Getting Back To Basics: Why eCruiting Isn’t Enough

There are many great eCruiting solutions available today. I’m very impressed with the offerings, interfaces, and applicant tracking systems on many of the major websites. On the face of it, it would seem that the problem of finding great candidates has been solved. But back here in the trenches – where we make our daily bagels by obtaining search assignments, finding candidates and negotiating hires – things aren’t all that rosy. Some of the biggest problems still haven’t been addressed. Recruiters and their clients still don’t see the job the same way. Interviewing is still a big variable. How come two to three people using behavioral-based interviewing still come up with different solutions? Why is it that the more people involved in the hiring decision, the more difficult it is to close the deal? Candidates still want more money than budgeted, and offers are still being turned down – sometimes after they’ve been accepted. Counter-offers and more competitive offers still abound. When will these real problems be addressed? It’s time for every recruiter to get basic to basics, to remember (or relearn) one vital premise: if you want to hire superior people, you must first define superior performance. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, it’s very difficult to find it. This is why defining the job clearly and succinctly at the beginning of every search is so important. If everyone is asking a bunch of interview questions, and coming up with a variety of assessments, then other more meaningful approaches need to be used. In my mind it’s not the questions that count, but the candidate’s answers. Assessing these answers for reasonableness is the real key to an accurate assessment. Fewer questions and better answers is the real key to an accurate evaluation. The biggest off-line problem with hiring starts at the beginning, when a new search assignment is taken. The recruiter (inside or outside) is usually given a job description that describes the skills, academics, and experience required of the ideal candidate. This is combined with a series of responsibilities and general duties. Both parties go off merrily, knowing in their hearts that this traditional job description is a poor way to find, attract, and assess the best candidate for the job. The sad truth is that all too often recruiters are afraid to really find out what the job requirements are. They don’t want to sound dumb, and reveal to the hiring manager that they’re not qualified to find this person or assess their competency. The line manager is too busy to spend much time understanding the job. Instead, a boilerplate solution is used (the last job description) to give marching orders to the recruiter to find the ideal candidate. The line manager knows that this is misleading, but has no other choices. Rationalization takes over: “Once I see the candidate, I’ll know if it’s a good fit.” <*SPONSORMESSAGE*> The results that follow are typical: ads that pull in a bunch of unqualified candidates; conflict (sometimes even open warfare!) between the line manager, the interviewing team, and the recruiter; searches that take too long; delays, compromises and eventually the settling upon a candidate who meets only a few of the job requirements. This not-too-unfamiliar tale of horrors can be prevented. All it takes is a better understanding of real job needs up front. A performance profile can solve the problem. Every job has 6-8 objectives or deliverables that determine job success. These are things the new employee needs to do in order to be considered successful in the job. You as a recruiter can prompt the manager by asking for some of the biggest problems and challenges the person will need to resolve. Also ask for the biggest projects and accomplishments the new person will be assigned to complete. Break these down into sub-categories. For example, while a marketing manager might need to launch a new product over the next year, in the first 60 days a research report needs to be completed, coupled with the advertising plan. Once you have 10-12 of the performance objectives put them in priority order. The top 6-8 of these objectives form the performance profile. You’ll be able to use this performance-based job description to write more compelling ads. This will draw a different, and far bigger pool of candidates, those that are interested in doing what’s required. Some of the best performers don’t have directly related experience, and might be disqualified from consideration, or ignore your ad. Focusing on performance allows you to attract more top performing candidates, who are intrigued by the challenge to learn, do, and grow. It’s also much easier to assess competency with this type of profile. Asking candidates to describe similar accomplishments will get at their decision-making, job-specific technical and problem-solving skills, and ability to deal in similar cultures. It will also get everyone on the interviewing team onto the same page. By clarifying job expectations this way, it leaves less to perceptions and stereotypes.

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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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