What Successful Recruiters Are Doing Right

team_leader_free_stock_photo_bYesterday I listed seven operational habits that characterize unsuccessful recruiters. In this second part, I examine not only the actions that distinguish the successful recruiters, but also the talent mindset that must be adopted. It is the capacity to embrace a “paradigm shift” in your recruiting philosophy that really determines how successful you will be in your talent acquisition efforts.

First, let’s stop fooling ourselves. 

For the last 20 years, our recruiting game plan has been to post generic job descriptions, and to wait for the superior applicants, the “A Players,” to be drawn to our employment websites like moths to a flame. Sadly, many savvy recruiters have come to realize job descriptions designed for the compensation process are just not adequate for consistently recruiting world-class employees.

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In has been my experience that successful recruiters typically:

  1. “Deep-Six” generic job descriptions. They focus on “romancing” the best passive hires through highly creative advertising and targeting referrals from the two highly effective sources — networking and employees.
  2. Realize no single combination of education and experiences define the “A Players.” Just because a candidate possesses the credentials listed on the posting, there is no guarantee the candidate can actually achieve the deliverables necessary for superior performance in the job. A much better strategy would be for us to work with our hiring managers to identify what success looks like in the position (success profile”). Identify the success deliverables that will be used in the incumbent’s annual performance review and recruit by them. The success profile will be used in job postings and advertising, mandated as an essential element of the cover letter screening process, used in performance-based interviews, and used in the final selection process.
  3. Prefer to have a high yield ratio for each phase of the recruitment process, zeroing in on a relatively small group of candidates who are highly qualified.
  4. Prioritize the only metric that truly matters to our hiring managers … quality of hire.
  5. Communicate a career opportunity and articulate a compelling employee value proposition). Otherwise, how can we motivate a top passive candidate to leave her current employer, uproot her family, and move to a strange city — just to work for us? Recruitment advertising should be written from the point of view of the candidate, not the organization. Good employment advertising describes the factors that are most attractive to “A player” candidates: challenging work that makes a difference, great supervision, advancement opportunities, and working with other stars. If recruitment ads do not contain this type of information (and most don’t), you will have an extremely hard time sourcing and recruiting the best passive candidates.
  6. Use performance-based interviewing rather than behavioral interviewing that is a) severely outdated, and b) focused on behavior and not performance. Volumes of research clearly indicate past performance, not past behavior, is the best predictor of on-the-job success.
  7. Understand poor diversity recruiting is simply a key performance indicator of the overall quality in your recruitment process — the solution is not achieved as an after-the-fact adjustment to your regular recruiting process. Diversity and quality are inseparable. By implementing a compelling value proposition for all your candidates, you will consistently increase the quality of your hires, and — with some minor tweaking — greatly improve the diversity of your hires.

Effective talent acquisition involves sourcing applicants who would not normally see your job ads, engaging candidates who would not otherwise apply for your positions, and poaching top employees from your competitors. If you are not accomplishing these basic objectives, you may want to re-examine some of the habits of the successful recruiters listed above.

Glenn Powell is a speaker, writer, and fervent practitioner of all things HR. At Georgia Regents University, he is charged with the employment equity function, which focuses on creation of an environment which supports a high-quality workforce. He has been an HR business partner at the division, and corporate levels in such diverse industries as mining, chemicals, oil and gas, higher education, and healthcare. His special interest is in performance-based talent acquisition, which he feels is the “silver bullet” for optimizing cost, time, and quality of hire.


9 Comments on “What Successful Recruiters Are Doing Right

  1. Question for you–how you distinguish the difference between performance and behavior. Curious to see how different people describe it.

    1. Performance is measurable results, behavior is just that: behavior, not necessarily tied to an actual result. Performance based interviewing has a focus on what was achieved, how, with who, and in what context. Behaviors are demonstrable via that line of questioning.

      1. Behaviors drive performance though–our tendencies to behave a certain way (research has proven as such). So I think they’re inextricably linked (not as separate as you define) but I do think focusing on results is key. However, it’s important to understand how results are achieved — the means to the end if you will. That gets to culture fit and how work gets done. So yes, behaviors alone, not a good measure. Behaviors + performance? Much stronger IMHO.

        1. They are linked. I think the general issue with ‘behavioral’ interviewing is jack ass types who give you the, “Tell me about a time you…,” approach. It’s easy for anyone of even average intelligence to can answers to those questions. It’s less easy to spin a story when the focus is the job/results and everything surrounding them, and you’re more likely to contradict yourself with canned answers.

          1. That’s if you don’t know how to behavioral interview. Skilled interviewers know how to get to results so canned answers can’t be used.

          2. I agree. Thing is, most people don’t know how to interview. I’ve seen some horror shows you wouldn’t believe, including a family owned business panel interview with members of the family descending into arguments over dinner plans during the interview. Even people who aren’t that insane still don’t actually put much time in figuring out how to interview. I’ve found books on interrogation techniques to be useful, actually. I don’t waterboard people, but understanding how people respond to stress and body language are key aspects to the interview.

  2. Performance=behavior in a purposeful, job-related, context that produces a specific set of results. All this palaver over behavioral vs. performance interviewing is designed to stake out compensable territory for those who like and do behavioral interviewing, but did not come up with it in the first place.

  3. I believe it to be the end result of the behavior. So in the behavioral interviewing process, defining what the net positive business outcome was of the action the candidate took (their behavior).

  4. I have to ask, are these actual observed behaviors in successful recruiters, or cherry picked behaviors that are associated with some successful recruiters, but not others? I ask because some read like recommendations, rather than saying, “Here’s the improvements this/these recruiters saw when they changed from one method to another.” While I would never work there, I know of quite a few fly by night organizations that simply pelt people with resumes until they get a hit, sometimes without talking to the candidates first. They get leverage though because the hiring manager thinks they produce a lot of people, then when they call the candidate there’s already interest and potentially even a preliminary offer with a rate for consulting work. In brief, point by point:

    1) Agreed.

    2) Agreed, however both successful and unsuccessful recruiters are not always in a position to work with hiring managers on this level. Sometimes there’s an account manager in between, sometimes the hiring manager doesn’t want to hear it, but there’s still a fee to be gotten for filling their positon.

    3) Agreed.

    4) Disagree. Many I’ve spoken to don’t even think of this as a metric, much less have the ability to measure it over time. At my last position we did track it. It was decided it would be performance and tenure, and being internal I could track these to a good extent. For agency recruiters this is nigh impossible. Nor is there hard data, for corporate or agency recruiters, as to when the recruiter can and should hand over responsibility for retaining and getting performance ouf of an employee to their manager. The industry standard is 30 to 90 days if you go by guarantee, with some retained firms going to a year.

    5) Disagree. Passive candidates by definition don’t respond to ads; they’re not looking at them. I do think those things should be in ads, but I don’t see the relevance to passive candidates since they’re not reading them.

    6) Agreed.

    7) Disagree. Diversity annoys me, I want the best people for the job, I don’t care where they come from culturally, genderwise, or with regard to sex preference, or anything else that has no bearing on the job. They could be Rocket Raccoon for all I care. Usually a good approach to recruiting results in diversity, it doesn’t always. Most of the IT people I’ve placed over the years were of Romanian or Indian heritage. It was a weirdly homogenous group, but they all performed well.

    While I agree with a lot on this list, maybe ERE could aim one of their surveys at the general recruiting audience and see what we all agreed were best practices, but also ask how often we actually get to implement them.

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