There’s Going To Be a Revolution

Dateline: New York City. Sometime in the distant future. Band of 176 Recruiters Start the Hiring Revolution This is a strange but true tale about 176 conspirators who started the hiring revolution. Their objective was nothing less than making hiring top talent a formal Six Sigma process. In 2003, this was unthinkable. If you can believe it,

at that time, companies posted ads on job boards (whatever they were), then filtered and screened the resumes in some illogical fashion based on skills, experience, and keywords. With this stack of poorly sorted resumes in hand, recruiters started calling people in some haphazard fashion to see if some were acceptable. How quaint. We all owe a debt of gratitude to this brave band of forward-looking revolutionaries who initiated the hiring processes we have in place today. Now companies can confidently ensure hiring top people for every open position. How this happened is a worthy tale we can pass on to our children and grandchildren of how hard work, courage, and vision will eventually pay off. The facts as presented below were gleaned from the archives of ERE. As we can best determine, ERE was a highly-regarded secret society of corporate and third-party recruiters. It was founded around the turn of the 21st century in the hardened streets of Brooklyn, New York. As typical of most secret societies of that era, members were a loose (some say motley) collection of forward-looking recruiters and recruiting managers. In mid-2003, according to our best guess, a long-forgotten neo-moderate hippie radical convinced 176 of the best and bravest of these ERE recruiters to form a band dedicated to the overthrow of the bureaucratic, illogical, and inefficient hiring process of the day. The hiring revolution started with a 12-point manifesto, or set of guiding principles. As of today, we could only find eight of these points. They are summarized below. The rest are still unknown despite intense research on our part. As you’ll soon discover, what appears totally sound and logical today was downright blasphemous in 2003. You’ll need to make your own decision as to how brave and courageous these people were so long ago. From our vantage point, they were all heroes. Guiding Principles of the Hiring Revolution

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  1. Don’t take a search assignment unless you know the real job. At the time, most job descriptions were not job descriptions at all ó they were people descriptions. They listed skills, experience, education and personality traits, instead of what the person was supposed to do. To take matters in their own hands, the Band of 176 refused to take on any new search assignments unless their hiring manager clients told them exactly what the person taking the job needed to do to be considered successful. This fundamental change was the turning point of the hiring revolution. Today, all job descriptions clearly list the top six to eight performance objectives in priority order and how they relate to the company’s strategy and vision. Today, we know that by clarifying expectations this way, and making the jobs meaningful, it’s much easier to find people who are both competent and energized to do the work required.
  2. Overthrow the job board/ATS axis of evil. Job boards and their tracking system were not designed to hire top talent ó they were designed to manage all of the unqualified candidates and eliminate the least qualified. During 2003 and 2004, the Band of 176 developed new specs for job boards and ATSs that eventually became the standards of great performance. Those job boards and ATS vendors that followed these new revolutionary standards experienced double-digit growth for many years. They went on to become the darlings of Wall Street. Those that continued to process data better and focused on improving the wrong problem are now long forgotten.
  3. Design hiring systems to meet the needs of top employees, not top candidates. Top employees (those who work hard, initiate and anticipate change, cooperate and lead others, and solve problems) are not the same as top candidates (prepared, good skills, great first impression, enthusiastic, assertive). Top employees need more information. They are more discriminating; they don’t respond to traditional recruiting techniques. They need more convincing, and they decide with others. Hiring processes need to take these differences into account, and the Band of 176 was the first to systematize the differences. Even today, you find a few companies that still base their hiring systems on the needs of the wrong pool of candidates. They’re great examples of what not to do: boring, hard to find, skills-based ads; unnecessary filtering or silly questions; informal, unsophisticated employee referral programs; lack of consistent interviewing and assessment methods; and fourth-grade closing techniques. It’s hard to believe some of these dinosaurs are still around.
  4. Do first things first. (I think they adapted this one from someone named Stephen Covey). While obvious today, a recruiter’s work day is based on the priority of the tasks involved, not on the phase of the requisition process. The most important and urgent work must be done first. This includes calling the best new candidates for any job within minutes of them applying for a position. While ATSs now provide this capability routinely without any filtering, this was not the case in 2003. Moving strong candidates daily through the hiring process is also a high priority activity. The Band of 176 came up with daring new solutions to make sure that no strong candidate ever got ignored or overlooked, that the best people got processed immediately, and that hiring managers altered their schedules to meet the needs of the these top people. This simple change in priorities helped ensure that companies didn’t lose their best potential new employees to their more fleet-footed competitors.
  5. Raise the bar for everyone. The best people don’t want to be hustled through the hiring process as if it were a timeshare tour or sign-the-bottom-line affair. More professional and tougher interviews actually enhance the allure of the job. High standards of performance coupled with challenges that only a few can meet are actually more alluring than compensation. Listening to a candidate describe his or her accomplishments in great detail is more important than talking or selling. Making sure that candidates understand what’s expected of them, and what they can expect in terms of job stretch, is a win-win that few companies of the day actually thought was important. In the rush to fill positions, this was just a another basic fundamental aspect of human nature that was ignored.
  6. Spend more time on finding the best, not the rest. Back in 2003, more companies spent most of their recruiting resources targeting active candidates. Too much time was spent trying to eliminate too many unqualified candidates to find a few good people. The Band of 176 initiated the recruiting process now commonly referred to as “semi-sourcing.” Using theme-based, compelling advertising that was highly visible to the target population, these recruiters were able to find top semi-active candidates quickly. As you remember, semi-active candidates are gainfully employed and only look when their jobs become less than satisfying. Sourcing for semi-passive candidates also became an art form back in 2004. Today, formalized and proactive networking with employees, vendors, associates, and candidates is how most companies fill most of their new positions. This is just another example of how the Band of 176 became part of our recruiting folklore.
  7. Take control to prevent mistakes. As it was then, and is still true today, hiring top people is less about systems and more about people ó recruiters, candidates, hiring managers, other interviewers. Good candidates sometimes say dumb things. Sometimes they get nervous. Many times they have to be convinced that your job is the best among competing offers. Hiring managers sometimes make superficial assessments (they still do), or conduct hasty, poorly thought-out interviewers. Many of those on the hiring team are not very good at assessing competency, but they still have an equal vote. Recruiters need to take control of the hiring process to minimize these potential people-induced mistakes. This means they must lead panel interviews, lead the assessment process, and lead the salary negotiation and closing process. The less recruiters involve themselves, the less likely the best person will get hired. The Band of 176 demanded control. They were able to systemize the process of hiring top talent by making sure that a strong recruiter was always involved from beginning to end to eliminate all of the dumb mistakes along the way.
  8. Make hiring a solution, not a transaction. We’re not sure what this means. Our best guess is that while top employees see a new job as the start of something important, most hiring systems of the day were set up to make getting the job the end game. They were too transactional. They basically ignored the motivating needs of top people for the sake of getting a job filled with any person at the lowest cost, not with the best person. Although we take this for granted now, the best people back in 2003 also made the decision to accept an offer based on an opportunity to grow, implement change, and be part of something important. It seems that these old-era hiring systems were too focused on compensation, the level of skills and experience the candidate possessed, not spending too much money, and how soon the person could start (we couldn’t believe this, either). Now we craft career solutions that offer everyone a chance to maximize their potential and performance. As we can best guess, this idea was talked about a lot, but never really implemented until the hiring revolution really gained a national following.

Today, this partial list of the guiding principles of the hiring revolution seems tame. But in 2003 it was truly earth-shattering. We are all indebted to the Band of 176. They were true revolutionaries. These brave, courageous recruiters had to suffer the laughter of critics to make hiring top talent a systematic Six Sigma process. Each of our own companies’ growth and national prosperity is in many ways due to their unheralded efforts. We are reminded yet again what it takes to implement real fundamental change: hard work, persistence, overcoming obstacles, vision, resisting the easy course, and enduring the ridicule of peers. Making the hiring of top talent a systematic business process was no easy task. The Band of 176 made it possible. This is the story of our heroes. We thank them all. (Note: If you?d like to help make hiring top people a Six Sigma business process join the band of 176. Feel free to submit a point or two for our hiring revolution guiding principles. As you know I?m starting my national hiring revolution Zero-based Hiring tour on September 25, 2003 in LA. Then it?s on to Chicago on October 15, and the rest of the country over the next 12 months (here’s our Zero-based Hiring tour schedule). I look forward to meeting you in person at one of our tour stops. There needs to be a revolution. Help get it started. Become a hero.)

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).

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