Maxine’s Challenge

Maxine is in deep trouble. She was hired 12 days ago as a recruiter to work with a manager who had about 200 call center requisitions to fill in a 90-day window.

The positions weren’t unusual or particularly hard to fill. In fact, over the past few months, new college graduates, several retirees who were youthful and had the requisite skills, and a handful of experienced former call center employees had been hired with varying degrees of success. Yet turnover is an issue; it runs to more than 100% each year.

At first blush, Maxine felt confident she could meet the challenge and fill all the positions. After all, she was an experienced recruiter and the skills the manager needed were basic.

The training programs the company had put in place were quite well-received and met the need to ensure everyone was capable. This training was supplemented with an excellent online support center with access to FAQs and other help.

Maxine figured she could round up some recent college hires who hadn’t gotten their dream job but were smart and energetic, or she could get a few more of the retirees to consider returning to work.

Now, 12 days into it, things look different. The hiring manager hasn’t liked anyone she has brought in and has complained to Maxine’s boss about her inability to meet his needs. She obviously feels this is completely unfair as she has only been on the job for a short time.

However, her boss says, “Maxine is too focused on process and hasn’t even posted anything on the job boards. All she wants to do is dig into what the hiring manager’s requirements are.” He goes on to say that as far as he knows, the hiring manager just wants her to “. . . find me good, smart people, and I’ll train them what to do. I don’t need to have everyone psychoanalyzed.”

This company has over 1,000 employees, all located in the United States, with sales of more than US$1 billion. The average age of the employees is around 35, with only the CEO and a few other top managers over 40. The hiring manager is close to Maxine’s age, hovering around 30. There are a couple of recruiters who focus on other types of hiring needs, including IT, but they are not very friendly and stay on the phone almost all day.

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The company has a good reputation for customer service and is very proud of its high standards of service. Customers find that response times are reasonable and that their issues get resolved quickly. This is a big difference from many other companies that Maxine has worked for. She feels it is necessary for her to really understand the competencies needed and assess candidates against those competencies.

This company has real-time performance feedback for call center reps, and they are always aware of how well they are doing compared to other call-center staff. They get paid partially on how quickly and on how well they resolve customer issues. Those who have been at the company for more than a year make great pay and have a balanced work life.

New employees, however, face the daunting prospect of meeting the time and quality demands of the position, and many leave. Maxine really wants to understand why some have stayed and what their profile looks like so she can look for others with a similar set of skills.

The issue is how can Maxine 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 Maxine, what would you do in her situation? How can Maxine succeed?

I will collect your responses and print some of them (anonymously) in next week’s article. I will also provide an expert opinion about what Maxine should do.

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


1 Comment on “Maxine’s Challenge

  1. Apparently, Maxine was the wrong hire. The atmosphere and work environment appear to be inconsistent with the skills she brings to the table. Not all recruiters are created equal, and not all recruiters have skillsets that correlate to success in all environments. This call center is looking for an admin-minded Board Scrubber with no real sales, consultation, or persuasion skills. After all, the thought process is to simply provide bodies (‘good, smart people’, although it appears to be a sin to delineate what qualifies someone as ‘good’ or ‘smart’ in the hiring managers’ eyes). In my professional opinion, I’d recommend letting Maureen go and I’d hire an offshore-RPO to scrub boards and toss paper to an temp-employee appointment setter. I imagine you could get a temp in at $15/hr for a 3-mth gig, along with a $3000 investment in a 90-day offshore RPO deal. This would equate to about a $10,800 investment (likely less over 90 days than the fully burdened rate they’re paying Maxine on a W-2 monthly or 1099 basis). The Fallacy of Sunk Cost (and/or Loss Aversion) dictates that it’s better to cut ties and eat a loss than to throw good money after bad.

    However, the question here is not one of the best course of action for the organization – rather, it’s about the best course of action for Maxine (relative to increasing her success). The first thing for Maxine to understand is that ‘success’ is a relative term. In this particular situation, it appears that ‘success’ is about Time-to-Fill and/or # of Hires and nothing else. Quality-of-hire and Retention are not KPIs’ upon which she is judged . . . therefore they only matter to her personally and are obviously not correlated to call-center performance.

    It’s mentioned that Maxine has operated in call-center environments that did not offer the same level of customer service and response time. She needs to let go of the practices that dictated success in lower-performing environments and adapt to those that are prevalent within higher-performing call-center environments. There are many examples of not only call-center environments, but also mfg environments, etc., where the level of automation and repeatable processes allow organizations to be less concerned with Quality-of-Hire than others (for example, Toyota).

    At the end of the day, I’d recommend Maxine clear her mind of practices that led to success in other types of environments and work to adapt to those that enabled continued success within the one she currently resides . . . meaning if she decides to stay. My fear for Maxine is that by assimilating to this environment, she’s commoditizing herself and her rare skillsets (sales, consultation, persuasion) that separate her from the hordes of telephone name generators and board scrubbers out there. In that sense, I’d recommend moving on.

    I’m interested to see if this echos the self-proclaimed ‘expert opinion’ that has been promised as an addendum. I’m also interested in seeing what others think about this scenario.

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