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Dr. John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations. He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of Talent Management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations / organizations in 30 countries on all 6 continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR and the Financial Times. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring”, Staffing.org called him “the father of HR metrics” and SHRM called him “One of the industries most respected strategists”. He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked #8 among the top 25 online influencers in Talent Management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website www.drjohnsullivan.com and on www.ERE.Net. He lives in Pacifica, California.

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Refusing to Hire Overqualified Candidates – a Myth That Can Hurt Your Firm

by Aug 25, 2014, 12:31 am ET

Imagine being assigned a physician and then purposely rejecting them solely because they were “overqualified” for your medical situation. Well that’s exactly what happens when hiring managers reject candidates who have “too many” qualifications.

There is simply no excuse in this new era of data-based recruiting to adhere to this old wives’ tales” in hiring. I have written in the past about the cost of rejecting “job jumpers” and in this article, I will focus on the false assumption that hiring candidates who are “overqualified” will result in frustrated employees who will quickly quit. There is simply no data to prove any of the negative assumptions that are often made about overqualified prospects or candidates.

There Are No Proven Performance Issues Related to Being Overqualified keep reading…

Revealing the Factors That Restrict the Recruiting of STEM Women (Part 2 of 2)

by and Aug 18, 2014, 12:20 am ET

STEMThis is the final part of a two-part research-based series that is designed to reveal and describe the four categories of factors that restrict the recruiting of STEM women (i.e. women with degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math) into high-tech firms.

In part one we highlighted Category 1, the lack of a short-term impact associated with efforts to increase the supply of STEM women, and Category 2, the top barriers that restrict STEM women from applying for and accepting new jobs. Our research and analysis indicates that there are two more major categories of factors that inhibit STEM women from changing jobs. Those factors will be covered in Category 3, the corporate cultural frustrators that discourage STEM women from being recruited into new jobs, and Category 4, biases against women in the hiring process of high-tech firms.


CATEGORY 3 — The corporate cultural frustrators That Discourage STEM Women From Being Recruited Into New Jobs keep reading…

Revealing the Factors That Restrict the Recruiting of STEM Women (Part 1 of 2)

by and Aug 11, 2014, 12:52 am ET

STEMWe are deeply disturbed at the “there’s little we can do” attitude of the leadership at most major tech firms towards increasing the number of STEM (i.e. Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) women recruited into their firms. The leaders of these firms seem to think that their posting of shallow diversity metrics was sufficient. Because males dominate many of the high-tech leadership roles, it’s a bit arrogant for them to assume that they know and understand the barriers that STEM women face.

Instead, we propose they use a more scientific approach that uses survey research techniques to identify the actual barriers that STEM women face when applying for a job in a high-tech culture. Only after you pinpoint the actual barriers can executives then take the precise steps necessary to mitigate or overcome those barriers. Rather than waiting for these hesitant leaders at high-tech firms to act, we have been conducting our own interviews and survey research with the goal of identifying each of the barriers that STEM women recruits face. Our research has found that there are four categories of factors that contribute to the STEM women recruiting problem.

They are 1) the weak supply; 2) the perceived barriers that restrict them from applying for jobs; 3) the negative male culture that frustrates and discourages women; and 4) the biases against women embedded in most corporate hiring and promotion processes.

In this part 1 of a 2-part article, we will address the first two categories, the weak supply of STEM women, and the perceived barriers that restrict STEM women from applying for jobs.  keep reading…

Metrics for STEM Women – a Critical Examination of the High-tech Approach

by and Aug 4, 2014, 5:21 am ET

STEMThere has been a great deal of publicity lately surrounding the lack of STEM women at high-tech firms. Unfortunately, we have to give two thumbs down to the diversity data from each of the top high-tech firms that have publicly released their numbers. Although the firms’ intentions were good, the limited scope of the metrics that they revealed do not provide the necessary information that STEM women need in order select which firm to join or the right information needed in order to encourage them to actually apply for a different tech job.

High-tech firms have two basic reasons for attempting to hire and retain more STEM women into key roles. keep reading…

Retention — The Top 10 Ways a Manager Can Identify Who Is About to Quit

by Jul 28, 2014, 12:49 am ET

There are few things that are more shocking to a manager then to have one of their top-performing employees suddenly quit on them. Some managers have described it as the equivalent to a “kick in the gut.” It is a shock not only because losing a key employee will damage your business results, but also because managers hate surprises, and as a result, they frequently wonder how they missed the signals that this person was going to leave.

Employee turnover is always an important issue, but most managers are unaware of the fact that overall, turnover rates went up 45 percent last year. And because I am predicting that they will go up at least 50 percent this year, individual managers should be aware of the precursors or warning signs that can indicate that an employee is considering looking for a job, so they can act before it’s too late.

After 20+ years of research on predicting turnover, I have found that if you approach the problem systematically, you can successfully identify which individual employees are likely to quit with an accuracy rate of over 80 percent. Firms like Google, Xerox, and Sprint, as well as several vendors, have developed processes for identifying who might quit. But for most managers, you must realize that you will simply have to develop your own identification process. So if you know of a manager who is worried about turnover, pass this list of turnover predictors to them so they won’t be surprised when their next employee announces that they are quitting.

The Top 10 Ways a Manager Can Determine if an Employee Is Considering a Search for a New Job keep reading…

The Last Strategic Recruiting Frontier — Sourcing Using Consumer Data

by Jul 21, 2014, 12:08 am ET

Recruiting leaders are constantly looking for strategic opportunities, which admittedly are rare in this progressive field. There is only one big missed opportunity in strategic recruiting and that is …  keep reading…

15 Ultra-bold Recruiting Practices — Are You Falling Behind Your Competitors?

by Jul 14, 2014, 12:29 am ET

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 3.10.08 PMby Trena Luong and John Sullivan

In case you haven’t noticed, the world of corporate recruiting has become so intense that formerly rare aggressive and ultra-bold recruiting practices are now becoming mainstream. Of course as a professional, you know that you have an obligation to keep up with the latest practices, but your outdated recruiting approach is damaging your firm. Are you willing to explain to: your managers why you can’t hire top performers?;  your employees why they can’t work alongside the very best?; your customers why your products have outdated features?; and to your shareholders why your company can’t grow because of its inability to recruit top talent?

For a busy manager or recruiting professional, realize that the recruiting bar is being raised every day. Because we specialize in advanced recruiting practices, we have put together a quick list of examples of ultra-bold recruiting practices in order to demonstrate just how aggressive and bold recruiting has become. Each bold practice takes only a minute to scan and we assure you that most will be startled with how much recruiting has changed.

The Top 15 Ultra-bold Recruiting Practices keep reading…

End the Shortage — Recruit STEM Women Who Are Working at Your Competitors

by Jul 7, 2014, 5:03 am ET

Screen Shot 2014-07-03 at 3.30.03 PMI almost broke out laughing when I came across an article in Fast Company magazine entitled Why You Can’t Find Women Engineers. This title reflects a common misconception among business executives about the shortage of technically qualified women at their firms.

This often-repeated “shortage statement” is only partially true, and if you believe it, you will never fill your firm’s diversity recruiting targets.

Let’s examine this shortage issue from a different perspective. keep reading…

Always Open ‘Evergreen Jobs’ Can Improve Your Chances of Recruiting Top Talent

by Jun 30, 2014, 12:22 am ET

treesAs the war for talent continues, it’s time for recruiting leaders and hiring managers to shift to more creative and innovative recruiting solutions. A bold approach that I have been recommending since 1999 is the creation of “evergreen jobs.”

Simply put, these are the one or two most critical corporate jobs where you literally continuously search and hire every more-than-qualified applicant who fits the culture in order to ensure that you always have enough talent in these critical positions.

The term evergreen comes from the fact that the jobs are always open, just as an evergreen tree is always green. Now it might initially seem crazy to hire when you don’t have an open job, but the approach has proven to be quite effective. Imagine if you were an NBA basketball team and LeBron James suddenly became available. Would you hire him immediately, even if you didn’t have an open job or requisition? Of course you would. That’s the concept behind evergreen jobs. Evergreen programs frequently cover jobs with high turnover, including nursing, retail (i.e. REI), and call centers. But they work even better in high-impact mission-critical jobs at growing tech firms with large campuses. 

An Evergreen Job Program continually sources top talent in a mission-critical job. But rather than stopping when you create a pipeline of reserve talent, it continuously “over hires” each of the “more-than-qualified” applicants, in order to create a talent surplus in this critical job.

The Top 10 Reasons Why the Evergreen Job Approach Is So Impactful keep reading…

Diversity Recruiting – What’s Wrong With It? Pretty Much Everything (Part 2 of 2)

by Jun 23, 2014, 12:53 am ET

carousel_business_osdIn the first part of this series, I highlighted how a weak business case, not being data-driven, failing to segment your recruiting targets, and failing to effectively use employee referrals can severely reduce your diversity recruiting results. In this part II, I will complete the list of the common diversity program design errors and briefly highlight some recommended actions.

The Remaining 12 Most Common Diversity Recruiting Errors keep reading…

Diversity Recruiting – What’s Wrong with it? Pretty Much Everything (Part 1 of 2)

by Jun 16, 2014, 12:38 am ET

DOT diversityIn case you missed it, there was a great deal of publicity generated recently when Google’s Laszlo Bock openly announced Google’s diversity numbers. Even Google was disappointed in them, but that shouldn’t be a surprise. Almost every major corporation struggles with meeting their diversity goals as a result of a poorly designed diversity recruiting effort that hasn’t changed much since the 1970s.

As a corporate recruiting expert, I continually analyze recruiting approaches of all types, and in my experience, diversity recruiting is the worst-performing one among all recruiting sub-programs. In fact, when people ask me “what’s wrong with diversity recruiting?” I quickly respond with “pretty much everything.” It’s sad that such a high-impact and well-intentioned effort simply has little chance of success because of its many design flaws.

These design flaws are numerous and the top 10 most impactful ones are listed below. The remaining 10 high-impact design flaw factors can be found in part two of this series.

The Top 10 Highest-impact Diversity Recruiting Errors keep reading…

Do a Snapshot Assessment of Your Talent Function With These Powerful Business Impact Metrics

by Jun 9, 2014, 12:02 am ET

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In a world where it’s easy to get a “snapshot assessment” of your personal physical health or your organization’s financial or IT security effectiveness, what could be more valuable than an easy-to-conduct executive level “snapshot assessment” of talent management and HR?

Unfortunately I have found that most in HR are satisfied with a subjective or low-level tactical assessment, which instead of business impacts, covers spending efficiency, lean staffing, and whether managers and employees are satisfied with us.

In order to be considered as credible, instead this snapshot must be strategic, and it should mirror the executive snapshots that are available in finance, customer service, and IT. In order to assess how well you’re doing, a benchmark number must also be provided so that you can compare your results to your direct competitor firms. I have included six simple measures that by themselves are enough to give you a snapshot but accurate view of talent’s business impact. keep reading…

Examining Zappos’s ‘No Job Postings’ Recruiting Approach — Innovation or Craziness?

by Jun 2, 2014, 12:01 am ET

Inside Zappos profile pic - updatedThe new recruiting “no job postings” website of Zappos is truly unique.

First off, you have to give the Zappos team credit for eliminating anything in recruiting, because we have a long history in recruiting of adding but never subtracting approaches.

The new talent community declares the end to job postings and the painful transaction between applying for a specific job and getting a cold rejection. It further offers the opportunity to become “a corporate insider,” where you join the firm’s exclusive “talent community,” made up of interested prospects and applicants. In essence its own social network that the firm can use to keep in touch with applicants over time. It can also use the information that you provide during the increased interactions with recruiters to find the right job for you, even if it’s outside the typical jobs that you would have applied for.

This article critically analyzes this new approach in order to highlight possible advantages and problems with this approach for others that may be considering a similar move. keep reading…

Stop Your Firm’s Brain Drain – Convincing Innovators to Choose an Established Firm Over a Startup

by May 27, 2014, 12:01 am ET

                                                                                    John Sullivan and Trena Luong

There is an innovator brain drain going on. The drain is away from larger established firms, which desperately need more innovators, and toward startup firms, which are successfully recruiting a disproportionately high percentage of these prized innovators.

fs-tritium-image1It doesn’t matter whether your corporation is trying to hire experienced talent or recent grads; it seems like every innovator and entrepreneur these days is seriously considering working at a startup (or creating their own startup). What makes the “brain drain to startups” a problem so unique is that corporations are fully aware that they are currently outmatched in this recruiting battle and most are also painfully aware of the economic damage that they suffer whenever they lose an innovator.

Given this awareness, it would seem logical that, at least at large tech firms in the Silicon Valley, each would have a dedicated “counter-startup recruiting program” designed specifically to reverse this brain drain. But for some unexplained reason, it’s almost impossible to find a large corporation (tech or otherwise) that has a comprehensive formal recruiting program for landing innovators who have had a natural inclination to bypass them and go to startups. Yes, some large firms like Google, WL Gore, Yahoo, Facebook, and recently Zappos have a few features that are attractive to innovators but no one has a visible comprehensive “counter-startup recruiting program.”

What Is a “Counter-startup Recruiting Effort?” keep reading…

Why Boomerang Rehire Programs Rank #2 in Producing High-quality Hires

by May 19, 2014, 12:01 am ET

Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 1.22.15 PMOther than referrals from your top-performing employees, it’s hard to find a corporate recruiting source with a higher quality of hire (i.e. on-the-job performance) and a higher ROI than boomerang rehire programs. If you’re not familiar with the term, a “boomerang rehire” is a former top-performing employee who you rehire after an absence of a few years. I rank them No. 2 in new hire quality and they also produce significant volume of hires (CareerXroads ranks them N0. 6 in volume, after college hires).

Although boomerang programs have been around for years. In the past they were a bit of a burden because if you wanted to find and keep in touch with your former top-performing employees, you had to put together and maintain your own corporate alumni group. Fortunately today with the tremendous growth of LinkedIn, you can now easily find out where any former employee works. That makes this source among the easiest to find candidates. Updating their LinkedIn profile can also signal to you that they are probably once again considering a move to their next firm, which provides you with an opportunity to reach out to them and ask them to consider returning.

Other firms now build a simple online talent community group and maintain relationships through text or e-mail. The benchmark firms in boomerang rehiring programs include Deloitte, Ernst & Young, Booz Allen, Bain, and DaVita, which has reached as high as 16 percent of its hires coming from its impressive “you are always welcome here” boomerang program.

Why Boomerang Rehires Are Such High-quality Hires keep reading…

Video Job Descriptions — a Not-to-be Missed Application Accelerator

by May 12, 2014, 12:32 am ET

quickstopIf you don’t know what a video job description is, it is a short video clip where the hiring manager and team members describe the exciting aspects of a particular job in order to convince top-quality but reluctant prospects to apply. A video job description is a supplement to, rather than a replacement for, the standard and often tedious 100 percent text narrative job description. You should consider adopting video job descriptions because they are about to become “the next big thing” in convincing prospects to apply.

Video job descriptions or VJDs are a 3-for-1 opportunity for measurably improving your recruiting results. keep reading…

Steps for Increasing Your Speed of Hire in Order to Improve Your Quality of Hire, Part 2 of 2

by May 5, 2014, 2:06 am ET

This continuation of the two-part article covers specific actions that corporate recruiters can implement to speed up their hiring during each individual step of the recruiting process. Part 1 covered the cost of slow hiring and some advanced steps on how to improve the speed of the overall hiring process.

Speed Improvements for Each Major Step of Recruiting keep reading…

Steps for Increasing Your Speed of Hire in Order to Improve Your Quality of Hire, Part 1 of 2

by Apr 28, 2014, 5:15 am ET

This two-part in-depth article covers the how-to steps that corporate recruiters can use to speed up their hiring process. Speed of hire is an important topic for recruiting leaders because without it you won’t be able to successfully land high-quality candidates who are in and out of the job market quickly. This article is a follow up to last week’s companion article “The Top 12 Reasons Why Slow Hiring Severely Damages Recruiting And Business Results.”

How Much Money Slow Hiring Costs a Firm

Of course costs vary depending on the organization and the job, but as a rule of thumb, I estimate that the “on job performance” of those you hire into competitive jobs decreases by as much as 1 percent for every extra day that you delay a hiring decision. So if you add just 10 days to your normal average time to fill, you can expect the “on the job performance” of your new hire to drop by 10 percent. For a firm like Amazon, a 10 percent drop in its average revenue per employee of $750,000 would mean a loss of $75,000 for every new hire. Obviously this amount is many times higher than the standard cost per hire and it is a significant dollar loss that is almost always unreported.

Steps in the Hiring Process That Are the Biggest Bottlenecks to Hiring Speed keep reading…

The Top 12 Reasons Why Slow Hiring Severely Damages Recruiting and Business Results

by Apr 21, 2014, 12:14 am ET

A candidate from a well-known benchmark firm dropped out of our search for a General Manager position because the hiring manager took a week to respond to his interest. He said…

It’s not like I need their job. If it takes them a week to respond to a resume like mine for a job of this importance, they’re not the kind of company I want to work for. I move fast, and I can already see that my style wouldn’t fit their culture. –Wind River Associates

As a corporate recruiting leader, know that in a highly competitive college marketplace, there may be nothing that damages corporate recruiting results more than slow hiring.

Many firms now go the first step and track some variation of the “time-to-fill” metric. But despite that metric, not only are firms still almost universally guilty of painfully slow hiring, but to compound the problem, few recruiting leaders truly understand the many negative business and recruiting impacts that result from slow hiring. I estimate that the impact at most corporations exceeds tens of millions of dollars each year. And the dollar loss from this factor may be as much as 10 times higher than losses resulting from low recruiting efficiency related to the more popular “cost-per-hire” metric.

It’s not enough to be conscious and aware of slow hiring. Identify and then quantify in dollars each of the negative impacts of slow hiring, so that everyone from the CEO on down will support the streamlining of the process. After several decades of work on “speed hiring,” I have put together an extensive list of the negative consequences associated with taking too long to hire. The top 12 most damaging factors are listed below.

The Top 12 Reasons Why “Slow Hiring” Damages Recruiting and Your Business Results keep reading…

Proprietary Metrics — the Next Big Thing in Talent Management

by Apr 14, 2014, 5:39 am ET

The idea that you can create a template that will work forever doesn’t happen in any business … There’s some really, really bright people in this business. You can’t do the same thing the same way and be successful for a long period of time. — Billy Beane

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 8.57.20 AMI am a strong advocate of what I call “parallel benchmarking,” which is borrowing the proven best practices from completely different industries and functions. This article advocates the borrowing and the adaptation to talent management of what are known as “proprietary metrics” from the baseball industry. Proprietary metrics get their name because they cover metrics that are so powerful that they are “owned” and their components are therefore not shared. In baseball, there are dozens of proprietary metrics, while in the corporate world of talent management, they are surprisingly rare. Corporate examples of these proprietary metrics include Google’s “retention metric” for predicting which employees are about to quit and its “hiring success algorithm” for predicting the characteristics that lead to new hire success on the job.

Baseball Has the Most Advanced Metric Model to Learn From keep reading…