Several months ago, New Media, the online publication for Internet architects, which recently ceased operations, featured a puzzle by Scott Kim. Called Puzzler: True Colors, it asks readers to match company names with corporate colors. While the puzzle is aimed at testing the powers of observation, it also leads to larger observations: how much similarity exists in the marketplace, and, given what appear to be a finite number of options, how difficult is it for an organization to distinguish itself? Aspects of Identity Granted, corporate colors, logos and slogans are only pieces of overall image projection. The product line and method of delivery are obviously key factors when it comes to consumer perception. But, for some customers, a company’s stand on a political issue or decisive actions in matters of social responsibility can also be relevant. Ideological compatibility can lead to product purchases. There are companies that are known for this type of image building as much, if not more, as goods or services. The People of the World United Colors of Benetton is one such organization. The Italian company, which designs and manufacturers clothing and sports equipment, promotes diversity with its very name. Its clothing advertisements are known for featuring people of color. The homepage of the company website includes three categories: “Who We Are,” “What We Say,” and “What We Make.” Selecting “What We Say,” in the center of the homepage, leads to a page where the quote “All people are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” appears. On this page, two of the three categories and corresponding subcategories are devoted to issues of social responsibility. Choosing “Our Communications,” under the heading “About Who We Are,” leads to details about Benetton’s communications campaigns. Selecting “United Colors Divided Opinions,” under “About Who You Are,” provides a list of themes and issues the company has taken on, with links to information and details about each communications effort. One of the campaigns undertaken in the year 2000 was “We, on Death Row.” It used billboard advertising, newspaper ads and the Benetton website to educate people about the faces on death row. In addition, a magazine with death row inmate photographs and interviews was created and sent as an insert to Talk magazine subscribers. In the past 10 years, Benetton has aggressively campaigned for other human rights issues and has worked with organizations such as the United Nations, FAO, and the Red Cross on projects ranging from AIDS awareness and research to support for relief efforts in Kosovo. The company’s most recent communications campaign uses the slogan “Breaking Down Stereotypes” and addresses the Arab-Israeli conflict. United Colors at Benetton does offer online shopping. But it is available at a sub-site called www.theex.it. This Place Earth The outdoor clothing and gear manufacturer Patagonia is another company known for its culture. Focused on enjoying the earth but creating products that limit environmental impact, the California-based Patagonia promotes its commitment in all its advertising. The company also places identity alongside goods at its Web site. Categories at the homepage are “Shop,” “Customer Service,” “Enviro Action,” “Sports We Do,” “Our Culture,” and “Design Philosophy.” By choosing “Enviro Action,” a customer or jobseeker can read about how Patagonia has eliminated chlorine bleach from cotton fabrics to reduce the use of formaldehyde, and how it gives one percent of sales or 10 percent of pre-tax profits, whichever is more, to grassroots environmental movements. Selecting “Our Culture” leads to subcategories that include “Working Here,” “Our Roots” and “Press Room.” The message for the job seeker comes across loud and clear: work at Patagonia involves supporting a very specific ideal. If a person is not interested in the company’s focus, regardless of the position, the odds are against job satisfaction. A Different Appearance United Colors of Benetton and Patagonia are examples of companies with strong external messages that speak to customers and candidates, and indeed the entire world, about company commitment and corporate culture. However, in the effort to aggressively compete, corporate identity can sometimes get lost. As a result, many organizations are going to great lengths to create what could be called secondary identities in order to appeal to younger workers. The main communications vehicle for this “other face” is the Web. Creating a secondary website, which is either an offshoot of an existing site or a standalone site, with lots of lights and action, is something companies are doing in order to project a progressive image. Truth in Advertising But while the ability to entice potential employees using media may be tempting, it’s important not to alter your company’s identity to the point of distortion. The answer lies in articulating your message. What your company’s identity says to potential candidates will have an influence on the kinds of employees you attract. And it is they who will determine the company you build.
These days, recruiters are often overwhelmed by the resumes of unqualified candidates. And because there are so many people looking for new positions, the life of the average recruiter has changed. The days of doing whatever was necessary to get a candidate in the door for an interview are over. In today’s market, if you have an open position you are almost guaranteed to be flooded by resumes once word hits the street that your company is hiring. What that means is, as recruiters, we need to become more sophisticated in how and where we are finding our candidates. Below are some ideas on how to use Internet resources to narrow down the candidate pool to get the very best. Real Internet Recruiting If you go onto any large resume database (e.g. HotJobs, Monster, or Headhunter) and post a job, you will almost certainly be overwhelmed by responses to your posting from unqualified candidates. This is when many recruiters become frustrated and discouraged by what they call “Internet recruiting.” But Internet recruiting is about much more than just posting a job. Internet recruiting is searching out the best candidates available and proactively contacting them about your opportunity. The industry is seeing a big swing toward the use of niche sites to better target qualified candidates, for example. By focusing on these niche sites for posting and sourcing, you are going to find candidates with the skills and qualifications necessary to fill your open positions, without being flooded with unqualified candidates. Still, you must be aware that if you only post positions on these niche sites you will leave the door open to candidates to determine if they are qualified for the position rather than you. Making the Most of a Resume Once you find the resume of the ideal candidate for your open position, dissect that resume for information. What school did they attend? What was their major? What professional associations do they belong to? What certifications do they have? These, of course, are the important questions you should be asking yourself. So now you find yourself with all of these answers. But what to do with this information? Take, for example, the college this ideal candidate attended. Well, if this candidate came from XYZ University, then there is probably more where they came from. Go online and look up the university and look under the alumni section. Many universities list information about their alumni, or at the very least have some contact information for the alumni association. You can take it one step further and focus in on the specific school or department they came out of at the university. Professors can be a great resource because many of them either teach graduate classes or have contacts within the industry that may lead you to a network of qualified candidates. Another great resource are professional associations that a candidate may belong to. When conducting an Internet search for a candidate, don’t just use the job title. Search by professional associations. This may lead you to candidates that you may otherwise would have overlooked because they didn’t have the specific words on their resume that you were using to conduct your search. Research Matters Doing research is the key to successful sourcing. The Internet contains a wealth of information, most of which free. I recently came across a site called industyclick.com, for example. At first glance it doesn’t appear to be anything special. But upon further investigation I found valuable information that could be used in my recruiting efforts. This website is broken down by industry, with a lot of information under each subheading (e.g. Telecomm, RF, Power). For example, under the telecommunications section, there is a list of “site features” and under RF Design I found a glossary of RF terms as well as a listing of articles on the industry. The terms in and of themselves are valuable for sourcing, but the articles are chock full of people in the industry who could be useful for networking. I also found a link to the International Wireless Expo that is coming up early next year. This may be an event I would want to attend for networking, or maybe there is a way to get a mailing list of attendees. I could go on and on about the information that you can find on this site but I will leave it up to you to investigate it and determine if it is useful for your recruiting efforts. There are plenty of other sites out there like it that can potentially lead you into existing networks of candidates, and at a bare minimum help you learn more about the industry or position you’re recruiting for. Conclusion Now is the time to start finding more qualified candidates by doing proactive investigative work using the Internet. It may be a matter of using niche sites more frequently or doing more research. In any case, the more work you do before starting a search, the more targeted the results you will get, making your job that much easier. Work smarter, not harder!
The best behavioral interview will not help hire top talent. Neither will the best applicant tracking system, or the best referral program. Even competency models won’t help. A great sticky website that nurtures passive candidate won’t do a thing to improve hiring results. A strong employee branding program that brings in a bunch of hot candidates might seem to be the new great solution, but will rarely result in any better hires. We’ve been fooled, and we’ve paid too much for our foolishness. How many of those inexpensive online ads that promised to eliminate recruiters actually resulted in great hires? We’re still spending too much money on the next great new hiring solution, and we’re still going to be disappointed. We’ve been trying all of this stuff for the past few years, and nothing works. The biggest problems ? the weakest links ? are the people involved in the hiring process: candidates, recruiters, hiring managers and interviewers. Effective hiring isn’t about installing some fancy new system. It’s about making sure that the fundamental problems are resolved first. These weakest links are the cause of our biggest problems, and as a rule we ignore them. If these problems aren’t solved first, everything else is just wasted activity. Not understanding their needs, what motivates them to act, how they make decisions, and their biases and prejudices, makes all of us the weakest links in the hiring process. And hiring processes will not improve until these issues are understood and addressed. Here’s how these issues affect the hiring process:
- It’s too hard for the best candidates to apply for your job openings.
Did you know that fewer than 45% of all high school graduates go on to higher education, and that only about half of those in high school ever graduate? Or that enrollment this past year in engineering disciplines declined by 16%? These are scary statistics if you are responsible for bringing in entry-level talent, and even scarier if you are a manager with engineering or information technology positions to fill. As we come out of this recession, we will need to attract all the college graduates we can. That means now is the perfect time to take another look at your college activities and refocus them for 21st century recruiting. Because so many jobs require skills that can only be obtained by college-level education, and because the shortage of graduates is so severe, the staid world of college recruiting has begun to change with a vengeance. Competition for the same students has become common. Technical graduates report receiving up to seven offers at a time for different jobs, and are now in a position to dictate salary, benefits, and even job assignments. It is no longer possible to be a passive corporate college recruiter ? you have to have an aggressive and well thought-out strategy if you even hope to attract the candidates you really want. This questionnaire, modified from one I presented here in 1999, will help you decide where you are in the world of college recruiting. This survey will be your guide as we discuss college recruiting reforms over the next few weeks. World-Class College-Recruiting Assessment Tool Instructions:
- Place a “3″ before each statement that your company is currently doing consistently and well.
A very interesting thing happened the other day when a friend of mine, a director of human resources at a large national healthcare organization, stopped by in a state of panic. What you are about to read may be very disturbing to you, too – especially if you’re still searching resumes by entering keywords. She was very upset about her current online applicant tracking system and was certain that it was broken. She started by entering a series of keywords and clicking “Search.” Her results returned hundreds of applicants that met the keyword criteria. She pointed out five key applicants and told me to watch what happens when she entered a different series of keywords and clicked “Search” again. The same five applicants appeared at the top of the new search. She clicked on one of the top applicant’s resumes and didn’t see anything unusual in the body of the text or an unusual number of keywords. In fact, we didn’t see many of the keywords that were entered for the search. Hmmm… She opened up another applicant’s resume that “always” seemed to pop up regardless of the keywords entered and didn’t notice anything unusual here either. Perhaps her system was indeed broken. I asked her to highlight the applicant’s entire resume and paste it into a Word document. I then asked her to highlight the text and change “all” of the font color to black. An amazing thing happened. There between the paragraphs were all of the keywords that were not visible (or printable) until they were highlighted and the font color changed from white to black. The mystery was solved. It appears that applicants have become really creative in their attempt to find a job. By entering numerous keywords in their resume, then highlighting the keywords and changing the font color from black to white to match the background color, the applicants are finding much greater exposure when a keyword search is performed by a prospective employer. That means recruiters must now do much more work to find the truly “qualified” applicants. Multiply that by thousands of applicants using this “trick” to get ranked by search engines, and you can see how it could quickly cripple any system that relies on keyword searches. In essence, a recruiter would now have to manually read every resume in the database in order to identify a handful of key prospects once more and more applicants start using this “trick” to foil keyword searches. Vendors of keyword matching systems will need to filter each resume for “hidden” text, but will not be able to do anything to the resume since this would be considered tampering with the content. At least recruiters will be able to instantly see which applicants are trying to “pepper” their resumes with keywords and delete them from the database. We called a few other friends in HR and asked them to do the same thing. Two recruiters found similar results. It doesn’t appear that this practice is widespread at this time, but it will undoubtedly gain popularity as more and more applicants learn of this technique as they try to gain every possible advantage in finding a job in a soft job market. Perhaps employers will have to tighten the process for accepting resumes, the same way airports have tightened passenger security. One possible solution is to move from keyword searches to position profiles, in which applicants are asked to complete a series of position-specific questions that directly target the position requirements and bypass keyword searches altogether. The drawback: Applicants will need to complete a position-specific questionnaire for each position that interests them. On the bright side, at least recruiters will know that an applicant is truly motivated if he or she takes the time to complete a position-specific profile instead of simply pasting a resume to a job opening. A resume can still be accepted, but its importance in the initial screening process is secondary to the profile. It may take a while for companies to come up with the right strategies to combat what clearly has the potential to be a growing problem. Either way, the solution to the problem begins by recognizing its existence and analyzing what kind of impact it’s already having on your recruiting processes.
In my last article examining the staying power of paper resumes, we looked at the history of the paper resume and the factors in our recruiting business process which continue to propagate and encourage the use of paper resumes. In this article, we will consider ways to reduce paper today and take a look beyond paper (and its basic electronic counterpart) to new ways of presenting and transmitting basic resume information. First, let’s look at some strategies for reducing the number of paper resumes in the recruiting process:
- Eliminate mailing addresses on your public website and in newspaper ads. The Internet is widely available in public libraries and schools, as well as at businesses and by the home consumer. There are many who may not have direct Internet access; but where there is a will, there is a way. By eliminating a mailing address you can reduce paper influx. Eliminating it completely is much harder, though.
Well, we have finally arrived at the legal definition of a recession. So, for all of you who have been waiting for the official “okay” to be worried and depressed – commence fretting. Changes in the economy also bring fresh expectations from our business partners or clients. Sometimes they are reasoned and thought out. More often, they are not. Rather, they are expectations based on wishful thinking, reinforced by rhetoric, and enforced by dictatorial edict. Those who are currently trying to meet staffing needs and requirements understand this better than most. This evolution of potentially erroneous expectation is made even worse by the efforts of the last ten years to use the increasing number of automation tools available to create and monitor a family of metrics to measure staffing professionals performance. The automatic assumption of many is that, during a recession, no matter what your performance against these metrics might have been, they will certainly improve during an economic slump, downturn, or full-fledged recession, because “recruiting gets easier!” Right? (Okay, stop laughing and let’s move on.) The metrics that you once used to measure yourself (or were used by others to measure you) may need to be reviewed and rethought if you want your efforts and the difficulties you must still overcome to be accurately weighed against your performance. The most common metrics are:
- Cost Per Hire (CPH). At best, it’s a dangerous tool that I recommend only for planning budgets and reviewing performance improvement on a year-to-year basis.
Human resources functions have always undergone intense scrutiny by executives and financial officers. But lately, HR programs have come under siege by the “cost cutters” in particular. If human resources professionals are to survive and prosper, it is essential that they refocus their efforts on building the business case for investing in human capital programs. Following up on last week’s article, here are some additional steps you can take to do just that. Demonstrate That There Is a High Probability of Success All programs involve risks, but “people programs” have some of the highest failure rates. It’s essential that you demonstrate, both in probabilities and in dollars, the likelihood of success of your program. Be prepared to show how you arrived at the success rate:
- Prove how often these types of solutions work. Demonstrate that you’ve done your research, and quantify how often these types of programs work and fail,
This past year has been one of change, and a great deal of stress, for our profession, not to mention our economy and our political systems. As we sit down tomorrow (in the United States) for Thanksgiving dinner with our family and friends, I hope we find it within ourselves to be thankful for all that we do have, and that we vow to begin to accept the changes this century will bring to us in recruiting. We are now well into the second millennium and we can feel change everywhere. A door has opened and let out the comforts and habits of the 20th century. Many of us now miss its familiarity and rules that gave us a sense of security and certainty. The current economy is causing particular concern for recruiters, having slowed down the need for us to adopt new recruiting techniques and tools. Indeed, our profession has undergone wrenching changes. The habits and skills we developed in a slower moving, more certain 20th century no longer work so well. Our cheese has been moved, as the eponymous book says, and we miss the familiar world of paper resumes, face-to-face recruiting, ringing telephones, cold calls and classified ads. The Internet and all it has brought to us still feels unfamiliar and foreign. We are deeply into a change cycle that most of us are not even aware of. Change causes very definite behavioral patterns to emerge. Psychologists who have studied and documented the change process describe four distinctive phases involved in completing a change cycle.
- Denial. We are frequently faced with new ideas, new tools, or even new approaches to established routines. When this happens, most people try at first to deny that any change is occurring at all and then to dismiss its importance. Hence the words and behaviors of those who are early in their understanding of the changes underway in recruiting. These are the people who think the Internet will go away or that e-recruiting is a fad or that there really is no shortage of talent. While many of them know intellectually that they are probably wrong, they cannot accept the change for some time. The way to help people move through this phase is to supply them with evidence and information and work hard to convince them that the changes are real and permanent.
The proliferation and evolution of the Internet has created momentum that is slowly moving the entire hiring process online. This trend has led to the development of some really interesting ideas, many of which have been turned into products and systems that are helping both job seekers and employers learn more about one another. Despite the fact that current online hiring technology is still pretty crude, the impact of these systems has done nothing less than to completely change the way that both job seekers and employers think about the hiring process. Keep in mind that a five to ten year period is all it has taken for this to occur. Given this perspective, I don’t think we can even begin to imagine what the online hiring landscape will look like 10 years from now. But even though I can’t make predictions about the impact of technology that hasn’t even been invented yet, I can make one prediction with great confidence. This prediction is that in the future, simulation-type assessments will be a common tool used by organizations to measure, evaluate, and predict a candidate’s ability to perform a wide variety of jobs. Why am I so confident in this prediction? At the present time, the bulk of online assessment involves the delivery of the same screening tools that have been used for years using the Internet. While using the Internet certainly has many obvious advantages over past methods, this model is really only a new way of delivering the same old package, and falls very short of using the present level of Internet technology to its full capacity. The evolutionary forces impacting the development of online assessments will eventually force us to move past this model and to develop entirely new paradigms for online assessment. The predictive power of simulations and their compatibility with the technology that makes the Internet work almost mandates that these new paradigms involve interactive simulations. The remainder of this article is dedicated to providing the information needed to support my prediction. What Are Simulations? Simulations include a variety of different types of assessments. The common element in all of these is the re-creation of situations or tasks that are critical to the performance of a specific job for the purpose of predicting an applicant’s ability to perform the job in question. Simulations are used for two basic purposes: to assess an applicant’s aptitude for learning how to perform tasks required on a given job, or to assess a candidate’s present ability to perform job-related tasks. The simulations used for each of these purposes differ slightly, but function in the same basic way in that they are based on the same set of scientific principles used to construct all assessments used to predict job performance (please see my previous articles for a more detailed discussion of this topic). The most common types of simulations include:
- Work samples. The work sample is the most classic example of a simulation used for assessment. Work samples are commonly used to assess physical aspects of job performance such as strength and dexterity. Work samples gained popularity in industrial settings where applicants were often asked to demonstrate mechanical ability or dexterity by completing assembly tasks that closely represented those required on the job.
If human resources professionals are to survive and prosper , it is that much more essential that they refocus their efforts on “building the business case” for investing in human capital programs. HR professionals need to shift from their all too common, “I think and I believe” approach toward a more businesslike approach where decisions are made based on data and facts. ROI and payback need to become more prominent in the jargon of human resources professionals. Human resources and recruiting functions have always undergone intense scrutiny by executives and financial officers. But even though CEOs are notorious for saying that people are their “most important assets,” they often become relative misers when it comes to funding people programs. Lately HR programs in general, and recruiting and training programs in particular, have come under siege by the “cost cutters” who have taken control of businesses during these tough economic times. If human resources professionals are to survive and prosper, it is that much more essential that they refocus their efforts on “building the business case” for investing in human capital programs. HR professionals need to shift from their all too common, “I think and I believe” approach toward a more businesslike approach where decisions are made based on data and facts. ROI and payback need to become more prominent in the jargon of human resources professionals. Unfortunately, to say that HR professionals have been weak in building the business case for HR programs is more than just a mild understatement. I have spent over 25 years teaching HR teams how to build their “business cases.” From HP and Cisco all the way down to small-business owners, there is little variation in what makes an effective business case. But it’s not as difficult as you might think. It turns out that most financial professionals and executives are very logical people. What they expect is surprisingly consistent in businesses of all different sizes. It’s also important to note that building a business case is a separate issue from “doing metrics” in HR (I’ve covered that in other articles). Doing metrics is a mostly a statistical exercise that focuses on internal HR effectiveness, while building a business is really just “selling with numbers.” Making a business case differs from metrics because it includes:
- Using business logic to sell an idea
If you knew that spending an extra $50 to $100 per hire could potentially save an employee’s life, and save your company millions of dollars in liability, would you do it? In this article, I’ll tell you why you should. Now more than ever, it is critical to make sure that the people you are hiring don’t pose a liability risk to your company. Finding qualified candidates, particularly for those really hard-to-fill positions, is often so challenging that once we find an individual that fits our qualifications, we want to get them on board right away. But fancy degrees, patents, significant business accomplishments, and a pleasant demeanor mustn’t fool us. The most successful embezzlers, thieves, moles, and terrorists are most often the least likely suspects. To protect your company, employees, shareholders, and clients, it is imperative that you do a background check on every employee before you finalize the hiring contract. A basic background check, costing anywhere from $15 to $100 depending on the amount of information being verified, can potentially save a company millions of dollars, and even lives. As Elizabeth Van Ella, CEO of Van Ella and Associates, a 30-year-old background investigation firm based in Chicago, told me, “Seventy-five percent of all resumes have at least one major falsification. Most states now uphold the Negligent Hiring Doctrine. This doctrine legally recognizes that an employer is responsible for, and can be held accountable for, checking the background and references of any job applicant before placing that applicant in a position of high public contact.” “Workplace violence is becoming more and more prevalent in the United States,” she continued. “If you do not do your due diligence, it can cost you into the millions. Background checking programs would cost considerably less than this one time amount.” If you don’t think that the huge financial liability associated with a lack of background checking could happen in your company, then talk to these companies who once felt the same way:
- BMW. A California jury awards $750,000 in an employee scuffling case. The plaintiff, an assistant sales manager at a California BMW dealership, was pushed during an argument by a fellow employee.
I know many of you are saying to yourselves, “Free resumes? There’s no such thing! There must be some sort of a catch.” Well, I’m here to tell you that it is true and that there is no catch. As the economy has changed, so has the job market for candidates. Gone are the days of recruiters working on hundreds of openings without a qualified candidate in sight. Today, most recruiters are working on fewer positions while trying to manage the flow of candidates into their e-mail box. As budgets get tighter though, you must look at alternative ways of finding candidates that cost less money. After all, if you’re able to make hires and save money at the same time, you will be demonstrating how valuable you are to the company — not by just bringing in qualified candidates, but by doing it at a fraction of the cost of traditional recruiting methods. If you look at the cost of posting a job on a given job board, it can cost up to several hundred dollars per position depending on where you post it. The problem that many recruiters are encountering today is that they are spending the money on job postings and then being overwhelmed by unqualified candidates. But much or that money is being wasted, because the recruiter cannot effectively review the responses. The suggestion I can offer everyone are several new services that have cropped up over the last few years, known as resume distribution services. Some of you may be very familiar with these services and may have even used them unsuccessfully in the past. But in the past, they did not deliver the quality of candidates (who’s going to pay money in a tight job market?) that they are able to deliver now. In the new economy, where there are many quality, recently displaced candidates, the service can offer candidates value by getting exposure for their resumes. If you are unfamiliar with resume distribution services, the basic premise is simple: recruiters can receive resumes for a wide variety of positions for free. The way most of them work is that candidates who are looking for a job pay a small fee, usually ranging between $20 to $90, for the resume distribution service to send their resume out to recruiters all over the country. A recruiter receives these results on a daily basis based on the filters they have specified when they signed up. The best part about receiving these resumes is that there is no cost to the recruiter. But you must specify the types of candidates that you wish to receive. If you don’t, you could be over run with hundreds of candidates a day that don’t fit the profile of any openings you are working on. When you sign up, it is important to look at all of the categories of job seekers and select only the ones that you wish to receive. You also need to change the types of resumes that you want to receive, once you no longer need any more candidates for a specific position. You may be saying to yourself, I’m bombarded with resumes already, why do I need more? Well, if you have a good organizational system for storing resumes, it’s ideal in the slow times to stock up on networking contacts for the inevitable tight employment market to follow. PREPARE for the change in economy by electronically storing the resumes quickly and efficiently so you can use them to network for future openings. If you don’t have a good way of organizing the many resumes you are receiving…then NOW is the time put your department in order! But that’s a whole different topic. Below are a few of the services that offer resume distribution:
In Part One of this article series, I discussed the basics of using Artificial intelligence and the power of computers to solve hiring problems. Artificial intelligence (AI) programs are special types of computer programs that mimic the function of the human brain. AI excels at finding hidden patterns among different pieces of information. Here is one application where AI was put into practice. One of my clients is in the business of providing medical technician services to companies, communities, hospitals, etc. They approached me a while ago to see if it was possible to solve some HR problems. But first some background. A medical technician (a.k.a. “paramedic”) is an exceptionally critical role. Med-techs are often first on the scene of an emergency and their decisions can mean life or death for a patient. Oftentimes, they will be dispatched to an illiterate crime-ridden section of the city (where they fear for their personal safety) then in the next hour to an exclusive neighborhood (where they must enter through the “servants” door). At other times, they may travel from a traffic accident where an entire family might have perished to a suburban home where a new child is being born. They work long hours, may not get bathroom or meal breaks, and are not paid very well for the responsibility they share. Med-techs do their work because they love the job. Med-techs also tend to turnover rapidly, are frequently late or absent from work, have interpersonal problems, and encounter difficulty reading road maps, to name a few difficulties. Could you imagine the value of a program that would predict some of these behaviors before hiring? That was the objective of our project. The Difference Between “Can Do” and “Will Do” Job performance is a combination of a person’s ability and their willingness to use that ability. An “underachiever” is someone who has the “ability” (“can do”) but not the motivation (“will do”). Perhaps some of you know this type of person? On the other hand, there are people who have great motivation, but little ability. I knew a salesman who was all “fire and lightning,” but refused to learn any technical “details” about his product. All that fire and lightning fizzled without direction. Know anyone like that? This part of our project involved discovering “will-do” factors that might predict success. We actually had fifteen different performance areas to look at, but we can make our point using these five examples:
- Read and use maps effectively
The underlying theme of each of my ERE articles is the need to collectively consider all aspects of the hiring process when implementing changes. Everyone wants to hire top people, but piecemeal solutions, no matter how great they seem, often don’t provide the expected benefits. A new interviewing product isn’t going to help if you’re not increasing the quality of the candidates you’re sourcing. Conversely, a new sourcing program won’t result in any improvement in hiring if these new great candidates think your jobs are average, or if they demand excessive salaries. An applicant tracking system won’t help if your hiring managers keep on changing their job requirements. The biggest problem I see in all of these supposedly new solutions is this lack of internal consistency and professionalism at each step. The first step is finding the best candidates. In this article I’ll give you my perspective on what it takes to get the best to even consider an opportunity. In upcoming articles, I’ll describe how each subsequent step needs to move these top candidates forward in a professional manner until an offer is made and accepted. Before you write another ad or speak to another candidate, it’s important to note the distinction between top candidates and traditional candidates. Top candidates, whether they’re active or passive, are motivated by different things than traditional candidates. When accepting a job offer, compensation is not the primary consideration. The opportunity and challenges inherent in the job are. What the person will learn, what the person will do, and what the person can become are far more important than compensation. Understanding and managing candidate motivation is the key to successfully sourcing and hiring top candidates. Targeting Top Candidates Most advertising programs are ineffective because they are targeting the wrong audience: those who need another job, not those who want a better job. This is why you get too many unqualified candidates. Top people will respond to clever ads that are easy to find and describe challenges and opportunities to grow. Frequently, top candidates don’t have all of the skills a job requires. So if you filter on skills, you run the risk of eliminating the very candidates you want. If your ads focus more on skills than challenges, you worsen this problem, since the best candidates won’t even consider applying. If your ads have boring titles and are hard to find, only those desperate for another job will even look. I’d suggest you keep the skills component of the ad to the absolute minimum. It’s better, instead, to describe what the person will do with the skills. For example, don’t say, “Must have CPA, be willing to travel 50%, and have five years of international tax experience.” Try something like this instead: “Use your CPA to see the world. Expand your tax knowledge by setting up our new tax reporting system at our rapidly expanding international locations.” If you add a clever title like, “Tax Wizard with Global Perspective,” you’ll create a bigger pool of top people. If you’re finding candidates through direct sourcing instead of ads, you need to create instant interest when you first connect on the phone. Don’t describe the job first, or ask how the person is doing. Instead tell the person who you are, and then ask, “Would you be open to exploring a situation that’s clearly superior to what you’re doing today?” If the answer is yes, tell the candidate you’d like to obtain a quick overview of their background, and then you’ll give them a quick summary of the job. This way, you’ll be able to determine if the candidate is even a possibility before the person has a chance to say no. Getting the candidate to respond first establishes credibility and leaves the recruiter in the driver’s seat. Then, even if the candidate is unqualified or uninterested, the initial five to ten minute dialogue increases the likelihood of obtaining a good referral. A Different Kind of Motivation The best candidates always have multiple opportunities. For these people, accepting another job is a strategic decision based on opportunity and growth. It’s the beginning of a new career. For the typical candidate, on the other hand, accepting a job is a tactical decision based largely on job content, compensation and geography. For them, getting the job is the end of a difficult job search. But most sourcing programs ignore this fundamental distinction in motivation. The best are motivated by different things than the typical candidate. Even if a top person needs another job, they will always have the opportunity to compare various alternatives. They always consider the challenges and growth opportunities over the compensation, skills required, or location. Don’t ignore these motivators if you require candidates to take some type of online test. For one thing, don’t put up tactical eliminators (skills, years of experience, relocation, compensation) too soon. If the job is great, the best will consider a relocation or take a lesser salary. Make sure you constantly reinforce the opportunity in the job if you make the candidate go through hoops to even apply. This carrot and stick model is a good one to follow. The best won’t put the effort in unless the reward is great. If you’re not getting enough great candidates from your sourcing programs. you might be ignoring this vital aspect of motivation. Take these differences into account as you design and build sourcing programs. A great website with boring jobs won’t attract great people. A sophisticated applicant tracking system that filters out the best candidates is just an expensive reporting system. A referral program that eliminates high potential candidates lacking a few years experience is soon ignored. It takes a great job to hire a great person. Whether you’re hiring one person or a hundred, this fact must be advertised, discussed, understood, and paraded about by everyone involved in the hiring process, especially hiring managers. It needs to be built into every system, ad, process, letter, email and form. Hiring the best is hard enough. Make sure you’re not precluding them from even applying in the first place.
A few columns ago I discussed the use of new technologies that could extend the reach of recruiters, lessen the need for staff focused on administrative tasks, and provide candidates with richer and more useful information. Even though we have a brief lull in the talent war, when the battles resume we will once again be faced with the complex process of setting up interviews and scheduling candidates to meet with many managers. One of the most time consuming and clumsy processes in recruiting is scheduling interviews with multiple people. Generally this requires the recruiter or his assistant to make numerous phone calls to see if managers are free at particular times on specific days and then to coordinate this with the candidate. In my experience, as much as a week may be lost simply in scheduling the interviews. And even though candidates are used to a clumsy and time consuming scheduling process, a way to gain a competitive advantage and break away from the pack is to find a way to automate it. Blake Mann, an ex-engineer turned software developer, has created a company and a product that has the potential to change the whole process. His company, Schedulebynet, is not alone in this space (see below), but Blake clearly recognizes that the recruiting process could benefit from automated scheduling. His product would allow a recruiter to publish his schedule for interviews on the Internet. A candidate could access the calendar after being given a password that would enable her to find and set up a mutually suitable meeting time. It would send confirmations to both parties and could also send reminders at intervals that each person sets up. The software would also allow the recruiter to create a web-based survey to be sent to the candidate after an interview to determine how satisfied they were with the process and with the interview itself. The best way to use this scheduling capability is to integrate it into the recruiting website. I imagine a candidate going through an upfront screening process where they have answered questions or taken a test that determines base capabilities and interest in moving forward. Ideally a candidate has learned about the positions available and has been taken through a well-designed “tour” of a particular position, complete with day-in-the-life scenarios and other marketing material. They have also been asked to answer questions about themselves, their experience, their skills, and their availability. Some sites may have asked people to take skills or aptitude tests before moving on in the process. Up to this point, the candidate has been interacting only with the website and the material that is available there. In a well-designed site, there would be a feedback stream to the candidate letting them know how they are doing and whether or not they will move on with the process. This feedback can be both passive and active. Passive feedback occurs when they are asked if they would like to move to the next step in the process, the assumption being that if they were not suitable they would not be asked. It is more productive, however, to provide active feedback where you give them specific information about their progress through the steps in the website. For example, you might have the website ask a series of questions, and at the end of the series let the candidate know that they have done well and that you would like them to consider providing more information or answer more questions. At some point you could indicate that you would like to invite them in for an interview. If your website were this sophisticated today (and I haven’t seen any yet), you would most likely let the candidate know that you would call them to set up interviews. At this point, automation would end and everything would “go manual.” However, with a tool such as the one provided by Schedulebynet you could now automatically invite them to schedule their own interviews. You could provide the names of those with whom you would like them to interview and they could be given access to those people’s pre-established calendars. The candidate would not get a blank check to schedule any time he wanted. Rather he is limited to the dates and times that have already been set up by the hiring managers and recruiters. There are many ways to apply this scheduling application to the recruiting process, and the price is reasonable. The basic fee is around $50 per month for multiple users. As of today, Blake does not have a turnkey recruiting solution available, but he and his team are ready to customize something for an interested organization. Customization costs would be fairly small as the programming is not complex. I also see that one of the applicant tracking systems might decide to license this software and incorporate it into its offering. As I mentioned earlier, Schedulebynet is not the only player in this area. In fact, scheduling software seems to be a concept whose time has come, as there are at least three other competitors that I know of, and maybe more. Some of the other firms include:
Visitors to your corporate careers website are a demanding bunch. They are the ones holding the mouse. To get them to commit to becoming a candidate, you need to provide them with the right information and tools. What do recruitment managers need to know about the expectations of careers website visitors? iLogos Research found out in a recent poll of more than 1,500 visitors to the corporate careers Web sites of Fortune 500 companies. A corporate careers website is an instrument to communicate with online candidates. In any communication, the key is to communicate the right information in a way that has the greatest impact on the targeted audience. Topics that jobseekers expect to see addressed on the careers website include the company’s employment culture, benefits, and salary information. Culture Survey results reported in Perception vs. Reality: Jobseeker Behavior Online show 58% of survey respondents indicated that a depiction of a company’s culture is either “important” or “very important.” However, survey respondents were nearly equally divided on whether they consider testimonials from current employees to be important (36%), neutral (30%), or unimportant (34%). Opinions also diverged on the importance of video or virtual tours of a company’s facilities and offices, with the opinion that such practices are not important (38%) narrowly prevailing over the view that virtual tours are important (29%). Although there is no single magic bullet when it comes to developing content, jobseekers appreciate its availability. Topics that could be developed further include: HR awards the company has received, the company’s management style, its views on the work-life balance, its initiatives in training and development, and the possibilities for advancement within the company. Benefits Online jobseekers are unequivocal in their interest in information on a company’s benefits package. The iLogos survey results show that nearly half of all jobseekers (49%) consider it “very important” to have benefits information available on a company’s careers website. A further one third (33%) consider benefits information to be “important.” For benefits information, the content should be well adapted to the online medium rather than duplicating material from the company’s orientation package and other printed material. The information may be presented in a self-service structure, with links to follow for in-depth information concerning coverage, deductibles, eligibility, dates when coverage begins, or matching contributions. Salary Another expectation of online jobseekers is to be informed in job postings of the salary range for the position. Forty-five percent of respondents to the consider a salary range to be “very important” information; 35% consider it “important” information. For their part, 61% of candidates are willing to provide their salary requirements. Although providing salary range information has not always been common practice, the proliferation of online salary surveys and sites has made compensation data easily accessible – and heightened jobseeker’s expectations. Tools Once the casual job surfer is ready to become a serious prospect, the right tools must draw that candidate into an ongoing relationship with the company. These tools include a well-designed job search feature, and an easy to use job application interface.
- Job search. The job search feature is a core component of a careers website, shouldering one of the major “front-end” functions: to help the job seeker quickly and efficiently identify a suitable job position. The survey found a clear preference among jobseekers for simple and intuitive searches. When asked to indicate how they prefer to review job listings, 58% of respondents indicated “by job category”; 56% selected “by job location.” Conversely, a very small minority (19%) indicated a preference for constructing keyword searches. To align the careers website with jobseekers’ expectations, companies should at a minimum provide tools for filtering a database of open positions by selecting from a predetermined list of job functions and locations, where the results represent the conjunction of the two criteria. To meet this requirement, the back-end requisition database must be structured to reflect the occupation, location, and function of each job position in the organization.
When you were growing up, was there anything better than spy movies? Remember when two spies would meet at a caf? in East Berlin, and give the sign and countersign? It was always a tense moment: “Did you just arrive from Bonn on the train?”
“Yes, but we were delayed in Hamburg.”
If you need immediate help on a project, don’t hire a recent college grad. Instead, “poach” a college grad from two years ago that a competitor has trained and developed at their expense. “Two-years-out” grads are more focused, mature, and immediately productive! Most managers know that recent college hires almost always require a good deal of training and “breaking in” before they become truly productive. As a college professor, I’m continually surprised when companies recruit our recent grads. Don’t get me wrong, I like college students, but it’s also clear that they have a long “ramp up” learning period and an even longer payback period. Their low initial ROI makes recruiting them during tough economic times that much harder to justify. As always, in a rapidly changing world, it is essential that you use a data-driven approach to your decision making if you hope to obtain funding for college recruiting. A quote from a Cisco hiring manager says it all: “If Cisco had a choice between hiring [cheaper] college graduates and experienced people, they would go with experienced people because the time and cost of training will exceed the dollar amount of the salary differences.” If you do the economic analysis the results are not encouraging. There is often an 18-24 month breakeven period for college hires in professional jobs. What this means to managers is that the initial “time to productivity” for most college hires is so long that it’s difficult to make an economic case for recruiting them. In addition, this “new generation” has little loyalty, and it is unlikely that they intend to stay with their first job and company for very long. Other reasons to avoid “this year’s” grads is that recent college hires, especially the undergraduate variety, can suffer from a variety of maladies including:
- A tendency to “overparty” with their newfound income
In my last article, I discussed some of the keys to redefining retention, and how that can help you reduce turnover among your best employees in today’s rapidly changing business environment. When managers untie their hands, roll up their sleeves, and negotiate with their best employees, they can turn the reasons why people leave into reasons why they will stay. Because individuals, especially the best ones, increasingly want and expect more control, smart business leaders are doing everything they can to negotiate custom career paths in order to retain high performers. But in the real world, what could this possibly look like? One great example of total customization is Deloitte Consulting’s “Senior Leaders Program.” The program, which received a lot of attention in the business media when it was first launched, is a bid to retain some of the firm’s best and brightest. How? By allowing them to customize their careers so they can work wherever, whenever, and however they are able to add value in the firm – but only the best and brightest over the age of fifty. It is reserved, like so many other privileges and rewards, for those in the firm who have paid their dues and climbed the ladder in tribute to the rites of the established hierarchy. Here’s the thinking: The typical retirement age for consultants is around fifty (because the work is so grueling). That’s when pensions vest and that’s when people have usually had just about enough. With the aging of the firm’s population (the number of partners reaching 50 is doubling over the next five years) and the general drain of talent afflicting the firm, Deloitte decided to retain some of their best talent the only way possible. “Restructure your job any way you want,” they are saying to their top partners. “Create your dream job.” And it’s working. After all, who would quit a dream job? Now, instead of losing many of their best and most seasoned partners, the firm will keep them indefinitely. They will be called upon when and where they are needed, and they will do the work at hand if they feel like it, negotiating appropriate fees for their services on an ongoing basis. What a great way to stem the tide of talent flowing out of your firm. Smart move. Many other companies have been tailoring flexible work arrangements to accommodate their best older workers. Monsanto, the massive life sciences company, and Prudential, the gigantic insurance firm, both use retirees as temporary workers to do everything from sophisticated technical jobs to answering phones. GE Global Exchange Services, a subsidiary of GE, hires retired engineers to service older systems still in use. Castle Harlan, the New York-based merchant bank and leveraged buyout firm, recruits retired top executives as board members and advisers for the companies it invests in. With the workforce aging and so much valuable knowledge and experience held by older workers, retirees are pioneering some of the most successful flexible work programs. Often, people at the tail end of their careers have a lot of negotiating power with potential employers because they don’t need to work and they have valuable skills to offer. For their part, employers tend to have a higher degree of trust in older workers – especially older workers who have had successful careers within the organization – and feel they can count on retirees to perform well even in non-traditional arrangements. What is more, older workers often have important institutional knowledge that must be passed on and their employers will employ them on any terms in order to get them to transfer that knowledge. Just as women spearheaded the work-life balance movement, the aging of the population and the resulting frequency of semi-retired work arrangements is showing employers just how successful custom work arrangements can be – and how valuable they are when it comes to winning battles in the talent wars. All of these semi-retirement programs are brilliant. But the leaders of these firms are wrong if they believe that they will continue to have a steady stream of people at the tail end of their one-size-fits-all career paths to funnel into these custom work arrangements. Anybody worth employing should be allowed to semi-retire – early and often. Let people create their dream jobs – on terms you and they negotiate together – and you’ll retain just about everybody. Plain and simple: Total career customization is the key to retention in the new economy. There Are Limits, Of Course Of course, not all work is amenable to every customization. Retail stores, for example, must be open certain hours on certain days. A grocery store cashier can’t very well work from home. “Come over to my house and I’ll sell you some groceries,” is just not feasible. A factory worker must be at the plant in order to use the assembly equipment. And so on. As always, you must approach every staffing issue by starting with the work that needs to be done. Examine every task and responsibility. Then ask yourself, does this need to be done in a particular building during certain hours? Sometimes the answer is yes – both time and place are non-negotiable elements of the work. But often, time or place, or both, are negotiable. And then there is room to customize – all that is left to do is negotiate the terms. When managers set about this process, they almost always find that, when examining a particular role, some tasks and responsibilities in a person’s job are flexible – especially as to time and place – while others are not. The job, therefore, often looks as if it cannot be customized. This is when it is necessary to unbundle the package of tasks and responsibilities that currently make up the job, rearrange the elements, and make a new package – a more flexible role. If a person is willing to continue working for you, for example, but only from home, you may have to adjust that person’s role so that it consists only of tasks that can be done from home. To achieve the desired effect, it is rarely necessary to customize 100% of every dimension that may or may not matter to them. Almost always, a particular individual has one or two dream job factors that really matter to him. Perhaps he has a child. It is simply undeniable that the needs of a child sometimes clash with the needs of an employer. What if the child is sick Tuesday morning and neither parent’s work schedule is free? Inevitably, work must come second for at least one parent that Tuesday morning. This sort of thing happens every day. The only question is this: Has the parent negotiated enough scheduling flexibility so that the parenting doesn’t compromise his success at work? Many people – regardless of whether they have children – have just a single scheduling issue that gets in their way. A small adjustment can have a tremendous impact. Sometimes the customization a person wants has to do with the work she is doing: One person hates telephone work, while another loves it. The right match between a person’s interests and her work can make the difference between a job that is “just a job” and one that is worthy of her very best efforts. No doubt, some of your employees will have needs that cannot be met. George Jones loves the company, but he is dying to work in Paris. You don’t have a Paris office. You are not going to be able to customize the job to his satisfaction. It’s okay. You can’t please everybody all the time. But often you can. One person wants to burn incense, another wants to play music, and still another wants to rearrange the furniture in his office. Who cares? To the person who does, the value of those slight accommodations will be immeasurable. Should people have to earn the custom features of their jobs? Of course. And they should keep earning them. Negotiate whatever terms make sense. When you make a deal, both sides are expected to deliver. And the deal is always open, changing over time as the organization’s needs change and the person’s availability and circumstances change. I should add this caveat: Sometimes performance problems will occur as you negotiate custom work situations. That’s because people can be wrong in their self-evaluations, just as employers can be wrong in their assumptions. An employee’s insistent, “I really want to work from home,” can turn into a plaintive, “I can’t concentrate at home…I just don’t end up getting my work done.” That doesn’t have to mean the whole deal is off; it just means the deal needs to be renegotiated. If the source of the performance problem is obvious (for example, since the person started working from home, his productivity has diminished substantially), then a smart manager will cut short the arrangement and renegotiate, making a deal that eliminates the problem causing factors. But that almost never happens. People are so thrilled, usually, to customize their work arrangements that they become very protective of the deal they’ve created for themselves. In a results-based relationship, where engagement and accountability are high, that self-protection almost always manifests itself in exceptional performance. Often people perform much better when they have flexible work arrangements because they don’t want any question to arise that might compromise their situation. That’s the explanation for common findings like those of Aetna, the giant insurance company based in Hartford Connecticut, where productivity levels increased by as much as 50% among 600 claims processing and member services staffers when they started working from home. When people work out their custom deals, they will work doubly hard to prove themselves and keep the deal in place. And they won’t be going to work anywhere else any time soon. Be a Change Leader As long as you have people who can get the work done, very well and very fast, don’t lose them. Think about what happens when somebody you really value comes into your office and says, “Thanks for everything, but I’m going to be leaving.” What do you say? “Is there anything I can do to keep you?” Isn’t that what you say? Here’s the problem: That conversation happens on the last day that person works for you, but it should happen on day one. “Welcome aboard, is there anything I can do to keep you?” And it should continue every single day. When you are about to lose a valued employee, instead of accepting the limitations of the dominant form of long-term employment, create a flexible solution that works for the organization and for the employee you need to keep-this type of solution is what I call a personal retention plan. Start planning long-term relationships with valued contributors around each individual’s unique life plan (not the other way around). Help people play to their strengths and interests and develop along those lines, and continue adding more and more value. Encourage them to “just grow” in their dream jobs – working for you. Forget “that’s not the way we do things around here,” and start doing things that way. You may have to be the one to break new ground. So what? One day at a time, as you are negotiating short-term pay for performance deals for the results you need, you should be negotiating the conditions of employment as well. Customize a deal for every person – value for value – around the roles they actually play (their tasks, responsibilities and projects) rather than positions on an organizational chart. At the very least, whenever you can possibly do it, grant people the slight adjustments they request. Even small efforts at customization go a long way. The best people will climb over each other to work for you. Disdain the old-fashioned rites of passage. You are not a feudal lord. You are a free market manager. Play that role aggressively and you are going to start winning the talent wars.