Run Recruiting Like a Factory Manager if You Want to Hire More Top Prospects

I’ve been around a lot of years, and I can’t remember a time when recruiters, recruiting managers, hiring managers, HR executives, and company leaders didn’t complain about the lack of good candidates. When the Internet and job boards came along, we were promised the solution was at hand.

But more than a dozen years later, the problems in finding talent have gotten worse, not better. I’m going to suggest that sourcing is not the problem, and that much of the solution has nothing to do with seeing more candidates.

I equate hiring top performers as a business process similar to manufacturing. My early industry background was in high-volume consumer electronics and automotive components, so this comparison is easy for me to make. In a factory when you have excessive scrap you need to either buy extra raw materials or reduce the scrap rate. This is not rocket science, but somehow the obvious seems to be overlooked when it comes to hiring.

(Note: in this article substitute prospects or candidates whenever you read the term “raw materials.”)

When sourcing is viewed as a factory, with prospects coming in at the receiving dock and accepted offers coming out of shipping, you quickly notice two problems. One, the raw material is incorrectly specified or over-specified, and two, the process used to convert the raw material into accepted offers is based more on emotion than science.

In a factory, excessive scrap is usually due to a combination of bad material specs, inconsistent processes, and weak controls. In hiring, these are equivalent to weak job descriptions, managers who evaluate the wrong things incorrectly, and the lack of metrics.

This requires recruiters to find more raw materials than necessary. This becomes problematic when recruiters over-rely on boring advertising and unsophisticated selling techniques to attract a diminishing supply of coveted raw materials.

To make matters worse, when finalists are selected and offers are about to be made, recruiters and managers stumble through some clumsy closing process either paying too much or losing the candidate to a more professional and astute buyer. When viewed in this light, the idea of buying more raw materials or looking for more candidates makes no sense until the rest of the processes are fixed.

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Here are 20 common non-sourcing problems (if you have more than 10, fix your sourcing scrap rate before you look for more raw materials):

  • Job descriptions are boring.

  • Managers over-specify skills, experience, academics and industry background.

  • Application process is too long and top candidates opt-out.

  • Managers don’t spend enough time clarifying real job needs.

  • Managers refuse to see good candidates, because they don’t have exactly the right background.

  • Managers exclude good candidates due to incorrect assessments.

  • Managers don’t respond quickly enough when resumes are sent to them.

  • Good candidates are unimpressed with our interviewing process.

  • Good candidates are unimpressed with the hiring manager.

  • Good candidates want to know the comp before talking.

  • Passive candidates want to know the details of the job before even talking.

  • Recruiters over-rely on skills and experience to screen candidates.

  • ATS system is cumbersome to use.

  • Candidates increasingly are rejecting offers or accepting other offers or better offers.

  • We can’t attract the best people with our comp packages.

  • Recruiters can’t smoothly handle most candidate concerns.

  • Relocation is a problem.

  • We can’t move fast enough to decide & make offers.

  • Managers aren’t responsive or involved enough.

  • We never have enough time to do it right.

Avoid Preventable Issues

How many unnecessary extra candidates do you need to find to overcome all of the good candidates who were lost for the above preventable reasons? Many of these non-sourcing problems are attributed to weak planning, lack of training, dumb policies, bad processes, and inadequate technology.

When viewed from this perspective, it’s apparent that there is a lot of non-sourcing stuff that can be done to help reduce the need to see more candidates.

But this is still only half of the problem. If you have more than 10 of the following sourcing-related problems, improving your scrap rate will help, but not enough to solve the problem completely.

Sourcing-Related Problems

  • The quality and quantity of candidates from job boards is declining.

  • We use the same sourcing methods every year.

  • Our advertising is boring and out-dated.

  • Our job ads are just cut-and-paste versions of our boring job descriptions.

  • Ads are hard to find by top people who are casually looking.

  • Ads are found, but top candidates don’t apply.

  • Our ads don’t describe a compelling value proposition.

  • Our ads are filled with disqualifiers and little about what’s in it for the candidate.

  • Our ads are written to exclude bad people not attract good people.

  • Our career website is difficult to navigate and search for jobs.

  • We don’t use web analytics to track response by ad.

  • We have not search engine optimized our site or our ads.

  • Our ads don’t always come up first on the job boards we use.

  • Good candidates say they’re “not interested” early in the process.

  • We don’t get enough high-quality referrals.

  • Too many voice-mails are needed to get callbacks.

  • We make too many cold calls to passive candidates.

  • High-potential candidates with slightly different skills would not naturally apply to our ads.

  • Our CRM system and resume database is difficult to use and not very effective.

  • Our employees don’t proactively seek out great people to refer.

Too many companies try to solve their hiring problems with a new sourcing-idea-of-the-month program. This is like applying a Band-Aid when major surgery is required.

Instead, think big and fix your scrap rate problems first and then start posting compelling ads in exactly the same places. Before you know it, your talent factory will be humming along.

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).


9 Comments on “Run Recruiting Like a Factory Manager if You Want to Hire More Top Prospects

  1. Love the post Lou. As ever so many wise things for employers and external recruiters to consider.

    I have to say I have used some of your thoughts on Want to be a Big Biller? – a social newtork for recruiters looking to raise their game!

    I also see that your words would have impact with the employee who is struggling to identify talent for their business, or indeed when they look at their future career path. I recently started Future Career Network as an environment that takes the professional away from LinkedIn, Ecademy etc where free communication is controlled into a more social portal where openness of information is the goal.

    Im sure you get asked, and I know you are busy but but if you ask Scott Baxt I hope he will say nice things about me. I would be very interested in you providing content to either or both of my recently launched networks.

    I know this is a bit pushy, but I will send you invites to Want to be a Big Biller? and Future Career Network. If you decide to join and engage that would be great.


    Gavin Chase

  2. Thanks for the post Lou,

    I never really subscribed to the idea that hiring is like manufacturing or “supply chain”, other then “manufacturing interviews”. How do you inventory a product (Candidates) when the deatails about that Candidate and their intrerest are ever changing? I’m not aware of any company in the world that will only manufacture a product one time, as retooling would not be cost effective.

    I have always held value in the similarities of hiring to Call Centers, particularly the sourcing or “Lead Generation” part of the cycle.

    I agree with your point: “Induction of Candidates into a broken process will yield nothing new”. However, the points you address as (Sourcing Problems) don’t really have anything to do with (Sourcing), rather postings, and advertising? Inbound rather then Outbound.

    Here is how I see it… It’s about 2 things.

    1.) Qualification (Hard/Soft Skills)
    2.) Engageability (Can you get the candidate)

    Qualification is the Art of Recruiting as decisions to hire, span the entire human emotional spectrum, and how a recruiter manages this is artistic.

    Engageability is the overlooked part of Sourcing / Recruiting which can be pinned down to a Science with some fiendishly clever use of existing information on the web.

    The goal really is to identify the metric on if a candidate would most likely be receptive to a call before you make it. What are all the influencers weighing on that candidate? –Not enough space to explain all this here. But I will say that Sales call centers have been effectivley doing this for years.

    This is why I view hiring resemblences to Sales rather then manufacturing.

    My 2cents


  3. Great post Lou — it’s interesting to understand just how many challenges the recruiting world faces these days.

    Trends like this create opportunities for the rest of us!

  4. I found that two reasons prevents recruting from being a factory or supply chain:

    1) Volume. Factories produces large volume of products every day, week, month.
    2) Standardization. Manufactured prodcuts must have specific standard from start to end.

    That explains why recruiting large volume low level workers is much easier than recruiting middle to senior level people.

    While you have small volume, different positions to fill, it’s similiar to a product modeling stage. In manufacturing world, product modeling is small in vlume, very expensive and usually hand made.

    In my view, factory like recruiting is only achivable in low-middle end specilized volume hiring.


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