How Maxine Can Succeed

Mar 26, 2008

Last week, I presented a short case study about a recruiter named Maxine. After just a few weeks of employment, she was being criticized by her boss for not getting many open call center positions filled and for spending too much time trying to create a profile of the successful person. She wanted to know more; her boss wanted action.

I asked several questions, and asked you to respond with your own thoughts. Here are the questions I posed with some of your responses and my own comments.

The Questions

How can Maxine satisfy her boss and hire high-quality people? Is it even possible to do this? Can she profile candidates without alienating them or her boss? If you were Maxine, what would you do in this situation? How can Maxine succeed?

Most of you who responded had strong opinions about what Maxine should do. I categorized your responses into three areas: (1) those who felt she should spend time to understand the corporate culture and build rapport and improve the communication she has with her boss; (2) those who felt Maxine should just get to work and post/fill the open positions; and (3) those who thought she should build a job profile and do a competency analysis about the strong performers. A few of you thought she should just quit and look for a different job.

Know the Culture and the Hiring Manager/Boss’s Expectations

A significant percentage of you (35%) felt that Maxine’s main problem was not taking the time to fully understand the expectations of either her boss or the hiring manager or the culture of the organization.

Success in recruiting is often dependent on the amount of trust the hiring manager has in your ability to find the right people quickly. One reason why hiring managers are inclined to look more favorably upon a candidate submitted by an agency than by an internal recruiter is because of the trust the manager has in the quality of the recruiters and in the screening and assessment process of the agency. Agencies spend time and money to create a brand and build that trust. It doesn’t happen overnight.

Maxine is new to this organization and has not built any relationships or established a personal “brand.” In fact, with her reluctance to fulfill the hiring manager’s expectations, she is already beginning to create a negative brand for herself.

One of you said, “Since Maxine’s new to the job, it’s critical that she work on developing a good relationship with her boss. Talk with the boss to get her perceptions of the department and the hiring manager.”

Another wrote, “I see the hiring manager’s expectations to be the cornerstone of doing the job successfully or not. For the beginning this would be my main focus.”

She must also know the culture of the organization. One wrote, “It is apparent that she does not understand the culture of the organization that she is hiring for. This needs to be a top priority for her and should be a top priority for the hiring manager.”

Maxine also made the mistake of thinking that management cared about the level of turnover. In an organization of this size and type, 200 open positions and 100% turnover are most likely looked upon as normal. One of you said it well: “I would say that Maxine’s first mistake was assuming that the company was concerned about its level of turnover for sales staff, especially within the first few weeks of her working there.”

Get the Job Done

One of you responded with this to-the-point suggestion, “FILL THE ORDERS based on the current, already acceptable, standards. Over time, Maxine may raise those standards if it is possible to do so . . .”

In fact, most of you (46%) felt that her only job was to hire people. One of you said, “Put simply, for this initial round of hiring, I would put bodies in seats. Given the short deadline, there isn’t time to analyze anything and it doesn’t sound like anyone within this organization wants to hear about it right now anyway.”

Recruiters are hired to find and hire good employees. Maxine clearly forgot this and began right away to spend time and energy on issues that, while important and ultimately needed for success, are not germane to the short-term needs of the hiring manager.

One of you wrote, “I believe that if Maxine wants to keep the job, she needs to recruit as her manager wants her to.”

Another wrote, “If I were in Maxine?s place, I would stop overanalyzing and start working the system as it is.”

Gather Data

Some of you (12%) also felt that if Maxine wanted to reduce turnover she needed to build a profile of the good candidates and do a job analysis. One wrote, “If I were Maxine, I would have a heart-to-heart with my manager to explain why and how profiling can help.”

And another said, “Review core skills sets required for the position and [see that the] job descriptions are appropriate and review the hiring process, including the Interview Guide.”

While I believe this is eventually a necessary step, if Maxine does not fill positions quickly, she won?t be around to do this analysis.

In Summary

If Maxine is to be seen as a top performer, and if she wants to build a strong reputation within the organization, she will need to take a balanced and prioritized approach to her problem. She needs to have a good reputation with her hiring manager. One respondent said, “Maxine seems to have forgotten a cardinal rule of being a good corporate recruiter: Your hiring manager is your client, and you must keep your client happy.”

I completely agree.

But she needs to hire people, and hire them now! She has to take the actions the organization expects, whether they are what she thinks are best or not, and then systematically and carefully move toward a better understanding of the competencies and skills of the best performers and to a methodology of assessment. To do that in her first few weeks, without any hiring success, is the formula for defeat.

One of the respondents gave a very balanced view of how Maxine might proceed: “As suggested by her boss, Maxine should start by posting her requirements on job boards.

Having done that, she would have in place a steady source of talent from which to short-list candidates. In the interim, she can also talk to existing employees and understand the reasons for such high turnover. She can also speak to those who have been in the organization for more than a year and understand from them as to what motivates them to stay in the organization and perform consistently.”

And a final reader response that sums it all up:

“Maxine’s error lies in not understanding and aligning with the organizational dynamics at work here. To transition from a pure ‘efficiency’ model to one that allows her to focus on quality (of which decreased turnover is a component), Maxine needs to start over, first building a superior candidate pool within the constraints of the current model. Once she has surpassed the organization’s expectations, she’ll hopefully have the capital to begin a serious change management effort focused on building quality into the process. Without that capital, she cannot garner the executive (or line management) support required to accomplish real change. With it, she can develop a plan that includes both a vision and sense of urgency, both required elements for leading change.”

Maxine may not be the best fit for this company, but she could be successful if she’s willing to make a few alterations to her priorities and accept the realities of working for this organization.

Thanks for all your many great responses.

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