Friday, December 14, 2007

Becoming a Better Recruiter

Today's article is only fitting, as our office finished our Annual Reviews and Business Plans for 2008 yesterday. Lou Adler, CEO of the Adler Group, and have highlighted some areas for recruiters and hiring managers to focus on in the new year. While some of these mirror my own goals and objectives, I found the article to be overall very valuable, and therefore worth sharing with you. While I usually do not try to post multiple times in one day, I couldn't help myself. So enjoy the double dose...

The One Single Thing You Must Do to Become a Better Recruiter in 2008
Make the effort to hire top talent
12/14/2007 by Lou Adler
The Adler Group

This article describes the most important factor involved in individual-recruiter success. From my personal dealings with over 2,500 corporate and third-party recruiters in the last five years, it seems that only 10-15% of recruiters develop this to improve their overall performance. In the past year, I've written a number of articles about the importance of applicant control and understanding real job needs, and, while these are vitally important, they are far less effective without this third factor in place.

But first, a little background.

We're almost finished with our annual Recruiting and Hiring Challenges Survey for 2008. (There's still a short time for you to participate. Here's the link to take the survey.) While there were many problems highlighted, including handling too many requisitions, the lack of effective technology, and the declining effectiveness of job boards, five problems were ranked by nearly everyone as significant or of huge concern. Since more than 600 recruiters participated from corporations and independent recruiting firms, these results can be considered statistically relevant.

The one problem that stood out from everyone else was predictable: 96% of the respondents indicated that they were not seeing enough strong candidates for important positions, and 78% said that this was a growing problem of major concern or a huge current problem. Better sourcing will not solve the root cause problem; it will just mask it. The underlying challenge, and the most important factor involved in making more placements, is highlighted by the responses to four other questions. As you'll see, they all involved problems with hiring managers.
Survey participants were asked to rank each of the problems described below on a five-level degree-of-concern basis, from "Not a Problem" to "A Huge Problem."

Hiring managers are not willing to devote the time necessary to recruit top people. Eighty-two percent of the respondents indicated this was a significant problem, with 60% considering it a major growing problem or a huge current problem. Although recruiters can't convince hiring managers to spend more time here or to take time to recruit the best, this message is important to get across somehow.

Hiring managers are not strong at assessing candidate competency. It's hard enough finding good candidates, but when 85% of the respondents indicate that this is a major problem, and 60% indicate that it's growing or it's a huge problem now, recruiters are just spinning their wheels. This is the primary reason why new sourcing programs aren't the universal solutions to a company's hiring challenges.

Managers overvalue skills, experience, and academics before seeing candidates. Unfortunately, most managers refuse to consider great candidates who have comparable, but not identical, skills, or have achieved success in a different industry or field. Eighty-four percent of survey participants said that their managers were unwilling to bend their specifications despite major sourcing challenges, and that this problem was getting worse or it was already huge.

Managers are not strong at recruiting top people. For a variety of reasons, top people don't want to work for managers who aren't strong leaders and potential mentors, so this is a problem that isn't going to go away without some type of high-level intervention. An unbelievable 87% of those taking the survey considered this to be a problem they were currently facing, and while a few from this group indicated it was manageable, 63% indicated it was worsening or it was already affecting their ability to meet their recruiting targets.
Effectively coaching, developing, and guiding hiring managers in a declining-supply-and-growing-demand recruiting environment is essential if companies ever expect to meet their hiring needs for new talent. This is the single most important factor preventing companies from hiring more top talent. However, from what I can tell, HR and recruiting executives are afraid to tackle this problem head-on.

While training recruiters can help a bit, and developing a series of creative new sourcing programs can help a bit more, nothing will overcome the bottleneck imposed by hiring managers' attitudes and their inability to attract the best. With this in mind, here are some ideas you might want to ponder:

Build a team of great recruiters. Great recruiters can offset some of the deficiencies in hiring managers. If you're a recruiting manager, here's a unique 10-factor, self-evaluation scorecard you should have all your recruiters take. This will allow you to compare your team across 10 competencies we've found to be the most predictive of top recruiter performance. If you are a recruiter, you're invited to evaluate yourself, but reduce your final score by 20% for a true reading. (There's always grade inflation in any self-evaluation.)

Recruiters need to be partners, not vendors. Recruiters who become partners with their hiring-manager clients have the ability to minimize some of the hiring-manager recruiting weaknesses. One aspect of becoming a partner involves having real job knowledge beyond the job description. This is one of the reasons recruiters who have performed the job they're now recruiting for have more credibility with hiring managers and candidates alike. Preparing a performance profile with the hiring manager when the assignment is taken can help the recruiter better understand real job needs. You might need to talk with a strong person currently in the job to better understand what it takes to be a top performer before you discuss the job with your hiring-manager client. Hiring managers trust recruiters when they understand the real work required for on-the-job success.

Clarify performance expectations up-front. As far as I'm concerned, HR is remiss in not requiring hiring managers to prepare something like a performance profile to get a requisition approved. When managers know real job needs, they come across to candidates as more insightful and knowledgeable during the interview. All managers, even the weak ones, seem better when they can describe real job needs to candidates. Managers also are more likely to see a candidate who has achieved comparable results even if he or she is a little light on the qualifications. Clarifying expectations up-front has been shown to be the primary determinant of job satisfaction and improved on-the-job performance. The use of performance profiles also enables a company to integrate its hiring, on-boarding, and performance-management process into one common system.

Conduct more panel interviews. A well-conducted panel interview can help hiring managers who are weak interviewers more accurately assess competency. As long as the panelists don't stomp all over each other or overtly challenge the interviewee, most candidates find panel interviews appealing and appropriate. Panel interviews can also be used to mask some hiring manager deficiencies as long as there is another strong leader on the panel. This is a real aid in recruiting.

Train managers on how to recruit. Talking and selling don't constitute recruiting. Most managers don't know how to recruit, but sadly, many recruiters fall into this same boat. Regardless, managers need to learn how to use solution selling and needs analysis to position their open opportunities as far superior to any others the candidate is considering.
Use an evidence-based assessment process. In too many companies, the interview assessment is akin to a popularity contest based on an archaic yes-or-no voting system. The hiring decision should be based on a deliberative evidence-sharing process. This is particularly important when unskilled managers are given full voting rights or base their decisions on a narrow range of competencies. This change alone will prevent many good people from being excluded due to a weak assessment process.

Any new sourcing program that is implemented to meet the hiring demands of the future will be far less effective than possible unless the problems associated with hiring managers are addressed first. While recruiters can be of some assistance here, leadership at the HR-executive level is required to change the outdated and clumsy recruiting, interviewing, and assessment processes used by most companies.

Companies with great brands and compelling stories will always be able to attract the best. For everyone else, the solutions require creativity, leadership, and hard work. The effort is all worth it if hiring top talent is considered a major strategic objective.

Positions Update

With 2007 coming to a close in a few short weeks, our recruiting team is still working full throttle to identify and recruit top talent for a variety of positions. Current needs include:

- Regional Commercial Sales Manager
- Director of Merchandising
- Manager, Forecasting & Planning
- Merchandiser
- Director of Production Services
- General Manager
- Branch Manager
- Area Manager
- Director of Marketing
- Director of Product Development

Please give me a call if you would like to discuss any of the opportunities and do not hesitate to pass along my information, should you know of someone that would be a strong fit for one of these positions.

Have a great weekend -

Friday, December 7, 2007

Industry Experience vs. Lifetime Accomplishments

As this Friday afternoon comes to a close and I do my best to clean out my email inbox, I read this article from and Brian Mullins that I found to be insightful and thought-provoking. While some of you may disagree with his strategy, Brian Mullins believes in targeting and hiring individuals who have accomplished one or two amazing accomplishments over average industry professionals. While I like his line of thinking, I haven't come to a conclusion yet. Enjoy today's article and let me know what you think -

Hire People Who Accomplished Something Amazing
For sales and other jobs, look for winners, in any aspect of their lives
12/7/2007 by Brian Mullins

Let's say you are looking for a sales executive to fill a position in your software company. Candidate A has a lot of contacts in your industry and has three years of software sales experience. Candidate B set the school record for the 5,000-meter run at her college. Which one do you hire? Unless Candidate A can show me a six-figure W-2 from his previous employer, I'll take my chances with Candidate B every time.

In his famous 17th century text, A Book of Five Rings, Miyamoto Musashi discusses how to become a great swordsman. He emphasizes the discipline, sacrifice, and practice involved in mastering this art. After a student spends years practicing and eventually mastering every nuance of sword fighting, he is said to "know the way broadly." The author says, "If you know the way broadly you will see it in everything." Meaning, if someone can learn the discipline it takes to be very successful at one thing, he can apply this success formula to other pursuits in his life. The bottom line is: People who are very successful at one thing in their lives usually find a way to continue on this successful journey.

So, how do the ideas in this 400-year-old book about sword fighting help us hire better salespeople? Very easily: Always start by looking for the success factor in a sales candidate.

When I was running a high-performing, multimillion-dollar sales team, I often relied on my managers to conduct the initial interviews with new sales executives. It would have been impossible for me to conduct every first interview and still help 30 sales executives close business. Unfortunately, I found myself in many unnecessary and time-wasting second interviews. When I questioned my sales managers on why they decided to ask these candidates back for second meetings, I received various responses: "She has a background in advertising sales," or "He said he has a ton of contacts," or "She really knows this industry very well," and so on.

I did a poor job communicating to my sales managers what I was looking for in a sales candidate: a history of success. I could train a motivated person with a winning personality on how to follow our proven sales process. We could teach somebody the buzzwords of a particular industry. We could provide a new hire with sales leads; old stale personal contacts are rarely a good thing. What I couldn't do is teach somebody with a track record of mediocrity how to magically become motivated, disciplined, and ultimately successful. Bob Baffert is one of the most famous racehorse trainers in the country, but even he couldn't train a donkey to win the Kentucky Derby. I was getting a lot of second interviews with donkeys.

The breakthrough in our hiring process came when I met with all of the managers and told them why I hired each one of them. I didn't need to go back and reference their resumes. I knew their accomplishments off the top of my head. They all had accomplished something extraordinary in their lives. "Steve, I hired you because you played four years of Division I football, and you successfully ran your own insurance agency. Tom, I hired you because you sold $1.5 million worth of computer hardware for XYZ company and made over $100,000 your first two years out of college. Bill, I hired you because you were a national debate champion in college."

They all got it. I explained to my managers that they were all hired because they had at least one (and usually two or three) amazing accomplishments on their resumes. They were very successful before they walked in the door, and that is why they were successful here. I then told them, "Before you ask a candidate to come in for a first interview, you need to identify at least one very successful experience in his or her life. Don't focus on activities or leadership positions. Look for amazing individual performance at something. Anything. Sports, arts, music, business." I explained that the best way to predict success in this job was to hire somebody who has already proven to be successful at something else.

So, we developed a routine. Anytime I was asked to conduct a second interview, I would ask the sales manager, "Why am I meeting this person?" To which the sales manager would reply, "Because she was successful at..."

This process revolutionized our success rate with new hires. And, the sales managers enjoyed the process more because there was less subjectivity in the screening method. They were able to objectively look at a resume and interview a candidate with one goal: identify if this person has been very successful at something. Yes = second interview. No = best of luck.

This doesn't always work. I hired my fair share of wrestling champions and concert cellists who were lousy salespeople. However, if you continuously look for candidates who "know the way broadly" and focus less time on recruiting mediocre performers with great industry experience, you will absolutely develop a higher-performing sales team.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Passive Candidates

I received an article not too long ago from Weddle"s Newsletter that I thought some of you hiring managers might find of particular interest. (You can subscribe to this newsletter by emailing Weddle's with the email address enclosed at the end of the article) Today's market is highly competitive and many of the best candidates are not searching for a new opportunity. As such, I wanted to share some information regarding passive candidates with you. Without further ramblings, enjoy today's posting!

Feature: Why Recruit Passives?

Put 100 recruiters in a room and ask them to identify the best talent in the workforce, and 99 will point to passive job seekers. The problem, of course, is that passive job seekers aren't job seekers at all. At best, they are prospects. They don't act like active job seekers, nor are they motivated in the same way. More often than not, they have to be dragged kicking and screaming into our recruiting processes. And then, they have to be persuaded and cajoled into even considering our openings. In short, they are a colossal pain in the neck to recruit. So, it's appropriate to ask why even bother with them? Why not focus on people who really do want to come to work for our employers?

While acknowledging just how difficult passive prospects can be, I think we must not only recruit them, we must make them our priority. Why? There are at least four reasons.

First, passive prospects represent the majority of talent in the workforce.
A recent survey sponsored by Yahoo! reached over 3,700 people aged 18-64. It found that just 17% of the population-fewer that one-out-of-five people-were actively seeking a job. This finding correlates well with an earlier study attributed to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It found that just 16% of the population were active job seekers. In other words, somewhere between 83% and 84% of American workers are passive prospects. There are four times as many of them as there are candidates proactively applying for our openings.

Second, passive prospects generally represent a higher caliber of talent.
Are active job seekers also qualified? Of course. But passive prospects are passive largely because they are already employed and, therefore, presumably making an acceptable or better contribution to their employers. Data collected by the Yahoo! survey tend to support this view. It found that the average experience level of passive prospects was 18.4 years, with over half reporting more than 20 years in the workplace. The average for active job seekers, in contrast, was 14.9 years of experience, with slightly more than a third reporting more than 20 years on-the-job. In addition, if pay is a measure of a person's perceived value to an enterprise, then passive job seekers are viewed as significantly greater contributors. The average annual salary for passive prospects is $66,100, while the average for active job seekers is over 10% lower at $54,583.

Third, passive prospects make more stable employees.
The attrition rate of passive prospects is lower than that of active job seekers. Said another way, active job seekers tend to be active more often than passive prospects. According to the Yahoo! survey, those who described themselves as "passive" changed jobs every 5-10 years, while those who self-identified as active job seekers were switching employers every 2-5 years. As a result, employers have longer to reap a meaningful return on their investment in the higher quality talent delivered by passive prospects.

Regardless of your measure of merit-availability, quality or loyalty-passive prospects are the better candidates, even if they are difficult to recruit. Which begs the question, what is the best way to turn them into active passive prospects? Since most passive prospects will elect to make a career enhancing move from time-to-time, the key is to mirror their behaviors when they do. Here again, the Yahoo! survey provides some interesting insights that run counter to some of today's conventional wisdom.

According to the passive prospects in the survey, when they do decide to look for a job, they will use the following resources or methods:
· Local newspaper (cited by 56%)
· National job board (cited by 41%)
· Local newspaper Web-site (cited by 37%)
· Phone or in-person networking (cited by 36%)
· Professional/industry Web-site/publication (cited by 26%)
· Corporate Web-site (cited by 25%)
· Search engine (cited by 25%)

This list of resources and methods is clearly imperfect. While there were other answers that respondents could pick, the total set was incomplete and unbalanced. It ignored, for example, niche job boards altogether, while it listed the local newspaper and the local newspaper's Web-site separately, but combined professional/industry Web-sites and publications into a single answer. Be that as it may, however, the findings do offer at least two interesting insights.

1. The mix of resources and methods selected by passive prospects is not the same as that identified by the active job seekers in the survey. In other words, passive prospects "shop" for employers in a very different way than do active job seekers. For example, almost three quarters of active job seekers (74%) would use a job board compared to 41% of the passive prospects who would. Does that mean, it's not worth using job boards for passive prospects? Of course not. If passives make up 83% of the workforce, then 41% of that population is still three times the size of the active job seekers group. The secret is in knowing which job boards passive are most likely to use and how to write a job posting that will overcome their inherent reluctance to move.

2. Contrary to what we may assume, the media choices among passive prospects cut across generational lines. For example, a startling 56% of Millennials said they intend to use their local newspaper when they decide to look for a new or better job. In fact, the local newspaper was their second most cited resource, trailing only job boards. No less important, at least some of the Millennials and many of the other passive prospects are also likely to use the media they selected for job search when they aren't looking for a job. That habit makes career portals (job boards that support career advancement as well as job search), newspapers, professional sites and publications and search engines effective platforms for brand as well as recruitment advertising. They are the perfect place to promote the value proposition of your organization as an employer so that when passive prospects decide to become active, it is already top of mind and pre-sold.

Passive prospects may be a pain in the neck, but they are also a powerful source of talent for your organization. If your tailor your sourcing strategy to their behavior when they do decide to look for a job, you'll likely reduce the pain and enhance the yield you recruit.
Thanks for reading,Peter

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