A Letter to Hiring Managers: How To Make Sure You Always Hire the Best

Dear Hiring Manager: You probably only hire a handful of people each year, and the recruiter assigned to your team has always done a reasonable job at getting decent people. Sure you have to ask for resumes two or three times in order to get enough to make sure you are hiring the best, but it seems to have worked out pretty well over the years. But now let me ask you a few questions. How do you define “decent” people or “the best”? Do you have some specific criteria that you use? How do you know you’re getting anywhere near the best resumes out there? Do you have any benchmarks or standards to compare against? How much time do you spend in the upfront process of figuring out the job requirements and laying out the things the person you want to hire will have to do to make you happy? In my many years as a recruiter and as a consultant, I have found that this is the area most frequently overlooked or skimped on in the hiring process. Most of the hiring managers I work with are willing to spend time in interviewing, often demanding that candidates go through numerous interviews. But they are less willing to give up time to talk to the recruiter about the position before any recruiting happens at all. My guess is you’re running on your gut ó telling yourself that you know the “best” when you see it. After all, you’ve been in your field for a while and can generally spot a loser. If you are lucky, you’ve had a recruiter at some time in the past who could always seem to get you the perfect candidate, but you’ve never asked yourself why they could do that or how. We all unconsciously look for certain traits in people, and we are usually very adept at determining whether or not a candidate has those traits. What is unfortunate is that we almost never can articulate them. Even though we may believe that we are choosing candidates solely on the basis of experience and demonstrated skills, there is always our unconscious influencing the decision. That recruiter who always seemed to find the perfect candidate was able to figure out what those unconscious traits were and use her interviewing and screening skills to bring you those kinds of candidates who also had the necessary technical skills and experience. You can help your recruiting staff in a number of ways. By taking a few minutes to heed the following suggestions, you will find the recruiting process faster and more satisfying ó because you will be getting candidates that meet all of your requirements.

  1. Learn about the recruiting marketplace. Whenever managers are asked what key to their success is, they say “their people.” But if you were asked, would you know what the demand is like for the kinds of people you are seeking? Do you understand why salary demands are what they are? Do you have a grasp on how many people of a particular type might be available in your area? These are questions to discuss with your recruiter and to get information on in order to appreciate the issues both you and your recruiter face. While it may seem easy to find people given this slow economy, the reality is that there are still shortages of many kinds of people and that this slow time does not necessarily mean easy recruiting.
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  3. Get to know your recruiter. If your recruiter is new or has not worked with you before, it will be impossible for her to know what you are really looking for. Even an experienced recruiter who knows your specialty thoroughly will have to get to understand those subtle traits that you find compelling. Let the recruiter spend a day shadowing you, and discuss with them how you manage. Let them attend a staff meeting or a briefing. The better the recruiter and you know each other, the more likely you are to see great candidates.
  4. Get to know your best performers. Spend at least a day or two thinking about your best performers. Who are the people in your department you would like to clone, if you could? Try to put why you think they are so good into words. There are a few questions that you can use: What does this person do on a regular basis that pleases you? What positive behaviors do you see regularly that you believe makes them successful? Are there stories you can tell about a time an employee did something you found exceptional or notable? Take some time to talk to the recruiters about past or current employees who you view as exceptional.
  5. Working with your recruiters, develop an assessment process. One of the best ways to make sure that you and your recruiters are in synch on what kinds of people to look for is to put together a process for assessing candidates. You can work together with the recruiter to develop a series of questions that will help you both decide on the traits, skills, and qualities you need. These can become interviews questions and can also be used to measure how well the recruiting process is working.
  6. Ask your recruiter about how you could use a formal assessment tool based on the competencies and cultural fit you need. There are many tools that can be used to help you and your recruiter determine how well a candidate meets your specific job requirements. The best of these are developed for your specific needs, are reliable and legal, and add a level of consistency that is missing from interviews and other more informal approaches.

By taking a few minutes from your busy day, and by working with your recruiter are a partner you can improve the speed in which you fill positions, increase your satisfaction with the candidates you see and with your recruiting partner.

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for ERE.net, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at kwheeler@futureoftalent.org.