In Recruiting, Back to Basics Does More Harm Than Good

Article main image
Mar 25, 2016
This article is part of a series called How-Tos.

Back to basics is terrible strategy. Having to engage in such a wasteful activity means people were allowed to stray from these core best practices. Why does this happen?

The basics are harder than most people will admit. It’s typically not the doing of them that’s difficult; it’s the remembering to do all of them each and every day that can be challenging. Life as a recruiter is often filled with too many responsibilities and not enough time to do them.

To improve organizational effectiveness, talent acquisition leaders must simplify and codify the basics, removing any and all barriers to doing them. Then, and only then, can they and should they unwaveringly hold people to these tenets. This no-excuses approach holds everyone to task — staff have no excuse when they choose not to do the basics, and managers have no excuse when they choose not to hold people to them.

Here are the four steps to make the basics truly basic:

Step #1: Simplify the Basics

Simplicity fosters sustainability. The best way to create sustainable simplicity is by systematizing how things are done. Step-by-step approaches, memorable processes, and mnemonics all help make what’s basic and important simple and sustainable.

For example, a company in Illinois came to me last year for help in standardizing core processes. As we dug into what was working and what was not, a common theme showed up — simple methods were being consistently followed; complex processes were being forgotten or ignored. One in particular was their script for referral generation. This convoluted document was eight pages long, covering various referral scenarios, such as asking a candidate who didn’t fit a job for leads to other potential candidates.

To simply referral generation, I supplied the company with a four-step process that worked in these and other scenarios:

  1. Permission — Ask the individual if it’s okay to seek his/her help.
  2. Why — Explain why you are asking for help.
  3. Who — Tell him/her the type of guidance you are looking for.
  4. Request — Make your request using a short, open-ended question.

To keep this simple, we offered people sample talking points for each step:

  1. Permission
    “Great speaking with you. Before we go, may I ask for your help on a different matter?”
  2. Why
    “I’m responsible for connecting with other people who may fit our job opportunities. That’s why I’d like your help.”
  3. Who
    “I’d like to connect with other people with experience in _____________.
  4. Request
    “Who do you suggest I speak with?”

Step #2: Stay With the Basics

Just like rinse and repeat was a catalyst for substantial growth of sales of hair care products, reinforce and repeat reinvigorates success by focusing people on core best practices. Reinforcement begins with communication of clear and reasonable expectations and is repeatedly reinforced in a variety of ways to keep the message memorable. Since there is so much to remember when recruiting, this ensures that important details stay top of mind.

The talent acquisition leaders of the company in Illinois introduced each improved and simplified process one at a time. Individually, each became the primary focus for an entire week. Then, every six to eight weeks, these were reintroduced, to ensure that these practices remained in sight and in mind.

Step #3: Master the Basics

Practice drives progress. This does not mean practicing on candidates; it does involve creating a corporate practice field where team members hone core best practices. Repetition to mastery through ongoing rehearsals keeps the basics top of mind while allowing people to safely expand their expertise through successes and failures.

People in our example company were assigned to duos, with each pair spending 15 minutes practicing core skills each day. Weekly, managers ran group practice sessions to monitor progress. Within a few months, the department was experiencing noticeably better habits, consistent execution of the basics, and tangible improvements in key results, including the number of jobs filled and reduced time-to-fill.

Step #4: Evolve the Basics

The needs of your company and those of potential job candidates evolve over time. So must the basics. Companies must shift and adapt them to meet these evolving needs. Even if you want things to stay the same, change that addresses the changing world is required.

Candidate objections were an area of constant evolution for the Illinois company. As difficult objections arose, leaders used these opportunities to revisit their process for handling objections and to craft better questions, the pivotal method of their objection-handling process.

Recruiting is relatively simple matchmaking process, but it’s not necessarily easy. What makes it much harder is when people fail to perform the important aspects of the job each day. Getting back to basics one last time is prudent, as long as everyone stays with them from that point forward. There is nothing more basic than sticking with what works.

This article is part of a series called How-Tos.
Get articles like this
in your inbox
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting articles about talent acquisition emailed weekly!