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December  2003 RSS feed Archive for December, 2003

HR’s Dirty Little Secret: Nobody Is Reading Resumes

by
Dr. John Sullivan
Dec 31, 2003

Now through the end of the year, ERE will be re-running some of the most popular articles from 2003. This article was originally published on June 2, 2003. Happy holidays! Many major firms have experienced layoffs or implemented hiring freezes, and unemployment rates have crept higher and higher. Everywhere you go it seems like everyone is looking for a job. As a direct consequence, many corporate job sites are being inundated with resumes. Well-known companies like Microsoft, Intel, and Hewlett-Packard can receive upward of 50,000 resumes per month via their corporate job sites. For many corporate recruiters the days of relying on paper resumes are over, now that nearly everyone has access to computers and the Internet. A Smooth And Painless Process ó On the Surface The process of submitting resumes to corporate job sites seems, on the surface, like an excellent one. From the applicant’s perspective, job postings are easy to find and submitting a resume is cheap and inexpensive. The process is relatively short, and most corporate sites allow applicants to cut and paste their current resume, saving them a lot of data entry time. There is no limit to the number of times a candidate can submit their resume, so some candidates submit multiple versions. Firms with advanced applicant tracking systems send back automatic e-mails or postcard notices acknowledging receipt of the resume and thanking the applicant for their interest. It’s after the resume is submitted that the pain for the candidate begins. For the most part, candidates cannot go to the website to track the progress of their resume through the system. They never get a note saying outright that their resume will not be considered and why. Instead, applicants wait with great hope for a follow-up email or call asking them to come in for an interview. They wait because they assume that the process offers them a reasonable chance to get a job and because they rightfully assumed that recruiters and managers were reading their resumes. Unfortunately they often wait and wait and wait! The Dirty Little Secret The problem with this seemingly “perfect system” occurs when you look more closely and find out that the odds of anyone actually reading a given resume is often little more than zero! As an “insider” I obviously cannot name the names of specific corporations, but I know of several major firms where literally no one is reviewing resumes from the corporate job site at the current time. Let’s start out with a simple fact: Inside most major corporations, no live person actually reads resumes. Instead they are scanned into or entered directly into the candidate database by the ATS. Most systems do nothing with the resumes until they are specifically asked by a recruiter or manager to sift through them for a particular job opening. Resumes can sit in the database and literally never be read by an actual human being. Only if a recruiter or manager decides to search the database after the hundreds of thousands of resumes are electronically narrowed down to a manageable number (usually less than hundred) is it possible for someone to actually “read” a candidate’s resume. Why No One Is Reading Resumes Few corporations will admit to the fact that no one is reading the resumes submitted in good faith by applicants. Even bringing up the topic causes recruiting managers to run the other way. Any admission that resumes go unread would be a PR nightmare. From the corporate perspective, no one promised that they would read all resumes. Candidates “just assume” that there is some reasonable chance of getting a job through the existing corporate job site system. Unfortunately, the actual odds of getting a job through many corporate web sites approach that of winning the lottery. There is no single cause for these pitiful odds, but some of the major intervening factors include:

  • Cutbacks. Cutbacks in the corporate recruiting function have been so dramatic that either no one is assigned or no one has time to scan more than a small segment of the resumes received each week. Recruiters who do search the database generally do it only one day per week ó and if a candidate’s resume didn’t come in that day, it will probably be lost in the volume of the thousands of resumes that will arrive before the next search day.
  • keep reading…

What’s Going On in the Corporate Staffing World? Results of Our Recent Survey

by
Kevin Wheeler
Dec 24, 2003

Two weeks ago I presented a survey to compare how things are looking in the staffing world today versus 18 months ago. While there weren’t too many major changes, some of the changes that I did observe are a bit disappointing. This time we had 15% fewer responses than we had to the survey in April of 2002. This is understandable given the smaller pool of recruiters that’s out there. Approximately 64% of you work in corporations, non-profit agencies, or for a government department. We excluded all third-party staffing agency or independent recruiter responses from these results. I will report on what they had to say in another column. I am always looking for trends, for emerging practices that may go unnoticed in the daily routine. Back in May of 2002 I wrote a column which included the table below of what is “in” and what is “out” in recruiting. I used this survey to see if I was right or wrong in what I perceived as trends back then:

keep reading…

The Turnover Tidal Wave Is Coming: Are You Ready?

by
Dr. John Sullivan
Dec 23, 2003

Now through the end of the year, ERE will be re-running some of the most popular articles from 2003. This article was originally published on September 22, 2003. Happy holidays! Let’s face it, the economy has been in a downturn for a good while now, and few of us have been giving much thought to employee retention. But that’s a huge mistake, because a literal flood of turnover is about to take place. Smart managers and HR professionals need to start preparing for it right away. The reason turnover rates are about to explode include:

  • New job opportunities. Capital spending is already increasing and that means significant increases in hiring are right around the corner. As more employment opportunities open up, people who have been locked into their jobs for the last three to four years will begin to see a way out. Recent surveys show that between 20% and 37% of the current workforce will start looking for new jobs when the economy turns around.
  • keep reading…

Checklist for Assessing a Director of Recruiting

by
Dr. John Sullivan
Dec 22, 2003

With the economy turning around, it seems as though almost every major firms is beginning a search for a new director of recruitment or employment. But as a former chief talent officer, and as someone who advises firms on how to select the very best, I have found that most selection committees totally miss the boat when they screen and select candidates for the head of the recruiting effort. I recommend, rather than asking potential director of recruiting candidates traditional interview questions (because obviously they are experts in interviewing), that you instead ask them to outline their proposed recruiting strategy and plan for your firm. In addition, ask them to forecast some potential problems they are likely to encounter, and how they would handle each within your firm’s culture. If you’re part of one of these director of recruiting selection processes, following are my criteria for identifying the very best. Director of Recruiting Assessment Criteria

  • Career focus. The primary goal of ideal director of recruiting candidates is to become the very best in recruiting. They have little desire to move up in the HR structure or to serve in non-recruiting areas of HR.
  • keep reading…

Magical Hiring Formula: Just Measure These Three Core Traits

by
Lou Adler
Dec 19, 2003

Based on surveys and operational reviews we’ve conducted over these past 10 years, it appears that there is one common hiring mistake which just about everybody has encountered: hiring someone who is competent but unmotivated to do the required work. Most of us have had at least some first-hand experience with this numero uno of hiring mistakes. Managers are forced to push, prod, urge, and cajole these sub-par employees to meet just the minimum needs of the job. Sometimes a swift kick in the you-know-where is the alternate management technique required. As presented in last week’s article, the hiring success formula can be used to eradicate this scourge of a problem. Here’s the magic formula: Hiring Success = Competency + Motivation to Do the Work Required While there is one other critical part of this formula ó the ability to work with others ó just using the shortened version will increase interviewing accuracy and minimize hiring mistakes like magic. The first step in using the formula is the one often ignored, and the underlying cause of the hiring mistake noted above. This has to do with “doing the work required.” The work required is a list of the things a candidate must do to meet job expectations. It is not the stuff described in a traditional job description like skills, experiences, academic background, or personal attributes. Knowing what work is required is what makes the formula magical. The work required for an engineer might be designing an FPGA circuit using a specific design tool and meeting certain design specifications within a certain period of time. For a nurse, it might be upgrading patient care procedures after reviewing current practices. For a retail salesperson, it might be proactively engaging with customers and increasing both the value and quantity of purchases in the department. While candidates need some level of experience and training to do the work, it’s not the same level for all candidates. Additionally, many of the candidates who have the “right” background might not want to do the work again. Motivation and the ability to learn new skills quickly can more than offset lack of certain skills. For example, recently I asked a hiring manager if he’d hire an engineer who could design the FPGA circuit described above even if the person didn’t have five year’s experience and a BSEE (the absolute minimum requirement on the job description). His answer was an unequivocal yes. When hiring managers are asked to make the results vs. skills/experience trade-off, the answer is always yes. The problem for most recruiters is that they never ask what the required results need to be. Once they know this, however, managers are always more than willing to see and hire people who are motivated and competent to deliver these defined results. Try out the following idea to test this concept: The next time you’re writing up a new job assignment, show your hiring manager clients the formula above. Then ask them to define the work required. Get the top five deliverables. Next, ask the managers which ones are the deal-breakers, and put them all in priority order. Then go out and find candidates who are both competent and motivated to accomplish the tasks just defined. You’ll also find that candidates are more interested in the jobs where the expectations and results are clearly spelled out this way. Don’t be fooled by candidates who seem motivated during the interview, or by those candidates who are more assertive. Quiet people can be just as motivated and hard-working as outgoing people. You don’t measure true motivation to do the work required by gut feeling or observation. You determine it by getting multiple recent examples of when the candidate has gone the extra mile doing similar work. Interviewing for motivation is not guesswork, and it can’t be superficial. More time should be spent on assessing this factor than any other. Now take this magical hiring process one step further, by adding the third core component to the hiring success formula. This is the ability to work with others while doing the work required. Team skills are a critical part of job success. This is the same as emotional intelligence (EI) as defined in Daniel Goleman’s outstanding book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ (Bantam, 1997). With EI included, here’s the complete version of the truly magical hiring success formula: Hiring Success = Competency + Motivation to Do the Work Required + Team Skills Measuring teams skills is equally as important as measuring motivation and competency. Again, don’t get fooled during the interview by measuring the wrong thing for team skills. Team skills are not measured by friendliness or warmth shown during the interview. Knowing what team skills means on the job can help in assessing it. Great team skills means proactively helping others, training others, and cooperating with others even though it might delay getting a person’s own work done. Adequate team skills means willingly cooperating with others when asked. Weak team skills means having to be constantly pushed to cooperate with others, or avoiding working with people. To determine where a candidate stands on this EI scale, the interviewer needs to obtain repeated examples of when, where, why and how the candidate has proactively helped others. Using the FPGA engineer position mentioned above as an example, here’s an interviewing technique you might want to try out to assess all three core traits of success. Start by having the candidate describe his or her most significant related technical accomplishment. Obtain as many details as you can using fact-finding questions to understand all aspects of the project from beginning to end. Get multiple examples of when the candidate helped or worked with others. Then find out why. Also get three or four examples of initiative. Find out when the candidate stayed late and find out the motivational reason why. If you spend 10-15 minutes just understanding this one accomplishment, you’ll have plenty of evidence to assess job competency, true motivation and team skills. Then repeat this process for three or four different significant accomplishments. Observe the trends and patterns over time. Look for consistency in the three core traits of success. As long as you started off by defining the work required, this is all you need to do to determine if a candidate is competent and motivated to do the work required and has the team skills to pull it off. Now that’s real magic. Hiring success starts by knowing the work required. A recruiter’s success starts the same way. Become a magician. Soon, your hiring mistakes will disappear. Happy holidays!

Science Threatens To Replace Gut Reactions?

by
Dr. Wendell Williams
Dec 18, 2003

I often get the feeling recruiters and hiring managers think science takes the “gut” out of hiring decisions. To me, these comments reflect 1) superstitious belief, 2) a serious lack of professional knowledge, 3) a total disconnect with reality, or 4) a deep unspoken fear of losing control. Well, folks, get a grip. Few of us are in full control of anything ó and the ones who are do not rely on folklore and mysticism to make good hiring decisions. Why? They know uninformed human decision-making is flawed. You doubt? Work on this: Ted purchased a bat and ball for $1.10. The bat cost exactly $1.00 more than the ball. How much did the ball cost? While your “gut” is screaming the “right” answer to you, read some of the following myths the recruiting industry needs to abandon: Myth 1: Personal opinions are more accurate predictors than controlled research. There are many things we do not understand about hiring (e.g., will the new employee in five years decide to marry a squirrel and move into a tree nest?). However, our inability to predict the future does not mean we cannot learn as much as possible about the present. The only way to do that is to: 1) conduct our own research, or 2) read research conducted by other people. We may not like to believe research results because they interfere with personal opinion, but research is the only way to know for sure which recruiting and hiring tools work best. A hiring manager might be 100% convinced of his or her opinion, but that is not the same as being 100% correct about the candidate. Myth 2: Interviews are highly accurate predictors of future performance. Sorry, interviews are only highly accurate predictors of liking or disliking the applicant ó and little else. Imagine purchasing an automobile based purely on a salesperson’s encouragement. You do not take the time to drive before you buy, but your “gut” is attracted to the shiny paint, sleek design, and the image of being young, driving through the mountains with a beautiful passenger and feeling the wind rushing through your perfectly combed hair. Sure! Reality is more like waking up with sore joints, not being able to touch your feet, riding with your dog, and having your comb-over sucked through the moon roof like dust bunnies into a vacuum cleaner. Imagination seldom equals reality. Myth 3: In spite of making monumentally bad decisions, everyone is a people expert. We call this myopic aurum rectitis; that is, being so nearsighted one cannot discriminate the difference between manure and gold. Recruiters consider themselves successful if the hiring manager accepts the candidate. Hiring managers consider themselves successful if the new hire does not embarrass them. Everyone is optimistic, but only about 50% of employees meet that expectation. Moreover, they all think 50% the best it can get! You really can do better ó 90% accuracy is not unusual. It just takes some effort, discipline and willingness. Myth 4: A personality test is an accurate measure of job skills. Think about it. What does personality really have to do with skills? We all know dominant people who are bright and equally dominant people who could be outsmarted by a clump of peat moss. Dominance, extraversion, compliance, intuition or any other personality characteristic is almost totally independent of job skills. Scores represent how a person wants to present himself or herself on paper ó not that they have the skills of an Einstein. Personality tests are fun, but seldom predict job performance. Do your own legitimate study if you don’t believe me. Myth 5: Science replaces “gut.” Every hiring decision ultimately comes down to making a gut decision. The only thing we can control is whether our “gut” is fully informed with hard data like tests, cases, and simulations. If not, we have a self-imposed case of myopic aurum rectitis. Myth 6: Professional recruiting is more effective than internal HR. Sorry, folks. Anyone using job definitions to define skills and interviews to measure them is pre-destined to produce the same results. One exception: professional recruiters have a better rolodex. A professional recruiter (or HR department) who wants to set themselves apart from the competition (i.e., ensure long life and enduring career happiness) has no other option: they have to do a better job of defining job criteria and measuring job applicant skills. Myth 7: The ball cost ten cents. Actually, the ball cost a nickel. Do the math. Bat + Ball = $1.10. Bat – Ball = $1.00. Going back to 11th grade algebra, we add the two equations together, the balls cancel and the Bats add to become 2 x Bat = $2.10. Dividing by 2 shows us the bat cost $1.05. That means the ball cost five cents. (Ask your son or daughter to show you how it works.) Still trust your gut?

The Year of Great Change Is Dawning: Some End-of-the-Year Thoughts

by
Kevin Wheeler
Dec 17, 2003

We come close to the end of another year, and a good time for a look at where we have been and where we are going. ERE has been around now for more than six years! And what a six years it has been. I remember the day ERE’s president David Manaster called me to ask if I would write a column or two for ERE, and I remember that, even though I didn’t really know what it was, I agreed to do a few and see how it went. Now, 300 or more columns later, I guess it has gone pretty well. We have ridden a roller coaster of talent shortages, what have seemed like talent excesses, layoffs, and terrorism. Despite it all, we really should be aware that we are now in talent trouble. This coming year will be the Year of Great Change. As the economy improves, we will see how deep the shortage of talent has become. Figures vary, as do opinions on their accuracy, but most feel there is a shortage of between two and ten million people to fill the jobs that exist and will emerge. Even if the shortage is only a few hundred, it will change the recruiting equation entirely. Recruiting Becomes Talent Management The challenge is ours to take up. We cannot just spend our time seeking out primarily external people to fill the openings our organizations have. We will need a proactive, market-informed, internal-employee-focused talent management process to keep our firms supplied with the talent that will make them, and us, successful. We will have to get better at doing the cost-benefit analysis between hiring someone and developing someone internally. We will have to help our managers find ways to identify and keep the best people they have, develop less experienced ones, and limit external hiring to the barest minimum. And we will do this because, to a large degree, the external supply will be smaller and less skilled. Deep knowledge of who competitors employ, of who is about to go on job market, and about who is graduating with a skill we need will be vitally important. We will need broader skills and more awareness of the talent market than we have ever had before. Skills Not Positions Rather than rely as we do now on the outdated assumption that there are plenty of talented people if we could find them, we will realize that there are nowhere near enough people with the exact set of skills we want or think we need. Instead of looking for the person with the most exact skill set to fill a position, we will have to look for someone who has the right general combination of skills that will get the job done, even if they do not exactly meet our requirements. We will be faced with choices ó either hire a good, skillful person and train him to do the specific job we have, or spend time and money trying to find an exact fit. We will have to figure the cost/benefit ratio of hiring verses developing people. We will more than ever before have to alter the job requirements to fit the candidates we have, not the other way around. More often than ever before, we will be given a choice between a solid, competent, motivated and available candidate and the hope of finding someone else with the “perfect” skill set. We will find ourselves influencing managers to choose the former and invest a few weeks in training. The time saved, to say nothing of the candidate’s motivation and commitment, will more than offset the costs of training. Education Becomes a Competitive Advantage Organizations that can identify people with basic skills and competencies, and that have the means to efficiently train them in the specifics of a particular job, will prosper ó to the chagrin of those that can’t or won’t. Public and private education will strain to meet the needs of most organizations, and these organizations will have to pick up the slack and do their own training and development. This is why corporate universities and e-learning are popular and growing ó they help meet a need that leading edge companies have felt for more than a decade now. Our universities and high schools are not producing enough of the kinds of people organizations need. This is partly caused by rapidly changing needs ó the kinds that academic institutions can barely grasp let alone prepare people for. And it is partly caused by an economy that needs highly skilled workers, not the lightly skilled ones that American high schools turned out by the thousands for General Motors and other manufacturing companies for most of the 20th century. We have an educational system, at all levels, perfectly designed to produce the kinds of workers we no longer need. Only a handful of institutions, such as the University of Phoenix or Capella University, are forging new models. Leveraging a Global Marketplace While today we outsource and offshore for economic reasons, soon we will do it because that is where the people with the best skills are located. We will also have to realize that the notion of an American worker is becoming outdated in a global marketplace. All workers are global workers, and work will go to where the talent is located. Increasingly, the talent we seem to need is in China, India, Central Europe, and Southeast Asia. Corporations and workers, together, will begin to identify with regions and with consumers, rather than with political boundaries. Quality and cost will both be ingredients in a complex stew of economics, ethics, and politics. Large, unionized organizations will have to learn how to restructure their relationships with unions so that their members can be retrained and redeployed in more productive ways. But, of course, small non-unionized firms will find this to their advantage. This is why Cisco and HP and other companies that do not have unions are well-positioned for this global talent marketplace. Since unprofitably guaranteeing jobs that are already doomed to go to a cheaper source is not good for organizations or our country, it will be wiser to figure out how to help our current employee learn new skills. Our economy is a powerful job creator, and the mix of needed skills is always changing. Organizations and employees have to be armed with good market knowledge and a willingness to shed off the old and take on the emerging. We have to be willing to do the same to be reading this column in another six years. We live in the best and the worst of times. Change is rapid, technology pervasive, and most of our old practices are not working. This will be the year of great change ó and great opportunity, as well.

Redeploy for Productivity

by
Alice Snell
Dec 16, 2003

Many large companies shut down divisions and lay off workers while at the same time starting new business ventures. This firing-and-hiring trend seems to prevail regardless of the state of the economy. There is a perception among some that companies do not have the time for internal redeployment, so organizations turn to the external job market to fill the positions. However, the notion that external hiring is the most expeditious misses the fact that new external hires take longer to train and become productive. In reality, corporations must be nimble in assigning and reassigning talent to meet rapid product development cycles, accomplish project-based work, and otherwise respond to rapidly changing business environments. Redeploy Talent Companies in the midst of reorganization would do well to consider retaining top talent by redeploying them within the company. Corporations have long been motivated to identify and accommodate top performers to combat outside offers to key players. In periods of time when the company is both laying off in some divisions and hiring in others, internal redeployment avoids high staffing costs, the hidden costs of lowered morale, and a drain on organizational knowledge. The “Mellon Learning Curve Research Study” gives corporations compelling reasons to resist the urge to fire and hire. According to its findings, internal hires get up to speed at their new jobs one-and-one-half to two times faster than external hires for most job categories. Internal hires tend to reach a higher level of productivity more quickly, and have 50% fewer unproductive days during the ramp-up period. Though it may appear that pursuing a strategy weighted toward external hiring fulfills corporate goals fastest, the goal properly conceived is having a productive contributor, not a body on board. Recruiting speed alone isn’t enough ó it is productivity that counts. An internal candidate who is well matched to his or her position will contribute more, sooner. Internal Systems For certain, a company will not have the time to devote to internal redeployment if it does not have systems in place to know what skills and aspirations exist in its employee base prior to the need to hire. Without the right systems in place, this information can be time-consuming to gather and mine. An employee skills inventory database maintains profiles of employees, their skills, and abilities, for use in matching to internal opportunities. Self-service web-based staffing management solutions empower employees to create and update personal profiles and apply for career opportunities. Having a skills inventory database allows an organization to allocate resources optimally, redeploying employees as needed. Matching a skills database with a database of employee profiles enables strategic workforce planning, aligning existing talent assets to present and future requirements. As detailed in the iLogos report Internal Mobility, two-thirds (65%) of survey respondents consider an employee skills database to be important to the success of an initiative to redeploy internally. With a skills inventory database based on a robust technology platform, organizations can benefit from being able to mine a transparent internal labor pool and profit from a clear understanding of the human capital it controls. Just-In-Time Staffing The pace of today’s business cycle calls for just-in-time staffing. However, a staffing strategy that is driven purely by speed may mistake an intermediate milestone, the body on board, with the ultimate goal: a productive contributor. The desire to save time by hiring externally must be balanced by the longer time it takes for external hires to become productive. When companies are in a situation of having to let go of some employees while at the same time rapidly filling new positions, all talent sources should be an option: contingent hires, internal redeployment, or permanent external hires. The sourcing decision should be made on the basis of an accurate assessment of the skills needed and of the talent available that will become productive in the least amount of time. A decision made because of a perception of a lack of time may end up costing the company money in lost revenue due to delayed productivity.

How Many “Turkeys” Do You Hire? Part 2

by
Dr. John Sullivan
Dec 15, 2003

In the Part 1 of this article series, I described the high failure rate of most new-hire processes and provided some basic tips on how to improve the assessment process during the interview. In Part 2, I will highlight some more advanced approaches that managers and recruiters can use to improve the overall recruiting and selection process and reduce the number of bad hires your organization makes. If New Hires Quit, You Have a Bad Hire: Tips for Minimizing New-Hire Early Turnover In the last article, I highlighted some of the tools you can use to improve candidate assessment and interviews. In this section I highlight some of the things you can do to improve the initial performance of new hires and to reduce the likelihood that they will quit within the first year. 1. Involve employees. Although I recommend that you put great effort and thinking into how you screen and interview candidates, it is still possible to have a very high on-the-job success rate even if major errors occurred in the screening process. This may sound counterintuitive, but bear with me for a moment and I’ll explain. If you have a less-than-perfect screening process, the best way to minimize the impacts of these errors is to ensure that the new hire gets “additional help once they start the job. In other words, even if the candidate does not have a perfect set of skills, they can still succeed if other employees want them to succeed. If other employees want them to succeed, they will provide the new hire with whatever special help, mentoring, and guidance they need. The best way to ensure your employees are willing to provide this extra help after the candidate starts the job is to involve the employees early on in the hiring process. Involving employees works because if they feel they are responsible for the new hire and that they own the hiring process, employees will invariably find a way to help the new hire succeed on the job. The best ways to increase employee involvement include paying special attention to employee referrals, providing peer-to peer-interviews, and, whenever possible, letting employees make the final selection from the group of finalists you have approved. 2. Avoid misleading the candidate by giving them a realistic job preview. A major reason for candidate failure and early turnover is that the candidate was misled about the job, the manager, or the company during the recruiting and interviewing process. It’s only natural for recruiters and managers to paint an overly rosy picture of the job, but the net consequence of over-glamorizing is that many new hires quickly become disillusioned, disappointed, or even angry when they find out after starting that their real job compares little to the one outlined in the interview. This can result in poor early job performance or early resignations. An effective approach for avoiding this rosy description is to give the candidate a realistic job preview. This realistic preview should include both positive and negative aspects of the job. It can be a video, a site walk-through, or merely a list of the positive and negative aspects of the job. You can develop a list of positive and negative job features through an anonymous survey of recent hires and people currently in the job. It generally includes not just the types of bad and good things that occur, but also their frequency of occurrence (example: we have flexible scheduling, but only 10% of the employees take advantage of it). 3. Ask candidates what they require for success. Many candidates fail on the job not because they don’t have the required skills, but because they are not provided with the right information, tools, or guidance. That’s why it’s important to ask finalists, “If you’re hired, what would you require in order to be successful?” By identifying candidates’ key success factors and needs, you can determine if those are even possible before you hire them, and you can provide that list to the direct supervisor, who can utilize the list to ensure that new employees’ needs are met so that they can get off to a fast and successful start. 4. Make sure you have a solid orientation program in place. Even a great hiring process can’t guarantee that you won’t end up with low performers and high turnover rates. This is because the selection process is only the first step to success. The seeds of on-the-job failure can begin the very first day on the job if the new hire’s orientation experience goes awry. For example, if the new hire starts and on their first day their manager is nowhere to be found, it can confuse and disorient them. During the first week, frustration and other problems can occur if the new hire has no computer, password, or cell phone to use. The absence of managers and the frustration of not having the necessary equipment might lead a new hire to develop poor habits that will permanently affect their productivity. In addition, poor orientation might cause candidates to develop such a negative attitude about the firm that they may prematurely quit. You can increase the positive aspects of orientation by guaranteeing face-to-face time with the new hire’s manager during the first week, by stretching orientation out over several weeks, and by ensuring that the new hire has the necessary equipment on the first day they start. One firm found that great orientation reduced new hire turnover by nearly 20%. Avoid “Candidate Abuse” To Avoid High Offer Rejection Rates And Early Turnover Even if you accurately assess the candidate, you are likely to lose candidates if you mistreat them during the interview and hiring process. In fact, several companies have found that the highest reason for offer letter rejection is “candidate abuse” during the hiring process. Some of the ways to decrease candidate abuse, and subsequently increase offer acceptance rates, include: 1. Stop doing stupid things during interviews. Sometimes interviewing managers can be the cause of high offer rejection rates. By taking phone calls during interviews, canceling and rescheduling interviews, appearing disorganized, or even asking illegal or silly questions, interviewers can easily scare away top candidates. Remember, great hiring only starts with effective skill assessment. If you disillusion or discourage top candidates, they will simply make up an excuse to drop out of the running or say no to your offer. Incidentally, you can only find out the real reason why they rejected your offer by asking them six months later. 2. Stop “death by interview.” Because over the last two decades there have been a number of lawsuits relating to testing, HR departments have become increasingly conservative in how they screen candidates. As a result of this fear, most hiring tests have gone by the wayside. The net result of this fear (whether real or imagined) is that companies have increased the number of interviews to make up for the absence of other screening tools. In some cases, interviews have proliferated like rabbits. Where one or two interviews used to be common, now multiple interviews are the frequently the norm. The net result of this trend is that candidates must endure a large number of interviews that are generally spread out over a painfully long time period. From the candidate’s perspective, attending a large number of interviews on different days is expensive and time-consuming. The long delays and the uncertainty stress the candidate and their families. The burden is even worse, however, because in a down economy, the odds of all that time and effort actually resulting in a job offer are actually pretty small. By reducing the number of interviews, holding them at night, and even trying to have them all completed on the same day, can reduce top candidate dropout rates and increase offer acceptance rates. 3. Stop “death by repetition.” In a related matter, when candidates are subjected to multiple interviews (at the same firm) it is quite common for different interviewers to ask exactly the same questions in back-to-back interviews. This tedious repetition is often because interviews by different managers are not planned or coordinated. It is also partially caused by interview training manuals, which, by suggesting appropriate questions to use in an interview, can inadvertently cause interviewers to use the same questions over and over. From the candidate’s perspective, having to answer duplicate questions over and over is frustrating and confusing. Lack of preparation can cause some managers to ask questions whose answers are clearly right on the resume, wasting valuable time and frustrating the candidate even further. By reducing the total number of interview questions and then assigning the appropriate interview questions to individual managers (based on their knowledge area), you can reduce repetition, candidate frustration, and offer rejections. 4. Don’t keep candidates in the dark. Another all-too-common abuse of candidates occurs when managers keep candidates in the dark about the interview process and what is expected during it. Candidates are not told about what will occur during the interview and what skills will be assessed. In addition, they are frequently not told who will be there during the interview and what the role of each interviewer is. This lack of information leads to confusion and frustration on the part of the powerless candidate ó all for no reason. There is no legal regulation that prohibits companies from telling candidates upfront about the process and what is being assessed during it. Failing to educate the candidate may cause candidates to over-prepare in unimportant areas and under-prepare in important ones. Not knowing who will participate in the interview prevents the candidate from doing research on the background of the interviewers. By telling the candidate more, you can limit their frustration and increase the likelihood that they will provide the information you need to make an accurate hiring decision. Reduce Interview Overload by Discouraging Less-Than-Qualified Applicants From Applying You are less likely to waste time and be fooled by less-than-qualified or uninterested candidates if you take some steps upfront to discourage them from ever applying. The fewer unqualified and uninsured candidates you have in your selection pool, the lower the odds that you might accidentally hire one of them. If you want to save time and avoid this possibility of error, consider one of the following approaches:

  • Put automated self-assessment company culture and skill assessment tools on your website so that candidates can pre-screen themselves in or out of the process before it formally begins.
  • keep reading…

Job Matching and the Universal Core Trait of Success

by
Lou Adler
Dec 12, 2003

Here’s an idea. Let’s ask 25,000 people from all walks of life, in every profession, in every job, in every industry, in every country, what they think it takes to be successful in their field of expertise. We’ll first get a list of the top five traits, and then narrow the list down to the top one or two most common traits. If one or two of these traits showed up consistently 80% of the time, we’d be able to use these as predictors of on-the-job success. In essence, they’d become the universal core traits of success. Based on your experience, what do you think most people would say are the critical core traits of success? To be clear, these are the most common traits that differentiate the best people from everyone else, regardless of occupation. Consider plumbers, doctors, even lawyers, business people, accountants, engineers, managers, sales people, presidents, board members, writers, housekeepers, nurses, consultants, and recruiters, too. No need to wait for the results. We’ve already conducted the survey. Over the past 20 years, we’ve asked 25,000 people from all walks of life what they’d consider the most important traits of success to be. Only one was on everyone’s list. Actually there were two, when we made the question multiple choice, but more about that in a moment. While the descriptions were slightly different, here is how 80% of the respondents described the universal core trait of success:

Quality: The Bottom Line

by
Dr. Charles Handler
Dec 11, 2003

Over the past several years, I have written extensively about a wide variety of issues related to online screening and assessment. Most of the material I have written has focused on the deployment of online screening and assessment tools or on specific issues related to the online screening and assessment marketplace. I write about these things because I know screening and assessment is a complex issue, and I think it is important to try to provide helpful, how-to information to whomever may be interested. Today, I want to change my focus a bit and take a much more macro perspective on screening and assessment tools. Instead of focusing on specific details related to the use of these tools, I want to focus on the broadest possible outcome related to their use: quality. The more I have worked with these tools and have helped companies to experience their benefits firsthand, the more I have begun to realize that the bottom line when it comes to screening and assessment is quality. In my mind, these tools have value because they provide a way for organizations to ensure they are making quality staffing decisions that will provide them with high quality personnel. I sincerely believe that organizations that go out of their way to create a staffing process that focuses on quality first and foremost will clearly see the rewards that come from hiring people who represent a good fit for both the job and the organization. Let’s take a closer look at quality as it relates to staffing. When we look at the overall purpose of staffing systems we see that, at the highest level, they have two inherent goals: quantity goals and quality goals.

  • Quantity goals. These goals focus on ensuring that the organization is staffed with the precise number of people needed to ensure its ability to meet its strategic objectives. Identifying and meeting quantity goals is very important for organizations, because being over or under staffed can be extremely expensive. Without enough “butts in seats,” productivity can suffer, while too many butts can create a serious cash drain. So, a major goal of any staffing process is to forecast the precise quantity of persons needed to help the company hit a sweet spot where it is neither over nor under staffed.
  • keep reading…

The Other Side of Experience, Part 4: Potential and Teamwork

by
Howard Adamsky
Dec 9, 2003

This a four-part article series for forward-thinking recruiters that explores six candidate attributes that should be considered while interviewing ó as opposed to relying on experience as the sole criterion (or standard) in the hiring process. The rationale of looking beyond experience was outlined in Part 1 of this series, and I urge you to read the essential explanations and reasoning behind this line of thinking before you move on to reading this last part. For a quick review, the attributes to be considered in “The Other Side of Experience” are as follows:

How Many “Turkeys” Do You Hire?

by
Dr. John Sullivan
Dec 8, 2003

No process that involves humans produces perfect results. Even hospitals, with all the quality control systems they implement, still have a measurable failure rate. So it’s no surprise that the traditional selection process that most managers use for selecting and assessing which candidates to hire is no exception. What is startling is that, although the interview and screening process has a very high failure rate, almost without exception managers and HR professionals alike treat it like it was a perfect process with a zero failure rate. In fact, it is common for 20% of all hires to be bad hires, and I’ve seen some cases where it is over 50%. It’s Time To Measure New Hire Failure Rates Because most managers and recruiters assume upfront that the hiring process literally never fails, they almost always omit checks and measures to ensure that the process continually produces great hires. In fact, in the over 100 firms I’ve worked with, I’ve never found a single hiring process, even at Six Sigma companies, that do each of these four essential things to ensure success:

  • Assume upfront that some percentage of new hires will be mistakes, and as a result have a formal process for the early identification of bad hires. (For example, many do no performance assessment until the end of the first year.)
  • keep reading…

Boom! How to Handle the 2004 Hiring Explosion

by
Lou Adler
Dec 5, 2003

(Note: Recruiters, you might want to send this article to your boss, your clients, and your CEO. It’s about your well-being in 2004.) Here’s some holiday advice for hiring managers and HR/recruiting managers, and anyone else who works with recruiters or will need recruiters to help them hire people in 2004:

  • Be nice to your recruiters. Get them a holiday gift. Maybe even take them out to dinner. Make sure it’s a really good gift, or a very nice dinner at the best restaurant in town.
  • keep reading…

Quality of Hire: The Holy Grail of Recruiting

by
Scott Weston
Dec 4, 2003

Because quality issues are a focus of mine in the recruiting industry, I have a lot of people coming to me and asking me to weigh in on quality of hire. How do we measure it? What does it really mean? I’ve started referring to quality of hire as the Holy Grail of Recruiting, because many of us are searching for it ó although our visions often differ in what it’s supposed to look like and how we go about finding it. I have some thoughts here that might help shorten your quest. What Is Quality? As we talk about quality of hire, it is important to understand the term quality in a standardized business context. The American Society for Quality provides this definition: Quality: A subjective term for which each person has his or her own definition. In technical usage, quality can have two meanings: 1) the characteristics of a product or service that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs, and 2) a product or service free of deficiencies. So let’s shelve definition number two for the moment (a product or service free of deficiencies) ó though that could be used to apply to candidates who make it through background screenings, skills testing, or other things that could be used to identify deficiencies. Since most usage is in the context of quality of hire, we are assuming that the candidate has been hired and we are looking at their ability to “satisfy stated or implied needs.” In other words, once you hire a candidate, do they do the job that you hired them for? Because of the subjective nature of the term, I recommend you avoid using the word quality in your manager surveys, performance evaluations, or other follow-ups that you use to gather your quality-of-hire metric. Don’t ask managers to “rate the overall quality of the new hire.” Instead, be specific about requirements to keep your measures as objective as possible. The Bigger Question: What are You Going To Do With It? Moving forward with a framework of quality of hire that means to satisfy required needs, you need to stop and ask some more basic questions:

From Succession Planning to Scenario Planning

by
Kevin Wheeler
Dec 3, 2003

Last week I was once again confronted with a hiring manager who was frustrated, and frankly angry, that his organization’s recruiting department had not found him the engineer he needed after a six-week search. He said that given the unemployment levels in Silicon Valley and the number of talented people he knew personally who were looking for work, there could only be one reason for the lack of good candidates ó and that reason was an incompetent recruiting function! Unfair, perhaps, but also indicative of what many managers are feeling today. Clearly the recruiting functions of many organizations are failing to respond to a changing marketplace. Competitive insight is a quality few recruiting organizations have. Despite the abundance of talent, many organizations have difficulty finding the right people to fill their open positions. In most cases, this is a result of having a recruiting function that reacts to openings when they occur, assuming talent is available, rather one that tries to anticipate those openings, assuming talent is scarce. For years organizations invested heavily in formal succession or talent planning ó analyzing and predicting their future needs and the internal supply of talent they could rely on. They built strategies based on a rational and in-depth analysis of market growth, economic trends, internal talent, the number who would be ready after more years of experience, and so forth. But increasingly they are realizing that this does not work. It is impossible to predict your future talent needs with any accuracy. After all, who predicted the need for HTML programmers in 1995? Who predicted the growth of security personnel prior to 9/11? The emerging process for crafting talent strategies involves developing a number of alternate scenarios that provide a response to a wide variety of possible occurrences. This is often called scenario planning and involves projecting possible situations and then deciding what the organization would do and how it would react if each situation actually occurred. This is proving to be a far better approach than the analytical and rigid approaches of the past 20 years. At the same time, many organizations are developing business processes and setting up facilities that are multi-use or that can be quickly reconfigured to meet any situation. In other words, they are building flexibility into everything they can, so that the uncertainty of tomorrow does not have as large an impact on their revenues or profits as it might. We in recruiting need to adopt some similar thinking. Rather than wait for openings to occur or for people to apply for those openings, we need to build a process to anticipate the needs and a capability to respond very quickly to changing business demands. Here are five things you can do to begin developing these capabilities: 1. Assign someone to focus primarily on the future and develop scenarios. While this may seem wasteful, it will be your best course of action over time. By making someone responsible for developing scenarios about the kinds and numbers of people your organization may need over the next year or two, you will begin to see where you need to build your talent pipelines. This person will do market surveys to see what supply looks like in your geographic area, and she will also spend most of her time talking to hiring managers, senior executives, and other key employees to see what possible new products or services may be emerging that will need to be staffed. This person will also need to catalog the skills of the current employees. 2. Based on these future possibilities and your employee skills gaps, widen the types and backgrounds of the people you have in your talent pool. Actively recruit a wide variety of people and let them know that you are building a talent pool of people you may tap into later. Most of us would be flattered to be solicited to be part of talent pool, even though we are not actually being recruited at the time. By reaching out to all potential hires, you increase the chances of having the person you need on tap when needed. Success in this area can be seen and measured. When the time to present a suitable candidate to a hiring manager approaches zero, you have achieved success. No search was necessary because you had already anticipated the possible need and had someone in the wings. 3. Develop multiple talent pipelines. Every organization with any sizable recruiting volume (real or projected) needs to have more than one or two sourcing capabilities. You should have a robust website that generates at least 30% of all your candidates; you should have 30% or more coming to you from employee referrals; and another 25% should come from internal promotion. The remaining 15% can come from your talent pool and from the pre-need searches you conducted based on your scenarios. A very small percent of your total hires should have come from recently conducted searches, your resume database, recent newspaper ads, or search firms. High percentages of candidates coming from these sources indicates a highly reactionary recruiting function. 4. Spend time building talent pools rather than searching for specific candidates. The real success to getting candidates is to allow a broad spectrum of people into your talent pools. Anyone employees recommend, anyone indicating interest in your firm, or even people you meet socially should be courted as potential hires long before you need them and even if you don’t think they are a current fit. Just as CEOs can no longer anticipate what future strategies will be successful, nor can you predict what kinds of people your firm will need. Having a very broad pool makes it much easier to find that “impossible” candidate when the time comes. 5. Make building relationships the cornerstone of your recruiting function and spend the time needed to make and maintain the relationships. Technology can enhance this process and gives you the ability to deal with many more people than you could if your only tools were the telephone and face-to-face contact. Leading edge firms are using email, newsletters, online chats, and instant messaging to make this process more productive. You should have one or two people whose primary purpose is to stay in touch with candidates, invite hiring manages into online conversations with candidates, and keep the pools full of excited and interested prospects for your business ó no matter which way it goes or when. Traditional succession planning is less and less useful as loyalty goes down, turnover rises, talent becomes scarcer and choosier, and as full-time employment becomes one of many ways to earn a living. The new approach is flexible, broad and builds anticipatory scenarios.

The Branded Hiring Process

by
Dave Lefkow
Dec 2, 2003

In my last article, I discussed how technology plays an important role in how your organization is perceived by candidates. An equally important component of building a great employer brand is your hiring process. In today’s employer’s market, this may in fact be the easiest place to gain a competitive advantage. How do you brand an experience? Companies have long been branding experiences and processes to gain competitive advantages. A few notable examples:

  • Nordstrom. When you think Nordstrom, you think of the customer experience the company delivers. It’s the kind of customer experience that follows you around the store and makes sure you find exactly what you’re looking for in the right color and size ó the kind that will take a return even if your cat relieved itself all over your new shirt (trust me on that one!).
  • keep reading…

Change Your Recruiting Metric From Time to Fill to Need Date

by
Dr. John Sullivan
Dec 1, 2003

As the earliest proponent of speed of hire, I am pleased that so many managers and recruiters have come to the realization that reducing the time that it takes to hire someone is critical if you want to 1) get currently employed top performers and 2) minimize the “damages” that an open position can have on productivity. At the same time, I am also disappointed that the metric that most HR departments have developed to measure results in this area is “time to fill” (T2F). In this case, the most common industry practice may not be the smartest practice. Instead, the correct measure to use is “need date,” which is the percentage of hires completed by the managers specified “need date.” Let me explain why “need date” is a superior measure. “Measuring the number of minutes it takes to cook dinner never tells you whether the food was actually ready by dinner time, anymore than knowing the time duration of a flight tells you whether it arrived at the gate on time!” What Is the “Need Date” Metric? The “need date” is the date that the manager specifies when he or she needs the new hire to start their job. Filling a job by the need date reflects whether managers are getting the employees they need on time (as opposed to too early or too late). The commonly used metric, “time to fill,” in contrast, is just a measure of the number of days it takes to complete a hire. T2F is a weaker measure because it never addresses whether the person is hired in time; instead, it only tells you the total days between the requisition and the start date. By tracking the percentage of fills on the need date you are measuring the percentage of times that recruiting produces the hire on (but not before or after) the date they are actually needed. The percentage filled on the “need date” (on time) is a superior measure, because it encourages recruiters to complete all hires when they are actually needed, rather than blindly attempting to fill all jobs faster, no matter how inappropriate that may be. Difficulties in Using the Time-To-Fill Metric When shortening the time to fill is your major goal, you are likely to ignore the critical date on which a manager actually needs the new hire to start. The time-to-fill metric has the net effect of forcing you to hire everyone within a set time-to-fill target (e.g. 40 days) and to ignore the actual date in which the new hire is really needed. The T2F metric has some negative consequences. For example, if your T2F target is 40 days, requisitions with new hire dates that are 20 days away might not actually be filled until 40 days (20 days late). Requisitions with new hire start dates of 60 days away might also be hired in 40 days (20 days too soon!). The net result in both cases is that productivity would suffer because the employees would not be available when they were actually needed. With T2F, by speeding up the hiring for all requisitions, you discourage or even prevent recruiters from putting a lower priority on requisitions with a far off need date and a higher priority on requisitions with a very close need date. So in the case when a manager has an urgent need for a new hire to start within, say, 15 days, the recruiter has no incentive to meet that manager’s urgent need. In contrast, by using the need-date metric you encourage recruiters to place a high priority on the immediate needs because they are measured on the percentage of hires that occur on the actual day they are needed. Problems With Providing Recruits Too Late Even though many organizations request managers to specify a need date, most recruiters ignore it, because they are not measured or rewarded for hitting it (Note: if you don’t currently ask for it, it is important to add the need date to the requisition process and your ATS system). But even when recruiters are provided with the need date, there is overwhelming pressure (as a result of the “time to fill” metric) to treat all requisitions equally when it comes to speed. Some of the many consequences of hiring too late (after the need date but before the time-to-fill limit has been reached) include:

  • Bringing people on board well after they are needed will obviously delay production and may also lead to customer dissatisfaction.
  • keep reading…