A Look Back at 2004 (Yes, 2004) From a CEO’s Perspective

Jan 8, 2004

To: The Recruiting Department

From: The CEO

Date: 1/1/2005 I am immensely proud of the work done in 2004 by each and every member of our company’s recruiting department. It has been one outstanding year, and you all are due enormous praise for doing a remarkable job this past year. And what a year it has been! As we begin our planning for 2005, let’s take a moment and review what you accomplished in 2004. I probably haven’t covered everything, but here is what I’ve observed that’s different between January 1, 2005 and January 1, 2004. 2004 Recruiting Department Accomplishments

  1. Filling all critical positions in half the time at less cost with better people.
  2. Hiring managers routinely now ask recruiters for advice before opening new requisitions.
  3. The pool of quality candidates has grown remarkably, and we’re now hiring more top candidates for every position than ever before. This is even more remarkable, given the enormous growth in the economy.
  4. You finally got your tracking system to perform as promised. I don’t exactly know what you did, but it now seems the complaints are down, critical positions are filled ahead of time, and each recruiter seems far more productive.
  5. The management team can now count on having enough good people to choose from for every position. You have finally made hiring top people a business process. This has given our company the opportunity to expand into new areas and take on new challenges with far less risk.
  6. Overall company performance is at record highs in most areas, and momentum is building. Hiring top people has had an enormous impact on every aspect of our company’s performance.

Every member of the senior executive staff wants to thank every person in the recruiting department for a job well done in 2004. We couldn’t have had the enormous success as a company without you. I look forward to another outstanding year in 2005. Thank you for being a core part of our team. Thank you for helping us build an even better team. Recruiting is now one of our company’s strategic assets and core competencies. Thank you for making hiring top people a systematic business process. Congratulations on a job well done! Sincerely,

Your CEO If you’d like this story to be yours, you’ll need to start now. First, figure out what it would take to accomplish everything described above. These ERE articles will help guide you along. Over the next 12 months I’ll use this weekly column to describe what it takes to make hiring top people a systematic business process. The focus will be these major areas:

  • Dramatically improve the quality of sourcing. With an economic recovery underway it will become increasingly difficult to hire top people without some fundamental changes in the way companies find the best talent available.
  • Radically upgrade the performance of the IT systems supporting the recruiting process. Too much time and money is invested in poorly designed candidate tracking systems. Much can be done to improve the effectiveness of the system you’re now using without changing vendors (although that might not be such a bad idea). As part of this, consideration must be given to workflow redesign, implementation of better time management principles, and the use of currently available external “best practice” technologies, many that seamlessly integrate with your existing systems.
  • Significantly increase every recruiter’s ability to work with, coach, and influence hiring managers. Without proper direction most hiring managers will take shortcuts, make hiring decisions on flawed data, and ignore critical company policies for the sake of expediency. While some of these rule-breaking activities are warranted, most are not, and all are unnecessary when more influential recruiters are involved. Changing the working relationship between the recruiting and hiring manager is an essential step in making hiring top people a professional business process.
  • Profoundly increase each recruiter’s ability to recruit top talent. Over 75% of the best people you will hire in 2004 will not be active candidates, so traditional sourcing channels won’t find them. Recruiters must be able to cold call top non-active candidates and convince them to consider working at your company. You can no longer wait for candidates to come knocking on your door; you have to knock on theirs. Recruiters must be able to reach out to find and hire the best people available regardless of the source. They must be able to influence the best people to become your candidates, and the best candidates to become your employees. This starts with better networking skills, the ability to use competitive intelligence, and new techniques to identify top talent. Inescapable, however, is the need for great one-on-one recruiting skills. The best people need to be recruited, and recruiters must do it.
  • Move from a reactive to a proactive mindset at every process step. How much time do you spend waiting? Consider this: Most recruiters wait for requisitions to be opened. Then they wait for candidates to apply. Then they wait for hiring managers to approve the short list of candidates. Then they wait to see when managers can interview the candidates. Then they wait for their evaluations. Then they wait to see if the person is made an offer. Then they wait to see if the offer is accepted. Then they wait to see if the person starts. Then they wait to see if the person worked out. Then they wait for more requisitions to be opened… It’s time to stop waiting. As a start, figure out how much of your time is spent reacting to situations and waiting for other people to give you feedback or do something. Then figure out what you have to do to reduce this by 50% (this is how you reduce time to fill and cost per hire, and you’ll be twice as productive, too). When the total reactive time is less than 20%, you will have made hiring top people a business process. Some of the simple things you can do right away include using pre-set interview schedules, 90-day workforce planning, and requiring managers to see every candidate you recommend. But this is just a start. There are another dozen or so simple actions you can take to become a proactive recruiter.

A few points are worthy of note as you review the above list. First, nothing is mentioned about better interviewing skills or better job descriptions or better recruitment advertising or better testing or better filtering or better metrics. All of these tools will be required, but by focusing on the small stuff you might miss the big picture and the chance to make a real impact. Tools can only help ó they don’t set direction. Sometimes they even misdirect, by disguising activity as progress. While new tools will be required, they will not have the impact unless a new vision and a new strategy and a new plan for the hiring process is first established. The most important part of this is the vision that hiring must become a formal business process. This means that everybody ó managers, recruiters, interviewers ó must use consistent and appropriate best practices to hire top talent at every step in the process. Second, the recruiting department must take the lead on making this happen. The recruiting department must set the vision of what can happen and then make it happen. Why not commit yourself and your team to improve the recruiting process at your company in 2004? You might start by sending your CEO a copy of this article and asking him or her what it would take to get this type of letter sent to you at the end of this year. That would be a pretty bold start. It would take guts, though. Not just words, but real action. You’d also be committed to make it happen. Does this idea scare you or energize you? Your answer says a lot about you and your future. Over the coming weeks and months, I’ll address each of the issues involved in making hiring top talent a systematic Six Sigma business process in more depth. This is Hiring 2.0. If you implement even a portion of what will be described, real progress will have been made. Then the above story will surely be yours, with the corresponding CEO pat on the back. More importantly, your company will finally be able to hire top people for every position. You’ll deserve the credit and all of the rewards for starting the initiative. It will be hard and it will take extra work, but if you’re not willing to do it now, when will there be a better time? My articles will just be the road map, though. You must be the one willing to take the trip. To be continued… [Note: This article represents the first step in Hiring 2.0 – Making Hiring Top a Systematic Six Sigma Business Process. It’s also the first article in a year-long series on each of these topics. And it’s the basis for my new book. If you’d like join me and make Hiring 2.0 a reality, join the hiring revolution. Our Band of 176 will become the focus group to set the standards for these next generation hiring tools. Our first Hiring 2.0 survey will be sent out shortly to all revolutionaries. We’ll present the results in an online conference in February 2004. This will be your first chance to join the growing number of people who want to dramatically change the way top people are hired. That’s how you’ll be able to get the type of CEO letter described in this article. Separately, and with extensive ERE support, our national hiring revolution Hiring 2.0 tour is well underway. Over the next few months we’ll be in Dallas on January 21, Atlanta on February 18th, and Seattle on St. Paddy’s day. If you or your organization would like to be a city host for one of these events send me an email at We’ll be visiting the rest of the country throughout 2004 with 12 other tour stops. I look forward to meeting you in person at one of them. Be heard. Make hiring top talent a business process. Join the revolution. Become a great recruiter.]

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