We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Requisitions, Part 2

In my last article I went and kicked poor defenseless little requisitions all over the staffing beach, accusing them of being the cause of everything from world hunger and pestilence to the expansion of my waistline. As anticipated, lots of people wrote to me and said, “You missed the point. What about communication, workforce planning, compliance, and posting for active candidates?” In this article, we will review some of those uses of requisitions, the underlying causes for the requisition’s place in this process, and some possible alternatives. First, I would like to clarify the main point of the previous article: my problem is not with requisitions. My problem is with what requisitions mean to most internal corporate staffing organizations, and with how they are used. To reiterate: Requisitions are bad because they are used as a way to control cost and risk. In this role, they are redundant to the offer approval process and they pigeonhole recruiters into a “wait until finance tells us its okay to do our jobs” sort of role. Recruiters are not administrators (or they won’t be for long, since administration is non-strategic and will get outsourced ó but that’s for another article), and the requisition as we know it now is typically used as an administrative control device. There may in fact be legitimate uses for the requisitions (like EEO/OFCCP compliance), but then we should all recognize that the staffing department is not trying to solve a sales or talent problem; it is trying to solve an administration problem. In order to make a closer inspection of this concept, let’s review some of the most common reasons people stick with using requisitions and examine other possible alternatives, as well as instances when a requisition may be appropriate: Communication Initiation “How are you supposed to know there is a need if you don’t get official communication of the need in the form of a requisition?” That question is indicative of how all too often the requisition becomes an excuse for the initiation of a conversation between the recruiter and the hiring authority. If this is always the case in your organization, then you are letting the use of requisitions prove to senior management that your staffing organization is nothing more than a tactical, administrative, transaction-based service which is more than likely too expensive for the results it gets. As strategic sales professionals in the talent arena, recruiters must constantly be in conversation with their internal buyer (hiring authorities). The recruiting professional must be at the table when the business plan is developed so that they know what business problems the hiring authorities are attempting to solve, and how the application of talent helps solves those problems. This ongoing information exchange will be the true communication backbone needed to develop sourcing and recruiting strategies. If done right, the requisition is nothing more than an affirmation of information that has been exchanged on a consistent and regular basis. Here at Electronic Arts, talent and HR management is involved in the business planning process right from the beginning. While we know that plans change, we tend to have a pretty clear view of what types of positions are needed to drive our business, and we source for those positions constantly, whether there is an open requisition or not. When a requisition does open, we understand it as a financial control necessity, not the go-ahead to do our jobs. So, in short, a requisition is a HORRIBLE excuse to start communication. If you have to wait to that point before you know your organization’s talent needs, you are probably already behind. Process Initiation and Time Saving “Why would I be spending my time on something that may or may not be a real need? Requisitions force hiring authorities to define their needs before they get to me.” As a sales professional, you must constantly evaluate how you spend your time (just like any other sales professional). You need to ensure that you aren’t chasing phantom needs and opportunities. So there may be specific cases where you’d want to use the requisition as a way to bludgeon the hiring manager into a place where they have to clarify what hiring needs they really have. If this is the case, however, what you are saying is that you don’t understand your client’s needs well enough to be able to stop them from wasting your time. For instance, if a hiring authority says, “Go find me a java engineer,” and you know for a fact that they are just sending you on a wild goose chase, which is the best response?

  • “Sure, once you get me an approved req I’ll start working on that. (Jerk.)”
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  • “I have seen your business plan and it doesn’t say that you will be in the development business. Can you please clarify why you believe you have this need?”

It may be tempting to use the requisition as an excuse to get the hiring authority off your back, but all you are doing is covering up a bigger issue that will eventually have to be settled: Most hiring authorities need a senior talent sales consultant to help them understand how they can execute their business plan through the right talent acquisition and management processes and solutions. They are not looking for policy police. One-Offs “There’s a new hiring manager, hiring for a position that is a one-off. We don’t post or actively source for the position she is looking for. Why can’t I use the req as a way of controlling that process?” All recruiting professionals get handed one-offs. One-offs are defined as non-typical organizational hiring needs where it is either impossible or inadvisable to build pipeline ahead of demand. There is no forecast of need, and no way to be at the table to figure it out ahead of time. In this case, the requisition really serves as a purchase order ó I (the organization) agree to spend our resources (your time) on this, and I wanted to make sure that all the hoops were jumped through and I had agreement on everyone’s part before I started you on this process. In other words, this is an instance where cost and risk control ARE an important part of the game. But the real question here is, why use a requisition and not a job order (purchase order) to a TPR? If you do a back-of-the-envelope cost/benefit analysis, you will probably find that if the position is truly a one-off that is not being sourced through active or passive channels (which may be an indication that it is not a strategic position to the organization, and therefore not worth burning the staffing department’s time and money on), then a TPR might very well be more cost effective. Electronic Arts constantly evaluates its business processes and solutions regarding one-offs and non-standard positions. We maintain solid relationships with many TPRs because we know that it may be more cost and resource effective to use them for a search rather than try to force-fit an internal recruiter into a position for which they aren’t comfortable or prepared. Active Candidate Attraction “How am I supposed to post my position on my internal or external job board if I don’t have a req to work from?” This is a common question, but a misleading one. What you are really asking is “My ATS makes me use the requisition as a vehicle to post the jobs I am sourcing for, so how can I source for jobs without a requisition?” Most enterprise recruiting technologies require a requisition to create a posting. This leads recruiting professionals to create “sourcing” or “ghost” reqs that make flow-through and process reporting a nightmare. Remember, reqs are a cost and risk control vehicle. They are not a sourcing vehicle. Just because the job description is on the req, that doesn’t mean a req should be required for job posting. This is an example of using the req as an ugly transmogrification of the sourcing initiation process to fit the technical or data architecture of the selected ATS. ATS vendors will eventually move away from the “track to req” functionality and back to the system roots where transaction data is tracked to a candidate first and a hiring need second. EEO/OFCCP Compliance “How are we supposed to track for EEO/OFFCP purposes if we don’t have a req to track against?” EEO/OFCCP compliance is about risk management. We can argue all day long about whether organizations should see compliance as an opportunity to build a better workforce. The simple fact is that most organizations are undertaking EEO/OFCCP compliance because the cost and risk of not doing so is greater than the cost and risk of following the rules. Counter-intuitively, regulations that are designed to get the staffing department’s spotlight squarely on candidate qualities in fact usually has just the opposite effect: getting just enough information to form a bullet-proof defense against a plaintiff’s action. Since a req is a collection point for all the data needed to form that defense, it could be said that the needs of the req and the needs of the organization are antithetical to each other. Again, we can argue about regulations and their effects. My point is just that compliance is in fact the one area where a req is essential. But requiring sales professionals (recruiters) to protect their organizations from legal issues by engaging in liability administration is not the same thing as saying, “Reqs are needed for recruiters to do their jobs.” As I have reiterated several times, to the extent that a recruiter’s job is administrative, it will be outsourced. Requisitions are cost and risk control documents, created for the days when recruiting was just a bunch of paper-pushing administrators. In today’s world of the recruiting professional as talent sales consultant, the requisition has largely outlived its usefulness, and usually does more harm than good. We all need to be pushing the boundaries of the tools and processes we use to serve our clients. As part of that innovation, we need to look at new methods for initiating conversations with hiring authorities, controlling when our clients are wasting our time, and managing the risk of EEO/OFCCP compliance.

Jeff Hunter (jjhunter@ea.com) is the director of global talent technologies at Electronic Arts (EA), where he is accountable for the selection and implementation of services and business processes surrounding the innovative technologies that EA uses to win in its global war for talent. Throughout Jeff's 20 years of business experience he has consistently focused on using technical innovation and business imagination to solve difficult technical, process, resource and corporate strategy challenges. In various capacities as a CEO, COO, and founder of various software and services companies, he has worked with many of the leading enterprise software companies in the recruiting space, as well as many of the largest employers. Jeff has a patent pending in the area of information retrieval technology and has been published and spoken on the subject of corporate, technology, and HR strategy.

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1 Comment on “We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Requisitions, Part 2

  1. Jeff – You have articulated this point extremely well. I have seen requisitions used for everything from a headcount control tool to a crutch for recruiters who are not really sure what they are doing.

    The irony is that in most cases its all about cost control. But the nature of a requisition, with an elongated approval process, is so reactive that by the time a recruiter takes action the pressure is so great to fill it, the cost to hire will go up because we might need to run a big ad or pay an agency fee.

    I look forward to your next article.

    Best regards,
    Ed

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