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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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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…

Big Challenges for Recruiting Leaders — The Top 10 Upcoming Recruiting Problems

by Apr 7, 2014, 5:23 am ET

Those who follow my articles know that I frequently write on the positive trends and the big ideas that recruiting leaders need to be aware of. However, I have not often written about the biggest strategic challenges or problems that corporate recruiting leaders face. Of course no one wants to dwell on the negative. But since I am predicting that during the next few years we will all encounter a completely transformed world of recruiting, it only makes sense to at least be aware of our largest current and upcoming challenges. If you don’t act proactively to mitigate these major challenges, they unfortunately may grow out of control, causing exponential damage to your firm.

The Top 10 Highest-impact Strategic Recruiting Challenges keep reading…

Recruiting to Avoid a Rocky Mountain High — the Impact of State Marijuana Laws

by Mar 31, 2014, 5:34 am ET

marijuanaHow a state law becomes a recruiting issue 

I recently visited Boulder, Colorado, and guess what: everyone there was talking about the new marijuana law. If you are recruiting leader for a large corporation, you may fail to realize how much the laws of individual states can either positively or negatively impact your recruiting in that region. Take this Colorado marijuana law, for example. As a result of the law and its related publicity, firms trying to attract talent to the state may get a noticeable increase in applicants from younger workers who view the new law as a positive thing, making the state a great place to work (For example, the University of Colorado had a 33 percent spike in freshman enrollments this year. Some have attempted to attribute the rise at least in part due to the publicity around the law).

But a recruiting leader shouldn’t be surprised to find out that state laws can also have a negative impact on recruiting. Once more using the Colorado example, there is already some indication that employees with families are having second thoughts about relocating there because they are unsure about living in a state where their children could be continually exposed to widespread marijuana use. And before you make the assumption that the recruiting implications of this law are unique, realize that the same positive and negative impacts may come from other state laws relating to high profile issues. Those might include local laws covering gay rights/marriage, abortion, access to voting, tax rates, and school choice and even, as happened in Florida, gun laws.

Recruiting Challenges in a 420 World keep reading…

These Strategic Goals Can Help to Focus Your Recruiting Function

by Mar 24, 2014, 5:09 am ET

What could be more important than having everyone on your team focused and on the same page? Unfortunately, in my interactions with corporate recruiting leaders, I am frequently surprised to find that they don’t have a formal set of strategic goals for their talent acquisition function. That’s a major problem because you certainly can’t be strategic unless you have a formal written strategy (most don’t) and a corresponding set of goals to make it clear to everyone what you’re trying to accomplish. Not having clearly defined, measurable, and communicated strategic goals can add to the confusion about “what is important” and “what is less important.”

While having goals provides focus and direction, their absence can cause team members to wander and to waste time and resources in low-value areas. So if you want your team to be laser focused on the important things, have clear goals that clarify your purpose and that specify what you’re trying to accomplish and what great results would look like.

In that light, this article provides a list of the strategic goals that truly effective corporate recruiting leaders can choose from. Reaching many of these recruiting goals is more complicated because the factors involved in reaching them are not 100 percent controlled by your team. However, it’s time for recruiting leaders to learn to follow the standard business practice of assuming the captain-of-the-ship role which assumes responsibility for meeting goals that you don’t have 100 percent control over.

The Possible Strategic Goals for the Recruiting Function keep reading…

The Top 1% Recruiting Gap — Why Most Firms Have Surrendered to Google

by Mar 17, 2014, 5:09 am ET

A think piece designed to stimulate your thinking on competing against the top 1 percent firms for top talent

If you’re an executive interested in recruiting, here is a scary thought to consider. For the first time in your lifetime: As a result of their compelling approach to managing talent, the elite 1 percent of firms now have a powerful recruiting brand advantage. The resulting “recruiting brand gap” between the top 1 percent and the remaining 99 percent of firms is now so wide … that most firms have given up trying to match the talent approach of the 1 percent.

The Top 1 Percent of Firms Have Unique Talent Differentiators keep reading…

Big Ideas for Recruiting Leaders — What if Davos Covered Recruiting?

by Mar 10, 2014, 5:58 am ET

world economic forumForward-looking executives seeking truly big ideas understand the value of the Davos World Economic Forum, where only thought leaders and the most senior executives at top global firms are invited to attend. If there were to be a Davos-type “big-idea session” covering strategic recruiting, this article covers the big idea topics that I would propose for the agenda.

The hectic world of day-to-day recruiting is often dominated by having to solve tactical functional problems like cutting cost per hire or identifying the correct recruiter req load. However if you are a recruiting leader who wants to make quantum improvements of more than 25 percent in your results, step back and focus exclusively on a few big ideas. Big ideas by definition are potentially high-impact strategic actions that are barely emerging, that are extremely difficult to implement, and that may become essential as the business or recruiting environment evolves and changes. Also because they require a dramatic change in thinking, almost all big ideas are instantly rejected by shortsighted individuals in recruiting.

The Top 15 Future-focused Big Ideas for Recruiting Leaders to Contemplate keep reading…

Recruiting High School and Non-degreed Top Talent — A Missed Corporate Opportunity

by Mar 3, 2014, 5:43 am ET

Screen Shot 2014-02-26 at 12.55.50 PMIn case you didn’t hear about it, college football powerhouse Alabama recently offered a scholarship to eighth-grade football player Dylan Moses and LSU offered a scholarship to a ninth grader. Before you react in shock as a parent might, consider the fact that teenage talent may be the last remaining untapped corporate recruiting pool.  keep reading…

Facebook’s Billion-dollar Hiring Lesson — the Business Case for Eliminating Missed Hires

by Feb 21, 2014, 5:56 am ET

whatsappThe most costly recruiting error in recent history was revealed last week.

On Wednesday, Facebook announced its nearly $19 billion purchase of the instant-messaging firm WhatsApp. But the real news about the acquisition relates to the colossal recruiting failure that occurred a handful of years earlier (as reported by Forbes) when both WhatsApp founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton applied for a job at Facebook and were rejected (Acton was also rejected by Twitter).

As Brian Acton put it ,“We’re part of the Facebook reject club.” You could easily argue that this colossal “hiring miss” cost Facebook billions, and as a result, this hiring error has to rank near the top “not hired” errors, only rivaled by HP’s rejection of Steve Jobs for not having a college degree. If you are a corporate talent manager, this and similar errors should now become a critical part of your business case for fully funding an effective recruiting team and flawless hiring process.

The Top Eight “Billion-dollar Hiring Miss Lessons” for Talent Leaders keep reading…

The Top 20 Reasons Why Recruiting Is an Exciting and High-Impact Job

by Feb 17, 2014, 5:01 am ET

As a professor in a large business school, I am frequently asked, “What is the most exciting and impactful job in the corporate world?” While others may answer differently, to me the most exciting and impactful job is clearly recruiting.

It is full of excitement because every day as a recruiter you are in a head-to-head competition to attract top talent, and fortunately you know definitively within 90 days whether you have beaten the competition. The impact of a recruiter is twofold: first, you can literally change the life of an individual by placing them in their dream job, and second, you can effectively change the direction and the success of a corporation with a single great hire in a key job (i.e. recruiting LeBron to your NBA team).

So if you’re a college student ready to select a career or someone who is considering shifting into a new career field, I have compiled a list of the many reasons why you should consider becoming a corporate recruiter. keep reading…