Results of Interactive Exercise

Last week I presented a scenario – which proved all too realistic for many of those who responded. The scenario is reproduced below for those of you who did not see it. More than 50 people responded with their ideas and approaches. Scenario as presented last week:

You’ve been hired to build a recruiting function for a small start-up software company. The company is high tech, but as is usual, the top level executives are the typical “low tech” types who don’t really use or understand the Internet. They think recruiting is a snap — find some people, offer some money, and the rest is just details. You are a one-person HR function with recruiting just one of your many duties. You need to hire more than fifty IT professionals ranging from HTML programmers to C++ coders and project managers. On top of that, there are open positions for sales professionals, technical writers, QC staff and some clerical positions. You can also hire a recruiter or two, on a contract basis, if needed. You could subcontract a lot of this to an agency, but your Management doesn’t really want to pay the fees involved. The pressure is on and you have only a few weeks to fill most of these jobs if the product is to be finished on schedule. Fortunately, salary levels are reasonable and flexible and there are great stock option packages. Your real problem is in how to organize this and source, close, and get these people on board. Where to begin? What systems to use? What processes to put into place? One respondent felt that the task was virtually impossible: “I would like to share my outline of attack, but if you were trying to fill 50 IT positions within a couple weeks in this market, I don’t care if you had 20 recruiters, it would be close to impossible.” Yet, more than a half-dozen of those who responded said they were in similar situations! Like everything else, there are usually ways to approach a situation that will help. Clearly I have presented a gargantuan task – one I hope few every have to go through. But, our creative readers have come up with a number of approaches that I think are useful. I have quoted from many of you (anonymously), and I thank you all for your interest and the time you took to write me. Job Descriptions As this is a start-up company and probably has inexperienced managers and unclear early goals, many felt the first step was to qualify the openings and make sure you have good, clear job descriptions and have ranked and prioritized every job. Most felt that you would have to take a phased approach, targeting the key positions first and leaving the less critical ones for later. This person suggested: “Analyze the hiring needs – who, what, when, and where. Meet with hiring managers to get a better feel of what they want.” I certainly support this approach, but it has to be done very quickly. Time is really the key to being successful in this position, and if prioritizing is going to take a lot of time because of schedules or travel, then I suggest moving forward using your own judgment and past experience. Quality of Hire You want to hire high quality people. To do this you have to make sure the management team understands what is involved. They need to understand that high tech candidates are hard to find in general, and that high quality ones are even scarcer. They also have to realize that a poor hire can be more costly than the time lost looking for a high quality person and that speed, while important, should never win out over skill and ability. One of you wrote: “Ending up with 50 bad hires is the worst thing you could do. Bad hires can develop poor applications that cause for extended down time and destroyed relationships with customers/clients. This will cost more in the long run than delaying the start dates to wait for quality hires. It would be much better to find ways to provide recruiting proper time to thoroughly assess candidates.” I could not agree any more! Sourcing All respondents focused on the need for a broad based approach to generating candidate flow. Many good suggestions were made, and I would probably use any and all of these that made sense in my environment. The Internet, of course, was repeatedly suggested as a source of candidates. One said, “Internet, Internet, Internet. Advertise on sites where tech. people are bound to be.” Others suggested that you use “newsgroups, ListServs, user groups, and related Web/information pages.” Almost all said that posting to job boards and searching the job boards was an important first step. You can start with free ones and then move to those that require payment later. One respondent said, “First and foremost, I would network, network, network. Utilize any and all free job posting sights I encounter on a local basis.” The most common advice was to hire an outside recruiting agency or a few contractors to get you started quickly. One respondent said: “Agencies are a must if the corporation expects hires within a short period of time. In order to do the recruiting, all avenues must be used.” There are services such as those offered by Omni Partners that provide full sourcing and screening services for you. By using a service such as this, you can spend time on other issues. Another person suggested contacting The NACCB (National Association of Computer Consultant Businesses). He felt that this “would be a good resource for your 1 person HR department. They can connect him/her with quality staffing and consulting firms in his/her area that can jump start the process.” Other suggested holding career fairs or an open house to generate candidate flow, along with establishing a well-funded employee referral program. A person in Boston responded saying: “I would do an open house ad with additional advertising on radio. Living in Boston, I would also advertise on public transportation. Would even consider renting billboard space on a major highway near the corporate location.” Another suggestion was to “find out where the next closest tech show is and set up a booth with marketing materials and two recruiters walking around recruiting the crowd before they get to any other booths.” Screening But once candidates start to appear, it is just as important to have a process for interviewing them and making offers quickly. Most technical candidates today have somewhere between 5-7 offers and are in and out of the job market within 7 days. There is no time for delay. This respondent has the right idea: “Get the hiring managers to commit to certain days that are reserved for interviews so you can have the candidates scheduled back-to-back to get the numbers needed.” But, it may be necessary to help the managers because, as one respondent said so well, “Information flow is very, very high level; and the management is very, very, very, young; inexperienced in interviewing; selection process…” This is a common situation and, when managers are inexperienced, the recruiter will have to be sure that initial screening is very robust and that ANY candidate a manager selects will be a reasonable fit for the organization. Miscellaneous Other factors that were mentioned included having the proper computer tools to track candidates and to establish good systems for dealing with interview scheduling, offer letters and background checks. The managers have to be able to make offers almost on the spot. Pay and benefits have to be appropriate to the market and to your needs. But probably this person sums up the essence of the problem: “I think the biggest task will be to “educate” the top level executives that recruiting is so much more than getting a “warm” body to perform job functions. Keeping them informed all along the way will more than open their eyes to the complexity of what has to happen in the recruiting process.” Ultimately, your credibility and your ability to grow and prosper in the company will depend on how well you do THIS, more than how well you find the people. If you are a bit slow in filling positions, but do so with great people you will be a winner. Good luck!

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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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