Who Are the Despicable Mes in Recruiting?

Bits of carbon on a white background (carbon totem)The combination of the popular “Despicable Me” movies and the Christmas season made me think about who in the recruiting process should get “a lump of coal” in their stockings for their naughty behavior. Obviously any list like this that identifies problem-causers involves some generalizations, because there are always some individual exceptions. However, in any field there are individuals who hold certain job titles that all-too-often remind me of the lead character Gru in the Despicable Me movies.

Those who qualify for the Despicable Me label on my list include recruiters, other individuals who impact recruiting, and even a few recruiting tools. I’d like to open what I hope is a continuing discussion with my personal “Despicable Me top 10+ list”. The list is broken into two categories: recruiters and those who contribute to the recruiting effort.

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You May Be a Despicable Me Recruiter If You Are …

  1. A “same-way-every-time” recruiter — a major recruiter training organization once took the time to track how much the sourcing and recruiting approach used by individual recruiters varied depending on the job they were recruiting for. Unfortunately they (and I) have found that the approach used changes very little when recruiting completely different job families and organizational levels. This “same way every time” approach severely damages the likelihood of the firm getting a quality hire.
  2. A “gut recruiter” — these despicable recruiters are everywhere. They use their gut to decide the best approach, rather than data. That might have been okay a decade ago, but now everyone needs to learn to follow the Google analytic approach and only use the tools and approaches that have data proving their effectiveness. Market research is another type of data that gut recruiters don’t bother with. Rather than assuming that they know how top candidates look for a job, what will trigger them to apply, and what they require before they will accept a job, recruiters need to use market research (prospect, candidate, and new hire surveys) to accurately understand their target.
  3. An internally focused recruiter — even though recruiting is highly competitive, many recruiters are simply unaware of what their talent competitors are doing. You simply can’t be a great recruiter unless you conduct competitive analysis so that you know for each open job when your competitor is also in the market, what approaches they are using, and how to guarantee that your recruiting approach provides your firm with a competitive advantage.
  4. A fad-following recruiter — these recruiters jump on every new approach and fad simply because it’s new. Trying new things is a good idea but only if you use quality-of-hire metrics to quickly find out “what actually works” and what is simply the latest vendor- or consultant-generated fad. 

You May Be a “Despicable Me” Contributor If You Are … 

  1. A recruiting leader who doesn’t measure quality of hire — measuring the quality of hire (the on-the-job performance and the retention rate of new hires) is essential for making a strong business case, identifying great recruiters, and for determining which sources and recruiting tools are most effective. As a result, a recruiting leader who fails to get it done would be No. 1 on my “Despicable Me” list.
  2. A hiring manager who is “too busy” — these despicable managers are simply too busy to find time to approve job descriptions, to review resumes, or to schedule interviews. Many also change their mind about what they’re actually looking for so often that recruiters have to change direction 180 degrees on a regular basis. If you’re looking for the most frequent and impactful barrier to quality hiring, these managers have to be No. 2 on the contributor list.
  3. A dull position-description creator — if the position description doesn’t excite, you will simply fail to attract top prospects. Unfortunately, I have found that over 90 percent of all position descriptions are not even written for marketing and candidate attraction purposes. The individuals who write them also routinely fail to compare them to the descriptions for the same job that are used by your talent competitors, to make sure that they are superior. If the hiring manager doesn’t know any better, it is the responsibility of great recruiters to show them how dull position postings, job descriptions, and dull “paycheck jobs” themselves directly negatively impact your quality of applicant.
  4. A generalist trying to be a recruiter — once again there are exceptions, but all too often generalists simply don’t have the aggressiveness, skills, knowledge, or even interest in recruiting required to produce quality hires. Give me a dedicated and trained recruiter who looks forward to the competition every time.
  5. An offer generator in compensation — in cases where speed of hire matters, these compensation professionals all too frequently make you wait what seems like forever before providing an allowable salary number (that incidentally, almost always seems to end up being too low to be competitive). The good ones in compensation understand the impact that fast and competitive salary numbers can have on the quality of hire.
  6. Anyone who is in love with interviews — both recruiters and hiring managers use interviews, in most cases without knowing how poorly they are at identifying top candidates. The recent research by Google should be a wake-up call to everyone on how seldom recruiters and managers accurately identify top-performing hires using them.
  7. The purveyors of some ATS systems — what could be more expensive, time-consuming, and have so little direct proof that it positively impacts new hire quality than many ATS systems. I call many of these “systems that track people that you will never hire.”t Most are well-intentioned but outrageously expensive for the results they produce. In my experience, ATS systems are on the downhill slide.

If you have your own contribution to the list of despicable recruiters, contributors, or tools, please feel free to add them at the end of this article on ERE.net.

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," Staffing.org called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website www.drjohnsullivan.com and on staging.ere.net. He lives in Pacifica, California.



3 Comments on “Who Are the Despicable Mes in Recruiting?

  1. Another strong column chock full of valuable red flags and sensible suggestions. BUT in the ‘Despicable Contributor’ section item 6, you painted all those ‘in love with interviews’ with the same negative brush. Why do that when even the link you provided to the piece by Google’s Laszlo Bock promotes behavioral interviews as the method that Google found did work. I’m glad that Google has joined those who have blown the whistle on the null value of ‘oddball questions’, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. After all, we wouldn’t want to be guilty of being a ‘fad follower’.

  2. I assumed you would note the actual practices of actual despicable recruiters, of whom there are far too many. You know the type; liars, cheats and pimps who will say anything, manipulate anyone, or foster any fiction to close a deal.

    ATS vendors? Please. All we do is give the peoplez what they are asking for; who are the despicables who taught them to ask for a magic placement button?

    Finally, recruiters who ignore their gut (like nearly anyone in a leadership role) will find themselves surprised, outflanked, and passed before they know what happened.

    Metrics and numbers are great, and important, and can add huge value, but dependence on predictive technique in the face of the emergent nature of human affairs is one of the oldest forms of hubris, and eventual failure….the top performers in business, sport, entertainment, politics, etc. are known to follow the numbers carefully; and to throw them out the window at key moments. The art is in knowing how to use the numbers in the context of unknowable complexity.

    Anybody can read a stock report, the racing form, a scouting report, or the pre-hire assessment. Only the best can fit data, flow, patterns, and human emotion to actual reality…..

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