Do You Work At a Dinosaur Recruiting Function? A Quick Assessment Checklist

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Mar 10, 2017

I read an excellent think piece the other day by Kaela Wax. On her blog she stated that as an outsider, after closely studying the recruiting industry, she concluded that “My biggest takeaway: The industry is about 65 million years behind, and it’s a total mess.”

Of course, her description made me initially laugh. However, after some thought, I realized that I do know a significant number of corporate recruiting functions that are still operating as if they were in the Jurassic era.

I have previously written about dinosaur recruiters and over the decades I’ve done a great deal of research into corporate recruiting functions. And over the last handful of years, I have seen a widening gap between the very best “leading-edge firms” like Google, Sodexo, the U.S. Army, etc. and the average corporate recruiting function. The difference is great and getting wider. And, in fact, there is so much that can be learned from leading-edge firms that the theme of the fall 2017 conference covers how the recruiting functions at leading firms are significantly better.

So, if you’re a corporate recruiting leader or simply a recruiter, working at one and you want to know the factors that indicate that you may work at a “dinosaur recruiting function,” here is my quick 12 item checklist to find out where your recruiting function stands among the giants.

A Checklist of the Top 12 Indicators of a Dinosaur Recruiting Function

The following is a list of the key indicators that I have found to reveal that your corporate recruiting function is significantly behind “the pack at the top.” The most powerful differentiators are listed first.

  1. Your function is not completely data-driven — the largest single differentiator is the absence of comprehensive data-driven decision making. If your function uses mostly guesswork or intuition to decide on the most effective sources, selection criteria, candidate assessment approaches, and which recruiting programs no longer work, you operate in Raptor land. The absence of regular and predictive metrics for each specific strategic recruiting goal almost guarantees a slow rate of continuous improvement. Not having quantified monthly overall recruiting, recruiter, and hiring manager scorecards is still another indication that your function doesn’t care about accountability and performance. Functions that also fail to conduct formal candidate research will fail to attract the best, because they won’t precisely understand candidate attraction factors and how/where they search for a job.
  2. Recruiting doesn’t quantify its business impacts in $ — the best firms have shifted to a business-like approach. So, if all recruiting results and impacts are not quantified in dollars (the language of business), you may be about to become extinct. Without being able to prove your direct impact on corporate goals, you will never have enough of a budget to improve and modernize. The weaker firms fail to assign a dollar value to improve recruiting. This can be done by multiplying the average percentage of performance improvement of new hires by your firm’s average revenue per employee.
  3. Your function doesn’t measure quality of hire  without this critical success measure, a weak recruiting function can’t know which recruiting approaches, tools, and hiring criteria actually predict future job performance. The more excuses that a recruiting leader makes for not measuring the performance of new hires, the higher the probability that their function’s performance will fall below average. The weakest recruiting functions have also not made the clear connection between improving hiring speed and raising new-hire quality.
  4. Less than 50 percent of your hires come from referrals  employee referrals produce both the highest quality and the highest volume of hires. So having an underperforming and antiquated employee referral program essentially guarantees that your function will flounder and slip below average.
  5. Your recruiting function focuses on active candidates — in weaker organizations, up to 90 percent of their hires are active candidates. Weaker recruiting functions rely heavily on recruiting active candidates because they “will find you,” and these candidates will tolerate almost any mistreatment by recruiting. Processes that are designed for attracting actives simply won’t work on the more desirable employed person who is not actively looking for a job. Employed top performers must be poached away from their current employer and most dinosaur recruiting functions simply don’t have the courage to poach.
  6. Your function is not dominated by recruiting technology — in a digital and interconnected world, recruiting functions can’t even remain competitive without having technology everywhere. If people in your function consider an ATS to be technology, you are working alongside mammoths. You can’t be a great firm until you have gone 100 percent digital and at least explored the new emerging technologies in automated sourcing, candidate matching, and candidate assessment.
  7. All recruiting tools and processes are not available on the mobile platform — in a world that is dominated by the mobile platform, people who want to work at weak firms can’t apply and accept a job strictly on their mobile phone. In addition, if all of your internal recruiting tools and processes are not available to recruiters and hiring managers on their mobile phone, your hiring managers will be frustrated, your recruiting process will take over 30 days, and you will lose the very best candidates.
  8. Your function doesn’t have a formal talent pipeline — if you don’t have a continuous talent pipeline that allows you to develop talent communities, more than 90 percent of your hiring will come from just-in-time recruiting. Without a talent pipeline, you won’t be able to fill interview slates with pre-identified and pre-assessed candidates. That will mean longer vacancies and weak applicant slates.
  9. Your function pays only lip service to employer branding — weak-performing recruiting functions have yet to realize that a powerful employer brand is literally the most effective recruiting tool after employee referrals. The weak firms do not measure the strength of their employer brand by the number of qualified applicants that they receive. And, they allocate less than 10 percent of their budget to building their employer brand. Firms with weak employer branding don’t appear on a single “best-place-to-work” list.
  10. Diversity is a legal commitment rather than a business imperative — the weakest recruiting functions have not gathered data and successfully made the business case revealing the many positive business impacts from a diverse workforce. The weakest functions lump all diversity groups together and use essentially the same non-data-driven approach for recruiting all diversity candidates.
  11. Your function doesn’t have a data-driven selling capability — only the weakest functions have failed to use data and technology to dramatically improve sourcing and assessment. However, when it comes to selling capability (the third-most critical recruiting capability) the weaker firms have not even considered making selling data-driven, and no resources are formally allocated to it. Using intuition to guide the process for convincing top applicants to apply and accept jobs guarantees that the overall quality of new hires will suffer.
  12. Your function has limited capabilities in critical specialty recruiting areas — recruiting functions that operate within Jurassic Park have limited internal capabilities in the critical area of executive recruiting. Without a superior internal executive search capability, you are limiting your business impacts and at the same time admitting that your function only has the capability of hiring non-executive talent. Another critically important specialty area is the ability to find, attract, and hire innovators. Your firm has no chance of competing with Apple, Facebook, Google, or Amazon if you haven’t developed a process and recruiters with expertise in recruiting innovators. And finally, at weaker firms, their antiquated college recruiting effort will still heavily rely on campus visits that are only made to a handful of few target schools. Dinosaur recruiting functions have no quality-of-hire measures in university recruiting, no student referral program, and they don’t realistically have a remote or global college recruiting capability. 

Final Thoughts

I’ve tried to make this recruiting function assessment checklist as impactful but as lighthearted as possible. But corporate recruiting leaders need to take this or their own checklist seriously. Because slipping into mediocrity may, unfortunately, guarantee that your firm won’t ever again have a competitive advantage over your talent competitors. And, since recruiting has the highest impact of all the HR functions on corporate revenue and profit, failing to be in the top tier of recruiting in your industry guarantees that your firm will hire mediocre workers who don’t have the critical ability to innovate. Because these weak firms haven’t built a strong business case, their executives and shareholders will never know how many millions of dollars that an average recruiting effort is costing their firm.

One final thought. Remember that the actual dinosaurs went extinct because they were slow to adapt to a fast-changing world. And almost everyone agrees that our 21st-century world is certainly changing rapidly. So, if your function evolves too slowly, RPO may be in your future. Fortunately, weaker firms can take solace in knowing that as a result of the wild success of the leading-edge firms (e.g. Google gets nearly 3 million applications per year) that they do have someone that they can emulate.

But don’t linger too long before catching up. These top tiered firms are always improving, so that by the time you catch up, they will have moved well beyond your initial target.


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image from National Science Foundation