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Speed: Revised, Reinforced, and Reiterated

by
Howard Adamsky
Feb 22, 2011, 12:40 pm ET

The primary factor in a successful attack is speed. –Lord Mountbattan

Jason Warner has been thinking a lot about speed lately. Since reading his terrific article, so have I. If we indeed might be at the beginning stages of a frenzy that relates to hiring, then speed will quickly go from a luxury to a biological imperative — an urgent component to success that has to be encoded into the DNA of every recruiter who needs to get the job done. As such we will have to look at speed in a whole different light: not as a means to cut corners but as a tool and a mindset recruiters must adopt if we are to be successful in generating the hires necessary to support organizational objectives. Bottom line? Run faster.

First things first. No conversation about speed can exist without a preemptive strike at the forces of darkness … a stake into the very heart of those individuals who will counter this argument with supercilious and sanctimonious dialogue, reminding us of our fiduciary responsibility not to sacrifice quality for speed — as though both of these essential elements are somehow mutually exclusive. This is of course correct. We must never sacrifice quality for speed. However, to these individuals who preach endlessly about quality, I must ask a few simple questions.

What is quality? Who determines it? How is quality measured? (Quality to me? Employee gets the job done — end of story.)

Now we can move on. I was born and raised in the agency business. First thing I learned? Move fast. In an article written for The Fordyce Letter entitled “’I’m Sorry I Didn’t Call’ and Seven Other Reasons to Fire a Client…NOW,” I give eight reasons to fire a client. Such favorites include:

Clients who do not return phone calls.

Clients who do not respond to submitted candidates.

Clients who change the requirements every 20 minutes.

Clients who “have no time.” (This one is my favorite…)

Clients who do not get back to you after a candidate interview, and a few more you can find in the original article.

Sadly, corporate recruiters can’t fire a hiring manager. (Yes I know, the fantasy is so sweet.) You can, however, increase your speed by helping them to increase their speed if you let them know why it is their best interest to do so. Be advised that you have a better chance of getting them to move if you present the upside for them as opposed to the upside for you because most do not care what’s in it for you. Three reasons to move faster, all wrapped up in a conversation to educate them on the importance of speed.

We look bad if we can’t make a decision. (“Bad” is the polite version of the word I hoped to use.) When you, as the hiring manager, are in a hiring mode, you have many sets of eyes on you and those eyes are making judgments. Taking three years to hire an employee makes you look bad. You are a manager and running a business. Act like the leader we pay you to be. Do your due diligence, make a decision, and fill the position. Bam, done!

“I am not sure — I want to mull it over.” We do not mull here. Mulling is for apple cider or for companies that have hiring managers with too much time on their hands. Mulling is for choosing a wallpaper or for those with zero sense of urgency. Hiring is a dynamic and critical activity that is closely tied to success in business. Have all of the information you need to make the decision? Good, let’s get it done!

Need more info? No problem! It is perfectly OK for a hiring manager not to be able to make a decision because they do not have enough information. I applaud the desire to acquire more information as required. Don’t fully understand the candidate’s comp or responsibilities? Confusion on titles or number of direct reports? No problem hiring manager! Just tell me, what information do you need to make this decision? Let me know and I will get it for you. (Ask the question just like that!)

Can you see how this works?

Can you see that you are clearly pressuring the hiring manager to move more rapidly?

Can you see that someone might even get mildly annoyed with you? I can, but in reality, it does not matter. What are they going to do — fire you because you pressured hiring managers to hire good candidates? Possibly, but the chance they will fire you because you can’t get the hires done is far greater.

Are you ready to run faster?

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  1. Maureen Sharib

    This is very exciting stuff.
    TRUE STORY:
    I had a call yesterday.
    They’d been working on the position for four moths.
    They have two left.
    “We need to hit this right away,” I said.
    I could hear the sharp intake of breath on the other end of the line.
    “Yes, if we can,” came the cautious answer.
    I’m getting ready to send the first batch of names just as I stopped to read this.
    Group members of people they would have loved to hire for the position if ONLY they could have.
    GOOD STUFF.
    What’s that saying about to the swift the race is won?

  2. Bill Gallop

    Is there more to this?

    I feel like I just watched the Empire Strikes Back and I am waiting for the sequel.

    I hope you have more Howard!

  3. James Holt

    Howard, great article!

    You hit it right on the head, “speed” doesn’t mean rushing off to fill an order right away like a harried waiter in a restaurant, it means doing things right the first time!

    Taking a few minutes to make sure you have all of the information to fill the job or find the RIGHT candidates can make a big difference. Being consultative isn’t being slow, it’s being smart.

  4. Bob Gately

    Howard, great stuff as always. If recruiters really want to help their clients hire fast, hire right, and reduce employee turnover to 5% or so, they should provide their clients with a method for identifying job applicants’ job related talents. Hiring managers who identify job related talent know within an hour or so if a qualified to be hired job applicant, i.e., a top job finalists, should be hired, should not be hired, or if they should continue looking. Some recruiters do offer such a method to their clients which allows the recruiter to charge more but give assurances of job success. If a recruiting firm does provide such a service, it needs to charge more because the value of their services will skyrocket while their revenue decreases due to a drop in employee turnover.

  5. Brian Kevin Johnston

    Interesting Article… This is a “game” which is won/lost with “timing” and “speed”… When you get a handle on this, your confidence will skyrocket, your clients will “feel it”, and they won’t be “mulling” things over, they will be the ones sending you “gift baskets”… Good piece Howard!!!

    Best to ALL, Brian-

  6. Richard Melrose

    High-speed and high-quality coexist whenever supported by sufficient and viable process definition (specifications). We couldn’t have all the low-cost, trouble-free, high-performance stuff that we have, if that were not true.

    Meanwhile, “hiring process” performance is roughly 200,000 times worse than the six-sigma standard of 3.4 defects per million opportunities. That’s largely because most employers DO NOT HAVE A HIRING PROCESS – not in the sense necessary to achieve both speed and quality. Indeed, few employers could prove, as the EEOC can require (to avoid discrimination, in the presence of adverse impact), that their selection process was even uniformly applied, let alone valid and job-related.

    Yet, the logical sufficiency and economic viability of hiring process definitions do not require any breakthrough developments. Indeed, the process promulgated in 1978 (Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures) remains best practice, today. So, the same document that provides regulatory guidance also shows the way to speed and quality.

    What has changed dramatically since 1978 is technology’s ability to enable employers to systematically meet the tenets of the Guidelines 24/7/365, anywhere in the world … and earn 10x short-term ROI while doing so. So now we can have speed, quality, compliance and exceptional returns on investment.

    Unfortunately, what hasn’t changed much since 1978 is employers’ reliance on résumés (sales documents), job descriptions (wish lists), first impressions (amygdala response), unstructured interviews, poorly trained interviewers and ad hoc (group grope, coin toss or worse) final selection realities. These pervasive hiring behaviors introduce both waste and variation and, in turn, degrade speed and quality, while increasing costs (i.e. incontrovertible lean-sigma lessons).

    Look at all the wonderful (highly challenging) things we can do better, cheaper and faster than hiring. Why not take a step in the right direction and adopt the selection process specification provided by the Guidelines? Why not earn 10X short-term ROI on investments in hiring process upgrades? Why not improve compliance, painlessly? Why not eliminate the waste and variation that causes most of the communication and other problems between recruiters and hiring managers?

    Richard S. Melrose
    r.melrose@vision21.us

  7. Keith Halperin

    @Everybody:
    Typically managers are required to make sure their firm’s products or services are on-time, high-quality, and within budget- no excuses. There would be considerable improvements in recruiting if hiring managers were given the same mandate with their hires…Sometimes the process itself is designed to be slow and cumbersome, and no matter how effective you and your hiring manager are, there’s little to be done about it: multiple rounds of interviews with large numbers of interviewers involved requiring consensus to go forward, centralized and multiple layers of hiring approval required (hiring committees, CEO of large orgs required for signature) etc.
    As mentioned previously, you only have to hire quickly and efficiently if you AREN’T an “employer of choice”. That being said- work to “efficientize” what is within your control (unless it makes your bosses look bad).

    @James:
    Well put.

    @Bob:
    Retention is bad for recruiters, turnover is good. (Too much retention and too little turnover is also bad for employers.) If an employer wishes to get and hold a star performer from another firm, they should be willing to sign a generous employment contract- e.g. “we will give you a minimum 20% raise over your existing compensation, and will not lay you off during that period without cause- we guarantee paying you a total of at least 360% of your current annual compensation over the next three years.” Funny how nobody here ever mentions stuff like this….

    Cheers,

    Keith

  8. Bob Gately

    Richard, excellent comment and if readers want to see how Richard’s ideas can be put to use please visit my web page and click on each of the bottom five links to see how his ideas help employers hire fast and with fewer errors. I’m not suggesting 3.4 errors per million job applicants but improvement will be achieved quickly. The links go to five, one page PDF files that show what a bad hire, a mediocre hire, a good hire, and a great hire look like. The differences are very noticeable.

    bob@gatelyconsulting.com

  9. Bob Gately

    Keith,

    “Retention is bad for recruiters, turnover is good.”

    Only if the recruiter can’t charge a higher fee.

    “Too much retention and too little turnover is also bad for employers.”

    Only if hiring top performers is a chance event.

    “If an employer wishes to get and hold a star performer from another firm…”

    Why would any hiring manager do such a thing?

    Hiring managers need to hire their own top performers and stop trying to steal other employers’ top performers.

  10. Keith Halperin

    @Richard: I ask this as a non-rhetorical question:
    Why don’t we all use the 1978 UGESP? It sounds very useful.

    @Bob:
    1)We “insiders” can’t charge a higher fee, and “outsiders” should all be getting at least 30% for what they do…
    2)Too much retention and too little turnover leads to stagnation and groupthink. Most companies can’t do enough, pay enough, or inspire enough to get the very best- that’s why they don’t get them and (IMHO) don’t DESERVE them…
    3) “It’s not just that we must win, it’s that others must lose as well.” Also: “what’s mine is fine, but what’s yours is finer”….The GAFI Principles of Greed, Arrogance, Fear, and Ignorance/Incompetence maintain their hold on recruiting (and much else).

    Cheers,

    Keith

  11. Bob Gately

    Hi Keith:

    “Why don’t we all use the 1978 UGESP? It sounds very useful.”

    Many employers do conform to the guidelines and some don’t even know they are conforming to the guidelines.

    “We “insiders” can’t charge a higher fee, and “outsiders” should all be getting at least 30% for what they do…”

    If you are insider, doesn’t that make you an employee?

    “Too much retention and too little turnover leads to stagnation and groupthink.”

    Oh my, do many employers try to hire less than top performers on purpose to keep from getting stagnant?

    Do employers layoff their top performers so they can hire non top performers to keep things interesting?

    “Most companies can’t do enough, pay enough, or inspire enough to get the very best- that’s why they don’t get them and (IMHO) don’t DESERVE them.”

    Isn’t “to get the very best” mean hiring other employers’ top performers? Employers ought to hire their own top performers.

    “It’s not just that we must win, it’s that others must lose as well.”

    An employer need not to lose in order for another employer to win.

    “Also: “what’s mine is fine, but what’s yours is finer”….
    The GAFI Principles of Greed, Arrogance, Fear, and Ignorance/
    Incompetence maintain their hold on recruiting (and much else).”

    I hope it isn’t all that bad.

    Bob

  12. Keith Halperin

    @Bob:
    Many employers do conform to the guidelines and some don’t even know they are conforming to the guidelines.

    That sounds good. Why don’t more companies/virtually everyone use it- why isn’t this THE standard, the equivalent of what I call “Generally Accepted Recruiting Principles”? Does it work best with special types of organizations )or special types of positions) and not others? Is it logical, pragmatic and very expensive or very time consuming?
    ………………..

    If you are insider, doesn’t that make you an employee?
    No, and emplyees can’t easily increase their rates, either.
    ………………..

    Oh my, do many employers try to hire less than top performers on purpose to keep from getting stagnant?

    No, but even the best can get stale and conditions change.
    The great CEO of a tiny startup could be an absolute disaster as the company matures. Also, companies often won’t hire someone who could be one of the hiring managers’ or interviewers’ potential rivals.

    Do employers layoff their top performers so they can hire non top performers to keep things interesting?
    No, but they may lay off top performers who may be “getting too big for their britches” (see above).
    ………………..

    Isn’t “to get the very best” mean hiring other employers’ top performers?
    Not necessarily- the best might not be working.

    Employers ought to hire their own top performers.
    By definition- their own top performers would be their own top performers. Their best might still not be very good, but it’s all they can get…. That’s my point: Try to get the best you can, but don’t expect Dom Perignon if all you can afford is Charles Shaw.
    ………………………

    An employer need not to lose in order for another employer to win.
    True, but often employers don’t want to beat the competition, they want to ELIMINATE the competition. Furthermore, if they can’t win, they want to make sure nobody else can, either: “getting downright Samson on your a–”.
    …………………………..

    I hope it isn’t all that bad.
    That’s true. It’s not always that bad- sometimes it’s far, far worse….
    ;)

    Happy Humpday, Folks!

    Keith

  13. Bob Gately

    Hello Keith, I enjoy reading comments.

    Many employers do conform to the guidelines and some don’t even know they are conforming to the guidelines.

    “That sounds good. Why don’t more companies/virtually everyone use it- why isn’t this THE standard, the equivalent of what I call “Generally Accepted Recruiting Principles”? Does it work best with special types of organizations )or special types of positions) and not others? Is it logical, pragmatic and very expensive or very time consuming?”

    You will find out what the “Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures” are should you or your employer be sued by a rejected applicant.

    You can find more information for downloading at
    ………………..

    If you are insider, doesn’t that make you an employee?

    “No, and emplyees can’t easily increase their rates, either.”

    What does either have to do with hiring top performers?

    ………………..

    Oh my, do many employers try to hire less than top performers on purpose to keep from getting stagnant?

    “No, but even the best can get stale and conditions change.”

    So I guess you are saying that employers always want to hire top performers and risk having them get stale?

    “The great CEO of a tiny startup could be an absolute disaster as the company matures.”

    I learned that along time ago in business school. Wise CEOs take that into account.

    “Also, companies often won’t hire someone who could be one of the hiring managers’ or interviewers’ potential rivals.”

    Do you mean internal rivals? If yes, I agree with you that is why the CEO needs to be the person to address hiring for talent–such bad behavior by hiring managers can be seen immediately and stopped.

    “No, but they may lay off top performers who may be “getting too big for their britches” (see above).”

    If you hire other employers top performers that is likely but not if you hire your own top performers.

    …………..

    Isn’t “to get the very best” mean hiring other employers’ top performers?

    “Not necessarily- the best might not be working.”

    I agree with you again. Talent is not related to employment status.

    Employers ought to hire their own top performers.

    “By definition- their own top performers would be their own top performers.”

    But only after they are hired. The secret is to identify them prior to making the job offer.

    “Their best might still not be very good, but it’s all they can get…. That’s my point: Try to get the best you can, but don’t expect Dom Perignon if all you can afford is Charles Shaw.”

    About 20% of the qualified to be hired job applicant would become top performers if they were hired but they don’t get hired because they were are not the best candidates.

    The following is from the

    Employer Best Practices for Testing and Selection

    Employers should administer tests and other selection procedures without regard to race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age (40 or older), or disability.
    Employers should ensure that employment tests and other selection procedures are properly validated for the positions and purposes for which they are used. The test or selection procedure must be job-related and its results appropriate for the employer’s purpose. While a test vendor’s documentation supporting the validity of a test may be helpful, the employer is still responsible for ensuring that its tests are valid under UGESP.

    If a selection procedure screens out a protected group, the employer should determine whether there is an equally effective alternative selection procedure that has less adverse impact and, if so, adopt the alternative procedure. For example, if the selection procedure is a test, the employer should determine whether another test would predict job performance but not disproportionately exclude the protected group.

    To ensure that a test or selection procedure remains predictive of success in a job, employers should keep abreast of changes in job requirements and should update the test specifications or selection procedures accordingly.

    Employers should ensure that tests and selection procedures are not adopted casually by managers who know little about these processes. A test or selection procedure can be an effective management tool, but no test or selection procedure should be implemented without an understanding of its effectiveness and limitations for the organization, its appropriateness for a specific job, and whether it can be appropriately administered and scored.

    For further background on experiences and challenges encountered by employers, employees, and job seekers in testing, see the testimony from the Commission’s meeting on testing, located on the EEOC’s public web site at: http://eeoc.gov/eeoc/meetings/archive/5-16-07/index.html.
    For general information on discrimination Title VII, the ADA and the ADEA see EEOC’s web site at http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/index.cfm

    end

  14. Richard Melrose

    @Keith

    I do not know why ALL involved in hiring, promoting etc. do not follow the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures – (1) to avoid trouble with the regulators, e.g. EEOC and (2) to make the best possible personnel decisions by using actionable information together with proven business practices.

    Maybe it’s because no one has tweeted “UGESOP rocks. Hire the best. Avoid fines and enforcement actions. Perform job analyses. Match talent to jobs. You’re already testing.”

    Bob says many do follow. I say most don’t. We could both be right. Thousands might and tens of thousands might not. Personally, I have yet to find a large employer (>1,000 employees) that would earn better than a “C” grade for UGOESP implementation. That means they have sizeable legal and regulatory exposures and they underperform in talent management.

    Most hiring managers do not know what the Guidelines say, so how could they (their Company) possibly be following them? Meanwhile, the Guidelines’ reliability, validity and job-relatedness criteria put mainstream selection procedures like résumé reads, job applications, job description alignments, many universal “tests” and unstructured interviews on very thin ice, indeed; most employers would have great difficulty demonstrating to the EEOC’s satisfaction that any of those procedures, as practiced, for any particular selection decision, were valid, uniformly applied and job-related, consistent with business necessity. That’s the Guideline’s standard.

    The widely acknowledged weaknesses of résumés and job descriptions, alone, make a satisfactory validity demonstration almost impossible. And then there’s the lack of reliability in unstructured interviews and the generally poor interview preparation and competence of hiring managers, most of whom think they can “wing it”. Oh, by the way, the Guidelines treat each of the aforementioned “mainstream selection procedures” as “tests”, which are subject to the very same validity and job-relatedness criteria as more formal assessment procedures or structured interviews.

    Following the Guidelines is not that hard and the payoff is huge. That’s because the Guidelines actually do constitute best practice employee selection procedures, whereby employers can dramatically reduce deleterious employee-related expenses (turnover, absenteeism, workers comp, theft, etc.), while systematically increasing the talent-driven operational and financial performance of the enterprise.

    If recruiters insisted that hiring managers follow the Guidelines they would have a much easier time with quality of hire and the process of making their candidate presentations. As a first step they could ask to see the job analysis (per the Guidelines) that defines “what it takes to do the job”. By the way, SHRM refers to the job analysis as nothing less than “the foundation of all HR practices”. With the job analysis as a reference, the sourcing and presentation of candidates boils down to building cases that those presented likely have “what it takes”. That’s much easier than hitting a hiring manager’s ill defined, personally biased and often moving target.

    Psst. “UGESOP rocks. Hire the best. Avoid fines and enforcement actions. Perform job analyses. Match talent to jobs. You’re already testing.” 134 characters, with spaces. Pass it on.

    Richard Melrose
    r.melrose@vision21.us

  15. Keith Halperin

    Hmmmm. This sounds curious to me. It seems that there are many upsides and frew downsides. Folks, have you implemented UGEPS? If so, what has been your experience with it? If not, why not?

    -kh

  16. Bob Gately

    Richard, insightful post! In my former life as a professional engineer, I’m still a PE, I used to think the state high department was crazy to pay only 132% overhead for design services. While doing my MBA I finally learned the state was right; engineering firms should not have such high overhead rates. I agree with you that the guidelines would help employers do a much better job of hiring good employees but managers need to ask “can we do better?” and then follow the guidelines.

  17. Howard Adamsky

    Whew!

  18. Steve Kaspar

    Fantastic article! It should be printed out and hung in every recruiters workspace!

  19. Richard Melrose

    @Keith

    “… many upsides and few downsides”. Yup. In fact, I cannot think of one downside. All the risk and exposure lies in the do-nothing alternative.

    Pure and simple, companies can make big money following the Guidelines. A combination of enhanced compliance, reduced costs and improved performance, rewards very modest and very manageable initiatives with 10x, short-term ROI and sizeable additional dividends that continue throughout the employee lifecycle.

    By the way, I have no trouble admitting my ignorance of the Guidelines, when, a decade ago, I served as Chairman and CEO, of an international industrial company with operations in five countries on three continents and over 1,500 employees.

    If there are business leaders (CEO, COO, CFO, CHRO, etc.) out there who would like to dramatically improve their enterprise’s health and value, send me an email. I’ll show you how to get your team started following the Guidelines, while making more money and building a higher performing, more sustainable organization, every step of the way. Any company can start systematically making changes for the better, as early as tomorrow.

    Frankly, however, I would be surprised to get a single legitimate (decision maker) email. There’s too much inertia at rest out there. The only thing that seems to get the C-suite’s attention on this topic is when they get slapped with EEOC enforcement actions and/or fines. Then they go looking for the HR person, hiring manager and/or labor law advisor who “got them into this mess”.

    That wrong-headed, after-the–fact, compliance-focused perspective completely misses the low hanging fruit of cost savings and performance improvement available from the same actions would have avoided compliance problems in the first place.

    Best,

    Richard Melrose
    r.melrose@vision21.us

  20. Keith Halperin

    @Richard:
    I’m certainly no C, but I’d like to learn more about implementing UGESOP in large organizations.

    @Everybody:
    I still want to learn your experiences with it…

    Keith
    keithsrj@Sbcglobal.net

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