Maxine’s Challenge

Mar 19, 2008

Maxine is in deep trouble. She was hired 12 days ago as a recruiter to work with a manager who had about 200 call center requisitions to fill in a 90-day window.

The positions weren’t unusual or particularly hard to fill. In fact, over the past few months, new college graduates, several retirees who were youthful and had the requisite skills, and a handful of experienced former call center employees had been hired with varying degrees of success. Yet turnover is an issue; it runs to more than 100% each year.

At first blush, Maxine felt confident she could meet the challenge and fill all the positions. After all, she was an experienced recruiter and the skills the manager needed were basic.

The training programs the company had put in place were quite well-received and met the need to ensure everyone was capable. This training was supplemented with an excellent online support center with access to FAQs and other help.

Maxine figured she could round up some recent college hires who hadn’t gotten their dream job but were smart and energetic, or she could get a few more of the retirees to consider returning to work.

Now, 12 days into it, things look different. The hiring manager hasn’t liked anyone she has brought in and has complained to Maxine’s boss about her inability to meet his needs. She obviously feels this is completely unfair as she has only been on the job for a short time.

However, her boss says, “Maxine is too focused on process and hasn’t even posted anything on the job boards. All she wants to do is dig into what the hiring manager’s requirements are.” He goes on to say that as far as he knows, the hiring manager just wants her to “. . . find me good, smart people, and I’ll train them what to do. I don’t need to have everyone psychoanalyzed.”

This company has over 1,000 employees, all located in the United States, with sales of more than US$1 billion. The average age of the employees is around 35, with only the CEO and a few other top managers over 40. The hiring manager is close to Maxine’s age, hovering around 30. There are a couple of recruiters who focus on other types of hiring needs, including IT, but they are not very friendly and stay on the phone almost all day.

The company has a good reputation for customer service and is very proud of its high standards of service. Customers find that response times are reasonable and that their issues get resolved quickly. This is a big difference from many other companies that Maxine has worked for. She feels it is necessary for her to really understand the competencies needed and assess candidates against those competencies.

This company has real-time performance feedback for call center reps, and they are always aware of how well they are doing compared to other call-center staff. They get paid partially on how quickly and on how well they resolve customer issues. Those who have been at the company for more than a year make great pay and have a balanced work life.

New employees, however, face the daunting prospect of meeting the time and quality demands of the position, and many leave. Maxine really wants to understand why some have stayed and what their profile looks like so she can look for others with a similar set of skills.

The issue is 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 her situation? How can Maxine succeed?

I will collect your responses and print some of them (anonymously) in next week’s article. I will also provide an expert opinion about what Maxine should do.

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