This article is the third and final in a series of confessions of how I really messed up in growing my recruiting firm when I first opened in 1990 and for the first few years of its operation. (You can see the January 2012 and February 2012 issues of the Fordyce Letter for parts 1 and 2.)
The key lesson in all these articles is to learn from your mistakes and failures, take improved action, screw those up … repeat! I have learned that while there are many smart recruiting firm owners out there, the most successful tend to be those who persist. Persistence, while simultaneously learning from failures, is the most common trait amongst the most successful owners. I have been fortunate to interview many over the years and there are almost always stories of near-bankruptcies in many of their stories. My story is one of them.
I survived my first few years in the business making a living just by making my own placements. Any revenue brought by recruiters I hired was fairly random and unpredictable. Those recruiters I hired who were successful — there were not many — succeeded in spite of me, NOT because of me! However, I made some necessary changes, learned from numerous errors, and built a firm that generated several million dollars without me making any placements.
I shared many of these lessons in the first two articles and now will share what to do after you have made a successful offer to your new recruiter.
OK, so you have conducted numerous interviews, intelligence tests, psychological tests, and had your future Big Biller cleared by Homeland Security … Now, how do you significantly increase the chances that this person gets through the ramp-up?
First, start during the interview processwhere you tell the candidate exactly what you expect of them behavior and activity-wise over their first 90 days. During the interview compare and contrast your experience with those who have made it “big” in your office vs. those who have had a ton of potential, but flamed out after two months.
Let us assume you have set expectations, received their commitments and they show up for work. Here are some ideas on getting them up and running quickly and reducing the failure rate of new hires.
1) Do not over train the first three weeks. I have seen outlines of training programs that do not get the new hire on the phone for any significant amount of time for the first two weeks. I must confess: I fell victim to that myself over 10 years ago for a very brief time frame. Now, my formal training program consists of one day (the first day) of formal classroom training, and that’s it! We train quite a bit, but our system coincides with the progress of the new hire, not the calendar.
2) Get them on the phone Day 2 for the entire day. Will your ugly duckling become a swan on this day? Most likely not. My goal for training is to give them enough information to execute a few basic tasks the first day and then put them in full execution mode day two. More importantly, I give them specific activity targets to hit, I make them verbalize them back to me, put them on the phone. Here is another key, do not micromanage them; wait until the end of the day, when most will not hit the target they agreed to both in the interview process and that morning.
3) Confront missed activity targets early, often, and directly. If I give an activity target of say, seventeen live presentations, or 100 calls, whichever comes first, most people will fall about 20% below that expectation. I do not know why, it just happens, but now I am prepared for it. I ask one simple question when I sit down with them first thing the next morning. “I am curious, why did you choose failure your first day on the phone?” Then I remain deathly silent and let them sit and look at me in extreme discomfort. If you start asking this question, do not let them off the hook until they answer. Frankly, what you will learn is that most took your expectation as a mere suggestion. I ask them again, what the expectation was, and they correctly repeat it — so they did know what it was — and then I ask them to restate their results.
Why do I torture them so? For their and my own good. A new hire needs to know you are deadly serious about activity targets from the very beginning. If you accept non-execution of specific targets, my experience with my own office and my clients’ offices is that the call and presentation count will only go down from there.
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You need to show them numerically how each call, presentation, interview arranged, etc. leads to a placement. Most firms mess this up and simply say you need to make 100 calls a day to be successful. Most people think they are smarter than the average guy, so they feel they do not need to make “that many calls.”
4) Sit down with them at the end of every day or first thing the next morning and review their day in detail. Personally, I am not great at paying attention to detail or training at the end of my day, so I do most of my training first thing in the morning.
I have the new hire bring in any candidate data sheets, job orders, etc. that they took the previous day. First we review the activity (see above). Once we are done with that, I ask them to reflect on the day and ask when they were most productive, what they were doing, and when they were least productive, what were they doing? This is a great coaching opportunity for you as the owner/manager.
Next, we go through each candidate data sheet or job order in detail. I reinforce what I liked and point out where they need more information taken and most importantly, why that information is important to them as the recruiter. Often new recruiters are reluctant to ask tough questions; the more they understand why theseare in their best interest, the more likely they will ask the questions.
5) Do in-depth daily reviews for at least the first three weeks. During these daily reviews you should also give the new hire one or two specific things to focus on during that day. Pick an area that they are weaker in and suggest that they really zero in on working on that for the day. For example:“I really want you to focus on uncovering a candidate’s motivation to make a career change today. Work with these questions and report to me what you learned tomorrow.”
These five strategies will at least double your retention rates over the first 90 days and will significantly increase productivity. By coaching on specific tasks and progress daily, the new hire can never stray too far off course.
I personally challenge you to stretch beyond your comfort zone, take some risks, and make some mistakes. The learning and growing you will experience as a result will give you confidence to grow even more!