May 19, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 9.02.57 AMLet me tell you a story.

This is one of those stories I have been saving away in the vault for some time, knowing that while I worked as the head of talent acquisition for a large branded company, I could never tell it.

The following is a true story. Some of the names and job titles have been changed to protect the innocent, or guilty. 🙂

Some years ago I was looking to hire the ‘lead of global talent unicorn wrangling’ who would directly report to me but would spend a lot of their time partnering with other functions outside of talent acquisition. Being that we (Recruiting) are meant to lead by example, I put a very detailed job description together with the key success criteria of the position: Expected competencies and behaviors that needed to be assessed and performed; technical and functional skills required; and a focus on team/cultural dynamics. I also drove an Intake meeting with key business stakeholders who this role would interact with on a monthly basis to gather their input and support outside of just my own function. In particular, one of these key stakeholders what the Chief ‘needs to be a strong partner of TA’ Officer named Sally.

Sally was a very smart business leader, but in the past had made the recruiting function’s lives miserable. Note: No need to go into the details for this story but I am sure you have some of these leaders in your business as well. 🙂

Since the ‘lead global talent unicorn wrangler’ would be working very closely with the Chief ‘needs to be a strong partner of TA’ Officer’s team and herself, I wanted to make sure we were all on the same page way before we even saw our first candidate. Fast forward to the end of the meeting: we had clear alignment on the role, requirements, interview loop, and even how we needed to sell this opportunity to any senior candidates. I even sent all stakeholders and executive summary of the outcomes of the discussion, agreements, timing, and next steps.

After two weeks of the search going live we received our first candidate for the role. They were located not exactly where we were hoping the role would sit, but given this was a global role, we had agreed to have flexibility of this person not sitting in HQ.

I was first to interview and was super impressed with this person’s background. They were spot on with what we were looking for except the location. I knew this was a minor obstacle vs a roadblock.

Nice job by the recruiter in charge for the search!

The second to interview the candidate was Sally, the Chief ‘needs to be a strong partner of TA’ Officer who was also very impressed with the candidate’s background, skills, and competencies to perform the challenges of the role going forward.

The rest of the interviews went well with all agreeing that our candidate would be a very solid hire.

Let’s take the story forward to the following Monday after the last interview.

Ring, Ring, Ring Ring …

[ME] Hi, this is Rob.

[Sally] Hi Rob, this is the Chief ‘needs to be a strong partner of TA’ Officer, how are you. {Note: I am altering here a bit as people don’t speak this way, but I needed to tee up the context of the conversation for you}

[ME] Very good for a Monday as I was just about to call you to discuss our ‘lead of global talent unicorn wrangling,’ but you beat me to the punch. What’s up.

[Sally] Rob, I wanted to let you know that both myself and the team were very impressed with the candidate.

[ME] Great to hear, as I was too.

[Sally] Rob, I was calling to check in on timing to see our next candidate.

[ME – Slight Pause here] Why do we need to see more candidates?

[Sally] Well, normally I like to have something to compare to versus expecting that we can make a decision after just the first candidate. I can’t make a decision like that!

[ME] Understand. May I ask you a few things Sally?

[Sally] Sure.

[ME] So if we all agree that this person meets all the key requirements of the role and what we want to achieve strategically together in the next few years, and everyone on the interview loop said “Hire!” why do we need to see anymore candidates?

[Sally] But, there could be better candidates out there. There could be a candidate just like them and they could be in our HQ location.

[ME] Agree there could be, no disputing that. I would be interested in your thoughts then, given that we all agree they are such a strong candidate. What happens if we take the extra month to find and interview more candidates only to land back on them and they are no longer available? Great talent goes quickly, as you have seen in the past. We all agreed upfront what we needed and we are comparing them to the role requirements. I want to be sure on this point Sally, as didn’t we all agree this candidate meets all the requirements, don’t they?

[Sally … Long, long pause and silence on the end of the phone]

[Sally] Rob, you know what, you are right. We do not need to see any more candidates. Let proceed as I think they would be a great asset the organization.

[ME] Thank you Sally, thank you!

I am not going to go into the moral of the story (your all too smart for that) but rather throw out a dare. A secret probation double dare of sorts. I dare you as a recruiter, a leader, a manager, a sourcer, the next time you have the opportunity where this comes up with your business, hold your ground and make the hire.

Yes, I know there are lots of dependencies here: A hiring manager needing to tighten up on the requirements; a solid and comprehensive intake meeting to ensure all key success criteria is agreed to, and assessed by all involved; and so on.

Some of you will be saying, “Rob you were the hiring manager and you know better. You’re not like most hiring managers we have to deal with.”

Yes you are right, but it has not stopped me doing or trying this over the years regardless if it was my hire or the businesses. When every opportunity arose like this I pushed back and the outcome was more positive vs negative.

You are not like most hiring managers either. You know better. You’re meant to guide, advise, and consul them. Yes at times it’s a very tough conversation because they are the customer.

To be frank, we will never individually or collectively get to a utopian end state of 1:1 for all of our positions, but we can sure as heck try, can’t we?

So I dare you to aim for a 1:1 hiring ratio. I dare all of us to push back more often, especially when we know the right decision is being made and not default back to the business to wanting to see more. I dare us to all bring the collective ratio of candidates submitted to hires down.

P.S. The ‘lead of global talent unicorn wrangling’ is still in their role today, many years later. 🙂

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