Oct 26, 2010

It’s time to rethink how recruiters are being assessed, throwing away many traditional metrics, Linda Brenner said today at her pre-conference ERE workshop in Hollywood, Florida.

Brenner advocated what’s called an “assessment center” approach. Originally developed in 1956 for AT&T for hiring/promotion screening, assessment centers are intensive, multi-part testing and evaluation processes.

To make them work, Brenner says you’ll need several things.

Linda Brenner

You’ll want to have a clear understanding of the core competencies required for success in the job, whether it be for a recruiting coordinator or a director. You’ll have to have the ability to simulate those competencies, and to objectively evaluate the range of performance from fair to poor. Lastly, you’ll need to go in with the intention of taking action based on the results of the assessments.

One participant in today’s workshop said her recruiting department used an assessment-center approach, and realized that some results surprised her — and some did not. The people she thought were the “good sourcers” did indeed turn out to be good, and the “bad sourcers” did measure poorly. Across the board, however, among many of the company’s recruiters, interview skills fell surprisingly short.

How Time’s Spent

Brenner said that figuring out how recruiters spend their time (a topic she has written about before), and whether that’s creating the results you’re looking for, is a good thing to start thinking about when examining your metrics and moving to an assessment-center approach.

Indeed, one workshop participant said her recruiters spend about 50% of their time “babysitting clients.” Another said her recruiters spend 40-50% of their time on scheduling. One of Brenner’s clients will get some huge number of applicants, like 1,000, for relatively low-level jobs, a deluge that can suck up a lot time that could be spent otherwise.

Kim Rutledge

Similarly, Kim Rutledge, an ex-talent acquisition director at Dell who conducted the workshop with Brenner (and who now works at Brenner’s firm), said she has seen recruiters spend large amounts of time — some of which could be more automated — on background checks.

Anyhow, what should recruiters do with their time? Rutledge asked this of workshop participants, whose answers included:

  • Most time should be spent sourcing and pre-qualifying candidates
  • A sizable portion of time should involve acting as a consultant to clients
  • Recruiting teams should make sure the company’s technology is working efficiently and efficiently (said one participant, who’s company is moving to Kenexa).
  • Strategic issues, such as workforce planning, should dominate

Most Important Behaviors

In addition to the discussion of time management, Brenner and Rutledge said companies should ask themselves what the most critical recruiting behaviors and competencies were. Some answers from participants:

  • Ability to influence others
  • Ability to identify talent
  • Listening
  • Business acumen
  • Creative thinking
  • Relationship-building
  • Driving results
  • In some companies, the ability to change and be flexible
  • Interviewing
  • Negotiation
  • Change-management

Most Important Skills

Attendees then listed the skills they think are most critical in recruiters. Some common answers:

  • Cold-calling
  • Sourcing
  • Conversion of candidates
  • Selection of candidates/assessing talent
  • Engaging candidates and clients
  • CRM management

Brenner and Rutledge suggested that — after you make these two lists for your company — you winnow it down to a list of the five or so most critical items.

What “Great” Looks Like

At this point, Brenner suggests companies build a simulation to measure these most critical items. If sourcing, for example, is designated as critical, you could build a simulation for a district manager job, asking recruiters to build a sourcing plan to find district managers who are passive job seekers, ultimately identifying three to six passive candidates with as much information as they can get on them.

You’ll need to be able to measure results, Brenner says: to know what “great” looks like. As an example, a five-point scale could be used to measure how well someone did on the sourcing simulation. If merely posting a job-board ad was their solution, they’ll end up closer to a one. If their approach to finding the passive candidates was varied and creative, involving networking, references, the Internet, professional organizations, and more, and they could explain how the information they got on the passive candidates made them relevant to the open job, they’re going to be closer to a five.

That’s an example of a simulation for sourcing. Assuming “selecting talent” was one of your most important recruiting traits, you might set up a simulation for, say, a marketing manager, involving talent selection. Assessment-center participants would read information about the company and the role, review resumes, choose the most qualified, prepare for an interview, sell the company to the candidate, and more.

You’d evaluate whether the person prepared well for the interview; followed a clear flow; probed appropriately and effectively; sold the company well and had a strong “close”; and explained and defended well the decision to move the candidate forward.

Brenner suggests giving assessment center feedback as soon as possible, and providing coaching to participants one on one. After that, recruiters can get a development plan with specific goals, timelines, success measures, partners available for coaching and feedback, and more. Leaders should hold recruiters accountable for building plans and showing progress.

Assessment center data can be sorted by best-to-worst score, or by tenure in role, or tenure in the company, by function, by geography, and other ways.

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