calls, and managing information.

Frank X. McCarthy is Partner in Charge of Diversity Practice with The Corporate Source Group. He was a Catholic priest from 1956-70, working in parish and school assignments, serving as a paratrooper chaplain with the 101st Airborne, and as pastor and director of an African American community project in Paterson, NJ. He founded Xavier Associates and conducted diversity searches for over 25 years. Frank is a well-known and widely respected author and speaker on workplace diversity, recruiting, and candidate research. He can be reached: frank@diverseworkplace.com

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