Is It Time To Blow Up Our Recruiting Processes?

[NOTE: Please take my short survey on recruiting trends from last week’s article. The whole process will take you less than 10 minutes, and I will report on the results in future columns.] Do you know that recruiting remains 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 starting to ask 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. To meet the challenges of time, quality and cost it is going to be necessary to blow the whole enterprise up and start reinventing it from scratch. There is no time left for evolutionary tweaks. I know that many recruiters feel that there are too many things they cannot control to contend with, including fickle hiring managers, rigid compensation schemes, corporate culture, and geography. But that’s true of managers in other functions as well. Manufacturing managers have had to learn the discipline of keeping costs at rock bottom, while improving quality and increasing output. And they do this against a backdrop of highly variable customer demand, supplier uncertainties, and the impact of national and international disasters. Finance, too, 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. 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. While I have identified more than a dozen commonly held assumptions, I think these five I outline below are the most dangerous. 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 in more detail. Next week, in the second part of this article series, I will begin to outline how a new process for recruiting, built on technology, can impact each of these. 1. Passive candidates are the best. 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. Many passive candidates lack the initiative to look for another job and are waiting for a new position to find them. Obviously there are excellent performers who are content in their current position that we would like to hire. But, even if we succeed in luring the person out of that job and into our firm, will she stay and perform as well? 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 your corporate culture and share your organization’s passions. People who are lured away by money or titles may not be the ones you really want. 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 your organization and who has the basic qualifications and skills for some function within it. Your goal ought to be to build a talent pool of interested and qualified people who can be tapped 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. 3. Most candidates want to apply with a resume and don’t like online screening. Did you enjoy writing your resume? I know it is one of those chores I dread and have fortunately only had to do a few times. The assumption that people like to write resumes is just plain wrong ó most people 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 interactive ways that make it much less painful to the candidate and yet give you the information you need. I will discuss many new approaches to this next week. 4. Each candidate has to be interviewed in person. This is also plain bull. 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. 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. More on this, as well, in next week’s column. If you think there are other assumptions that are dangerous or wrong, send me an email. I’d love to know what you think they are. Let’s all pledge to start blowing recruiting up and reinventing it for the 21st century! p.s. Don’t forget to take my short survey on recruiting trends!

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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, 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


5 Comments on “Is It Time To Blow Up Our Recruiting Processes?

  1. Hello,

    I would like to thank you for such an important message to the HR Community. I have the pleasure of working with everyone in the HR food chain. From VP’s, Directors, to Generalists.

    I am consistently amazed on what I hear from our community about recruiting. What amazes me the most is the use of technology and the lack of understanding it. I think that most feel that it does not make their job easier but to the contrary. I look at a clients web site and view their online ATS and see jobs that are poorly written. They have the attitude of, ‘If they want the job then all they have to do is apply.’ ?!?!? This and they have 68 jobs posted when in reality they only have 19. They tell me that they don?t have control of their ATS?!?!?!?! That’s like a sales professional saying they don?t have control on their CRM???

    The lack of good job posting language in their ATS, the lack of communication with these candidates, the lack of time put aside to review resumes in the system is all a failing point in this process called recruiting. I think that if an HR professional would look at recruiting like a sales manager then the efficiency would sky rocket. What do you think?

    Lastly, I need to throw in my $0.02 on your attitude on the Passive Jobseeker. I agree that this does not make for a ‘better’ candidate but should NOT be overlooked and found that when I expose job opportunities in a non-conventional method then some of the best hires have been from attracting the passive job seekers. Especially executive level positions. Let take a look at Television Recruiting folks!


    Josef Antinucci

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  2. Great article Kevin – I agree with the overall point of your message. For far too long we have rested on the traditional means of recruiting, even finding new ways to augment the same old processes with modern technology. Your list of commonly held assumptions is precisely on target.

    I don’t necessarily agree, however, that we have much control over implementing business process changes corporately. You are correct in pointing out that many recruiters feel that too much is out of their control. The fact that manufactuing managers and finance managers have made significant transformations, however, is not a fair comparison in my opinion. Manufacturing and finance have long been viewed as departments which significantly affect corporate profits. As such, they are much more likely to have a seat at the executive table. To date, I do not believe that HR has garnered the same respect. Perhaps this is partly HR’s own fault, but until executive managers realize the financial effects of strong recruiting programs, any changes will come at a slow pace.

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  3. Rebuttal to the 5 Recruiting Assumptions

    1. I agree. Why do we automatically assume that the passive candidate is so much better? They are high maintainance to recruit and not necessarily highest quality, in my experience.

    2. It is possible to keep candidates for more than a short period of time……if you are not interested in filling the position with the best one.

    3.If the candidate, talent tadpole or whatever you want to call them is interested in your job/company, I don’t think it matters much to him/her. Resume, profile or conversation. The tool should expedite getting the person and hiring manager talking.

    4.Would you hire someone you had not met in person? First conversation or screen…OK, but if you are a human being….you want to see one face to face. It’s people, not paper, that we work with.

    5.I agree….sort of. You can measure quality of hires. But, recruiters do not make hiring decisions, although we can influence a hire. Activity or interviews are what get people hired.
    Activity does matter. Metrics can tell us what is working or not working.

    This is not rocket science. If a candidate is qualified(ie. best talent for the job) and interested (willing to talk and sincere about making a job change)and the hiring manager wants to fill the job, you get them to talk to each other and in a perfect world, a hire happens!

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  4. Kevin, you have made some extremely valid points, in the article and I think it is essential to periodically stop, think and look at processes to see if we are doing the same thing day in and day only because it is always what we have always done.

    Your comments on interviewing the candidate personally were interesting. I think that there may be some recruiters who go through the motions within an interview and in this case I would agree with you that it can be a less than valid method of assessment.

    However, when it comes to controlling the candidate at the time of offer, I have found that meeting the candidate will put you in a much better position to ‘win the candidate over’ as opposed to having phone or email conversations.

    Kind regards,

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  5. Interesting article Kevin but in terms of point 4 which you make on interviewing people face to face, I would make an arguement about this based on a research paper I wrote one year ago in which I stated ‘ Perhaps one answer to this is the concept of ?face validity?. Face validity is concerned with people?s perceptions of how well a test measures what it is supposed to measure, and as such it is not a true measure of validity in the strictest sense. Mosier (1947) argued that face validity is unimportant but the reality may be different. Cooper and Robertson (1995) suggest, ?it may be of the most practical importance, because it may cause a test to be rejected either by the organisation or by the applicants.? They argue that despite the poor validity of interviews, they are the most commonly used because of their perceived face validity. Smith and Robertson (1995) lay they blame with the academics stating ?we have not preached the virtues of our best selection methods to the heathen!? Perhaps it is simply a case of being ?hard to teach an old dog new tricks?, or as Smith and Robertson (1995) put it ?the habits of the ages, and the exhortations of the charlatans, have more influence than science.?

    While I agree that interviews are not a very valid method of selection, they will never be replaced as their ‘face validity’ is too strong. As well as that people like to think they are good at interviewing (as a means of social interaction). I cannot remenber the exact citation but research has shown that people think of interviewing as an inate skill they automatically have and that their ‘gut feel’ about someone is usually right. How do you change the human ego?

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