Marlene’s Dilemma Dissected and Discussed

Last week I presented a case describing the plight of a recruiter new to her organization and facing several challenges. She was tasked with hiring 200 call center reps in 90 days, while at the same time dealing with a hiring manager who did not think she was doing a good job. The questions you were left to answer were these: How can Marlene satisfy her boss and hire high quality people? Is it even possible to do this? Can she profile candidates without alienating them or her boss? If you were Marlene what would you do is this situation? How can Marlene succeed? Scores of recruiters took on the challenge of recommending what Marlene should do, and I want to thank all of you who responded with ideas and solutions ó all of them excellent and thought-provoking. I have woven some of your thoughts and quotes from your responses below along with my own thoughts and commentary. Please keep on sending in your thoughts this week, as all of you are truly experts since you deal with cases like this every day. Key Issue #1 One of Marlene’s key issues was to manage the expectations of the hiring manager and work with him to clearly outline the outcomes he wanted from her. The first rule of recruiting is to have a clear set of realistic expectations and requirements about the position. Most of you clearly identified this need, and I have quoted a few of your responses below. One recruiter was quite blunt in his advice: “One of the most important qualities of a successful recruiter is the ability to manage expectations. In my opinion, committing to 200 hires of any type in a 90-day window is setting yourself up for failure. Of course, with 50% turnover this may be nothing new to her company. Upon taking the assignment, she should have advised the hiring manager that 200 hires is a VERY aggressive goal. Furthermore, she could attempt to educate the manager on the longer term benefits of a more thorough screening process versus filling the positions with a bunch of warm bodies.” Others didn’t necessarily feel the goal as unrealistic, but advised: “Marlene should have a meeting with her boss and the hiring manager to give them her background on behavioral interviewing and the reasoning she is using to recruit staff.” Or this: “Marlene should arrange a time to meet with the hiring manager to discuss his hiring needs. This will not be easy since the manager has already expressed dissatisfaction in her inability to meet his needs. However, she needs to be persuasive and get face time with him so that she may explain the philosophy behind her recruiting efforts. If the hiring manager begins to accept her ideas, she can pick his brain regarding his thoughts on what characteristics exemplify a successful employee in his department.” And another one of you advises a mini-campaign to improve Marlene’s image and reputation: “First off, it sounds like the manager has some frustrations around the whole situation. I would meet with that manager and try to establish some type of relationship. Meeting one on one with the manager will show that Marlene has initiative and also let that manager know that she truly wants to recruit the best candidates for the jobs.” Key Issue #2 Another issue you identified is the need for Marlene to quickly find out what skills and competencies the top performers have and then devise a way to screen candidates for those traits. Many of your felt she should profile the good performers and develop a sense of what characteristics the hiring manager was really looking for. One of you suggested that she should “explain to the manager that in order to find ‘…good, smart people’ she will need a little more information. For example, what, in the manager’s eyes, makes someone good and smart? Those are very general terms. Are there certain core competencies that the manager is looking for? What are the company’s core competencies? She could check with the manager to see if she could perhaps meet with some of the star performers in a casual way to find out what these people have that make them so successful in their job.” Yet, others felt that she did not have time to do profiling and needed to roll into immediate action. This is often a problem recruiters have – balancing long-term goals with the short-term need to produce. Many of you took a practical approach, which may actually be fine in this situation: “She has to fill 200 requisitions in 90 days,” said one respondent, “meaning 2.2 candidates per day. To achieve that she has to interview at least six to eight candidates per day. Her boss is complaining about her delay in putting the requirements on job boards or any other job engine. There is no excuse for the delay; it is very easy and does not take much time to do that. She has to understand the company philosophy: the average age is 35. I will focus my search in young people, candidates with a recent degree in something directly related to the job description, qualifications, and physical demands.” Another one of you asked: “What if the hiring manager insists on placing quantity ahead of quality, despite your advice? Practically speaking, since Marlene is a brand new employee, I would say complete the assignment as instructed, keep careful documentation, and be prepared to discuss changes for future search assignments.” And a concurring opinion: “I would advise Marlene to first focus on satisfying the customer (hiring manager) by giving him/her what they want. If they want to see jobs on job boards, and have candidates of varying backgrounds and experience put in front of them, I would do it.” And several of you felt that the profiling might be valuable ó but only when done slowly over a period of time, after she has built some credibility and understands the company better. One respondent said, “I would tell her to track very carefully what the hiring manager uses in terms of criteria to make a hiring decision. I would then research to see if there was a link between the hiring manager’s selection criteria and the turn over ratio. NOTE: this does not happen within the first 12 days. There may be a causal factor here, but without finding a link it is unlikely, in my opinion, that Marlene will ever get the hiring manager to buy into a need to understand what competencies are involved when selecting customer service people likely to succeed in this companies environment.” There are several more key issues brought up in the story, which we will discuss next week. Let me have your continuing thoughts and ideas about Marlene’s situation.

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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


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