As I get ready for another great ER Expo in Boston (September 28-29, 2005) and a chance to meet old friends and make new ones, some big recruiting questions come to mind. Here’s probably the biggest: While it’s now easier than ever to find the names of highly qualified people, why is it just as difficult as ever to get them hired? Names of top passive people are now quite easy to get. Shally Steckerl and Maureen Sharib know how to do it using every Internet trick imaginable. Even I can do it without too much effort using ZoomInfo, LinkedIn, Jobster and SearchExpo. Name generation is a major technological advance that has shortened the search process by at least 50%. So why is it still so difficult to get top candidates hired on a consistent basis? Despite my early misgivings, some applicant tracking systems are really very good at increasing recruiting productivity. Some have great search engines that easily separate the best from the rest, and some even allow top candidates to apply to a job in a just a few minutes. But even companies with the latest technology and the ability to generate names of top candidates still have great difficulty to get top candidates hired on a consistent basis. Why? I think I have the answer, but for the sake of this analysis I want to eliminate companies that are considered employers of choice and those positions where supply exceeds demand. If a company is an employer of choice, it’s relatively easy to find enough good people. It’s equally easy when supply exceeds demand. In both cases, recruiting is just a matter of separating the good from the bad. In this situation, candidates can be treated in a cavalier manner. But in every other situation, the ability to hire top people on a consistent basis requires six conditions to be present after you’ve gotten the name of the great person:
- Corporate recruiters who are comfortable calling strangers on the phone. Recruiters must be comfortable calling and getting people on the phone. While there are techniques that can make recruiters better at this, hiring passive candidates starts by dialing the phone. Emails won’t do it. This is an excuse for call reluctance. Don’t mistake activity for progress. If you’re reluctant to pick up the phone and call complete strangers, you shouldn’t be a recruiter. At least you shouldn’t be a recruiter for a company that’s not an employer of choice.
- A great job. Just because you can get someone on the phone, there is no chance you’ll be able to get the person’s interest if you don’t have a great job to offer. Of course you can’t tell them about it right away, but that’s a recruiting technique best left to another article. Without a great job, you don’t stand a chance of hiring top performing passive candidates. In most companies, the jobs being offered aren’t any different than those everybody else is offering. To start, you need to differentiate your jobs by making them more exciting, more challenging, and filled with more opportunity. Here’s an article to review for more on preparing these types of jobs.
- Committed hiring managers. This is probably the biggest missing link in the hiring process. While individual recruiters can have some influence on this, making this happen should be a corporate initiative. In my mind, managers should be assessed on how well they recruit, hire and develop their staff. Top people want to work for other top people. Managers who are unprepared, unprofessional, lacking in real insight into job needs, or unwilling to invest the effort into the hiring process shouldn’t be hiring managers. To get around this troublesome issue, I wouldn’t (and don’t) take search assignments where expectations are not clearly spelled out. I also lead the interviewing and debriefing process to ensure that all candidates are accurately assessed.
- Corporate recruiters who know how to use technology. Corporate recruiters should drop the excuse that they have too many reqs to handle ó at least at first. I’ve worked with over 300 corporate recruiters this year, and many do have lots of jobs to handle, but just as many aren’t very well organized. Good corporate recruiting requires:
- Effective use of technology, including total understanding of the company’s applicant tracking system search engine
- Writing compelling and well-placed ads using search engine optimization techniques
- The use of web analytics to track ad performance
- Minimizing sendouts to no more than three or four candidates per assignment
- Automatic scheduling of interviews with managers
Corporate recruiters who don’t do this on every assignment are wasting 30-50% of their time. In my mind, the excuse of “too many reqs” is really the same thing as saying, “I’m not as efficient as I could be.” There are some great tools now available that will help you be more efficient. Somehow, many recruiters don’t want to take the time to learn how to use them. As Bob Dylan said many years ago, “The times they are a changin’.” Unfortunately, too many corporate recruiters are stuck in a time warp. Technology has made great advances in increasing productivity. Recruiters need to jump on board. Of course, if a company doesn’t want to invest in the tools or training, you can retain the “too many reqs” excuse.
- Corporate recruiters who are viewed by their candidates as career counselors. The problem with passive candidates is that they’re passive. They don’t need another job. But they might consider a better job if it offers a true career opportunity. Recruiters must be the conduit for this information. This requires a complete understanding of job needs and a complete understanding of the candidate’s capabilities and personal circumstances. Whew! That’s a lot of work. To pull it off, recruiters need to understand human nature; be diplomatic, assertive, and insightful; be great at interviewing; understand and negotiate complex pay plans; and possess a good understanding of business.
- A rigorous assessment process that prevents hiring mistakes. I used to think that hiring was all about making accurate assessments. I’m not so sure any more. My sense now is that if interviewers go out of their to make sure they’re not making dumb hiring mistakes, they might actually get the right answer. There are two sides to this. One is not hiring someone who just talks a good game. This requires interviewers to peel the onion and dig deep to find out what the person has actually accomplished. (Here’s an article on fact-finding this way.) In the process of piercing the veneer of presentation skills, interviewers will discover some outstanding people who are both competent and motivated to do the work required. On the flip side, avoiding the mistake of eliminating a really good person who isn’t very good at interviewing is another challenge. If judgment about candidate competency can be delayed until the second half of the interview, many good candidates wouldn’t be incorrectly eliminated. I’ve found that when using this “delay and peel” approach to interviewing, about a third of candidates get better and a third get worse. This is a great way to eliminate all common hiring mistakes. In the process, you’ll be only hiring people who are at least fully competent to meet all job requirements.
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5 Ways to Hire Like It’s 2021
Hiring great people requires great recruiters, great jobs, and great hiring managers. From what I’ve seen, it’s still very tough to make one great hire. It’s even tougher systematizing the process. But it’s worth it.