4 Common Assumptions Challenged

Mar 31, 2011

There are a handful of beliefs within most professions that need to be examined from time to time for validity and accuracy. The medical profession believed for years that ulcers were caused by stress and certain foods. It took a modestly qualified medical researcher in Australia to prove that they were caused by bacteria and could be cured with antibiotics. He spent fruitless years trying to persuade highly qualified, educated, and experienced peers that they were wrong. He would never have been hired by any major university or hospital.

This is but one example of the many times we accept tradition for it face value. Far better to be a bit of a skeptic and question everything that seems to be common sense or that everyone believes.

Here I examine a few of the common beliefs that most recruiters hold.

Interviews Are Critical to Make a Good Hire

One of the greatest myths of all is that interviewing is the best way to assess people. Numerous vendors provide interview training and promise that if you conduct interviews well you will select people who will perform better and stay longer. If you conduct highly structured, well-thought-out interviews consistently and apply what you learn, research shows that this is the case. But in my many years of experience, I find that interviews are done well only very rarely and most of them are little more than chitchats.

As I have written many times, only a combination of assessment techniques will really work — and then not perfectly. Research has consistently shown that by combining skills testing along with assessing for cultural fit and motivation, success on the job can be improved over interviewing. These tools are also cheaper and faster than the normal interview process which takes way too much expensive time of both recruiters and hiring managers. They are also far more defensible and objective than interviewing, which even when it is well done, is a highly subjective process.

Innovative approaches include using simulations, gaming techniques, and video. All of these make serious candidates engagement more likely and will lead to better end results.

If I were to skip anything in the hiring process, it would be interviewing. I would give assessment tests based on careful research on the needed skills and competencies as well as on cultural fit. Once there is a final list, I would let the manager select based on his or her face-to-face assessment.

Finding People Who Fit Our Culture Is Critical

But it may also be just as cost effective to simply hire people after a cursory screen for skills, experience, and culture fit. We downplay our own intuition way too often. How many times have you felt that a candidate would not work out, but were persuaded by test results or interviews that they would be a good hire only to find out later that your gut was right? Or, conversely, rejected a candidate for one manager who later makes a big splash for another hiring manager?

It is possible to over assess and over analyze. I see this especially with younger and less experienced recruiters who perhaps overly rely on tools rather than to take a chance. Creativity and innovation occur frequently where you least expect it. Candidates who do not fit the mold, so to speak, may become the ones who have the breakthrough ideas or who shake up the normal way of thinking to refocus a project or stimulate some new ideas.

The Candidate Is Your Primary Customer

There is a strong recruiter belief that the candidate is your customer. While there is no doubt that it is very important to market and brand your organization and the job to the candidate and to maintain impeccable relations, candidates are not your most important customer.

The hiring manager has always been and remains the key to your success. Recruiters who are not aligned to their hiring manger’s needs are usually not successful for long. By aligning yourself with the hiring managers and making sure they get the types of candidates they are looking for in timeframes they accept, you will ensure your own ability to continue doing good recruiting.

One manager I used to work with told me this: “I know what kind of person I need and I actually know several people that I’d love to hire. I am just not sure how to approach them. If you can get them interested and bring them in here, I’ll convince them to work for me.”

My job became simply a liaison — the go-between — and we were able to hire a number of great engineers as a team. I am sure you all have similar stories and experiences. When you are an ally and partner with a hiring manger, everything else seems to go smoothly. Your messages are clearer. Your assessment is more accurate. And your success is ensured.

Make sure your metrics, sourcing strategies, and selection tools are all acceptable to your hiring managers. Involve them and keep them informed at every level and you will get the budget and staff to recruit the best people. Branding and candidate relationships come second to this.

Technology Is Essential to Success

I love technology. Mr. Gadget is my middle name. But, you can successfully recruit with no technology at all. Any of us who began our careers in the B.C. era (Before Computers), are still comfortable with a manual system of filing, telephoning, and face-to-face conversation.

While I do not believe you should forego the tools we have, it is always good to focus on what is core: building relationships with hiring managers and candidates. Your first goals should be building networks, getting to know lots of people, and getting a brand in an area so people come to you. Known recruiters in an area are always successful because they can tap into a vast group of contacts and connections to find just what they need. The Internet and blindly sourcing in the dark may give you some results; they will never be as easy or as fun as those that come from your own networks.

Technology can aid that process and I do not advocate going back to paper and filing cabinets. I do recommend keeping a healthy perspective on what is important and never let technology get in the way of your core business of building relationships.

Always be a skeptic. Always question the common wisdom. Work out your own answers, march to your own drummer, and you will reap the benefits for a long time.

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