In Part 3 of this article series on building a magnetic employer brand, we explored how to:
- Analyze your default brand for strengths and weaknesses
In Part 1 of this article series I outlined the need to gather more information about a candidate’s interests, expectations, and preferences in order to help better determine if they were a “fit” for the job, the manager, your culture, or your company. I recommend the use of a pre-interview questionnaire to gather information from candidates that you are soon to interview. To reiterate, a pre-interview questionnaire is a series of questions that allow you to learn more about the candidate prior to the interview. It asks them to provide information related to their job preferences, career goals, how to best manage them, what frustrates them, and what their key motivators are. Generally, this questionnaire is provided only to candidates who are selected for an interview. But in some cases, it may also become a quick “first cut” assessment tool to screen out a few candidates from the original interview pool. Pre-interview questionnaires can:
First, the vision. As I finished up my presentation for the September 13-15, 2004, ER Expo 2004 Fall in Boston (which you should attend), the overwhelming idea came to mind that hiring top talent can some day be a systematic business process. By this I mean that companies and their hiring managers can assume that when a hiring need arises, it will be quickly filled by a strong person. When this day arrives, the systems will be in place to automatically ferret out the best people available, using a variety of effective sourcing techniques. Diverse candidates of all shapes, sizes, and colors will be represented in this best candidate pool. Recruiters and managers will then accurately interview and assess candidates and select the best ó using objective and highly accurate techniques. The goal: 90% of people hired will be competent and highly motivated to meet all job objectives. This hiring process will furthermore be fully integrated with the on-boarding process to ensure that the new employee gets up to speed as rapidly as possible. Of course, the hiring process will be an extension of the company’s performance management system, with the new employee managed, coached, developed, and reviewed based on the same criteria under which he or she was hired. As a result of making hiring top talent a systematic business process, turnover will decline, employee satisfaction will increase, and overall company performance will improve. This is what can happen if hiring top talent really becomes #1 and hiring the best becomes a business process. Now, the reality. Despite apparent advances in the hiring process in the last 10 years, hiring performance based on quality and time to fill hasn’t improved much. Cost to hire might have declined somewhat, but this is no savings if candidate quality declined as well. This conclusion is supported by numerous surveys of hiring managers, company executives, and corporate and third-party recruiters. The biggest change in the past 10 years has been the enormous increase in the quantity of candidates applying as a result of job boards. This necessitated the requirement for more robust candidate tracking systems. The Internet/job board/ATS alliance promised that we could win the war for talent. Companies were sold on the idea that they could dramatically reduce costs by eliminating third-party recruiters, bringing the recruiting agency model in-house. However, corporations got greedy and lost sight of the prize: that is, lower cost with higher quality. Not only did corporations want to eliminate the 20% to 30% fees, but they also wanted to do it with fewer people. The result: lower cost while sacrificing quality. To succeed in bringing the agency model in-house, the first goal should have been to make the agency model more efficient, reduce some overhead, get better trained recruiters, and allow them to keep the agency profit for themselves. This would have reduced overall hiring costs by about a third while maintaining quality. Not a bad result, and it would have worked ó except for the greedy part. Rather than focusing first on efficiency improvements and modest cuts in headcount, just about all corporate recruiting departments bought into the job board hyperbole ó that hiring for quality would be easier, so you didn’t need as many recruiters to do it. This is the fatal flaw in the internal agency hiring model. For an example, if an outside recruiting firm took 10 recruiters and sourcers to hire 100 people in a certain time frame, corporations felt they could do it with three people. It really would have taken six. However, the die was cast, and the problem accelerated as more and more requisitions were piled upon fewer and fewer recruiters. With a modest hiring increase as we’re now experiencing, corporate recruiting departments are now reaching out to their third-party cousins. Now back to today. The problem is solvable. I believe that quality can return with only a modest increase in cost. Let’s consider the external recruiting model for some guidance. When you think about it, there are three basic types of third-party recruiters: retained executive search, contingency recruiters, and high-volume agency recruiters. Most people would agree that retained executive recruiters do the best overall job when using the quality of candidate as the primary measurement standard. Some contingency firms also do well on this measure, especially those that emulate some of the more important characteristics of retained search. Very few corporate recruiting departments do as well on the quality-of-candidate measure as a top executive search firm. The reasons why are revealing, so a direct comparison is in order:
People like to believe they are rational, even when the exact opposite case is true. Think of it a poor man’s Dilbert cartoon: “My decisions may be completely wrong, but I’m totally convinced!” Human Error Study after study by scientists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky has identified three major sources of human error that operate whether we know it or not:
Charles Smith has hired lots of excellent people in his 20 years as an executive in a mid-sized service-sector company. His interviewing practices are a bit unusual, and yet they have allowed him to hire an extraordinary number of excellent people. He usually interviews two or three candidates for a position and then chooses one fairly quickly. In almost every case, that person turns out to be an above average contributor. His ability is widely known within his company, and yet neither he nor anyone else can explain how he knows when a person is potentially going to be a successful performer. After spending a few days with Charles, it became clear to me that he was unconsciously applying a number of techniques to the process that helped ensure his success. These are techniques that are often taught to new recruiters, or appear in the literature on selection. But Charles was able to put a twist on them that made them particularly effective. He also applied them consistently, virtually without fail, to every candidate. While not everyone can (or even should) use all of these techniques, they offer a glimpse into how effective selection can work. The hallmarks of Charles’s technique are consistency, impartiality, self confidence, and swiftness in decision making. Here are the six basic techniques he practiced, techniques that added together make up a powerful process for hiring good people consistently. 1. He understood the job thoroughly. Charles was an expert at performing the jobs he was recruiting for. He deeply understood what he expected as an output from each job. This gave him the ability to ask precise questions about how a person would perform a task or would approach a situation. In listening to him, I could hear him probe thoroughly into areas where he thought the candidate was weak or strong. He used many of the practices taught in behavioral interviewing, asking for examples and descriptions of how candidates did a task. He would probe into what might go wrong or how they had fixed an issue. He told me he always listened carefully for how they made decisions. No candidate could “bull” her way through one of his initial interviews. Every candidate I spoke with after the interview had respect for his knowledge and obvious awareness of what skills the position required. This set the stage for candidates to self-select out of the interview process. It also gave qualified candidates the feeling that they would be working for an appreciative boss. 2. He liked to conduct all initial interviews by phone. Only twice did I see him conduct an initial interview face to face. When I asked him why he chose to handle most interviews by phone, he at first said it was because he didn’t want to waste time on unqualified candidates. But when we discussed this more thoroughly, it was obvious that he used the telephone as a way to keep himself impartial. He said he didn’t want to be swayed by appearance or other external factors that might influence his thinking. He focused on skills and experience, and gave cultural fit and personality a very small weight in his decisions. He felt that most recruiters overemphasize the cultural fit aspects of hiring. He felt very strongly that a diverse employee base was good for the company and would actually enhance or strengthen any culture they might have. I should also note that Charles is not an engineer or technical person. In fact, he has a general management background and has worked in a wide variety of positions in several companies. His approach may be a partial reason why this company has hired an above average number of minorities and handicapped and has an outstanding reputation for hiring under-represented people. 3. He knew which two to three skills were critical to getting a particular job done well. He was a student of human behavior, even though he would never have admitted it. He observed people on the job carefully and noted what they did and what skills they used and needed. His list of required skills for a position was very short ó usually not more than two or three absolutely required skills. He felt every skill beyond those was at best a plus ó but perhaps even a negative, as people with too many skills were hard to keep happy. He was focused on performance. His goal for every hire was to have them productive and useful within the first month, and he knew which skills and experiences would make that almost certain to occur. He did not take chances on good people who lacked skills, which some may see as a negative in the long term. His rationale for this is understandable and was simply that he needed people to accomplish things today. 4. He focused his questions and screening on areas that directly affected the job. His interviews were clinical in precision. He didn’t ask candidates about their lives or go into lengthy chats about previous jobs and experiences. His average interview lasted about 35 minutes and was focused on probing to see whether a candidate had the skills he was seeking and at the level of expertise he needed. He didn’t talk much about the position or the company until the second and final meeting when he also usually extended the offer. Most positions were filled after talking to three candidates, conducting one interview with each, and a second with one to whom he made an offer. This is about the best track record I have ever seen. Of course, he had an excellent team of recruiters who understood what his basic requirements were and who did the preliminary screening. He was also a very supportive and positive interviewer. No candidate that I spoke with saw him as intimidating. He was formal and precise, but also friendly. 5. He did not oversell the position or the company. He was notable in not spending much time talking about the company or the position. In fact, he tended to overstate the job requirements and understate the organization’s strengths. He knew that the recruiting team and the recruiting website had already provided candidates with information about the company. The positions, to him, were straightforward and needed little explanation to a qualified candidate. 6. He did not ask for lots of other opinions and did not hire by majority vote. While recruiters interviewed candidates, as did other managers on occasion, he never expected decisions to be made by a vote. He made the decision, quickly and based on objective data, as he saw it. Once in a while, he would ask recruiters or fellow manager why they did not think a candidate was right for the position, but I never saw him change his mind. This self confidence was refreshing, although I think it could become an issue if he were not so successful. All in all, Charles has developed a process that works well. He knows what he wants and has honed a set of procedures that deliver the results he seeks. Helping him to see more explicitly what he is doing has also led him to slightly modify some of his practices. For example, he now spends a bit more time consulting with the recruiters about a candidate’s background and he spends a little more time with each candidate selling the position and the company. He is also helping other managers in the firm learn to practice the same skills. If you know of other managers who are particularly successful at selecting good people, I would love to hear about them.
How quickly some things change! The idea of a Walkman sounds positively archaic in today’s iPod world. Your kids (or interns) probably have no idea what an LP is, but say “MP3″ and the know immediately what you’re talking about. So perhaps we can all take some comfort in that fact that, even in our ever-changing world, there are still some terms that have tremendous staying power. In golf, a driver is still called a wood, even though these days it’s often 100% titanium. Coke is still Coke a century later, even if it’s now available in more varieties than its inventor, John Pemberton, ever dreamed of. And the system you use at work to manage your hiring process ó it’s still an applicant tracking system. Or is it? It’s interesting to see that the term applicant tracking system has enjoyed tremendous staying power since the 1980s, even while customer requirements and system capabilities have continuously evolved. It’s not that the term isn’t an accurate description of the raw purpose of the tool. On the contrary, Applicant Tracking System gets right to the primary purpose of these tools: tracking applicants from the point of application to the point of hire. The problem is that as tools and processes have evolved, it has become a limiting term that no longer accurately portrays the value of the tool’s potential ó or our needs as recruiters in 2004. Technology has ushered in new ways of thinking about and executing on talent attraction, selection, and acquisition. Applicants can be processed more efficiently and with greater care. Candidate relationship management, once reserved for top-tier professional applicants, can be realized across every level of job seeker. Proprietary talent communities provide companies with opportunities for targeted marketing and can ultimately reduce time to fill and cost per hire while increasing the value of the employment brand. These benefits provide a foundation for talent management to be in play at a broad and individual level. Don’t be mistaken. If the biggest pain point in your recruiting process today is that you have no way to track applicants electronically, an applicant tracking system may be exactly the relief you’re looking for. If, however, your recruiting challenges are even just a little more complex, applicant tracking almost certainly understates your needs. For example, applicant tracking isn’t about helping to brand your company as an employer of choice. It does not focus on providing a great experience to candidates on your corporate website when they apply for your jobs. It emphasizes administrative processes (e.g., tracking applicants) over process improvement (e.g., automatically screening candidates for their fit with a specific job). It doesn’t speak to providing integrated tools to enhance the efficiency of your recruiters, such as job libraries, correspondence templates, recruiter-to-recruiter communication tools, and reporting modules. In short, a decent applicant tracking system will certainly help you track applicants; it’s just not likely to help you win the best ones, collect the most useful data, or deliver the level of efficiency to your recruiting process that most of us need. And with smaller teams and more limited resources, we need these things now more than ever before. So, what’s better? Well, it may be no match for the cool factor of iPod, but hiring management system isn’t bad. It’s certainly much more descriptive of the requirements many corporate recruiters share today, in a world that’s a little more complex than the days when tracking applicants electronically was truly a differentiator. If applicant tracking has evolved to become something of a commodity, hiring management is still very much a differentiator in corporate America. Hiring management systems facilitate a more complete story of the power and flexibility offered by technology as a differentiator to leverage expectations, performance, and process. Let’s explore a few of the differences between hiring management and applicant tracking, with a goal of helping you to decide where your organization is heading and which approach is the best fit for you. For most recruiters, a basic applicant tracking system, even if it starts as an Excel spreadsheet or Access database, is a key to survival and certainly to efficiency. If anything, the urgency to implement even a basic system has only increased in the past few years, as the Internet has made it so easy for candidates to apply for jobs. If you don’t have an automated way to capture and search for candidate information, your job is going to be defined by performing administrative tasks that consume a significant portion of your available time ó time that could almost certainly be better spent on higher-level activities. The good news is that if you’re just getting started with applicant tracking, there are many good systems available today to fit almost any budget. Hiring management picks up where applicant tracking left off. Tracking your applicants efficiently is no longer a self-sustaining hiring process, and you will inevitably start focusing on the following areas to raise your recruiting process to the next level:
An important part of selecting great candidates is gathering the right information to use to make a hiring decision. Before you can accurately screen out or select between similarly qualified candidates, you must have job-related information that is accurate and that can be gathered in the shortest amount of time possible. Let’s face it, with insufficient or inaccurate information, you are likely to make some bad hiring decisions. Most corporate recruiters take a rather traditional, and limited, view of the process of gathering information about candidates. They generally gather information from only three basic sources:
A few recent discussions with fellow recruiters made me want to write an article around the philosophical debate of the general sharing and swapping of tips, tricks, and strategies between recruiters. ERE itself is a great forum for the sharing of knowledge and the exchange of best practices, so I felt that it was an appropriate location to throw this topic out to a broader audience. The Question: How much information do you share with other recruiters within your own organization or your colleagues in the industry on the whole? Is it good to share the wealth, or is it potentially dangerous to give away your ‘secret sauce’ on how you recruit? When is a little too much or not enough? When is it right or when is it wrong? Is what you share a company’s intellectual property or is it yours? As you can see this is not a cut-and-dry issue. There are many paths you can take, and depending on who you are, you’re likely to look at the world a little differently. As we all know there are many people and companies out there that make a living out of training recruiters on strategies, tips, and tricks around all facets of the recruitment profession. But these people are getting paid to share their knowledge. For the rest of us, we generally have in-house programs, mentors, and training that cover a lot of these things as well, but we also gain the greatest insight learning from other successful recruiters on how and why they do what they do. In many cases, the sharing of this information is an informal process of networking in the right places, or asking the right questions of the right people at the right time. People seem to fall into two main camps, but for the purposes of this article, rather than aligning my personal opinion in one space versus another, I want to try and take an objective view on both sides of the debate. I am not prescribing a magical answer on when to share or when not to share, but rather wanted to raise more questions for you to ponder as opposed to giving my own personal opinions, which are not necessarily a reflection of the recruitment community’s. As always, I will add my little disclaimer now. No recruiter needs to be in just one of these camps. In most cases, we all have or have had a foot in both camps, either right now or at different points in our career. First, the “give away the farm” camp:
Remember the article about the EEOC’s affinity for catching big fish? In June it was Wal-Mart’s moment in the spotlight. This time, the “honor” belongs to Morgan Stanley. On Tuesday, July 13th, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that Morgan Stanley settled a gender-bias suit for a whopping $54 million. The suit was filed by the EEOC on behalf of a female bond-seller who made $1.35 million in 1998 (note: even wealthy people sue organizations). She claimed she was overlooked for a promotion, got ticked off, and eventually became the lead plaintiff in a suit that claimed her employer gave scores of promotions and better salaries to men than women. Her employer didn’t exactly “lose” the case; they just wrote out a check for $54 million. Big Does Not Equal Smarter We are not privy to all the details of the case, but it is clear evidence that ignorance of EEOC guidelines is not limited by the size of the company or intelligence of the employees. I once did some work for a very large Wall Street firm that employed very smart people. Their promotion criteria were pretty basic: male, big producer, social contacts, and sports buff. I guess that’s all anyone needs to be successful, right? Among professionals, this is called “Knowitall’s Disease.” Knowitall’s Disease was first identified by a famous psychologist, Dr. Aye Knowitall, who studied employees of large, high-profile organizations. Knowitall observed that managers, particularly managers of large well-known organizations, tended to believe that promotion and placement decisions were purely discretionary. One of the EEOC tables of litigation (www.eeoc.gov/litigation/study/table1b.html) illustrates how expensive Knowitall’s Disease can be for those afflicted. Management Discretion Meets the Law There is nothing wrong with management discretion. Everyone has the same objective: skilled people placed in jobs for which they are qualified. Unfortunately, discretion goes “bad” when managers forget that subjective observations and objective facts are often two different things. Research tells us that “job performance” is 50% task skills (e.g., hard ability) and 50% contextual skills (e.g., schmoozing). That is, our personal opinion is often influenced more by subjective factors than actual skill. This leads to the well-known “promote a good producer and get a bad manager” syndrome (a primary symptom of Knowitall’s Disease). So how does one preserve management discretion and get skilled people in jobs for which they are qualified? Just follow the 1978 Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures. It says organizations don’t have to hire, promote, place, or train anyone who is not qualified for the job. How do we determine who is “qualified” and who is not? The Guidelines explain how to do that as well: study the job to determine job requirements and business necessity; evaluate candidates based on job-relevant, trustworthy tests; and actively work to reduce any resulting adverse impact. What about a minority (or anyone else for that matter) who does not pass? Let’s see. If we knew explicitly what the job required and only used trustworthy, job-related tests, then people who fail probably could not do the job, right? Isn’t that more informed (and more legally credible) than a manager’s subjective opinion? On the other hand, a minority who passes the trials should get the job, right? The EEOC Is Not Your Enemy We all know from experience that, while every human being has value, people have a variety of unique talents. Some of us are good at selling, others at managing, and still others at counting things. How does an organization typically determine qualifications for jobs? Usually by gender, performance in a totally different job, or social connections, right? No. These are not EEOC-sanctioned criteria. The EEOC is not an evil overlord. They just want organizations to stop using the good-old-boy criteria and instead use something more objective. You know, like thoroughly understanding job requirements and using fair tests that evaluate candidate skills for the future job. They even spelled out over 25 years ago an entire best-practice process for doing it. But do managers afflicted with Knowitall’s Disease follow good-sense guidelines? Do HR departments proactively step in to advise and inform senior managers about good placement and test standards? Does HR or recruiting fully arm the members of their legal team with documentation that substantiates good faith efforts to follow the law? My experience with both big and small firms is that they either dismiss the Guidelines as unimportant or consider them too much work. Imagine that. Best practices and legal credibility are “too much work.” Money Flushing For less than the cost of one bad employee (or about one-half of one percent of the $54 million Morgan Stanley settlement), HR could have recapped its entire annual budget by shielding the organization from one bad lawsuit ó and as a “side benefit” its advice and professionalism could have helped the organization put the best people in the right jobs. But suppose an organization is never sued. What is the cost of putting the wrong people in the wrong jobs? Experts estimate an average of 20% to 40% of the average annual payroll! Installing Promotion “Gates” There are only about 15 major job families in any organization (a “job family” is a cluster of jobs with different titles that require similar competencies to perform, regardless of the technical component). We’ll talk about three families that might apply to the Morgan Stanley suit: first-line manager (one who coaches and develops job holders), middle manager (one who manages managers), and professional job holder (one who does the “grunt” work). Let’s classify the female bond-seller as a member of the “professional” family. In its simplest form, bond-sellers must be smart enough to understand the market, persuasive, technically proficient, and highly motivated. A bond-seller is a “doer,” i.e., someone who actually does the work. Now, it can get fuzzy. If the position of “managing director” (the one the plaintiff is reported to have been passed over) is still a bond-seller (but with a fancy title) then it would require the same competencies. Since a promotion would just be an ego boost, “passing over” this particular woman for promotion would be foolish. But let’s assume the job is a first-line management position requiring more planning, subordinate development, formal presentations, and so forth. In this case, past performance as a bond-seller would only confirm that she could sell bonds. The company would need more evidence that she could perform the new job skills. And there are only two ways to get it: 1) put her in the new job and hope for the best, or 2) put her in controlled situations and observe performance. This is considerably different from the choices of someone afflicted with Knowitall’s Disease. They would just “opine” on the subject (e.g., venture a personal opinion.) The same evidence criteria would apply to the “manager of managers” family. This group is usually very removed from doing the actual job. It consists of managing people who manage jobholders. This, too, would require even more evidence that she could perform the new skills. There would only be two ways to get it: 1) put her in the new job and hope for the best, or 2) put her in job-relevant circumstances and observe her behavior. When they are done well, promotion “gates” help organizations choose better performers while enhancing legal credibility. Hopefully, the reader has by now concluded:
Make no mistake about it, the key to great hiring is great sourcing. Take a moment and think about it: If you’re recruiting for great football players and you only sourced players from the world championship team, even if you flipped a coin or selected the new hire at random the probability of ending up with an excellent hire would be pretty high. With that said, the reality is that most sourcing is not done well, and as a result, the finalist pool that most corporations select from invariably contains a few superstars, a few turkeys, and a lot of average to mediocre individuals. When faced with this mixed pool of candidates, the question that arises is, what is the best way to accurately select an “A” player from such a group of finalists? Interviews Stink as Selection Devices Everyone conducts interviews; it is an established part of business culture and nothing is going to change that. Applicants expect interviews as do recruiters and managers. Unfortunately, the extensive use of a tool does not make that tool and accurate one. There are literally dozens of studies that demonstrate that interviews are a weak predictor of on-the-job success. Among the many weaknesses of interviews, perhaps the worst is that they limit diversity, because they routinely under-rate minorities, shy people, the elderly, and anyone prone to nervousness. Numerous ERE authors have pointed out this fact ó but alas, to no avail. Let’s face reality: HR professionals are not fact driven. They have no interest in checking the validity, reliability, or effectiveness of interviews in order to determine whether those individuals that score the highest on interviews turn out to be the best on-the-job performers. As long as HR people look at screening candidates as an art rather than a science, interviews will continue to be the primary screening devices for selecting new hires. Interviews are everywhere and they’re here to stay. Are There Other Mechanisms That Can Improve Screening Accuracy? Given the fact that most everyone is going to continue to use interviews, the important question to answer is, what screening devices or tools can augment the interview in order to improve the accuracy of the selection process? The answer, of course, is that there are several simple, effective, and easy-to-use tools that can dramatically increase screening accuracy. If you are interested in trying something new, here are 13 proven tips and suggestions that I guarantee will make a difference, provided you have the courage to try them.
Many of us have worked in organizations that practiced lean manufacturing or applied some of the tools and principles of the quality movement. Toyota was the pioneer and inventor of many of these practices and philosophies and, by using them well, has become one of the most profitable companies in the world. Toyota is the world’s number two car manufacturer and will most likely overtake General Motors for the number one spot within a year or two. It manufactures almost nine million cars a year, with the lowest defect rate of any manufacturer, and yet it makes the most money per car of any. It does this through a rigorous process called the Toyota Production System (TPS), which emerged from ideas and concepts developed by Toyota’s founder, Sakichi Toyoda, in the 1890s. Toyota has a lot to teach anyone who uses a systematic process to accomplish a goal, including all of us in recruiting. The entire cycle of recruiting ó from attracting a candidate to when we make an offer, including the many sub-processes within that ó can all be improved by applying some of Toyota’s lessons. By understanding the TSP processes more thoroughly and by applying some of them to what we do, recruiters can achieve lower costs and higher productivity. Recruiters are always looking for the holy grail that will solve their problems and make their lives easier. Usually that has meant grasping all sorts of tools and technologies to make ourselves more productive. We have learned the value of applicant tracking systems and have invested millions in them. Some recruiters are beginning to apply online screening tools, and we have passionately adopted job boards and Internet search. But all our research here at Global Learning Resources shows that recruiting costs continue to climb, as does the time it takes to fill positions. At the same time, hiring managers express concern over the quality of the candidates they get to interview. More and more we parallel General Motors and other American manufacturers. While GM has invested heavily in robotics and new plants, they have only made small improvements in profitability and quality. The time it takes them to make a car and the quality of their cars, while better than 20 years ago, is still not close to Toyota. Toyota has also invested in robotics and new plants, but slowly and only after learning a tremendous amount about how to make a car and how to build in quality. They have adopted an overall philosophy of evolutionary change. They make small changes, all the time, under the concept known as continuous improvement. For Toyota there is never a “completed” stage, but just an ongoing series of tweaks. Perhaps we should take some lessons from this master of process. Here are a few of the concepts that Toyota uses, adapted to recruiting. Just in Time This concept can apply to recruiting as well as manufacturing. We need to have pre-sourced candidates so that we can call them when they are needed to fill a position. This does not just mean having a resume on file; it also means that we know the candidates to some degree because of the electronic (or even face-to-face) communication that we have been having with them. They are not just resumes; they are people whom we can associate with a need. We can also apply this just-in-time concept to how we gather information about candidates on our websites. We should only ask candidates for the information about themselves that we need to make a decision about moving on. For example, if a person needs to have a college degree to work in your organization, you should ask them whether they have that degree right upfront. You can ask even before they have provided you with their name, email address, or any other information. By doing this, you prevent unnecessary information from filling up your system and you speed up the process for both the candidate and yourself. Jidoka Another principle we can apply to recruiting is that of Jidoka. Jidoka is the concept of fixing a problem when it occurs, and not waiting or putting it off for a more convenient time. This might mean that when a candidate is rejected, you immediately probe into the reasons as deeply as you can. You do this before you bring in more candidates and before you resume searching. By talking directly to the hiring manager, you can probably improve the quality of the next candidate, even if only slightly. Jikoda is also the belief that the person closest to a process knows the most about it and should have input to changing it. That is why Toyota allows a production worker to suggest changes to the workflow and see them adopted immediately. When a recruiter sees a needed change, when a small tweak would iron out a process flaw or speed up a recruiting activity, that recruiter should be listened to and allowed to make that change. If it works, everyone should else embrace it. Kaizen This is one of the best known and most powerful of the Toyota’s process concepts. Kaizen, or continuous improvement, is the hallmark of the Toyota Production System. The primary objectives are to identify and eliminate all waste. Kaizen also strives to ensure quality. Its key elements emphasize making a task simpler and easier to perform, re-engineering processes, increasing the speed and efficiency of the work process, and constantly improving quality. For those of us in recruiting, this should mean that we take a continuous and critical look at everything we do. We should ask why we fill out a certain form, get a certain signature, or do any particular step in our hiring process. By asking why, and by trying to eliminate unnecessary steps and duplication, we can save time and dollars that can then be used for more productive purposes. By focusing on quality, working with hiring managers to define it, and then tracking it, you can significantly improve how you are perceived within your organization. Vast improvements can be made incrementally and without great cost. There is often much more to be gained by working to improve what we have before investing heavily in new technologies that we are not sure how to use well and that may not even meet our current needs. Take the time to look at what you are doing, ask why, make frequent small changes, and focus on a few key improvements ó and you will be well on your way to recruiting excellence.
There are certain goals in recruiting that always seem unattainable, so much so that they often take on mythic proportions. Critical issues like measuring quality, becoming a strategic partner, and making recruiting a company-wide initiative continue to haunt us as they have throughout what seems like eternity. But until we understand why certain issues continue to torment us, we will never be able to solve them. So, on today’s edition of “Unsolved Mysteries in Recruiting,” we’ll examine those very same issues ó measuring quality, becoming a strategic partner, and making recruiting everyone’s business ó and the barriers to progress in each area. Unsolved Mystery #1: Quality Scott Weston recently called quality the Holy Grail of Recruiting ó and this issue is almost as old as the grail itself. There have been no less than 80 articles posted here on the ERE about this same issue, dating all the way back to Kevin Wheeler’s 1998 article Quality of Hire vs. Cost Per Hire (it’s unfortunate that the picture of Kevin that accompanied this article is no longer around, as it was part of Kevin’s now infamous grunge rock period). Kidding aside, why is it that we never solve this mystery? Some possible clues:
With the War for Talent II looming just around the corner, it’s safe to assume that the college recruiting battleground is going to be one of the bloodiest. As leading firms gear up to compete for the few candidates graduating each year who have the potential to rapidly grow into the entry and mid-level management roles left vacant by the baby boom retirement vacuum, originality, planning, and execution will set the winners and losers miles apart. I am sure that most of you buy into the notion that college recruiting is going to be a battleground, so I am not going to elaborate on establishing that fact. But you may be asking yourself, why is August the time to revisit college recruiting? For the answer to that question, we once again turn to the sales function. Leading sales professionals have for years relied on a staple of tools and strategies that have been proven to help them acquire loyal customers, much like your need to acquire loyal college recruits. At the core of those strategies are four foundational rules which set the leaders apart from the pack. These rules include:
We’ve just finished the first week of our search for a Director/VP Operations for a $300 million medical services company. I’ll be documenting the results of this search over the next few weeks. The overall project plan and how we got the business and prepared the performance profile were summarized in the kick-off article. This week, we prepared the sourcing plan and began our advertising and networking program. Of course, we created a semi-sourcing program to find top people, but more about this in a moment. As part of this search, we want to avoid a major problem that recruiters often encounter: lack of time. This is one complaint I hear from corporate recruiters all of the time, and lately I’ve been hearing it from third-party recruiters as business picks up. From what I’ve seen, lack of time is more a matter of not being efficient rather than having too much to do. There is a difference. In this search, we will take steps to minimize the big time-wasters which cause inefficiencies and which must be avoided at all costs:
Factoid: There is no such thing as a “best test.” The only real question facing an organization or hiring manager is, “When is ‘good enough’ good enough?” Everyone is an HR expert. It’s easy, right? No one ever hires a dud. So how do all the “experts” explain why managers continue to be promoted based on their ability to perform and not manage, why 20% of the salespeople produce 80% of the sales, or why about half of all new hires fail? Can Training Fix Bad Hires? One of the major complaints of trainers is that they are unable to train the untrainable. Most researchers are also still looking for proof that training has a significant effect on changing behavior. Besides, we all know in our hearts that attempting to change behavior is like trying to grow feathers. Anyone besides me see a connection between trainability and selection? Ponder this: On sports teams, why isn’t everyone invited to training camp ó only the most talented athletes? Getting to Know Is Not “Being Qualified” Interviews give folks a nice warm feeling. We “get to know” the applicant, but we frequently learn we hired the nutcase from the movie “Fatal Attraction.” When pressed, most people agree that applicants do a good job of faking in interviews regardless of the questions or techniques. Does anyone except me see that people can, and do, fake interviews? Ponder this: Why don’t talent scouts recruit serious athletes using interviews? Generic Competency Lists Maybe professors, business consultants, or trainers have the answer? We can always get a generic competency list from someone who conducts training programs, right? How about seeking advice about raising a family from someone who’s never raised kids? Do we really think a management team that asks other organizations for competencies is in full control of its operations? Ponder this: There is a good reason why soccer teams don’t ask basketball teams for a list of competencies. What About Popular Test Houses? A few of these are good ó very few ó but the majority have never taken the time to discover whether their tests 1) produce a change in behavior, or 2) predict behavior. Most often this information is either assumed or hoped. Check out this website for a critique on a very popular test used for hiring and training. The author is a philosophy professor who has published a book on critical thinking. You may not like his opinions, but they are backed with plenty of data. Ponder this: There is a good reason why the PGA does not give its players a written golf test before hiring them for the team. What Does It Take? Simple. Take a lesson from organizations that depend heavily on employee skills. Commercial airline pilots, for example, are subjected to physical exams (we don’t want any blind pilots in the cockpit), flight simulators (it’s nice to know, before it happens, whether a pilot can land a plane with a Canadian Goose lodged in its engine), psychological tests (no barrel rolls during take-off or landing, please), and a host of other job-related tests (like navigation and so forth). Is all this testing excessive? Well, as a commercial flier, I applaud their efforts and encourage more, more! Your Personal Test Results Most people don’t know it, but virtually everyone has been subjected to an occupational test. It’s usually administered by the Department of Motor Vehicles. The DMV eye test, for example, is a rudimentary physical exam; the written test evaluates basic knowledge of driving rules; and the driving test is a rudimentary flight simulator. It’s a no-brainer. Testing drivers prior to licensing significantly reduces traffic accidents. Not enough, you say? Well, how about adding a psychological test to evaluate potential for road rage or an all-weather simulator where the driver is faced with hours of rain, ice, night-driving conditions, fatigue, and road hazards? How about a drug test? You get the idea. Make the tests more like real life. I can assure you each additional test would reduce accidents and save thousands of lives each year. So why don’t they do it? First, because the politicians running the DMV are not directly at risk; second, it’s expensive and time consuming; and third, the results are probabilistic, not certain. But even though licensing is not as good as it could be, you’ll notice the DMV doesn’t use interviews very often. Internal Politics Company politics are a fact of life, and I readily admit I have neither the skill nor the stomach to play the game. Nevertheless, most HR departments and recruiters are daily faced with the political decision, “When is ‘good enough’ good enough?”
Where do the best performers come from? Is there a particular type of candidate that is more often successful and more often regarded as a high performer than other types? Many writers and speakers on the subject of recruiting make the case for hiring only “A” players. In most cases an “A” player is associated with being a passive job seeker ó someone who is currently employed and presumably somewhat happy in his or her current position and company. All other candidates are considered less desirable. This group of pundits believes that happily employed people are most likely to be the best performers. Some even make the case that the people who are the most difficult to convince to leave their current employer are the best of the best. According to their arguments, anyone who is unhappy in their current organization or with their current boss who starts to look for a job is less desirable than someone who is not looking at all. Similarly, a person laid off because of his or her organizations’ economic performance, because of a decision to exit a particular product line or service, or because of offshoring to lower costs would be much less desirable. They would argue that a truly excellent employee would have been retained no matter what the circumstances. Anecdotes abound amongst recruiters and hiring managers on what types of candidate makes the best hire or employee. The table below gives a listing of candidates as most pundits would rank them in terms of descending quality. Not everyone will rank these exactly the same, but for the most part this represents how various candidates would be ranked.
Recent terror alerts focusing on newly uncovered terrorist plans to strike five U.S.-based financial institutions in New York, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., are part of what may prove to be a long string of terror-related stories in the news ó stories that are capable of causing stress among your employees, suppliers, and customers alike. Even employees in non-targeted cities or industries are likely to be anxious about coming to work in major metropolitan areas. In many corporations these alerts are responded to by “corporate security,” which is charged in many cases with protecting a firm’s physical and electronic assets. Unfortunately, corporate security professionals routinely view employee stress as a minor issue and fail to place maintaining a confident and productive workforce near the top of their agenda. As a result, at most organizations, it falls upon the HR department and individual managers to proactively provide leadership and planning so that employees are kept informed and given options should they fear coming in to work. My experience advising managers and HR professionals with previous alerts, natural disasters, and the Y2K issue has allowed me to compile a list of dos and don’ts for organizations with employees facing these threats. Why do you need to act?