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September  2005 RSS feed Archive for September, 2005

Ethics, Poaching and Competitive Intelligence

by
Lou Adler
Sep 30, 2005

I’m a little surprised that anyone would have a problem with John Sullivan’s stand on aggressive recruiting tactics. In my opinion, once you’ve made the decision to poach another company’s employees, you’ve already crossed the line. Other than misleading a candidate about the merits of the job, everything else a recruiter does to find and recruit top people in my opinion is fair game. If you’re targeting a candidate who has not first expressed an interest in working for your company, you are poaching. This is what recruiters do. It’s why corporations decided to develop in-house recruiting departments and to compete head-to-head with third-party search firms. So if you’re not poaching candidates, you’re not recruiting. And if you are recruiting, then you’re already stained, so to speak. If your company uses third-party recruiters, then your company is implicitly accepting the practice of poaching and ruses. I don’t know any good third-party recruiters who don’t do this. Once you’ve decided to poach, who really cares how you got the person’s name? This is a subset of poaching. You are already an accessory, so don’t try to self-righteously stand above the fray. How come no one is outraged that Fortune 500 companies are stealing other companies’ recruiters at ERE’s conferences or software developers at the .net users conference in Santa Clara? Of course, if you call it networking, then it’s apparently okay. This seems like nothing more than word-smithing to me. How come some sanctimonious people aren’t suggesting that the FCC should bar people from using the telephone because they are leaving misleading and ambiguous phone messages to try to get people to call them back to consider another career opportunity? How come people aren’t complaining about recruiters or hiring managers who walk into competitors’ stores, restaurants, or branch offices to poach? These are all ruses in my mind. Maybe the word “ruse” is the problem. Let’s call it something less sinister, like competitive intelligence (CI) gathering so it doesn’t sound as bad. Getting names through “competitive intelligence” has a more sophisticated aura about it. [To further stake my firm belief on the importance of CI, I am offering my own personal best practices award to the best non-Internet name-generating technique. The award will be presented at ERE's ER Expo 2006 Spring. To apply, all you need to do is send me your best, most creative (and of course legal) technique for generating names without using the Internet. I'll then review them with a small committee of judges to determine which one is the most creative and outrageous. I'll even make the call with my attorney friend to see if any of them are illegal. The best legal and most outrageous technique will get the award, and I'll personally pay for the winner's entrance fee for ERE's spring conference in San Diego.] I believe that using CI techniques to generate names is appropriate and essential. It should be part of every recruiter’s tool box. Furthermore, I don’t know of a single great (pre-Internet) recruiter who was in the top 10% of his or her group and who didn’t do it like an expert or expect their researcher to do it. If you couldn’t creatively generate names of top passive candidates, you were either destined to the average pile, or you weren’t too interested in finding absolutely the best people available for your client. If you want to find more passive candidates who haven’t been scoured over yet by the Internet data-mining experts (whom I applaud), you might want to consider using some non-Internet CI techniques. Here are a few of my favorites:

  1. Attend the annual ball. This is the technique where you call up the department admin or secretary and ask for some names of people to invite to a workshop or conference. Of course, most people won’t just give you the names without some convincing information. For one, you need to mention a real conference, e.g., the .net West Coast users group. There are some common objections you’ll need to address when you try this. Here’s one: “Just send me the information.” The response to this is something like, “I get paid for actual names, and each conference brochure is personally mailed to a person. Our company has found out that the highest response rate is when a personal invitation has been sent.” When the admin says she’s not allowed to provide names, ask who the supervisor would likely send to such a conference, and say you’ll just send the info directly to that person. Dropping a real name here is useful. “Would the supervisor send Bill Jones to the conference again?” is a great way to get the name of the best person in the group, since the admin now thinks you are legitimate. By the way, this is the method which conference marketing companies used to use to get names of potential attendees. They probably still do.
  2. keep reading…

What Great Recruiters Do to Prevent Counteroffers

by
Howard Adamsky
Sep 29, 2005

Congratulations! You finally filled that tough position and the candidate is ready to join your company. The offer letter has been signed and sent back, and a start date has been agreed upon. All parties involved ó you, the candidate, and the hiring manager ó couldn’t be happier. You yourself are in recruiter heaven, thinking about which new Lexus you’re going to lease. With another notch in your belt, it is the perfect time to put that hire behind you and move on with your recruiting, right? Well, not exactly… Even though everyone around your office is now doing the happy dance (like the tango, but more of a two-step), there is one party who is not happy: your candidate’s current employer. As a matter of fact, this particular party is not happy at all ó and it’s your fault, because you have just recruited away one of their best people. There is an excellent chance that dark and sinister forces are currently deep into developing a strategy that will allow them to reverse their employee’s decision to leave, and that’s called having the candidate accept a counteroffer. The counteroffer is every recruiter’s nightmare, and it goes something like this:

  • You get a call from the candidate and know almost instantly that something is wrong by the tone of their voice. The candidate, as my friend Noonsy says, will probably start by saying something like, “You know, I’ve been thinking…”
  • keep reading…

Strategic Talent Advisor: Is This What Recruiters Are Becoming?

by
Kevin Wheeler
Sep 28, 2005

The skills that once defined a corporate recruiter are no longer sufficient ó and are in some cases not even relevant to the needs organizations have today. Indeed, some of those skills are actually detrimental to success. Most corporate recruiters fall into one or two of the following categories:

  1. Recruiters who have the ability to deal with corporate bureaucracy, hiring managers, and legal issues. Many recruiters have focused on these areas and are formidable navigators of the corporate landscape. They know every hill and valley, every bomb and sinkhole ó and they can make hiring happen because of these skills. They make hiring managers dependent on them and act as an extra pair of hands for the hiring managers. They do whatever it takes to relieve the manager of exercising independence. These skills are unique to a particular company and do not transfer well. Recruiters with these competencies are most likely to be the “lifers” who have worked for the same firm for many years. Every bureaucracy has created people with these types of skills and would not function without them. The internal knowledge they have, and their ability to get things done within systems resistant to getting things done, make them valuable only in that system. They are not adding anything to profit nor are they helping find or hire scarce talent. They also have no sourcing skills and often only rudimentary skills at selling candidates on the organization or hiring manager.
  2. keep reading…

Best Recruiting Practices from the World’s Most Business-like Recruiting Function, Part 2

by
Dr. John Sullivan
Sep 26, 2005

This is Part 2 in my case study profiling the benchmark recruiting best practices and strategies of the Valero Energy Corporation. After a lengthy study that began in January of 2005, I have found it to be the most business-like recruiting functions I’ve come across and one of the best overall in the world. This part of the case study will cover their best practices in recruiting. Almost every area of business and management has undergone a dramatic transformation in the last few years. From supply chain management to six sigma to lean manufacturing to customer relationship management, areas of business that were traditionally run based on emotion and tradition have been transformed into business units run by logic and numbers. In essence, these functions transformed over the course of a few short years from being run like an art to being run like a science. HR in general ó and recruiting in particular ó are the last bastions of “run like an art” business functions. The primary difference between a function that is driven by science versus on driven by “art” is that the scientific approach allows a business or recruiting process to be repeated again and again with the exact same level of quality and results. As B.V. Cooper, the CEO of QVS International put it so well, “One of our most difficult tasks we face as retained executive search and management consulting professionals is getting our clients to understand that business is (or should be) a repeatable process!” In short, there is little room for the “free form” approach of an art inside a business structure that rewards repeatability of both costs and quality. Even research and development, the creative arm of business, uses more structure and process to sustain repeatability than most recruiting functions. I have found over the years that the reasons the recruiting function fails to become more disciplined, repeatable, and data driven include:

  • Salespeople thrive in non-data based environments. Salespeople selling things that barely work can be successful because they claim that 1) most aspects of recruiting can’t be measured or 2) the fact that a lot of firms use something and have for years means that it is the best tool for producing results. Recruiting managers that buy products and services based on the fact that they sound good further exacerbate the problem..
  • keep reading…

Understand How Your Customers Buy Before You Start Selling to Them

by
Lou Adler
Sep 23, 2005

Let me make a few points about sourcing:

  1. Sourcing good candidates requires a consumer market-driven attitude at every single step in the recruiting and hiring process. There are about 20 touch points during the online recruiting process. These are things like ad copy, ease of finding your jobs, the application process, the time to call back, the quality of the interview, and everything else where the candidate has an opportunity to decide to apply, continue, or pull out of the process. If any one of these steps is improperly executed, you have the potential of losing good candidates for dumb reasons. From what I’ve seen, most companies are only effectively addressing about half of these touch points.
  2. keep reading…

Fishing for a Lawsuit? Try Using the MMPI

by
Dr. Wendell Williams
Sep 22, 2005

Don’t you just love it when people think they are test experts? You know, with all the public posturing about being professional, being a strategic player, and adding value to the organization. Then reality hits ó and it hits hard! Yep. I’m talking about using a totally inappropriate test to hire people, again! This particular case started in a chain of retail stores that rent furniture, electronics, computers, and appliances. Someone there probably looked around, decided their turnover was too high or productivity too low, and said, “Gee, why don’t we use the MMPI to test candidates?” Maybe they attended a workshop. Or maybe a senior executive talked to a neighbor who talked with a golf partner. “Swell shot, Bob. Have you ever thought about using a mental illness test to hire employees?” When executives make test decisions, head-bobbing subordinates often risk severe frontal-lobe damage from nodding so hard in agreement. Too bad for the head-injured, when the dreck impacts the wind impeller (and it will), the same executives who suggested a litigation-prone test in the first place will dust off their own finely-honed survival skills to publicly skewer the head-bobbers who “should have warned them.” What’s frequently missing from the way tests are usually chosen? For starters:

  1. A job analysis
  2. keep reading…

What’s Hot and What’s Not in 2005?

by
Kevin Wheeler
Sep 21, 2005

The economy, the Internet, and the younger generation of employees entering the job market have all profoundly changed what recruiters do and where they focus their time and budgets. Over the past few months I have seen four trends grow and become the focus for much of what recruiters do. While I can trace a number of other trends, such as the continued focus on candidate relationship management and employment branding, these four trends seem to me to be the most important and enduring.

keep reading…

The Impact of Hurricane Katrina on The Recruiting Industry

by
Dave Lefkow
Sep 20, 2005

We’ve all been touched in some way by Hurricane Katrina, the worst domestic natural disaster in our lifetime. Ripple effects in our economy and our industry are only beginning to be felt. Heroic and tragic stories of friends, relatives, and colleagues continue to reach the public. Our own industry is also not immune to the personal toll, as Gerry Crispin (who has penned some great thoughts on the tragedy) pointed out recently on his blog:

On a conference call with colleagues from SHRM late on Friday, I learned that the Society had taken a government list of Gulf Coast zip codes where mail can no longer be delivered (seriously impacted areas) and cross checked it with the membership roster. Eight thousand names came up. I’m still getting my mind around that one.

keep reading…

How a Former CEO Built A World-Class Recruiting Department

by
Dr. John Sullivan
Sep 19, 2005

This is a case study profiling the benchmark recruiting best practices and strategies of the Valero Energy Corporation. After a lengthy study that began in January of 2005, and after comparing it to numerous other recruiting departments, I have found it to be the most business-like recruiting function I have come across and one of the best overall in the world. Perhaps the reason their strategy and execution are so business-like is that their director of recruiting’s last job was being a CEO. Valero does so many things at the world-class level that it is hard to know where to begin. For example, their sourcing effectiveness metrics and reporting is simply the best I have every seen, and good enough to serve as an excellent tool capable of teaching others the right way to do metrics. Because there are so many things that could be covered by this case study, it will be broken into three parts covering their “business of recruiting” strategy, their best practices, and finally their metrics and results to date. A Recognized Leader In addition to the assessment that went into preparing this case study, the world-class efforts of the Valero recruiting team were recognized in 2005 by a panel of recruiting industry thought leaders that awarded them a prestigious ERE Recruiting Excellence Award. The ERE Excellence Award to a large extent validated the people management practices that helped Valero achieve recognition by Fortune Magazine as one of the best companies to work for in America. Fortune Magazine ranked Valero #3 on the list for large companies and #23 overall. They are the only oil company on the list. The ranking of Valero on the Fortune list is a stellar achievement given that few oil and gas refining companies have a positive image among the working population. The award also validated the notion that firms who adopt strategic recruiting practices and focus on driving corporate financial performance can also be viewed as great places to work. A Rapid Transformation Thirty months ago, Valero staffing was primarily paper-based, with no Internet advertising. It was so bureaucratic that 41 pieces of paper had to be touched to make a single placement, and seven HR departments were involved in every position filled. When Dan Hilbert joined Valero in a recruiting leadership role, he immediately began to abandon the historical HR processes and to implement his businesslike approach to reinventing the function so that it could process efficiently and effectively in the modern business environment. Valero excels in many areas of recruiting, but its primary differentiator is that the company takes a business-like, almost scientific, approach to recruiting. Most recruiting departments treat recruiting as an art. Valero, in direct, contrast utilizes and directly borrows from other successful business systems like supply chain, IT, Six Sigma, and process reengineering to craft a function whose performance can be measured (and improved) down to the minutest degree. Treating a recruiting function like an art has many pitfalls, but the primary one is that you don’t gain the respect of senior management, who live and breathe on data and on a disciplined approach to processes and results. Some have described the Valero Energy Corporation as a company “run by CPAs,” a perception that happens to be a accurate. The mentality that drives the overall business, one of the largest and most successful in the world by the way, is also a prime driver behinds Valero’s efforts to manage its recruiting “by the numbers”. By using a business process model, making data-based decisions, utilizing regression analysis, and converting results into dollars, the Valero recruiting function has lifted itself up to a world-class level of performance that is only reached by a handful of recruiting organization worldwide. This effort by their recruiting function puts them in the stratosphere of world-class HR departments with data-based decision-makers like Intel, UPS, and Microsoft. At the core of their recruiting strategy is what Valero calls a “talent pipeline model,” an approach to monitoring and guiding the efforts of the function, which I view as the only strategic solution for winning the war for talent. Many talk about adopting a talent pipeline model, but few ever reach it. Other companies that have mastered the art of adopting supply chain management practices in recruiting include FirstMerit Bank, Sun Microsystems, Microsoft, and a few world-class sports teams. An Example of Valero’s “Business of Recruiting” Approach Only a handful of recruiters I know understand the way boards of directors and CEOs talk and think. Earnings per share, for example, is universally accepted as one of the key measures of corporate success. Valero demonstrates its world-class business acumen by not just talking about earnings per share but by actually demonstrating how good and bad recruiting can actually impact Valero’s own earnings per share. A simple chart illustrates a business perspective and how they convert recruiting related activities to dollars, operating revenue impacts, and earnings per share. The Company and the Industry Valero Energy Corporation is a Fortune 500 company (#34) based in San Antonio, Texas. It employs approximately 22,000 employees worldwide and produced annual revenues in 2004 of nearly $70 billion. They are the largest oil refining company in North America. It has approximately 4,700 retail sites, which are branded as Valero, Diamond Shamrock, Ultramar, Beacon, and Total. Among its many employee perks, Valero has a no-layoff policy, great benefits, and significant bonuses. It is important to note that one of the things that make their benchmark practices even more spectacular is the fact that they were developed and implemented in the oil industry in San Antonio, Texas, one of the most conservative industries and locations when it comes to leading-edge HR practices. It’s important to recognize that Valero is in the oil business, an industry in which convincing corporate leadership to pay attention to recruiting and people issues is extremely difficult. I’ve had the opportunity to advise several Fortune 500 oil companies, and in each case I have found that HR fought a “battle” just convincing senior management that investing in HR was worth considering. On the refining side of the oil and gas industry, profits are primarily generated by process improvements, which help refiners produce more gasoline per gallon of crude oil, versus individual productivity gains on the part of the workforce. This creates a bias among many senior executives and paints a picture of HR practices as non-value add. The fact that Valero recruiting has gotten the attention of senior management through its approach speaks well of its director, Dan Hilbert, and his excellent team. Clearly Dan’s new way of thinking about recruiting as a business enterprise comes partially from his background in finance, business, and as a CEO. He summarizes his approach to recruiting in a simple phrase: “I absolutely think we are in a war.” Like most great recruiting functions, Valero aggressively “attacks” the talent process as if they are in a continuous but increasingly more complex “war for talent.” In short, they are fierce competitors. This is dramatically different from the more common and gentile “avoid confrontation within our industry family” approach that is practiced by a majority of firms. The Recruiting Strategy The foundation of Valero’s recruiting strategy can be summed up in a single sentence: “Run the staffing department like an industry leading strategic business function.” The fact that Valero calls their effort a “management framework for the business of staffing” makes them the very first corporate recruiting department that I have ever encountered in the corporate world to actually act like they were a business. The Valero recruiting strategy is not only the most business-like recruiting strategy that I have come across; it is also extremely aggressive. For example, one of its primary goals is to dominate the talent market in their industry. Given the size and power of some of their competitors, which include Exxon/Mobil and Chevron, most leaders would have accepted mere survival, let alone dominance, as a goal for the recruiting department. But setting the goal got people’s attention and put an end to the status quo. One of the reasons that the recruiting strategy is so aggressive is that their company’s overall business strategy is one of the most aggressive in the industry. Strategic Goals of the Firm and the Recruiting Function In line with the overall approach of aligning recruiting with the business, the basic recruiting strategy was designed specifically to complement and build on the “corporate success tenets” at Valero. Those overall corporate success tenants are:

  1. Anything short of industry-leading operational excellence is a failure.
  2. keep reading…

The Essential Elements of Every Great Hire

by
Lou Adler
Sep 16, 2005

As I get ready for another great ER Expo in Boston (September 28-29, 2005) and a chance to meet old friends and make new ones, some big recruiting questions come to mind. Here’s probably the biggest: While it’s now easier than ever to find the names of highly qualified people, why is it just as difficult as ever to get them hired? Names of top passive people are now quite easy to get. Shally Steckerl and Maureen Sharib know how to do it using every Internet trick imaginable. Even I can do it without too much effort using ZoomInfo, LinkedIn, Jobster and SearchExpo. Name generation is a major technological advance that has shortened the search process by at least 50%. So why is it still so difficult to get top candidates hired on a consistent basis? Despite my early misgivings, some applicant tracking systems are really very good at increasing recruiting productivity. Some have great search engines that easily separate the best from the rest, and some even allow top candidates to apply to a job in a just a few minutes. But even companies with the latest technology and the ability to generate names of top candidates still have great difficulty to get top candidates hired on a consistent basis. Why? I think I have the answer, but for the sake of this analysis I want to eliminate companies that are considered employers of choice and those positions where supply exceeds demand. If a company is an employer of choice, it’s relatively easy to find enough good people. It’s equally easy when supply exceeds demand. In both cases, recruiting is just a matter of separating the good from the bad. In this situation, candidates can be treated in a cavalier manner. But in every other situation, the ability to hire top people on a consistent basis requires six conditions to be present after you’ve gotten the name of the great person:

  1. Corporate recruiters who are comfortable calling strangers on the phone. Recruiters must be comfortable calling and getting people on the phone. While there are techniques that can make recruiters better at this, hiring passive candidates starts by dialing the phone. Emails won’t do it. This is an excuse for call reluctance. Don’t mistake activity for progress. If you’re reluctant to pick up the phone and call complete strangers, you shouldn’t be a recruiter. At least you shouldn’t be a recruiter for a company that’s not an employer of choice.
  2. keep reading…

Honesty in Recruiting: Corporate Asset or Quaint Throwaway?

by
Heather Hamilton
Sep 15, 2005

Over the last few weeks, there has been fervent discussion (both at ERE and elsewhere) around the topic of ethics in recruiting as a result of Dr. John Sullivan’s recent article, “The Best Practices of the Most Aggressive Recruiting Department” (Part 1 and Part 2). The dialog around this topic is incredibly important to the integrity of our profession, which is why I felt compelled to be vocal. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Dr. Sullivan, who I consider to be a thought leader in our industry. I simply disagree with him on this issue. There it is. First, let me say that I am not going to argue personal ethics (define) or morals (define) here. Though I believe that personal ethics fueled the fire of debate on the tactics that Dr. John calls “best practices,” these values are subjective, instilled over a period of many years, and very unlikely to be changed via one article. It’s like arguing religion or politics: The dialog may be interesting, but not particularly productive if your end goal is consensus. By delving into the realm of the highly personal, you get a lot of one-upmanship, finger pointing, and belittling ó not really the kind of material that advances our profession. I do think that personal ethics are important, but this isn’t the place for that discussion. Besides, what I have to say here applies to all of us regardless of our personal ethics. Aggressiveness and honesty are not mutually exclusive qualities; well, they don’t need to be anyway. There are some recruiting tactics described in Dr. Sullivan’s article that I believe are aggressive, honest, and worthy of the term “best practice.” It is those practices where candidates are misled or strong-armed, or where the prospect employer’s resources are utilized for the benefit of the company doing the recruiting, that I take issue with. All is not necessarily fair in the “war for talent.” Ultimately, if someone walks away from your company’s contact feeling that they have been misled, pressured to violate legal documents they have signed, or forced to waste their time or their company’s resources, there’s a problem ó and it doesn’t matter how you feel about it. Subterfuge just does not work in a reputation- or relationship-based industry like staffing. How Deceptive Recruiting Hurts Your Company What I want to talk about is company ethics, or what many would call “corporate values,” and their relevance and application to the work we do every day. Corporate values are attributes that define the codes of conduct put forth by a corporation. In short, they are what a company stands for. In marketing-speak, they are a brand promise. They say: “This is what you can expect from your interactions with my company.” Since corporate brands don’t exist in a vacuum, there is a direct correlation between a company’s values and all of its brands, including the employment brand. An employment brand promise includes not only expectations around an employee experience but also around a recruiting experience (a “recruiting brand” so to speak). If a company’s values talk about putting customers first, the values of staffing, too, should embody passion for its customers (i.e. candidates). At the very least, there should not be conflicting messages. One of the gold standards in the employment marketplace is Fortune Magazine’s Best Companies to Work For (rules of grammar aside). To understand the values of honesty and integrity, I decided to review the corporate websites of some of the companies on this list for evidence of inclusion of these themes within their stated corporate values. What I saw were consistent mentions of respect, integrity, and honesty as corporate values. Being myself an employee of Microsoft (#14 on the list among large companies), not only am I aware of our value statement, which includes “integrity and honesty,” but I’ve also witnessed a cultural commitment to making those values real in our workplace, demonstrated by both standards of conduct as well as inclusion of these themes in our interviewing competencies. Corporate culture is where the rubber meets the road with regard to company values. HR, including staffing (often a new employee’s first impression of corporate culture), is instrumental in setting the tone for the corporate culture and leading by example. Some companies may argue that deceptive recruiting tactics don’t harm anyone ó that their candidates like their creativity and their hiring managers say “go get ‘em!.” The last time I checked, corporations were created to further the interest of shareholders, that is, to generate value. If hiring managers neglect a culture of integrity and encourage deceptive recruiting, they are being shortsighted and not performing their roles as stewards of shareholder value. Likewise, your interest in benefiting shareholders by hiring the best people for the company is not well served by engaging those candidates who applaud deception ó not to mention the impact on those candidates who silently decide not to engage because they don’t like the way you operate. In all of our actions, we should live by the following oath: “First do no harm to shareholders” (or “owners” if you work for a private company). Company values and employment brand are corporate assets (goodwill on the balance sheet) that are squandered by reckless recruiting practices. In this regard, they do indeed harm shareholders. If any of your candidates, customers, community members, employees, business partners, or shareholders find these actions distasteful, then the actions are damaging. When there is inconsistency between employee actions and a stated corporate value, it’s even worse. The corporate values are considered a sham; people will avoid doing business with the company. Just ask Enron. According to a report written by David Gebler at WorkingValues, “Enron had all of the elements found in comprehensive ethics and compliance programs: a code of ethics, a reporting system, as well as a training video on vision and values led by Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling.” Anyone else see the irony? Anyone else glad they weren’t a shareholder? How Deceptive Recruiting Hurts Your Career Simply put, recruiters are at risk of becoming the “used car salesmen” of the corporate ecosystem. I don’t buy into these kinds of stereotypes, but to ignore their impact is to bury your head in the sand. Perceived “shady” recruiting by a few of our fellow recruiters winds up making us all guilty by association (and gives us all the more reason to speak out). It’s an unfortunate reality. I run a fairly well-trafficked blog, and I hear time and again from disgruntled candidates (ever wonder where the “gruntled” people are?) about untrustworthy recruiters. I’ve heard it all. The result is that candidates want to avoid talking to them (the perceived shady recruiters), and they don’t really want to talk to the rest of us either (do the words “necessary evil” ring a bell?). It makes it that much harder for trustworthy recruiters to establish credibility with the people who are entrusting us to guide them through a major life decision. I also believe that each of us carries with us a personal brand promise. It’s what other people (candidates, co-workers, clients) can expect from their experience with each of us. This personal brand is transferable across employers. It’s a manifestation of your reputation as an individual. Unfortunately, your personal brand bears the effects of the stigma of your industry association. Given the impact of a few untrustworthy recruiters, the rest of us have to fight that much harder to establish trust and credibility for ourselves personally. Think about making a career change and having the hiring manager’s negative impression of recruiters keep you from even being considered. For you third-party recruiters, think about the clients you want to engage, for whom the word “headhunter” is an indictment. This is about your career. Not long ago, I took the opportunity to post my personal brand promise on my blog (in short: responsive and honest). It’s amazing how much goodwill that kind of statement generates with candidates and others. Every day I work to live up to that promise. The honesty part is compulsive, the responsiveness I have to work harder at. Do I think that makes me a better recruiter? Yes. Honesty is a best practice.

The Evolution of Recruitment Agencies

by
Kevin Wheeler
Sep 14, 2005

While some us feared that recruitment agencies would disappear because of the Internet, networking, job boards, referral, and corporate websites, they are still prospering. Companies have not turned away from agencies because they offer an easy and fast solution to the largest problem most firms have: sourcing qualified people. Over the past two weeks I have been traveling and speaking in New Zealand and Australia, frequently to the owners and recruiters of recruiting agencies. All of them are concerned about the changing nature of the marketplace and the growing tendency for corporations to bring recruiting inside. More and more often, enlightened corporate recruiting directors see that they have access to the same tools that agencies do and can provide their internal clients a similar level of sourcing expertise. This is a healthy movement, as it puts the pressure on the agencies to reinvent themselves. I believe that the employment agency will survive but will clearly have to become more of a talent agency that provides candidates with career assessment and guidance and provides firms with much better qualified and screened candidates than is typical today. Some of this vision exists in the boutique search firms and will be the key to long-term agency survival and success. These are the trends that I see occurring:

  1. Agencies will become more specialized while providing a broader range of services. They will seek candidates in a narrow range of skill sets and become very knowledgeable about everyone in that profession in a particular geography. For example, they might focus on Java programmers. Large firms may be able to encompass several professions of these professions, but each will be treated in a unique way. A big part of the new agency’s role will be competitive intelligence work and candidate pool development. Only the largest of corporations will be able to afford to do this on their own, making the market ripe for agencies that can perform these functions. Agencies might simply charge a transaction fee for supplying a few names. Or they could offer to do a full recruiting process at a fixed fee or on a percentage basis as they do today.
  2. keep reading…

Assessing Employee Referral Programs: A Checklist

by
Dr. John Sullivan
Sep 12, 2005

By now, everyone has heard the praises on employee referral programs and how they can produce outstanding results with regards to cost, speed, and quality of hire. While these continue to be the driving factors behind the rampant adoption of employee referral programs (ERPs), as recruiting tools they also deliver a number of other, often overlooked benefits that should be considered when designing, managing, and measuring the effectiveness of the program. Such benefits include increased new-hire success rates, insights into employee moral and pride (as seen through program usage statistics), and more focused use of recruiter and management time, which is enabled by offloading a portion of the sourcing, screening and assessment load to the greater employee population. Because the number of things a referral program can impact is so large, it should come as no surprise that most ERPs perform well below their potential. The relative poor performance of most programs can be attributed to one or both of the following reasons:

Eliminate Job Descriptions if You Want to Hire More Passive Candidates

by
Lou Adler
Sep 9, 2005

I’ve been a very successful recruiter, a reasonably successful trainer, and a middling author for the past 25 plus years. Early on, I came up with a new way to take search assignments, by first asking my clients to describe what successful people doing the work required did differently than average people. My objective in asking this question was part of a youthful and dubious goal of doubling my search commission income while cutting in half the time spent on any search. The answer to the question got me over halfway there. Once I knew what the best people did differently, only two things were left to do: 1) get everyone on the hiring team to agree to use this instead of the standard job description, and 2) find people who were good at doing the work described. The reason the “What do the best people do differently?” question even came about was the obvious fact that traditional hiring, recruiting, and interviewing practices were largely unproductive ó too many candidates needed to be seen; consensus was hard to reach; and often the best person wasn’t hired. Since I only sourced passive candidates, I got to know the needs of this group pretty well. Top performers have their own unique demands that had to be met to get them into the game, keep them playing, and get them hired. Over the years, here are some things I found out about recruiting and hiring top-performing people. The list below will seem familiar to those of you who source and recruit high-performing passive candidates:

  1. The best people don’t look for work or even engage in the looking for a new job process the same way that less-talented people do. Just to get them to listen to another opportunity, you have to be either an employer of choice or offer the prospect of a bigger and better job. Traditional job descriptions are neither bigger, nor better.
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The Emperor’s New Metrics, Part 2

by
Raghav Singh
Sep 8, 2005

The previous article in this series described how staffing metrics in general óand quality in particular ó are being poorly implemented at many organizations. Today’s article expands on the ideas presented earlier by discussing the characteristics of hiring systems that will provide organizations with the ability to consistently make effective hiring decisions. Defining Quality No matter what the context, quality can be a very subjective term that often functions in an “I know it when I see it” kind of way. For the purposes of a scalable, repeatable hiring process that results in measurable outcomes, quality must be much more rigidly defined in order to be useful. This type of rigid definition is difficult to provide when speaking about quality in general, theoretical terms. This is because quality is a relative term that requires a shared understanding of a set of clearly defined outcomes that have some agreed upon value to the organization. While it is easy to talk about these outcomes in general terms, such as “better employees,” “good fit,” or “hiring top talent,” it is often extremely difficult for an organization to provide a precise, working definition of what quality really means. This is problematic, because to provide a meaningful target, “quality” must be defined in a way that can systematically shape the selection process while presenting a set of verifiable outcomes. The definition of quality most relevant to staffing is:

Quality-focused staffing is the outcome of a process that uses a clear understanding of what is required of individuals in terms of both job/role performance and long-term organizational performance to facilitate the systematic identification of applicants with the attitudes, knowledge, skills, abilities, and experience required for helping the organization fulfill its strategic objectives. This process must integrate tools for providing, processing, and predicting in order to create a hiring system that will systematically ensure a congruence between the organization’s unique definition of performance and the unique attributes of each individual candidate. These tools and processes must provide information and support that will enable those involved in staffing to systematically make informed, data-based decisions and create a culture that embraces them as essential for making effective hiring decisions. Finally, a quality-focused process must employ closed feedback loops that provide the data needed to facilitate an understanding of the system’s effectiveness and the ability to continually refine the system.

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The New Generation of Older Workers

by
Kevin Wheeler
Sep 7, 2005

Chances are you are a baby boomer; roughly anyone between the ages of 40 and 60 fits that category. Over 40% of the workforce in the United States are considered boomers, and the leading edge of them ó those who were born right after the Second World War ó are already planning to reduce their involvement in the workplace. Some may simply retire, but others are trying to work out some arrangement so that they can work fewer hours each week but still stay with their employers. A recent survey by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University shows that 28% of boomers say they will work part-time after retirement because they need the money or want the mental stimulation. Many boomers will try a different profession. Some will start a business or go back to school. Most will want to remain active and involved in some kind of work. The workplace will need them. As we grower older as a nation, and as fewer skilled people come out of our universities, retired baby boomers will form a core of experience, knowledge, and skill that will be invaluable to sustaining many organizations. Already, forward-looking companies are finding ways to use retirees. HR Block utilizes thousands of retirees each year for several months to complete tax returns, and consulting firms find them useful for dealing with complex client issues and for educating younger consultants. Some organizations are using retirees to educate younger employees about past research or supply these newer workers with information that will enhance current practices. Transferring critical knowledge is becoming a significant way to make use of retirees. The workplace, however, is struggling to change old paradigms about work. Many firms encourage older workers to retire, believing them to be change resistant or not energetic enough for the rapidly changing workplaces of today. Many boomers are victims of these prejudices and frequently find themselves feeling inadequate. BusinessWeek, in its June 27, 2005, edition, devoted an entire issue to exploring the issues of older workers and health, productivity, knowledge, problem-solving, and energy. In a series of articles, this issue details research which indicates that older workers can be as creative and productive as younger workers, and often are more loyal. Older workers have more accumulated knowledge than younger workers and make well-reasoned and sound judgments based on a lifetime of learning. They can fill critical mid- and senior-level management positions, serve on boards of directors and advisory boards, and often act as lecturers at universities struggling to find enough professors. Whenever I am heading to a speaking or client engagement, I try to meet

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Hiring the Best Recruiters: An Executive Briefing

by
Howard Adamsky
Sep 6, 2005

Let’s cut right to the chase: the compilation of intelligence from many of those on the vanguard of human capital acquisition indicates that the war for talent is upon us in a very big way. For organizations that are serious about their future, the words “hire the best” has morphed from the status of mantra to organizational objective to strategic imperative ó and done so at breakneck speed. This realization is great, but the difference between knowing and doing is the difference between those organizations that will dominate, those that will struggle, and those that will vanish. Furthermore, if we are to hire the best candidates, it stands to reason that we must hire the best recruiters to get the job done. With this in mind, the question becomes simple: What characteristics, attributes and skills are required to make a successful recruiter? Today’s recruiter has a very different look and feel from the recruiter of five or even two years ago. The job is more demanding, the skills required much broader, and the stakes a great deal higher. The days of just sending resumes to hiring managers and hoping for the best are over. Today’s recruiters need to be, at a minimum:

Recruiting Basics: Making Offers

by
Lou Adler
Sep 2, 2005

This article was originally published November 12, 2004. If you’ve ever had an offer turned down or had a candidate say, “I have to think about it,” you made the offer too soon. You’ve probably also broken the cardinal principle that every recruiter must follow: “Never make a formal offer until it’s been 100% accepted. Test it first, test it again, and continue to test it until the candidate says yes.” Then make the offer. Here’s how this “testing the offer” process works: What’s important is that you use a series of questions to test the offer once you’ve decided to move forward on making an offer to someone. Never formalize the offer (with a written, signed, and approved offer letter) without testing it this way first. Candidates often use offers to obtain counter-offers or negotiate other offers. By testing offers before you make them, you’ll be in a position to be the last company to extend the offer, minimizing the chances the candidate will renege. More important, testing offers this way provides the candidate an opportunity to openly express his or her concerns. You then have a chance to address the concerns and negotiate the offer package under less stress. While you want the candidate to have reasonable time to think about the offer, you also want to know what the person is thinking about. They will only tell you this if you haven’t made the offer formal. It’s important to test interest throughout the interviewing process. Here’s a question you can use throughout that process:

Based on what you now know about the job, is this something you’d be interested in pursuing?

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The Greatest Staffing Question in the Known Universe, Ever!

by
Dr. Wendell Williams
Sep 1, 2005

Everywhere, people quest after the most important staffing question. For example, the other day a woman called wanting to know if I had a test for hiring control-room operators. It seems their mass-transit agency had been using the XYZ personality test to select train operators, and they wanted to buy a separate personality test for jobs requiring critical decision-making. It seemed like a good question. I tactfully replied, “There is no such thing.” She did not what to hear that. She repeated, “Our test was developed by the famous Dr. XYZ. He even added items to the test to make it more applicable to our position.” I asked, “Is it validated?” She said, “Yes. Dr XYZ gave it to three of our top operators and supervisors.” I asked, “Did he give it to a statistical sampling of high and low producers?” She replied confidently, “No, only the top three.” I replied, “Three people are insufficient to get a good test profile. What about EEOC guidelines?” She got huffy. “Dr. XYZ guarantees the EEOC reviewed and approved the test. Do you have a test or not?” This had all the earmarks of a problematic client. I responded, “No, I’m sorry. I don’t.” We both hung up. She probably thought I was a jerk and continued calling vendors until someone finally gave her the answer she wanted to hear. Not the right one ó not a good one ó but the one she wanted to hear. What was wrong with her responses?

  1. Personality tests are highly inaccurate measures of job skills. Think about it: Ever known dull people who insist they are smart?
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