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Hire Like Google … Or Should You?

by
Carol Schultz
Jun 27, 2012, 5:57 am ET

Sometimes I’m asked about the graphic of sheep on my website. Sheep will follow other sheep — regardless of the danger — and the flash analogizes the importance of breaking the herd mentality. A great example of herd mentality is an event at many rodeos called Mutton Bustin. There is a sheep held in the middle of the arena whose sole purpose is to get the other sheep to run to it. This is one of the best examples of herd behavior I know.

When it comes to recruiting and hiring processes many recruiting leaders look at the hiring practices of successful companies and assume the same will work for them. We often hear about successful companies like Google that are able to attract great talent. Many of us hear this and immediately want to emulate their hiring process. Is this an effective strategy?

Will Deep Pockets Get You the Best Recruiters?

Jessica Stillman wrote an article for Inc.com in March 2012. She interviewed Michael Junge, a recruiter who had been with Google for about 13 months at the time of the printing.

She suggested that because Google’s founders have deep pockets that they are able to hire the best recruiters. Having deep pockets certainly helps when it comes to attracting and hiring top talent; however, having deep pockets is neither indicative of nor directly related to your ability to hire the finest recruiters.

Many companies have challenges hiring great recruiters. My experience shows me this is because great third-party recruiters (and even some not so great ones) are making too much money. Companies tend not to pay their recruiters at this level; therefore, they are not able to attract the best recruiters.

Before everyone bites my head off, let me say that I know there are some wonderful recruiters in the corporate world. Some of these recruiters are getting a raw deal. I also know that the failure of some recruiters in corporate America has a lot to do a multitude of factors, which include workload, support, and their current hiring processes. I will admit that I wonder about recruiters in the corporate world who originally came from the third-party world; I wonder about their past success in the agency world.

Real-life Example

At one time I considered making a move into corporate recruiting. I was getting a bit bored and restless and thought I might try something different — a new challenge. I interviewed with a company whose headquarters are in the Denver metro area not far from my home. They told me they were looking for a highly experienced “rainmaker” to do all their VP and above recruiting: to attract and hire very high-end, high-earning employees. They had been using one of the well-known retained firms and were tired of paying exorbitant fees. The execs I met with (especially one of the sales VPs) were selling the job pretty hard.

When we got to the point of talking money I told the chief talent officer that I needed a base of $100,000 and an on target earnings of $220,000 plus accelerators or bonuses on top of that. Bottom line was I didn’t want to be capped. As soon as I closed my mouth he looked at me like a deer in headlights. He couldn’t believe I wanted that much money. They were paying all the employees this position was going to hire for that much or more, so why wouldn’t they pay the “rainmaker” the same? I suppose they figured they could hire rainmakers and pay them bubkis?

Will Google’s Methods Work for You 

Junge gave five tips tailored to small companies looking to hire the best and brightest. He did this to help level the playing field for young companies without a lot of money in their search for top talent. All five of these suggestions are great advice, but they don’t consider the recruiters, recruiting leaders, hiring managers, current talent strategy, and most importantly if talent strategy is aligned to business strategy.

  1. Recognize the inherent strengths of the amateurJunge says that “resumes are an imperfect reflection of the people they represent.” He couldn’t be more correct. The problem is that if a company is not totally aligned in its talent strategy and the managers aren’t in line with the fact that there are candidates whose resumes may not “look” exactly like they think they should, they won’t get past the recruiter. Recognize an applicant’s strengths, but if your people aren’t aligned with this the point is moot
  2. Be a language detective. Carefully pay attention to a candidates’ use of language; for example, first vs. third person and active vs. passive language. This is also great advice, but there are many exceptional interviewers who can fake this successfully. I’ll never forget a candidate I knew of (I never represented him) who got a job with a great company while still working at his other company. He double dipped for at least three months before he got caught.
  3. Make being small work for you. This is the only one of his suggestions that I don’t like. It assumes candidates don’t want to work for small companies. I recruited for some wonderful startups and rarely had trouble putting in the best talent. They had a compelling story, a real product, great leadership, great comp, etc. If a company tried to engage me that couldn’t make a compelling case to me, I just didn’t take on the search. Junge is absolutely correct in his assessment of needing a clear picture of the talent you need, but there is far more to that process than is suggested.
  4. Don’t believe the social media hype. Junge doesn’t believe in social media as a serious tool for recruiting, aside from LinkedIn. Agreed, and for anyone who believes that social media is the future of recruiting I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn. LinkedIn is the most valuable tool and is quite effective when used properly, but it is not going to solve all your recruiting issues. The concern that arises around social media and its effectiveness in recruiting is number of recruiters using/relying on social media as their primary method of recruiting. If this is the case, recruiters will need to be trained on methods that “old timers” like me use.
  5. Swap key words for attributes. Look for attributes, not key words on resumes. I love this! The problem you can encounter is what I wrote about alignment above.

The final point in the article suggests you look at how much fun the candidate is having in the hiring process. Yes, the candidate should be enjoying the experience, but many companies have recruiting and hiring processes that leave candidates feeling lousy about the company and make it next to impossible for a candidate to fake it.

Hiring is Not Simple — Recruiting is Complex — There is NO Panacea

All the strategies Junge lists are effective, but not alone. Hiring is not simple. Hiring takes commitment, alignment, partnership, quality recruiters, etc. You need to know what skills and abilities you need, what it takes to be successful in your culture, what psychometric drivers candidates possess, and have an interview process that works. The entire organization needs to be aligned and bought in to the recruiting and hiring process.

There are no shortcuts when it comes to effective recruiting. You need to have a clear picture of where you want to go and what you need to do to get there. Recruiting processes can be complex and appear daunting, but the time and effort you put into it will pay you back handsomely.

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

    I bet one of the methods you use as an “old-timer” is the phone.

    There are companies “out there” who discourage the use of the phone. I had one (youngish) Executive Assistant tell me, yesterday, almost stammering, when I was trying to reach someone at Twitter regarding Recruiting Animal’s STOLEN TWITTER NAME” that I was calling “improperly.”

    http://tinyurl.com/84fryhm <-Animal's stolen Twitter name history

    Really?

    Improperly?

    Someone please tell me how to call "properly".

    I doubt very much though that Twitter will change any of that nonsense. You see, it benefits them to keep their employees closeted. The company you mentioned in the title of this article is another big offender in this department.

    http://tinyurl.com/6ue9kfx <-My article on how companies are effectively limiting their employees' opportunity and pay.

    Maureen Sharib
    Phone Sourcer
    513899 9628
    513 646 7306

  2. Carol Schultz

    LOL! You are correct, and let’s not forget you get what you pay for. Maybe Twitter should hire EAs with more experience and talent?

  3. Joseph Murphy

    Carol
    Nice article to cause some reflection. The three most salient points
    1. Recruiting is complex
    2. Hiring is not simple
    3. Swap Attributes for Key Words

    The first two work together, and that is why it is important to have a robust process that accounts for and addresses the requirements of the complexity.

    Twenty years ago benchmarking came into vogue. What we learned was attempting to copy another company created a ‘me too’ strategy. This creates a force that reduces your competitive differentiation. So, attempting to copy Google, or any other companies’ business process may in fact be a hindrance to achieving your objectives.

    The real gold here is the advice to swap attributes for key words. Key words are also know as proxy measures. It can be easy to collect and may approximate what you are looking for, or be a substitute, but it is not the criteria you actually seek.

    The vast majority of job boards and ATS/CRM candidate matching technology is based upon key words. People are taught how to use key words to ‘show-up’. Resume writers pepper key words into documents to improve the odds of showing up. The fatal flaw of key word based matching and the shiny object that attracts attention of recruiting professionals seeking a simple solution to a complex business process.

    Attributes are complex, and difficult to evaluate with an interview. Consistently and accurately evaluating attributes is best done with a multi-method assessment that has been designed to evaluate the range of attributes which reflect the complexity of the job. That is what supports candidate job-fit matching.

    Read more in a Lesson from Lake Wobegon
    http://www.shakercg.com/blog/2012/04/lessons-from-lake-wobegon-and-quality-of-hire/

  4. Howard Adamsky

    One of ERE’s best articles.

    “There are no shortcuts when it comes to effective recruiting.” Simply Brilliant

    “and for anyone who believes that social media is the future of recruiting I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.” Brilliant! Sadly some kiddie recruiters only know social media and have zero ability to pick up the phone so if it is the only tool you know, well, that is so sad.

    One last thing. You speak of “great recruiters.” I wonder how you define that. Good concept for an article.

    Wonderful work.

    Howard Adamsky

  5. Paul Tseko

    “A great example of herd mentality is an event at many rodeos called Mutton Bustin. There is a sheep held in the middle of the arena whose sole purpose is to get the other sheep to run to it. This is one of the best examples of herd behavior I know.”

    That’s not Mutton Bustin. Mutton Bustin is where a sheep is ridden by a little kid to see how long they can hang on (kinda funny, actually!).

    Also, “Be a Language Detective”? I don’t understand what you are trying to say here. What does speaking in the first person/third person, active/passive language hav to do with double dipping? Maybe I am missing something here but it doesn’t make any sense.

    To be frank, this is a potentially interesting article but it is poorly written and disjointed. Sorry for being so blunt but that is how I see it.

  6. Carol Schultz

    @ Howard: Happy to discuss what I believe a great recruiter is; or maybe I should just write about it?

    @Paul: I know what Mutton Bustin is. I live in CO and have been going to the National Western Stock Show for years as well as volunteering for it every January. The intent was that folks would click on the link to see it and see the sheep at the end of the arena. In addition, if you would read the link to the article I used as the example you’d see what the recruiter meant by “be a language detective”. I was using his example. Sorry the article didn’t live up to your standards. I’m not perfect and do the best I can given I’m not a professional writer.

  7. Paul Tseko

    Carol, thanks for the clarification. My comments weren’t meant to cause offense and please don’t get upset with me for commenting on your article. My personal standards have nothing to do with it. You wrote the article and you should stand by what you wrote. It was confusing and while the topic was, as I said, potentially interesting, I was disappointed by the content.

    If you can’t accept criticism along with praise…

  8. Nancy Robin Gillman, MBA, SPHR

    Referring to Maureen’s post, I find it interesting that Laurel states upon answering the phone, that they don’t take calls even though there is obviously a phone in her vicinity. Maybe she thought the phone was a paperweight on her desk?

    I do know that when I got my second logon (TXHRPro) on Twitter it took away my first logon (HRPRO)and someone else picked it up right away. I find Twitter to be a bit disconnected, so I really didn’t get upset when that happened.

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