Become Famous! Make Hiring Top Talent a Systematic Business Process

No one would disagree that hiring top people needs to become a more consistent and systematic business process. Too much time is wasted by too many recruiters and hiring managers doing too many different things, many of them counterproductive. Throughout 2004, I’ll use this column to describe what it takes to transform hiring from a loose collection of ill-defined activities with limited controls into a well-oiled machine. This is Hiring 2.0. Systematically filling positions with top performers would profoundly improve the operating performance of any company and alter the competitive playing field. Implementing such a system provides HR a true opportunity to make a strategic impact on a company. This is how you become famous. As mentioned last week, getting to Hiring 2.0 involves some major redirection and rethinking in these core processes:

  • A dramatic improvement in the types and methods used to source top talent. Don’t expect to find top talent the same way you find candidates. Top people don’t look for jobs the same way typical candidates do. You must know the differences and apply them to every step in the sourcing process.
  • A radical upgrade in the performance and efficiency of IT systems supporting the recruiting process. Tracking systems need to be designed by recruiters and for recruiters, not by software developers for admin personnel. For many companies, more time is spent feeding the tracking system than recruiting top talent. Some simple changes here can put the recruiter back in control.
  • Significantly increase every recruiter’s ability to work with, coach, and influence hiring managers. For a variety of reasons, most hiring managers are disappointed with their in-house recruiting department. Lack of real job knowledge dominates the list of disappointments. The time it takes to see candidates isn’t far behind. Underlying everything is managers wasting their time interviewing unqualified candidates. Recruiters must become partners in the hiring process, not excuses.
  • Move from a reactive to a proactive mindset at every process step. Recruiters spend too much time waiting. They wait for requisitions to be opened. They wait for candidates to apply. They wait for managers to respond. They wait for candidates to accept offers. Stop waiting. Hiring systems need to be designed to pull information along. Right now, too much pushing is being done.
  • Profoundly increase each recruiter’s ability to recruit top talent. This is what recruiters are supposed to spend most of their time doing. To do it right, you first have to eliminate the time wasters. Then you have to know how to find top talent and convince them to join your company.

Over the year, we’ll show how to go about implementing the necessary fundamental changes in each of these areas. By year-end, you’ll know exactly what it takes to make hiring top talent a systematic business process. In this week’s article, the focus will be on one-on-one recruiting skills. In my opinion, the quality of a company’s recruiting department directly determines the quality of the people who get hired. If you want to consistently see and hire top talent, consider this: 75% of the best people you will hire in 2004 will not be active candidates. The economic recovery will make it increasingly difficult to hire top people using your current sourcing channels in the same way. It will require more sourcing channels and better use of existing channels. The standard “job board/website/tracking system” model used in traditional ways will simply not pull in enough top candidates. For instant relief, try compelling and highly visible advertising tied into career-oriented websites. You should be able to get 20% of your candidates when this is combined with upgraded backend tracking systems that allow recruiters to call the best people within hours. You’ll be able to find another 30-40% of your best people if you update your employee referral program to become more targeted and proactive. Here’s one way: Use your best employees and managers to ferret out the best talent anywhere. Then call and recruit these pre-identified stars. If they’re not on point, network with them again and find even more top candidates. This is part of the what the new breed of corporate recruiter must do to improve the talent pool. Recruiters must be able to cold call top non-active candidates and convince them to consider working at their companies. You can no longer wait for top candidates to come knocking on your door ó you have to knock on theirs instead. And the sooner the better. Recruiters must be able to reach out and find and hire the best people available, not the best available people. Recruiters must be able to influence the best people to become their candidates, and the best candidates to become their employees. This starts with better networking skills, the ability to use competitive intelligence, and new techniques to identify top talent. Inescapable, however, is the need for great one-on-one recruiting skills. The best people need to be recruited, and recruiters must do it. In dealing with candidates, here are the core competencies of this new breed of top corporate recruiter:

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  • Listening skills. Great recruiting isn’t about selling, over-talking, or under-listening. It’s about engaging with top people, understanding what motivates them to excel, and then presenting opportunities that almost fit.
  • Persuasion. Recruiters must be able to convince top people to consider their openings above all others. This requires tact, guts, and as much knowledge about the job as the hiring manager. Browbeating is no substitute for insight and logical presentation.
  • Counseling. The best recruiters are career counselors. They influence their candidates’ decision-making process by objectively presenting competing career opportunities in a logical and compelling manner.
  • Persistence. The best people always have multiple opportunities. Things will always go wrong. Recruiters must be able to forge ahead despite the negativity and conflict. Taking no for an answer is not an option.
  • Risk-taking. Getting names, pushing the envelope, trying new things, and calling people who say no or hang up are all part of the recruiter’s daily activity. The best take it in stride, even if they don’t like it. It’s part of the game.
  • Savvy. You don’t need to be an intellectual giant to be recruiter, but you’d better be street smart, have lots of common sense, possess more than a fair share of ingenuity, and be quick on your feet. This is the only way to overcome objections, get past the gatekeepers, and be able to present your compelling case to a top person who has multiple opportunities but not enough time to evaluate them all.
  • Great phone skills. Whether you’re networking, interviewing, or comparing alternatives, the phone is the constant companion of the corporate recruiter. Using verbal skills alone, recruiters must continually present compelling reasons to skeptical audiences.
  • Networking ability. Getting names of top people from other top people requires all of the above and more. One great name is never enough. Recruiters must be able to generate a constant stream of great names from everyone they meet.

If you want to be a better corporate recruiter, work on developing these skills. Benchmark others. Here are three things you can do to get started:

  1. Don’t call unqualified people. You don’t ever have time to call a person who’s not qualified for your current opening or who doesn’t personally know a top person who is. Pre-qualify everyone. Always ask the referring person why the person is one of the best. If the answer is superficial, don’t call. You don’t have the time.
  2. Don’t look at the resumes of unqualified candidates. Don’t waste your time hoping to find a good candidate in a stack of unscreened resumes. Instead, optimize your tracking system to bring the top 10% to the top. Then review only these resumes. If there aren’t any good ones in the top 10%, there won’t be any better ones in the bottom 90%. If your tracking system can’t separate out the top 10%, get one that can.
  3. Don’t take no for an answer. When you call the best, never take no for an answer. This is the best way to start figuring out what to say next.

Hiring the best can become a systematic business process. It starts with great recruiters. Isn’t it time to become famous?

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).