Dreaming? A Success Story About What Could Be, Part 2

Recruiting is essentially a response to supply-chain problem. There is demand for new or more employees. There is a supply of potential candidates, which can include internal as well as external people. Then there is the process of matching the two. Productivity and efficiency, as well as quality, are critical measures. The most successful recruiters have the ability to respond quickly to any demand because they have nurtured the right candidate pool. And so we pick up the thread of our fictional success story from last week’s article, about a recruiting director named Soren who revolutionized the way her department was run. Soren had decided very early in her process of changing the way recruiting was done to treat recruiting as a supply-chain problem. Her goal was to make sure that demand and supply were in harmonious equilibrium and to provide the quality that the organization needed. She tackled the quality issue by using screening and assessment tools to narrow down the number of candidates. She worked with an industrial psychologist to create a dozen or so questions that would give the organization and the candidate a sense of potential and fit for the company. Candidates who successfully met both criteria to a satisfactory level were asked to take a short but more extensive test of their skills. By putting these two screens in place, she reduced the number of candidate profiles that were coming through to the recruiters by more than 50% for most positions. For a few, the screening reduced the short list to a handful of candidates that the recruiters could easily telephone and interview. At first, most of the recruiters and hiring managers had reservations about using the screening questions. They had even stronger doubts about the assessment tools. Within a few weeks, though, they were all surprised by the positive response from candidates. The candidates who made it through the screens were excited to have had a chance to show their skills and not their interview prowess. They also got a strong sense of what the job would entail from the questions, and they liked getting feedback so quickly. Even the candidates who had not been selected felt that they had had a fair chance. Many of them were still possible candidates for other positions, and they unanimously felt it was better to be a candidate for a position that fit them better than to have never gotten any response to their resume. That would have been the norm before this new process was in place. Some recruiters were concerned that good candidates would not apply because the process was different and appeared to be difficult. They felt that the best candidates would just go to a competitor who offered a more traditional approach. Soren addressed this concern simply: If a candidate is not willing to complete a fair and straightforward process, she posited, either the organization has done a poor job of marketing and branding or the candidate is not all that interested. She discussed this with a number of other companies who had switched over to a web-based screening and assessment process. They all found the candidate volume remained high ó and that often the quality of candidates who went through the assessment went up. One of Soren’s other challenges was to get the hiring managers focused on candidate competencies and abilities and to trust that she and her team had found solid, competent, A-players. Managing hiring manager impressions is one of the biggest hurdles to success. Time and again Soren had seen recruiters fail. These were usually recruiters with good skills, but they did not appreciate how important it is to build credibility with the hiring managers. Many managers want to survey the field of candidates and interview several of them to convince themselves they are seeing a representative sample. Some just are not sure of what they really want in a candidate so they “go shopping.” Not only is this expensive, but it hurts the reputation of the company as the word goes out that they interview many people for every job. Managers often end up hiring a person when they are tired of interviewing and are in desperation. Consequently, mangers in this spot rarely hire the best person. Good recruiters make sure that managers are closely involved in deciding what competencies and skills they need and in helping to define what an excellent candidate looks like. One of a recruiter’s most important skills is her ability to influence a manager and to keep the number of candidates that have an interview to a handful. Soren had scored a partial victory in this area. Her recruiters had reduced the average number of candidates that a manager interviewed from five to three, but she wanted to reduce this to no more than two. Her belief was simple: if the recruiters were fully aware of the job requirements and had the cooperation of the hiring manager, the manager could make a good choice from only two people. Human nature is hard to change, and she was very pleased to have reduced the number at all. So, in eighteen months Soren had done a lot. She had changed the recruiting function from a poorly regarded administrative function into something positive and strategic. Hiring managers looked to her and the other recruiters for help and advice. The year before Soren’s arrival had been a year when managers wanted to outsource all of recruiting because they could not see that they were getting any benefit from the internal staffing folks. Soren had also reduced the number of people on staff, built a web site and put in place some controversial yet worthwhile screening and assessment tools. Candidates were pleased and the recruiting image had improved. Easy stuff to do? No. Not at all. Worth doing? Without any doubt. The next challenges? What does Soren measure and report to her management? How does she decide if a recruiter is doing a good job or not? Next week we will look at these issues.

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Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for ERE.net, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at kwheeler@futureoftalent.org.

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