Making Your Company Stronger: The Robust Recruiting Model

Throughout our recruiting careers, we are always told to hire the “A players” or “the Fabulous 5%” or the “very best”; it’s to make our company stronger. While it would be a good idea to try and hire the very best, it isn’t always possible, and it may not even always be the best idea …

The False Premise: Hiring the Best is Always Best

When a business starts out and as it continues, it naturally wants to have the very best available to it to maximize its chances of succeeding in the marketplace — the best concept, the best business plan, the best location (physical or virtual), the best sales, the best people, etc. This makes perfect sense to me. However, often seems the founders, CXOs, senior executives, and others say they must have the best (and the best of everything) for them to succeed. Let’s think about this:

Is it realistic to require that everything works absolutely perfectly at all times for the business to be a success? Isn’t there a reasonable likelihood that something could go wrong at some time or another?

Since we’re recruiters, lets narrow it down to them saying: “We must always have only the best people if we are to succeed, and anything less will jeopardize our future!” If taken literally, there could never be any down time for anyone at any time during work hours, because anything less than the entire perfect team performing at 100% at all times could be injurious to the company. None of these perfect people could ever take a vacation, become ill, or be away from work for any reason, let alone leave the company. Obviously this is absurd, but how much less absurd is the desire that many hiring managers express?

The True Premise: Organizing Your Goals and Processes So You Don’t Need the Best Is Usually the Best

Wouldn’t it be far more realistic to carefully determine the bare minimum that is necessary to accomplish the tasks, (allowing for a maximum opportunity to cover the inevitable problems that will occur) and hire accordingly? This is the premise of the Robust Hiring Model:

To do so, carefully organize your goals, processes, and procedures such that you don’t require a team of superstars all working perfectly at all times to make money. If you do require this, you may be in the wrong market, because too many things can go wrong, and requiring only superstars is just one of them.

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Transforming a company using the RRM is far beyond the scope of recruiting — it involves a wide variety of participants both from inside and outside the company. Promoting this would won’t be easy to do, or in many cases even possible. However, from the recruiting end, it’s just a somewhat more vigorous application of going through the job requirements and pushing back/asking for justification. One tool that can help is the “Corporate Desirability Score” which determines as objectively as possible what level of people are likely to be attracted to your company. This could vary greatly depending on the overall demand for the particular skills involved, so if you can determine a CDS for a particular skill set or position, all the better. (As a decent recruiter, we should be able to reasonably get somewhat better than this, but they’re probably not paying you enough to work miracles.)

As an example, if the CDS shows that your company is at the 70th percentile, you should be able to get 75 percentile people, but not 95 percentile people — also known as “the Fabulous 5%” which so many hiring managers insist on. Assuming that your hiring managers are rational (a questionable assumption, but one we need to make here), this should help to establish reasonable expectations, which is one of the most important thing a recruiter needs to learn how to do.

Fundamentally, what I’m proposing here is a model of recruiting based on the way people and the world really are and not how we’d like them to be and more specifically, going after the people we need and can get, as opposed to the ones the hiring managers wish they could have.

Keith Halperin is currently working as a senior contract recruiter and performs additional sourcing work. He has worked in recruiting, placement, search, and research for highly diverse clients (from startups to Fortune 500 firms) throughout the San Francisco Bay Area since 1986. He conceived, designed, and implemented corporate recruiting strategies, and developed a white paper for a $70 million, five-year NASA CS recruiting project. He developed the Recruiting Process Methodology, a comprehensive open-source roadmap of recruiting. He co-founded MyIPOJob job fairs for pre-IPO companies, and founded Recruitersforum, an online job site for all types of recruiting positions.