Summer Thoughts: Assessment, Outsourcing, and More

Summer is going into the deepest of its doldrums. Here in the U.S., August is always the month with the least activity, the most vacations, and the hottest weather. Recruiting seems to grind to a halt for many of us. I received so few responses to last week’s column, where I posed some recruiting issues, that I’m going to wait another week to give more of you a chance to respond. I thought I’d take a few paragraphs this week to update you on what I am seeing in the corporate world. Assessment Remains a Hot Topic For more than a year now, I have seen a growing interest in how to filter or screen and assess candidates electronically using the recruiting website. The motive, unfortunately, is rarely quality. It seems that as we have improved websites and developed marketing that drives more candidates to the web, we now receive hundreds of resume where we used to receive handfuls. Physical screening becomes impossible, and service levels for the candidates become even lower than they normally are. The issues around how to screen and assess are now shifting to focus more on which tool or tools should be used. The reality is that there are probably more than 50 different products or companies who offer a range of tools, but few are integrated and fewer offer a “one-stop shop” of tools and services. That means you have to evaluate a variety of vendors and then, ideally, pick two or three. Then you have to have an IT department that is able and willing to help you integrate them into your website. This is frequently a stumbling block. My recommendation: Decide which job functions are most critical to your success and then decide which type of screen or assessment makes the most sense and would be the most useful in helping you or a hiring manager short-list a number of candidates. No organization can develop a single screen for everyone that is going to be really helpful in the long run. The focus could be on screening or assessing for technical skills, culture fit, ability, or competency. or you could choose to develop an online interview. What is key to success is to limit the number of positions you choose to screen for and make those the most critical ones or the ones with the highest volume. The IT Department Is Most Likely Ill-Equipped To Help Given staff cutbacks and a focus on systems to track people and money, IT departments lack the people and the time to help. They may also not understand how to evaluate these screens other than on their IT and technology base. The payback from well-chosen and well-designed screening and assessment tools can be high. These tools can reduce workloads or allow you to redistribute work to more valuable areas, such as selling the candidates on your organization or on building more targeted marketing programs and approaches. It is almost invariably the case that IT and recruiting have different priorities and different strengths, which often causes ill-will or at least some issues between the two functions. My recommendations: You will need some expertise, or you will need to hire some, to help you decide what approach to take. Organizations like Starbucks are hiring professional psychologists as consultants to help them decide what to test and how to do it. It is critical that the tests be the right ones and that they screen for the “right” things or you will have accomplished nothing. Outsourcing Is Becoming More Popular I have seen many organizations choosing to outsource some levels of recruiting. As staffs reduce and demands grow, organizations rush to agencies or other external recruiting sources for help. Again, in a misguided effort to be efficient, they usually outsource the most critical types of positions and focus on finding high-volume, low-contribution people. My recommendations: Some organizations are beginning to question what they outsource. I have developed a matrix that may help you see this. In the matrix a candidate is placed in one of four quadrants according to her contribution to the organization and to how difficult it is to recruit her:

Basically, what this grid suggests is that it is smarter and cheaper to outsource everything on the left-hand side and keep internal everything on the right-hand side, especially the upper-right box. The reason is simple. If you can figure out how to consistently and quickly hire those who make significant contributions to your firm, you will easily earn your keep and the respect of the hiring managers. Focusing on recruiting high-volume, low-contribution people is a lose/lose situation. Many wise organizations have chosen to outsource the recruiting of all administrative staff, call-center people, temporary personnel, and even entry- and mid-level professionals. This frees up experienced recruiters to focus recruiting people into high payback jobs. Just some thoughts and observations. Hope your summer is going well. Relax a bit and get ready for a busy fall. Don’t forget to email me your comments on the case study I presented last week at

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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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