Take Responsibility, Don’t Wait for Direction!

In some ways, we recruiters feel we have limited control over who our companies hire. We find the best candidates for the job, and then its up to the hiring manager to make his or her best decision, right? Wrong! We have a whole lot more influence then we want to admit. Most of the time we don’t flex our “expertise” muscles enough. Hiring managers are looking for direction (even if they don’t want to admit it). They want to know that you bring an expertise to the table that they don’t have, though sometimes they need to be reminded of this fact! So how should we take responsibility for hiring great people? How confident are you that you are finding the best people and not just choosing from the best that have come to you? You are probably all tired of me harping on the topic of workforce planning. Well, I apologize but I have to do it again. While I’m at it, I’m going to also talk about hiring from the candidate’s perspective. Profile, Profile, Profile I think most of you would agree that more time is spent on identification and decision making than on the creation of the profile, requisition, or specification. How many of you actually get involved in the process of needs assessment? I’m not talking about pulling the best job description out of a book, I’m talking about profiling the best people in your organization to see what competencies and skill sets they have. What patterns did you find? Did you share them with the hiring manager? Do they match what the hiring manager has asked you to locate? If you’ve ever done this, I’ll bet the top performers you profiled had varied types of experience and backgrounds. If you dug any further you’d find that their success lies in things other than their experience. However, I also bet that most hiring managers ask you to go find candidates with certain, specific types of experience. But patterns of behavior linked to success usually come from identification of competencies and skills?? not experience! In addition, profiling your organization will enable you to reduce the identification and decision making time. With that said, most recruiters will still wait for a hiring manager to tell them what they need and not bother with an assessment. In a hiring environment where there are more candidates than jobs, several things happen as a result of this. Both hiring managers and recruiters need a way to narrow down the number of candidates for each open position. With increased administration, and probably less staff, this must happen without weeding out truly great candidates. It can also be easy to fall prey to hiring managers who like a candidate you show them but ask, “Can we find one like that for less pay?” “Don’t Show Me Any Candidates Unless They Have All 437 Qualifications…” I admit, it’s tempting. Serves those candidates right for the way they acted during the last hiring boom. However, as I mentioned above, if you’re not using the right criteria to weed out candidates, you’re not doing yourself (or your company) any favors. For kicks, let’s play, “Which of these is the most important?” in the job description for a field sales representative below:

  1. Proven results in meeting or exceeding quotas
  2. At least xx years experience in selling (name specific type of product here)
  3. Proven experience in selling ROI and value vs. selling on price
  4. An extensive rolodex (contacts at major accounts)

“A” is a good qualification and an easy way to weed out candidates (how much, when, growth, etc). “C” is also good, because (among other things) it means that the sales rep could preserve the profit margin for your corporation. However, while “B” and “D” can be a good way to narrow the group of candidates to a manageable size, they will not result in a more qualified group of candidates. The ability to sell is far more important than product knowledge. In fact, product knowledge is the easiest thing for a company to teach, and the ability to make contacts is far more important than bringing them with you (which can also get you in trouble). There are always exceptions to the rule. For example, if grabbing market share from competitors is the number one goal for the company, then “D” could be good, but also very dangerous. Your assessments may show that people who come from a certain company have proven to be successful in yours (and if so, step up your employee referral program!) Even then, I suggest that you look at what skill set or values that company taught its employees so you can duplicate them in yours. One question I like to ask hiring managers when they give me an overly specific list of experience a candidate must have for a particular job is, “What’s your background?” The point is: understand that the criteria you require a candidate to have must be a meaningful way to find more qualified individuals, and not simply a way to reduce the number which you are required to look at. How To Make Recommendations Below are ways that will help you to make a difference at your company:

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  1. Know your company’s business. This is the only way you can provide valuable advice when choosing candidate qualifications. I don’t care if you’re a contract recruiter or an in-house recruiter: If you don’t know what makes your company tick you might as well randomly pull resumes from a file.
  2. Know the factors for success for each position you’re searching for. Understand the basics for success and how they can be quantified. Know how the business is being measured, and it will give you insight into how the position will be measured.
  3. Ask questions. Find out the reasons behind why a hiring manager is asking for candidates with certain backgrounds. Is it based on sound business reasoning (i.e., will this individual’s background/experience fill a gap that is currently missing)? Don’t take everything at face value. Be the expert. Have ideas on how you will help the company reach its objectives. Sometimes more bodies doing the same thing is the recipe for failure!
  4. A clear criteria is better for candidates. Speak in business terms. Language, when used correctly, can be a screening tool. I’m not talking about acronyms, but language specific to different job positions can be used to determine whether a candidate knows what he or she is talking about.
  5. Articulate deliverables in your job descriptions. Include six-month goals and objectives and compare them to what you think the candidates can accomplish.
  6. Have a workforce plan! (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

The bottom line is you will never be considered a resource if you simply take direction and don’t truly understand what constitutes a good candidate for a particular position and why. I’ve talked to recruiters who are afraid to question why a hiring manager wants to see certain candidates, and will even go so far as to admit to preferring certain candidates who they think would be great at the job, but who are not what the hiring manager wants (i.e. they don’t meet the qualifications, overqualified, etc). If this has happened to you, you might need to remind yourself who the expert in recruiting is. Conclusion One more thing to remember: as tempting it might be, don’t get greedy. Just because you can get an over-titled or over-experienced candidate to interview for a job, it doesn’t mean you should. Remember to find out why they are interested in the job. In these times you are not helping your company or candidate if they have the wrong motivations. A good fit is a good fit?? in any economy. Use the same hiring practices, no matter what the state of the economy. Plan ahead, and use solid workforce planning to help even out the highs and lows. Don’t be afraid to question hiring methods and involve hiring managers in discussions about candidate criteria. This is the only way that you can become a true resource to your hiring managers and within your company in general. If you really know what you’re doing, don’t be afraid to say so.

Michael McNeal (michael@purecarbon.com) is the Chief Industry Evangelist and co-founder of PureCarbon. Michael McNeal has been involved in fast-paced, high-volume staffing within the high-tech industry for the past 16 years. He became senior director of corporate employment worldwide for Cisco Systems in June 1996, where he developed a recruitment strategy modeled after successful business and marketing strategies. McNeal often speaks at national conferences about non-traditional recruitment methods and how the Internet can be used to remain competitive, and was recognized with Fast Company magazine?s "Who?s Fast ?99" award (issue 20). PureCarbon is the creator of JobPlanet, which was recognized as a "Top Ten Human Resource Product" of 2000 by Human Resource Executive magazine. More information about PureCarbon and JobPlanet can be found at www.purecarbon.com.

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