Sunday, December 02, 2012

The Unemployment Conundrum:

How Can Business Benefit?
High unemployment has been with us for four years and economists say it will be with us into 2013.  The MainStream Management Monthly Newsletter #21 states “The employment outlook for 2013 offers little cause for New Year’s Eve celebration. Champagne bottles will have more fizz than the U.S. economy in the near term, and the same unemployment headaches we cited sixteen months ago will persist.”
The government appears to settle on the same solutions while expecting different results.  Since we are expecting more of the same policies, will business react differently in order to grow their flat revenues? 
Which businesses will benefit from the new “normal” workforce?  How will they change their way of doing business in order to grow their revenues? 
Many business leaders point to the economy and say, “Look at the state of the economy!  No wonder our revenues are flat.”  Therefore they are demonstrating they are willing to continue to conduct business the same way while expecting different results or at least accepting their current condition.
The workforce is dynamic; and wise companies adopt new methods when the workforce economy changes.  How may companies benefit from the current conditions?
The official unemployment rate is table U3 in the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Household Data, Table A.15 Alternative Measures of Labor Underutilization ( .  In October 2012, the official unemployment rate was 7.9%.  Table U3 only measures individuals receiving unemployment benefits.  People who have dropped off of unemployment benefits are no longer counted in Table U3.  Then they fall into table U6 where they are counted as unemployed or underutilized as a result of the economy.  In October 2012, that number was 14.6% of the available workforce.  Table U6 translates roughly to 23 million workers either unemployed or under employed as a result of the economy.
Of those 23 million workers, how many are spending money and contributing to our economy?  Not many.  How do we improve the economy?  Hire these people one at a time on a full time or temporary basis.  Even large hiring efforts only hire one person at a time.  The time between hires and the methods of sourcing are different.
For the sake of discussion, it is well documented that generally companies do not track their high performers well.  Of the 23 million unemployed or under employed workers how many are Top Performers?  My guess is there are only about 10% of those people who are Top Performers.  In our current economy roughly 2.3 million unemployed/under employed workers are Top Performers, otherwise known as “A” Players.  Of course that number causes people to further wonder about the wisdom of only hiring people who have jobs, especially when you consider that 90% of employed workers are not considered Top Performers.
Why would a company in need of new revenues want to attract a Top Performer now?  That person may be the person that discovers the answer to revenue woes and change the business immediately while cutting costs and adding profitable new revenues.  As a result of their unemployment, they generally are willing to accept less compensation than if they were employed full time.  Now companies may attract the smart, ingenious, seasoned performers with initiative at a time when they can afford them.  With the additional profitable revenues, the company comes out ahead financially.
How can companies with flat revenues attract these Top Performers?  It depends on the business strategy. 
If the business only wants to hire full time employees, they need a recruiting process that facilitates the attraction of “A” Players.  Sometimes those individuals are driven away from companies that do not understand that successful recruitment is a sales process.
Of course some companies’ revenues are so low now that as much as they would like to hire someone new it would be unwise for all parties.  These companies may want to consider hiring a pre-screened interim executive from an established management consulting firm.
These interim executives have proven talent growing revenues in companies where revenue growth is stagnant.  Top Performers give a fresh look at all aspects of a company – products, services, pricing, profitability, talent, manufacturing, logistics, vendors, and customers without shades with sacred cows looking in to protect their turf. 
The unemployment conundrum may benefit companies with the need for more aggressive profitable revenue growth during a time when the best talent is readily available and affordable.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Post and Prey Recruitment – 3rd Party Recruiter Edition

Since 1981 as a 3rd party Recruiter (contingent and contract) and Recruiting Manager for a start up CLEC, I have seen our industry quickly evolve in our sourcing methods.  These are probably the greatest number of changes the recruitment industry has seen since its founding.

Within the 3rd party recruitment industry, there have always been professional recruiters who treat the industry as a profession.  There have also been people who were in the business for the perceived quick money – typically when they decide that consistent successful recruitment requires commitment and hard smart work, they leave.  Those are the people who send almost every resume they find with the right title to every company who may need a person with those skills.  Some recruiters call that practice “wallpapering”.

Anyone who has been in the industry for over 10 years generally can spot these short cutters fairly easily – “Why should I spend the time to phone screen someone when I can just forward their resume and get a fee because I got there first?” is a good way to discern the quick money recruiters.

There is a third group of recruiters who are beginners in our industry with the intent of becoming a professional recruiter.  They have the “long view”.  They realize the need to create a foundation and then build from that foundation.  These recruiters are sponges and try to learn everything they can from seasoned recruiters.

Many corporate and 3rd party recruiters use the Post and Pray Sourcing method.  In the 1980’s and early 1990’s, almost all of us would run ads in different newspapers.  Retained recruiters would run ads in the Wall Street Journal for executives.  Contingent recruiters would run ads in the Sunday paper, with some of them choosing the Craig’s List version – the weekly county newspaper.

The was a huge difference in execution after finding a candidate who appeared qualified for an opening(s) in the industry we recruited.  The professional recruiter would conduct a phone screen to learn more about the candidate and see if there were the right combination of skills and attributes.  If the mix was right, they would forward the resume to their client.  If not, and they liked the candidate, they would ask if they could stay in touch until the right position came along – in other words build a relationship with them and ask for references.

The short cutter simply forwarded the resume and hoped it would be “a hit” without any intention of building a relationship.

When it came to counter offer times whom do you feel would be more successful delivering the candidate – those who built relationships or those who did not?

Today’s equivalent of running ads in the newspaper is to post openings on job boards.  Then pray the right people respond.  This is the new version of “Post and Pray Recruitment”.  Fundamentally the same as the “old days” with the major difference that resumes fly around more quickly.

The very successful, seasoned third party recruiter is truly a hunter with a hunter’s focus and positive attitude.  These professionals will probably have favorite places to post (because an occasional blue bird does fly through the window).  However their focus is to create new business relationships with new clients (while giving their tried and true clients the best service possible).  At the same time, they work to increase the number of sharp candidates who will occasionally provide them with great referrals and eventually a successful introduction.

These are the people who employ “Post and Prey Recruitment”.  This is the new dynamic for successful recruiting and is a combination of the old recruitment fundamentals with the speed of technology.  It removes some of the time from the sourcing process to enable the wily recruitment sales professional to remain successful.  Post and Prey Recruitment is more fun because most candidates enjoy going home to say “someone tried to recruit me for a new position today.”  The new dynamic increases successful introductions and therefore increases income.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hiring Managers Say The Craziest Things – Work Week!!

Since 1981, I have worked with over 3000 hiring managers across the United States. Most of whom have never been trained how to effectively interview. If they haven’t been taught how to interview, they certainly have not been taught how to select the best fit. Therefore, they bring their own unique interview techniques and questions to the interview party. Of course, the candidates bring their own special treats to the interviewing party; and I will share some of those also. Doesn’t it sometimes make you wonder how successful matches are ever made?

The setting was a nationally known fulfillment center where I contracted to help them find applications programmers. The manager was a well meaning manager who had never been taught how to effectively interview. The candidate was a very talented applications programmer who wanted to move out of the commotion of Baltimore into the quieter environs of small town Pennsylvania.

The manager wanted to portray the working environment as honestly as he could. When he was satisfied that the candidate had all of the technical skills he needed, he began to describe the work environment and the benefits of working there.

The candidate originally was very excited to interview with this company. When we debriefed after her interview, she said that she felt the interview went well while they discussed the technical environment. She felt she was a very good match for their technical needs. However when discussing the work environment, she said the manager asked a question that really concerned her.

When I asked her what the question was, she replied, “He asked me if I was willing to work 120 hour weeks?” She told him “I didn’t think so!” Shortly after that exchange, the interview was over without further explanation.

In my experience, sometimes candidates don’t really understand what is said by managers. I called the hiring manager and asked him how the interview went. He said that it went very well technically. Then suddenly the candidate seemed to lose interest. I asked him if that happened around the time that he asked her if she was willing to work 120 hour weeks? He replied that yes, it may have been around that time.

I asked if he could describe the structure of a 120 hour work week. His reply? “Well we do have to work some 80 hour weeks!” I said there was a week’s worth of time difference between 80 hours and 120 hours. It is far better to talk about the real environment than the perceived environment. He sometimes probably felt he was working 120 hours.

It also raised the question of his effectiveness as a manager if he had to schedule people regularly to work 80 or 120 hour weeks.

This is an example of a time when the lack of interview training cost the company a fine candidate. After he created the perception for her, she no longer was interested. All she could think of now was an environment where she would not be able to enjoy the satisfaction of working in a small town.

Recruiting is a sales process. The perceptions that we create are sometimes good impressions and sometimes bad impressions. It is important to remember that candidates are measuring us for fit while we are measuring them for fit.

Luck comes in two forms – good and bad. This time the bad luck raised its ugly head and the client lost a very qualified candidate who would have gladly relocated prior to picturing 120 hour weeks.

Don’t put your company at risk of losing well qualified candidates, especially when your company needs them to relocate. Teach your managers how to effectively interview and select the best candidate for each of their positions.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Happy Memorial Day!

Please take time today to remember all of the people who have fought and are continuing to sacrifice themselves and sometimes their careers to keep the United States of America free. These include members of our armed forces and secret services who have died or were injured to keep us free.

Every Company Has A Recruiting Strategy (some just don’t know it!)

“Plan your work. Work your plan.” I’ve seen those words attributed to the great Green Bay Packer Football Coach, Vince Lombardi. Trainers have applied those words to all sorts of training exercises, generally in business. Why are they universally understood? The quote applies to all areas of our lives. It especially applies to successful recruitment programs.

What is the basic premise of Behavioral Interviewing? Once we find a way to be successful accomplishing a task, we will continue to attempt to perform the task the same way forever – or until it becomes too painful. This premise applies to recruiting also.

When a small retail store needs to recruit full or part time help, what do they do? Stick a Help Wanted sign in the window and by the cash register. Then they wait for someone to apply. That becomes their recruiting strategy. As they grow and need more employees, they stick the Help Wanted sign up more often. Generally they have enough success to continue to do so. Finally as they grow into a large enterprise, how do they recruit new employees? Well some actually kept their well worn Help Wanted signs and now place them on the fence or front entrance. Or if they feel really adventuresome, they begin to place their Help Wanted sign online – on corporate websites, job boards, etc.

This is called the “Just Recruit” recruitment strategy. Obviously it is working well enough that no one gets fired (yet). Is their company hiring the best candidates or only people who respond to Help Wanted signs? I think we know the answer to that. Occasionally at SHRM Human Resource meetings I hear, “Everyone knows you can’t recruit for this location!” When I ask why not, their response generally is “It’s a fact!” If I ask them what their recruiting strategy is, they say they posted the positions online and no one replied. As long as their employer accepts that logic, they will receive the quality of candidate that their Help Wanted sign attracts. However, that is not recruiting. It is shuffling electronic and paper resumes.

How do you build a corporate recruitment strategy? Obviously it requires work and a couple of years of effort, especially if your company does not know its cost per hire or where the successful candidates/employees come from. It is also important to keep in mind that recruitment is a sales process. If the mindset is to screen out candidates from the beginning, the company will lose the attractive passive candidates. It is like throwing the baby out with the bath water.

The corporate recruitment strategy needs to be developed in conjunction with the corporate budget. While creating the strategy, it is important to keep in mind the employment market. Today in the United States, we have a market where companies feel they have many choices of candidates (and yet somehow still have difficulty attracting the right candidates). Therefore the supply of available candidates outstrips the need. This employment market will eventually change and there will be fewer qualified candidates to choose from. The employment market impacts a recruitment strategy that is dynamic. While developing a recruitment strategy it is important to have the same “long view” that a CFO has while working on the budget.

Working hand in hand with the executive staff and contributing to their efforts to become more profitable is the best way a Human Resource professional may be perceived to be a business partner. A recruitment budget that nearly always overspends is broken. Generally recruitment goes over budget either when the business decides it needs to add headcount mid-year or there was not enough thought in the recruitment strategy. If the strategy is the “Just Recruit” strategy, it will cost a company that valuable income.

While developing a recruitment strategy, review what worked well in recruiting for your company last year and so far this year. How is your qualified candidate flow? Does it appear to be trending up or down? Are you happy with the flow? What is your cost per hire (include job board fees, 3rd party recruitment fees, salary of staff recruiters, advertising, new Help Wanted signs, applicant tracking software, social media, relocation, promotion items for career fairs, office supplies, manager interview training, etc). Obviously if your company has a year where you are expanding your executive staff, your recruitment costs will be higher because of the relocation costs and potential retained search fees.

Working with your executive staff, determine what positions will be added in the coming year. Then look at current open positions to determine if they may carry over into the new year as open positions. Ask the following questions:

1) How many of those candidates do you forecast will need to be relocated?

2) How many of those candidates will be sourced through contingent or retained search?

3) How many positions does your company currently have in a job board package? Will the package need to be renegotiated?

4) Does your company have a .jobs Top Level Domain ( to draw candidates directly to your list of open positions?

5) Based on your employee retention rate, how many employees will you have to replace in the next year and typically at what level? This enables you to better determine your resource allocation and costs.

6) When during the year are the new positions planned to be filled? For instance, if the executives expect positions to be filled in the first month of the new fiscal year, you now know to begin recruiting for them during the last quarter. This question also helps in resource allocation and to determine if your company needs outside resources during peak recruiting periods. It’s better to include the costs in the budget now than surprise executives later.

Obviously budget discussions will help your company better determine a recruitment budget and strategy. As a result of those discussions, the executives may decide to postpone the targeted start date of one or more of the positions. Once the positions and targeted start dates are established (and they can very well change in the dynamic world of recruitment!), the Human Resource department may now determine how to allocate staff resources to best fill those positions.

If the enterprise has more than one recruiter, each recruiter should develop a proposed plan how they will recruit for each of the positions they are responsible to fill. It may be helpful to develop a template to simplify the process for them. This is a good career development exercise to help them think more strategically. In order to create a partnership with the hiring managers, it is important for the recruiters to meet with the hiring managers for their thoughts on sourcing these candidates.

While meeting with the hiring managers, it is critical to discuss the 3 month, 6 month, 9 month and 12 month goals for the position. If these goals are not required in the job description, they should be because they are the foundation to the successful recruitment process. Once those goals are determined, the skills and experience required to be successful the first year become crystal clear. Then the sourcing becomes more successful, interview creation is focused on the right skills and experience, and the selection of the best candidate is based on an important set of metrics. Once the new employee starts, the goals are discussed to ensure the manager and new employee are on the same page. During the employee/manager meetings through the year the goals are discussed. Now you have engaged managers and employees. At the end of the year, the goals are attained – or not. Most importantly, the annual review should not contain any surprises for either side.

After the meeting with the hiring manager, the recruiter completes their plan to recruit for that position. What sourcing or relocation costs are expected for each position? The costs are reviewed against the budget. Then the recruiter returns to the hiring manager to discuss the proposed recruitment plan and ask for any additional suggestions. Now the manager is a partner in the recruiting process.

Once the recruiter develops a plan for all of their responsible positions, the recruitment strategy begins to come together. Review expected costs against those projected in the budget. Add in the expected costs for replacement of employees who may leave during the year (and the expected recruitment staff resource). Now your company has a much more viable plan for your recruiting in the next year.

During the year, track and measure where sourcing worked and did not work as well. “Where did you learn about us?” should be a question asked of every candidate where it is not obvious (i.e. your corporate website). What were your recruiting costs? How many people did your company hire? Now you have a cost per hire.

This plan gives your company a strategy to recruit that is tied to your budget. It breaks down the silos between Management and Human Resources. The more effective job description and follow up should improve the quality of hire, employee/manager engagement and retention.

Maybe Coach Lombardi had a good idea – “Plan your work. Work your plan.”

Friday, May 04, 2012

Let’s Call “Diversity” a Different Word - “Blending”

A whole industry has been built around diversity. Is that good or bad?

Obviously when the Diversity industry was formed inside and outside of recruitment, it was critically needed. Laws were written to make it illegal to discriminate against the protected classes of race, color, gender, religious beliefs, national origin, disability, genetic information, pregnancy or veteran status. These laws need to stay in place because old habits are hard to break. However, isn’t it time we consider evolving to a different word? Since our world today is one where we focus on collaboration, wouldn’t a better name be “Blending”?

According to the definition of Diversity is: “the state or quality of being different or varied.” Therefore the focus tends to be on the silos of difference. You see the following descriptions of: Native Americans, Asian Americans, African Americans, even Italian Americans, Irish Americans, Jewish Americans, and the list goes on. Unfortunately when such descriptors are used, the focus tends to be on the difference not on the sameness. If we all live in the United States of America, shouldn’t we all be Americans? Isn’t it funny that I just described the people of one country? Possibly we should all be “Earthians”? Of course, yet to be introduced “aliens” (there’s that descriptor of difference again) may feel they are the best.

It is natural for humans to feel that their cave/family/belief/school/country/planet is the best one. Sociologists and psychologists can probably address this tendency better than a Human Resource consultant. It may simply be hardwired in us in order for humans to succeed as a community since our early times as cavemen and cavewomen. Look at high school and college sports and the passion of the followers of their sports teams. Look at the concept of nationalism. Look at the passion of following a specific religion: Hebrew, Muslim, Christian, Buddhism, Atheism, Hare Krishna, Hinduism, and the list of great religions continues. The followers of each may be very passionate that their religion and set of beliefs are the one and only religion and set of beliefs. Then we may look at political beliefs: Democrats, Republicans, Communists, Socialists, Libertarians, etc. The people who only vote for candidates of their political party generally are not very interested in collaboration. They may even demonize good people who are members of another party. Men believe they are smarter and stronger; and women believe they are smarter and stronger. The young believe they are better (remember “Don’t trust anyone over 30”?). People who are seasoned believe their experience is more valuable (“What’s wrong with young people today?” – and members of every generation have asked that question).

Therefore when people say “diversity” what happens? We naturally think “different”. It is the definition of the word. If we are trying to build a society where everyone lives and works in harmony, shouldn’t we think “blending?”

Instead of focusing on the differences among us, would it not be better to focus on the sameness? Instead of driving wedges between us, shouldn’t we blend?

Societies and companies that understand that every human being in their community may develop a unique and important contribution to their community are the societies and companies that evolve into stronger and more competitive societies and businesses. Those societies and businesses that attempt to only follow the conventions of one school of thought within that community are doomed to fall behind because everyone will think alike. The United States used to be called a melting pot because waves of immigrants seemed to come from one place at the same time. And that is continuing.

Obviously we need to do a better job blending than we did even in the 1970’s; and I am guessing that we are doing a better job blending than many countries.

Diversity is not limited to race but that gets most of the attention. There are companies and even industries that tend to be dominated by people of one religion or another. There are companies where most of the people are younger or older and seek people who look like them. Obviously professional sports teams tend to be “staffed” by younger professionals on the field, court or pool. There is something about age and physical ability. However, look who coaches them.

When a company is trying to solve a problem and everyone comes from the same background, they all tend to look at the problem from the same angle. Can they solve the problem? Probably. However, when they have people from many different backgrounds, some older and some younger, can they find a better solution? Much more likely.

Have you stopped to watch children play with children from other backgrounds? Are they concerned about anything other than their play? No. They are focused on their game of tag or hide and seek or video game. It is only as they grow older that they are taught that there are differences.

Instead of being focused on our differences as the diversity industry tends to do, let’s focus on our sameness. Companies that blend employees will sprint forward. Companies that value only people who look like them will fall far behind.

Let’s improve our blending and all become Americans again, without the differentiation.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Grocery Markets and Your Corporate Website

You may have noticed that I have an active imagination…Enjoy the ride!

Remember when you finished your last box of cereal and decided to stop quickly on the way home to replace it? Dinner will be ready soon and this was going to be a very quick stop. What would happen if your fictional experience at the Grocery store was the same as a group of candidates visiting your corporate website looking for your list of openings and desiring to simply submit their resume?

Picture yourself approaching the front of the store. When the doors open there is a crowd of people waiting for you! There are models from Maybelline, Revlon, L’Oreal and Cover Girl trying to get your attention. Mr. Whipple is trying to convince you to go down the paper aisle. The beef and pork councils are trying to attract you to their products. Is that Frank Perdue over there? The Gorton’s fisherman is all wet and standing in front of you urging you to buy fish! Orville is popping up and down trying to get you to his aisle. What are polar bears doing?? Oh, the soft drink aisle! There is some hand reaching out the orange juice refrigerator – scary! Someone from Wisconsin is trying to attract you to the dairy aisle for cheese. Wonder Bread is making you wonder if you will ever find the cereal aisle.

Finally you work your way over to the cereal aisle, and…You guessed it! You are met by the toucan from Fruit Loops! As you peek around him you are treated to a rush of cereal characters that just realized you were there! You stiff arm your way past a recent sports hero touting Wheaties. You are so close to the cereal that you seek! Then you run into Tony the Tiger saying “They’re Gre-e-e-e-at!” Then you are approached by the Lucky Charms Leprechaun. You thank him for his pot of gold offer and rush past him. Finally you found your cereal!!!

When you turn around, you see that you need to speak with every one of the representatives for all of the products above – and this was supposed to be a quick trip to the market! What I just described is what happens to candidates who visit many enterprise and some smaller corporate websites. The company was sold on the idea that using the applicant tracking system to screen candidates out was the best route.

Market research demonstrates that most people search for their next job while they are still working, and that is also when the passive candidate thinks, “I wonder what L-m-n-o-p Company is doing these days?” When they go to your website, do they have the same experience as above with one major exception? The exception above is that you will generally eventually buy your box of cereal. Companies have conditioned professional candidates that they will rarely, if ever, hear from them when they complete an application.

That very conditioning leads to other recruitment marketing research. Every time a group of candidates has to click on a website to find a list of openings, the company loses ½ of them. While writing this blog I will walk through an un-named company’s website to demonstrate my point.

When you arrive at their homepage, you see the typical business areas. Then your eye looks at the very bottom of the page and in 5 or 6 point font, you see Careers. Let’s say the company is beginning with four hundred candidates at this point. They do not see a list of open positions. So two hundred candidates click on Careers.

When they click on Careers, they see more of the same kinds of marketing people as in the grocery example. Now one hundred of the remaining candidates click on Search Careers. They see more of the same with a differentiation between divisions. So now fifty of the remaining candidates click on one of those divisions and finally see a list of open positions.

They pick out a position and find they now have to complete a talent questionnaire. Unless the software engineer is desperate – and to get this far they probably are, the company has lost the final marathon passive candidate in the original 400. Undoubtedly the talent questionnaire is followed by a multipage application – prior to any human sales interaction with recruitment staff. The “nice” feature of this process is that it successfully will voluntarily screen out passive candidates. It is a case of conflicting goals if the company is trying to attract Passive Candidates.

It is best to let the applicant tracking system perform the function it was first designed. Track candidates that have submitted their resumes. If the positions are hourly positions where candidates are conditioned to complete applications because they do not have resumes, allow them to complete the application while allowing professionals to simply submit a resume.

Going back to your quick trip to the grocery market above, would you return for a quick stop in the future? Probably not. Don’t let the website marketing and applicant tracking screening get in the way of your recruiting the passive candidate. Build a system that makes it easy to identify open positions and submit a resume – and the qualified candidates will come!

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Hiring Managers Say The Craziest Things – Okay, Everything!

Since 1981, I have worked with over 3000 hiring managers across the United States. Most of whom have never been trained how to interview. If they haven’t been taught how to interview, they certainly have not been taught how to select the best fit. Therefore, they bring their own unique interview techniques and questions to the interview party. Of course, the candidates bring their own special treats to the interviewing party; and I will share some of those also.

The setting – an internationally known company’s data center where I successfully almost singlehandedly recruited their technical staff. The manager – a well meaning manager who had never been taught how to effectively interview so he did almost all of the talking. The candidate – a very talented systems programmer.

Several days before the interview, the candidate called to tell me that she just came from the dentist. She needed to have her jaw broken and then wired shut the day before her interview. She felt that she would have to postpone her interview. I told her that she would probably be fine but I would check with the manager.

The manager was very interested in her technical skills and did not want to chance losing her. He replied if she felt like she could interview, he would be very happy to accommodate her during their interview.

I called the candidate back and said he was okay to interview and understood her situation. I suggested that she call me the evening prior and let me know how she felt.

She had the procedure and called me saying – and try to say the following with your mouth fixed shut – “He may not be able to understand me. I’ll keep the interview.”

I confirmed with the manager that she was set but understanding her may be tough.

The next afternoon following the interview I received a call from the manager. He said that he really liked her and felt she would be a great addition to his team. I thanked him and told him that I had not spoken with her yet.

She then called me. She said it was the strangest interview she ever had. He did all of the talking – for 2 hours!

They extended an offer that she accepted.

Luck comes in two forms – good and bad. This time the good luck raised its head and it worked out for both parties.

Don’t put your company at risk of the other form of luck – bad. Teach your managers how to effectively interview and select the best candidate for each of their positions.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Hiring Managers Say The Craziest Things – Lunch Interview

Since 1981, I have worked with over 3000 hiring managers across the United States. Most of whom have never been trained how to interview. Therefore, they bring their own unique interview techniques and questions to the interview party.

This is the beginning of a series of quick stories that my candidates have experienced. The names have been changed - if there is even a name attached. Of course, the candidates bring their own special treats to the interviewing party and I will share some of those also.

Interestingly, in many cases these stories are males interviewing female candidates – must just bring out the worst/most interesting and creative approaches in the males…

The setting – An office before smoking was prohibited in the workplace. The manager headed a company and was interviewing a female programmer/analyst at lunch time.

This time I’ll choose the name, Joe, for the manager. It just sounds like a “Joe” story…

Joe invited the candidate into his office and offered her a seat across from his desk. He began the interview with the standard “tell me about yourself” lead. So far so good. Suddenly the interview took an interesting twist.

Joe reached into his lower right drawer and pulled out a brown paper bag. It looked like a lunch bag for one. It was. Joe looked at the candidate and said, “I hope you don’t mind if I eat my lunch during our interview? This is the only chance I will have today to eat.” She was startled but was gracious enough to allow him to eat during the interview.

He proceeded with “What is your current salary?” After she responded, he replied, “So you say…”

While he was interviewing her about her programming skills, he was downing his lunch. I can just picture Joe spraying during his questions. He actually seemed interested in her responses. After he finished eating, he appeared satisfied – not sure if it was her response to his most recent question or his lunch.

Not to be outdone by his previous actions/responses, he then reached into his top drawer and said, “I hope you don’t mind. I usually smoke a stogie after lunch.” Amazingly she remained for the entire interview.

She called me after her “lunch” interview and told me what happened. She was laughing when she said that the manager reminded her of Archie Bunker.

She did not accept the offer – that was lower than her current compensation…

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Diversity Recruitment Problems Over Analyzed

Yesterday when I presented the “Secrets of a Successful Job Search” at the University of Utah, I asked the participants “How many of you feel you have been discriminated because of your age?” About a third of the people raised their hands.

When you read about diversity recruitment most people discuss systems and solutions but I have yet to see anyone discuss the root problem. Possibly the reason that you do not see the root cause is that most people who write on the subject are outside of the trenches.

In my 30 plus years of professional recruitment, I have worked with thousands of hiring managers. Most hiring managers have never been trained how to effectively interview candidates. If they have not been taught how to effectively interview candidates, they certainly have not been taught how to select the best candidate. As a result, it is not unusual to hear a hiring manager comment after a series of interviews, “This person feels good in my gut!” Generally I caution them that guts are good for storing and processing food – not so good for selecting the best qualified candidate.

Using the premise of behavioral interviewing, I suggest that since most hiring managers have never been taught how to effectively interview, they do what is natural; and how they found success in the past. They choose the candidate that is most like them. Are they discriminating against protected classes? Possibly some are…but based on my experience I truly believe that most people are doing the best they can. They are selecting a new employee based on their prior successful behavior.

So who is responsible? Obviously it would be a great world if everyone did the right thing all of the time. May I suggest that companies take the time to train their hiring managers how to effectively interview and select top performers. Hiring managers do not have easy access to all of the vendors who can offer the best training. The Human Resource department does.

How to best motivate hiring managers to seek candidates with diverse experience? I like to show a problem as a cube. If everyone has the same life experience, they all look at the problem from the same direction. Can they solve the problem? Probably. Can they create the best solution? Maybe not. However, when people with different backgrounds look at the problem from different aspects, can they create a better solution? Probably.

What is the best way to encourage people to change their interviewing and selection behavior? Demonstrate how the new behavior is more beneficial. All it takes is a few early adopters who enthusiastically adopt the new process. Then demonstrate to other team members that the new interviewing process is the best way to select candidates. Once the new process becomes established, it becomes the way to conduct business.

If I were running a business, I would select sharp directors and certify them for interviewing candidates for their department. Train their hiring managers to effectively interview candidates. Then offer to help them in the selection process. This is a mentoring process that encourages desired behavior. Ask the hiring managers questions to help them through the selection process. Allow their hiring managers to select the best candidate after the due diligence and mentoring is complete.

Once managers are taught how to effectively interview and select the best qualified candidate, then companies can work on their attraction of people with diverse experience. Now we are touching on the areas that receive the most attention – sourcing diverse candidates.

When I am on a recruiting contract, if my client wants me to examine their process, I look to see if they perform the recruiting fundamentals well. Does their process attract candidates or is it designed to screen out candidates? If it is the latter, the company is losing better qualified candidates daily, quite probably well qualified diversity candidates.

Once a company sources diversity candidates, the job is only beginning. Many companies and many diversity writers confuse sourcing with recruiting. You may be interested in reading Do You Confuse Sourcing With Recruiting? The recruiting is only beginning once you sourced the diversity candidates.

Now the company needs to begin selling the candidate while determining whether they have the skills and motivation to do the job – note I did not say cultural fit. Almost by definition a diversity candidate may not necessarily be a “cultural fit” if most of the current employees come from the same background.

Remember, if someone interviews at a company and they are the only person there who is “different”, recruiting is more difficult because they may need reassurance that they will be able to make the impacts necessary to have fun. Additionally the difficulty will be compounded if you have to relocate them and their family. In my experience, diversity candidates will want reassurance their family and children will continue to interact with others like them in the new town. The candidate and family are also interested in a cultural fit.

Recruiting diversity candidates is more difficult than simply deciding to do so. On the other hand, when successful there is much satisfaction in a job well done – and the company has attracted someone who will make a difference. Begin a successful diversity recruiting program by teaching your hiring managers how to effectively interview and select the best candidates.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

March Madness Basketball And Recruiting

Of course you are saying, “What? How are the two connected?”

More ways than you may think. Importantly, almost all of those players (candidates) were recruited by coaches (hiring managers) to create a cohesive team.

What does your recruiting team do? Obviously they are working to source, identify, and recruit the candidates who will create a team that will produce positive results for your company.

Now let’s look at the “game.” How is your team prepared to compete for the best candidates? Does your company attract the best players? Or is your company one of the larger companies that many of the best candidates ignore in favor of smaller, hungrier companies?

In order to be a successful basketball team it is important to perform the fundamentals well – dribble, pass, shoot, and defend. How strong is your recruiting team while performing the recruiting fundamentals? Do your job descriptions deliver a clear summary of the required skills and experience to be successful in that specific position during the critical first year?

Job descriptions are the foundation to the recruiting process. They are the equivalent of successful ball handling. Does your company include the 3 month, 6 month, 9 month, and 12 month goals in your job descriptions? With those goals stated, the skills and experience required to be successful the first year become crystal clear. Additionally, since I have been requesting hiring managers to list those goals, candidates and managers alike told me they like them. Why? The expectations for the first year are clear.

With these goals listed, sourcing is targeted. Candidates have the right skills and experience or they don’t. Instead of looking at reams of electronic resumes, hiring managers see candidates who should be on target. In basketball, do coaches recruit forwards when they need point guards? They are both basketball players.

With the goals set, interviews flow. It is like the effective defense in basketball. Only deserving and skilled candidates make it past the screen. Now managers have the tool that enables them to focus on the necessary skills and experience to be successful. Meaningful behavioral questions are easier to develop. The debriefing after the interview can target on whether the candidate has the skills and experience to be successful.

Does your company “protect the ball” and do the easy things well; or does it force candidates to jump through hoops? Go to your corporate website. Is your Careers page designed to Screen candidates out? Have you allowed your applicant tracking system to hijack your recruiting process? How many clicks does it take for candidates to find a list of openings? Remember, marketing research shows that your company loses one half of the remaining candidates with each click. Who are the first group of candidates your company loses in the first click? The passive candidates. Who are the people who survive through the application completion? The desperate candidates. Is that how you plan to win the game for the best talent? Remember, it is your advantage to have more resumes than fewer resumes.

If the opposing team scores 20 unanswered points, do you remain in your same defense without making changes? What did Einstein reputedly say about doing the same thing and expecting different results? What are you doing differently in your recruitment effort? Remember, there are over 20 million people out of work right now, some of whom are impact makers. How many openings does your company have? How patient is your management team?

What happens when your basketball team gets a little sloppy? They lose the ball. How long does your hiring manager hold the resume before committing to an interview? How long do they take before making a hiring decision? How long does it take for your company to extend an offer? The very qualified candidates do not remain on the market long. If a manager loses a sharp candidate because of indecision, your company may want to spend a little more time looking at their overall performance. Recognition of talent and acting on it is a sign of a good manager. Don’t be sloppy and lose candidates. It costs too much time and effort, especially if the candidate is lost well along in the process. And remember if your company takes too long, I am looking for top talent and will snatch them from your company’s hands for my client – and have done so many times. It’s like a steal in basketball.

When do you have a championship team in recruitment? I’ve seen some recruitment teams who thought they were top notch. Upon closer look, you can see where they are in their conference. They settle for the desperate candidates. How do they compare with the top performing recruitment teams? The top teams perform the fundamentals well. They understand that recruiting is a sales process. Their actions and attitude help them win the best talent.

Treat your company’s recruiting process as a sales process, not a screen out process. Screening has its place during the interview process. Most of the balance of the process needs to sell the candidate that this is the best company, position, and manager.

Remember, in our society stability is valued. Have you heard the expression “Don’t rock the boat?” People generally resist change. Your company’s recruiting process needs to encourage candidates to make changes in their lives. That requires sales abilities.

Change things up in recruitment. Put on a full court press and win the game for talent. Talent will help your company beat its competition and win the championship game of profits! Then your company wins the Big Dance!

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Recruiting?

Abraham Maslow developed his hierarchy of needs by studying successful people. How does your company’s recruiting process match up with our human needs?

Obviously the physiological needs are taken care of through compensation and benefits. Your company’s offers need to be competitive in order to attract the best candidates. Compensation and benefits are generally only the tip of the iceberg. Sometimes they are indicative of the company’s attitude toward its employees.

Companies condition candidates. How does your company condition candidates who complete applications? Do you contact them and reinforce engagement? Or do you abandon them, and they never hear from you again? How do candidates feel about your company after experiencing your recruitment process – safe and confident? Or do you let them down? The words “Black Hole” is used far too many times when referring to a company’s recruiting process.

One of the purposes of social media sourcing is to engage potential candidates. As candidates continue through your process do they feel your company is still engaged? Or does your company ignore them? Did your company allow the applicant tracking system vendor assume ownership of your company’s recruitment process?

Does your company’s recruiting process encourage candidates to feel they are important to your company? When candidates contact you are they confident that you will respond?

If your company’s brutally honest assessment is “No”, it is ignoring the hierarchy of needs during the recruiting process. Now let’s consider how candidates who somehow finally find their way through your recruiting process feel. What was their first impression?

If candidates have to work so hard to somehow make it through your recruitment process, does your company wonder when there is an engagement issue once they come on board?

It is important for companies to beware of conflicting goals in their recruiting process. Conflicting goals create conflict and opposing actions. For instance if your company’s use of the applicant tracking system is to screen out candidates, your company’s actions are opposing the goal of attracting the best candidates. Top candidates will come to companies that act like they want them, not companies that act like they want to screen them out.

How does a company change its recruitment direction? Unfortunately just as in sports teams, they may have to change team members and acquire professionals who understand that recruiting is a sales process, not a screening process. Recruiting is sales requires a proper sales attitude and the excitement that goes with trying to attract the best candidates. Between you and me? A lot more fun!

In the screening out process, candidates are not treated as important potential assets. They are treated as a metric, a number. They feel that the pervasive attitude within the company is where people are not valued.

“Wait a minute! We value our candidates!” is your response. You probably do. However, a candidate’s perception is their reality. When was the last time that your company examined its recruitment process? When was the last time that someone from your company put on the candidate hat with a fictitious name and resume and audited your company’s recruitment process?

In the Recruiting is Sales recruiting process, candidates feel they are important from the beginning of the process to its conclusion. Of course you screen candidates! They are prescreened and know after the prescreening if they are still a viable candidate. Then they experience the interviewing process. If they no longer are the best candidate, respect them by telling them. If it was a really close call, keep in touch. You may want to recruit them for the next position that requires the same skills and experience. I’ve done that in the past. It’s fun to hear their voice when I’ve contacted them to interview again.

When a company follows a person’s basic needs through the entire recruiting process, the process flows and the company improves the quality of hire.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Recruitment Sourcing Magic – Proper Attitude

When I listen to recruiters discuss sourcing some have an amazing attitude. They are like Labrador Retrievers on the search – pant, pant, pant, There! Other recruiters act almost like sourcing is an imposition. They want to try to find the easiest way to “screen out” candidates.

What is the correct attitude? Well, recruiters who understand that recruiting is a sales process, enjoy the hunt for the perfect candidate. Why is their attitude important?

What is one of the most important functions in Human Resources? The sourcing and attraction of the talent that will propel the company forward. These are candidates who feel they are happy in their current position until a talented recruiter contacts them – and by the way, that recruiter may be a corporate recruiter or a contingent/retained/contract (third party) recruiter.

The recruiter with the best attitude “knows” they will succeed finding the best qualified candidate that is also the best fit. Why? Their motivation is intrinsic. They know they will succeed because they EXPECT to succeed. Then they follow their proven sourcing process to find the best candidates.

Remember the recruiter (could also be corporate or third party) who wants to “screen” candidates? They are saying they will not look beyond supplied resumes – and hope they don’t have to look through many of them. These are the same people who expect their applicant tracking system to screen out unqualified candidates. What they do not understand is that those applicant tracking systems also screen out passive candidates who refuse to complete an application before contact from the company.

A Hall of Fame basketball coach, Morgan Wootten, once told my class that people live up to your expectations. If you expect they will succeed, they will. If you expect they will fail, they will also meet your expectations.

Therefore recruiters who expect to succeed generally will do everything they can to meet that expectation. They are driven to succeed.

Which recruiter will make a bigger impact on their company/client? Probably not the one you expect. Can you imagine the damage inflicted on companies by recruiters who are not interested in searching for the best candidates? The cost of a poor hire may even cost a small business its financial success.

How does a company turn around their recruiting effort?
1) Make it easy for candidates to submit their resume – no, Really Easy! Applicant Tracking Systems are built to handle many resumes. Let them accept the resumes and give your recruiters a larger choice of potentially qualified candidates.
2) Move the online application after a phone screen and prior to the onsite interview. Candidates are then motivated to complete the application.
3) Provide your recruiting staff tools such as Broadlook’s Internet research tools that help identify new candidates.
4) Provide your recruiters with “recruiting is sales” training.
5) Consider bringing in temporary recruitment support to recruit and train your recruiters.
6) Provide your recruiters with advanced interview training. This is where screening is important.
7) Expect your recruiters will succeed finding the best candidates for your company.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Recruitment Sourcing Magic: What’s in a Title?

When you are sourcing candidates, do you source by title, skills, or both? When recruiters tell me they search by titles only, they may be attempting to recruit the wrong candidates. Why?

In the US we sometimes seem too concerned about titles and not enough about the work to be accomplished. Therefore, janitors become maintenance engineers. Then maintenance engineers in LEED Certified buildings become Directors of Green Facilities (I made that title up – I think!). Sales professionals become Business Developers, Account Representatives, Account Managers, etc. At Microsoft, recruiters become Staffing Consultants.

In the early 1990’s I worked on a recruitment consulting/recruiting contract with a large multinational telecom firm. Their IT Senior Managers many times had staffs of 100 to 200 fulltime employees and possibly another 100 to 200 contractors. Then I went to a pre-IPO start-up telecom firm with an IT organization of 10 employees and a Director of IT. Which person had more responsibility, the Director of IT at the start-up or the Senior Manager with the large group?

If you were sourcing IT Directors would you have skipped over the Senior Manager? In many cases the answer is yes. The reason is most candidates do a poor job describing their responsibilities; and many recruiters do a poor job reading between the lines – and are tired of hearing the hiring managers complain that the candidates do not have the correct titles or level of experience. Sometimes, recruiters simply need to hold on to the edge of the cliff with their toes. I’ve had managers raise their voice when I presented a candidate with the wrong title and the right experience. When we went through their experience based on my phone conversation, they sheepishly backed off and agreed to interview the candidate. More than once, after hiring one of those candidates, hiring managers thanked me for my persistence.

How may corporate recruiters determine whether someone has the right skills? In this world of Taleo, iRecruit, and other Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) that require completed applications prior to resume submission, companies pretty much get the desperate candidates. Occasionally one of those candidates may be a great fit with a wrong title. It is important to quickly size up a candidate’s resume and search for accomplishments and impacts. Then phone screen them prior to showing the resume to the hiring manager. If they have the wrong title and the right experience, the recruiter may present to the manager with the evidence of the right experience.

Better yet, try something different. Direct recruit the right person with the right experience. Ignore the title. If it happens to be a lower title in a larger organization, the title may give your company an edge when recruiting them. Almost everyone would like to go home to their family and say, “I was recruited for a Director/VP/better position today!”

I understand that for some people, direct recruit sourcing means going to the job board or calling a contingent recruiter. Direct recruiting means sourcing that person through networking using LinkedIn, Google, calls to other people you know in the industry. Use your ATS to identify other people in the organizations that you are targeting. Call them and ask whom they know? If they don’t mention the person in their company, ask who that is. Believe it or not, prior to the Internet fifteen years ago many recruiters made a nice living “smiling and dialing.” Many old timers still do. That is the reason we are Old Timers!

Bottom line – Build An Effective Job Description. Try sourcing at least some of your candidates using Direct Sourcing. Then look at candidates’ experience, not their titles. Phone screen to ensure they have the right skills and experience. When confident the candidate is a viable candidate, present them to the manager with confidence. This is more fun than being a recruiting clerk – and the positive, measurable impacts are greater!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Do You Confuse “Sourcing” with “Recruiting?”

“I recruit using Dice.” “I recruit using social media.” “I recruit using LinkedIn.” “What is the best job board to recruit Sales (or IT or Marketing or Finance, etc) candidates?” These are all questions I have seen repeatedly in recruitment Yahoo! Groups or in LinkedIn Groups.

It appears that many companies confuse sourcing with recruiting, possibly since many sourcing tools try to sell themselves as recruiting tools. While sourcing is certainly important, it is the third step in the recruitment sales process. All seasoned recruiters, corporate and third party, may leave the room…

The Recruitment Sales Process

1) Define a need – new or replacement employee
2) Develop a solution - Effective Job Description
3) Source available Qualified Candidates
4) Needs analysis – the interview
5) The Offer/Counter Offer conversation
6) Compensation Negotiation
7) Acceptance/Counter Offer conversation
8) New Employee Start/On boarding process

If there are eight steps in the Recruitment Sales Process, is “Recruiting” only step 3? Of course not!

When a Lean consultant is looking at a process to clean up wasteful steps, they look at the entire process to determine where they need to direct their attention first. For many companies the first step to stop and examine is the Job Description step. When a company takes a shortcut with the job description, they place the entire process at risk. Why? The job description drives sourcing, interviewing, selecting, and the first year of the candidate’s employment. Read “Building An Effective Job Description” at Recruiting Trends “Building An Effective Job Description”.

The second step to examine is the Sourcing step. Sourcing may be done actively and/or passively. I find it interesting when companies with great products and great brand loyalty do not capitalize on both when searching for candidates. The homepage is a great place to offer loyal customers the opportunity to work for them. Examine company websites. How difficult is it for potential candidates to find their list of open positions? Read Attracting Passive Candidates? to develop an understanding how quickly passive candidates (who may be among your best customers) leave your web pages. Does it benefit your company to mostly have the desperate candidates applying? Too many steps to submit a resume drives qualified candidates away. Understanding candidate practices is important for corporate and third party recruiters alike.

Do you source by networking and convincing passive candidates “just to spend a little time with me to discuss a position”? Congratulations! Now you are recruiting! Simply scooping resumes/applications out of an applicant tracking system or going through the resumes received from third party recruiting firms is a recruiting clerk’s job. As I’ve demonstrated many times, true recruiting is a Sales Process.

Now the recruiting is just beginning! How finely tuned is your interviewing process? Do you pre-screen candidates or do you simply float resumes to hiring managers without a screen? If you pre-screen candidates by interviewing them (phone is fine), you are still in the recruiting process. If you simply float the resumes to the hiring manager without a conversation with the candidates (whether you are a third party or corporate recruiter), you are a recruiting clerk. During that pre-screening conversation with the candidate, you discover their motivations to leave (even if they think they want to stay), their skills, their potential fit, potential interest, and begin the discussion of counter offers.

All of this, while very important, is still only step 3 of an 8 step process. Yes, recruiting is more than receiving resumes and passing them along. Effective full lifecycle recruiters (whether third party or corporate) earn their money because talent acquisition is key to a company’s growth (or poorly done, its demise).

Assuming we have qualified candidates on board with some levels of interest, let’s examine step 4 – Needs Analysis. Both the hiring manager and the candidate are conducting needs analysis during the interview.

Are your hiring managers trained how to create an effective interview and then conduct an interview that probes their candidates’ skills? If not, hiring managers are determining the best fit by their guts – not really the best way to determine the best fit. Therefore a seasoned recruiter will step in and provide some interview training for that manager. With an effective job description many times experienced recruiters know better whether a candidate is qualified or not to do a job than the hiring manager. A manager who is not trained how to effectively interview and select the best candidate also has a negative impact on retention – and raises recruiting costs by continually recruiting to fill the same position over and over. Read Critical Corporate Interviewing Improves Retention.

Meanwhile the candidates for the most part also do not know how to interview. Sometimes I wonder how the best matches ever happen! Effective recruiters prep their candidates on what to expect, how to highlight appropriate (not lie – highlight) skills and experience. The recruiter sells the candidate on the company, position, and the manager. Then they request that the candidate call them shortly after the interview for a debriefing.

Once the manager determines who they feel is the best fit, it is time to develop an offer. The seasoned recruiter already knows what the candidate is expecting for a compensation package and will coach the hiring manager how best to meet those expectations, especially if salary is an issue. By the way, once a manager has decided on a candidate – and before the recruiter has extended an offer – many will already begin to pencil that person into meetings. You better deliver!

The recruiter begins the offer process by reinforcing why the candidate is interested in the position. Once the recruiter has their interest again, it is time to extend the offer with the proper amount of enthusiasm. Sometimes the candidate will accept immediately. Sometimes they want more time to decide. Sometimes they receive a Counter Offer. Read “Countering The Counter Offer” on

The recruiter’s job is not complete until the candidate starts and becomes an employee. Therefore, recruiting is much more important than simply forwarding resumes.