Is There a Perfect Recruiting Process?

Let’s take a look at the “perfect” recruiting process:

It is Monday, July 2, 2007. A marketing product director at ABC Company gives notice that she’s accepted an offer with a competitor and will conclude her employment with ABC in two weeks, July 13. The manager, in a panic, calls his recruiter to discuss this unexpected but critical opening.

Within one hour, the recruiter has forwarded the manager a slate of pre-qualified and previously interviewed candidates. The manager selects the top three from the slate and mobilizes his hiring team to commit to interview dates scheduled for the following week while the recruiter invites them to interview.

That following week, July 10 to be exact, the candidates interview. The hiring team conducts a debrief immediately after the last interview to make a decision. The manager rings the recruiter at day’s end to notify the recruiter of the selection decision; the recruiter prepares an offer, calls the selected candidate as the candidate is en route home, makes the offer, and the candidate accepts on the spot.

The start date is set for July 16 (pending clearance to hire, of course), the Monday after the prior incumbent’s last day. The marketing department at ABC doesn’t miss a beat!

The scenario above might be described by some as pure fantasy of which recruiters are in relentless, but perhaps futile, pursuit. Why bother? Others might argue that while this exact scenario may be slightly out of the realm of feasibility, getting within striking distance of such recruitment perfection is possible.

I see it from the latter perspective. While each recruiting experience involves a unique set of circumstances and cast of characters that may make the perfect recruiting process elusive, there are some common aspects that tend to be very predictable and thus enable us to inch ever so closely to perfection (at least on certain requisitions). The key is understanding these factors and taking steps to design processes that anticipate glitches and head them off from the get-go.

This column is not meant to be the complete guide to conquering every potential derailer of the recruiting process. It will, though, highlight certain common circumstances that, if anticipated, can be mitigated, enabling a brush with recruiting nirvana as described above.

Circumstance #1

Unexpected resignation of a key employee in a critical role. To mitigate, identify the critical positions in your organization. While every position is important and everyone’s contributions are valued, there are certain positions that, if vacant, will have a detrimental impact to your business success and bottom line. Examples can include franchise directors for key product lines, production managers for high-capacity manufacturing plants, and recruiters for those difficult-to-fill positions in an R&D organization.

Make it a priority to identify those positions and understand the flight risk of the incumbents. Know what your competition is doing; chances are they have been busy studying your organization and have identified the key players themselves as they prepare aggressive strategies to lure them away. Getting your arms around the critical positions and what drives and motivates the individuals who hold them will allow you to be proactive and take the right steps to enhance retention and build a proactive pipeline for those areas in which you are at risk.

Circumstance #2

Instant slates! Perhaps “instant” is too strong of a word, but if you are effective in understanding circumstance #1, and have been proactive in developing pipelines, your slates will be available almost “on demand.” Workforce planning is a key driver here, helping you understand turnover trends in key areas as well as the talent markets in which you compete.

However, identifying the candidates isn’t enough. Make sure you’ve pre-screened and pre-qualified these candidates and assessed their interests as well. This will pay dividends in the form of higher and faster acceptance rates down the road as you move to offers.

Circumstance #3

A committed and motivated hiring manager. Success here is enabled by ensuring you have strong relationships with your hiring managers (even if they’re not actively recruiting) and that they understand the critical components of the recruiting process they own. By investing the time and effort in this work up front, once the manager is called to action, he/she clearly understands what he/she needs to do and is committed to doing so quickly.

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Circumstance #4

The horrors of interview scheduling. Perhaps this part of the example is true fantasy. Scheduling entails an array of sometimes extremely complex logistics to synchronize candidate, hiring manager, and other interview team members’ availability.

Nonetheless, be as assertive as you can in gaining the commitment of hiring managers and interview teams on interview dates, and sticking with them so candidates don’t have to dodge moving calendars. Urge hiring managers to limit the amount of interviewers to reduce complexity in scheduling. Be sensitive to candidates’ schedules and circumstances, flexing your schedule as appropriate to theirs. Amazing things can happen when you have a highly motivated candidate and hiring manager and only those who truly need to be involved are.

Circumstance #5

Offer prepared, extended, and accepted same day as interviews. In our example, the work the recruiting team did in circumstance #2 is paying dividends. By having built proactive slates and ensured the candidates on those slates were engaged and interested in the opportunities, they have significantly increased their chances of offer acceptance. Additionally, having offer ranges pre-approved so recruiters can prepare offers without having to submit to layers of approvals further enables agility.

Turning around an offer on the spot or within hours (or perhaps a day) of a candidate’s interview will send the right message in a strong way: “We mean business; we want you!”

Circumstance #6

Start date for replacement set for before or within days of the prior incumbent’s departure. This is probably one of the more tricky areas to optimize, given the variety of circumstances that present themselves in the background checking and due diligence processes. Delays often result from information that cannot be easily verified (i.e., verification of degree information for certain universities outside the United States).

While there is no silver bullet, using a service provider whose core business is background screens and verifications may significantly decrease turnaround time. Such providers often have access to key databases and connections with regulatory agencies that permit the quick retrieval and verification of information.

Consider requesting a higher number of references from candidates to increase your chances of getting references to respond and getting them to respond quicker. If you have a candidate who has offered only three references and you are having trouble getting a hold of them, it can add delays to the process as you wait. However, if a candidate has provided five or six references, at least some will respond quickly.

Finally, keep in mind that candidates will often want to afford their current company two weeks’ notice, which can automatically build in two weeks’ lag time up front. Don’t push too hard on this one as candidates often want to avoid burning bridges on the way out the door; someday your company may benefit from such notice as well.

The list above is by no means exhaustive. There is a host of information available on how to optimize and streamline the recruiting process on forums such as ERE. Help your own cause by being proactive in finding out about the techniques and tips others have used to conquer some of the perennial recruiting “demons” (i.e., scheduling process, background verification process).

Experiment with different approaches as you seek to fine-tune your process and continue striving for recruiting nirvana. Know that you have a lot of company on the mission with you.

Lisa Calicchio, SPHR, is Director of Recruiting -- Pharmaceuticals Team, for Johnson & Johnson Recruiting, the internal talent acquisition organization of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies. In this role, Lisa manages the development and delivery of talent acquisition strategies and execution for Johnson & Johnson?s U.S. pharmaceuticals and biotechnology operating companies. In addition to managing this segment of the business and a significant client base, Lisa focuses on enhancing JJR's consulting capabilities through specialty teams for business analytics, training, and recruitment marketing. Her background includes extensive experience as an HR generalist and recruiting, though she started her professional career "on the line" and held several line positions across key functional areas before moving from sales and marketing into HR.


6 Comments on “Is There a Perfect Recruiting Process?

  1. Lisa – great job in detailing an ideal external recruiting process, but I’m shocked that a respected company like J&J has no process to first check succession plans or do an internal talent search prior to pushing the job to an external search… is that the case or did you have to cut that part out to ensure you column was not too long?

    If you had a solid internal recruiting process (aka Career Development & Succession Planning) the 2 week notice would be plenty of time to pick from a previously approved list of successors and to allow the ‘next day’ newly promoted person to spend 9 days being tutored by the departing employee. Now THAT, in my professional opinion, is the PERFECT recruiting process.

  2. Lisa has done a commendable job outlining a near-perfect set of ‘prescriptions’ for recruiter nightmares.

    That said, the real key is noted in the opening paragraph of this article, ‘The manager, in a panic, calls his recruiter to discuss this unexpected but critical opening.’

    Unforeseen vacancies are sort of like accidents – you know they will happen but often are not in a position to avoid them. (All of a sudden) management behavior has become a recruiting ‘problem’.

    If you’ve built an employment function that actually has the bandwidth to proactively recruit while still looking for candidates to fill the open requisitions it already has – congratulations. Many ‘in the trenches recruiters’ are plagued with ‘reqitis’ and spending time building a pipeline for anticipated openings is, well, not high on their list of priorities.

    That isn’t to say that it should be – but I’d be very interested how some companies permit their recruiters to balance pipeline activity with the demands of making their numbers.

    We’ve created a solution set that helps corporate recruiting operations maintain traction in their recruiting engines while helping to ensure it doesn’t strain budgets to the breaking point. However, it does require that leaders take a hard look at the value of a talent pipeline and appreciate that over time it can produce both benefits for the business and their recruiters.

  3. Louis,

    The challenge of balancing responsive recruiting with proactive recruiting from a tiem/resource management POV is age old and constant. I would be very interested in learning more about your ‘solution set that helps corporate recruiting operations maintain traction in their recruiting engines while helping to ensure it doesn’t strain budgets to the breaking point.’

    please share what you can when you can.


    Lawrence Newman

    Larry Newman
    Corporate Recruiting
    Harding Security Associates, Inc.
    1430 Spring Hill Road, Suite 525
    McLean, VA 22102
    P) 703-852-1247
    M) 703-314-5426
    F) 703-442-6651

  4. Great job on the article!

    Having been in Recruiting Management for several years and having successfully implemented outsourced recruitment programs for several Fortune 1000 customers I have learnt that there is no such thing as a Perfect Process for recruiting. Given today?s dynamic scenario where flexibility and scalability rule the roost this is simply not possible.

    One can however build a framework on what the process should look like (talent acquisition guidelines) for internal recruiting departments complete with an implementation strategy to act as a guiding factor for recruitment teams work within, while at the same time adapting to changes as they occur. Please note that this is a continuous improvement process which gets better with multiple iterations.

    The landscape gets even more complex in an outsourced recruitment situation where one would not only have to create a talent acquisition process but also map it to the client?s internal scenario.

    As Lisa rightfully mentions, one can only get close but never be perfect. Let me point out that it is not uncommon for Fortune 1000 companies to have no processes in place. As a matter of fact I was recently made aware of a large financial institution (thousands of hires/year) not having an ATS in place. So go figure.

  5. I do not believe there is such a thing as a ‘perfect recruiting process,’ but an ‘optimal recruiting process’ can be developed by soliciting the open and honest input of the recruiters, sourcers, and schedulers actually doing the job, and implementing what they suggest.

    Unfortunately, it has been my experience that this is rarely if ever done.


  6. Keith,

    Your brief comment is worth more than the dozens of pages that often appear here regarding matrixes, studies, etc. Management, both HR and HA, needs to get in the trenches with the recruiters, and really find out why it is not working.

    Good job, Keith.

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