Are You Suffering from Over-Sourcing Syndrome?

Mar 27, 2008

O?ver sourc?ing syn?drome: the need to find more candidates than needed caused by inappropriately eliminating the good candidates you already have.

This article expands upon one I wrote recently on the serious topic of over-sourcing. If you’ve ever lost a good candidate because someone conducted an inaccurate interview, someone on the hiring team didn’t like the person’s personality, or a top candidate decided not to pursue your opportunity, you’ve experienced over-sourcing syndrome.

Sadly, the problem is not going away, or even getting better. It’s based on the idea that we (recruiters, recruiting managers, and HR leaders) spend far too much effort, training, money, and resources than necessary on sourcing.

There are many other hiring problems that need fixing that would eliminate the need for recruiters to find unnecessary extra candidates to complete assignments. It’s comparable to buying extra raw materials to deal with a scrap problem, rather than fixing the scrap problem.

When the hiring process is examined from an end-to-end perspective, at least half the problems in hiring good people can be attributed to bad job descriptions, incorrect assessments, managers who have no idea of how to recruit, and recruiters who have trouble influencing and closing top performers.

The remaining problems have to do with not finding enough top people. Solve this by using better advertising, better marketing, and better technology. Perhaps the most dramatic way to solve the problem is to become the top-performing company in your industry and get on one of Fortune magazine’s “Most Admired” or “Best Employee” lists.

Then you’ll have all the best candidates you need. The problem will then just be to screen out the bad ones. With an abundance of top people, it doesn’t matter if your scrap rate is high.

However, for most companies to even have a shot of becoming “Most Admired” for something, you’ll first need to improve your end-to-end hiring problems, rather than just focusing on the idea that seeing more candidates is the solution to your talent woes.

With this mind, let’s start by categorizing the causes of over-sourcing syndrome into these big buckets:

  • The use of traditional job descriptions to attract, screen, assess, and recruit top performers.
  • Problems associated with the hiring manager and the interviewing team.
  • Anything related to less-than-stellar recruiter skills and capabilities.
  • Technology-related challenges, especially ease-of-use.
  • Administrative roadblocks like dumb comp rules and incorrect legal edicts.

I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but I want to start this tirade with the idea that using job descriptions to recruit, source, assess and hire top performers is a complete waste of time.

Job descriptions that emphasize qualifications and experiences are useless and counter-productive on a number of levels.

First, top people who are fully qualified won’t apply, since there’s little incentive do the same work again, except for a big comp hit.

Second, using skills and experiences as a screen also automatically excludes great people from other industries with a different mix of comparable experiences. Making matters worse, most ads are hard to find and filled more with disqualifiers than attractors. Relying on a job description as the basis for advertising turns off the most highly qualified candidates.

Now consider high-potential, A-level, fast-track candidates. These are the exact people you want to see and hire, but based on the minimum qualifications listed in your ads, they’re not qualified, and are asked not to apply.

Even if they do apply, they’d be excluded by some recruiter or questionnaire because they didn’t have the “right” qualifications. While companies all say they want to see A-level candidates, their business processes, especially the over-reliance on skills-based job descriptions, prevents this from happening, other than on a by-exception basis. When skills are used as the basis for attracting and screening candidates, companies, by default, have set themselves up to exclude the best and only see average candidates.

So if you want to eliminate this humongous non-sourcing bottleneck, stop posting job descriptions where good people can see them. Instead, convert your job descriptions into performance profiles and these performance profiles into creative and compelling advertising. Here’s a group of articles that can help you do this.

While using job descriptions come up first in preventing companies from hiring enough top performers, second is hiring managers and the interviewing team. As proof, just imagine how many more placements you’d make if it weren’t for hiring managers. (FYI: this was facetious.)

Performance Profiles Can Encourage Good People to Apply

Here are just some of the ways that hiring managers and interviewing team members prevent companies from hiring good people:

  • They over-rely on traditional job descriptions on who they’ll even see.
  • They are unresponsive.
  • They won’t spend time with the recruiter explaining real job needs.
  • They are poor interviewers or have too narrow a focus.
  • Much of their assessment is based on intuition, gut-feelings, personality, and favorite questions.
  • They’re unimpressive and turn off good people.
  • They don’t know how to use the interview to recruit top performers.
  • Members of the interviewing team all describe the real job differently.

Getting managers to use a performance profile instead of a job description can minimize many of these problems. The key is to have managers first clearly describe what the person taking the job needs to do to be successful. Then force them to develop an employee value proposition (EVP) by asking, “Why would a top performer with all of the experiences listed want this job for the compensation package being offered?”

This totally changes the nature of the conversation when the recruiter takes the assignment. (Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to take the assignment.) Many managers will be more open to see a different mix of candidates as a result and they’ll be in a better position to assess and recruit them as well.

From what I can tell, managers can only assess candidates accurately when they understand the difference between the real job (the projects and typical tasks involved) and the job description.

In combination with the EVP, it gives them the foundation to present a compelling case to a top performer. The next step is to make sure everyone on the hiring team is singing from the same song sheet. Here are a few articles that help you work with hiring managers in converting job descriptions into something useful.

Curing over-sourcing syndrome starts by eliminating job descriptions, using performance profiles, and getting hiring managers to own the real job and EVP. These steps alone will solve half of your non-sourcing related sourcing problems. In subsequent over-sourcing articles I’ll provide some ideas on how to eliminate the rest.

The decline in available talent coupled with the increase in worldwide demand will not be solved by better sourcing alone. Even in a downturn, the demand for top talent is accelerating. Hiring the best is a multi-faceted problem that is getting more and more challenging.

From what I can tell, few HR and recruiting executives have fully grasped the scope of the problem, and even those who do are reluctant to tackle the problem head-on. To me, this might be the biggest non-sourcing problem of them all.

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