Category Archives: Recruiting & Hiring

Your Managers are Sabotaging your Recruiting Efforts! Part 1: No News is Bad News

As a tech executive, you already know that success is driven by your innovators, marketers, sellers and tech wizards. You invest a lot of time to source and assemble a dream team. So it may come as a surprise that the same managers who are helping you steer the ship may be sabotaging your ability to hire great people.

Over the next few posts, I’ll explain some of the top sins that your managers are likely committing. I’m not suggesting that you’re faced with a mutany. Odds are that your leaders are blissfully ignorant of how their actions (or lack of action) is impacting your success. And the good news is that there are easy fixes.

SIN #1

No News is Bad News.

We hear about it a lot. A candidate’s resume sits in the inbox for weeks until the hiring manager realizes that it’s a gem. But time has passed and that individual is off the market, or has lost the initial enthusiasm about the role and company.

Then after an interview, there is silence. Will there be another interview? Is there a fit – why or why not? No one knows what happened. The candidate is left hanging and unimpressed. And they’ll tell their friends.

As recruiters, we expect our clients to review a new resume within 24 hours, and to debrief within 48 hours of each interview. It’s smart recruiting and a courtesy to candidates who invested their time and paid for gas, parking or public transit. It also sends a message to every candidate, whether they move forward or not, that your organization is efficient and that your managers can make decisions.

Teach your team that shorter cycles are good for everyone. You take advantage of momentum, send a very positive message about respect for the individual and display the sense of urgency and execution that fast companies thrive on. You’ll get more accepted offers, and just as important, you’ll create a legion of impressed people who will tell their friends about their positive experience.

Start by setting a good example and keep high expectations. The results of an expedited process will surprise you.

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Get Employee Referral Results Without the Referral – 3 Key Insights and a Heap of Tips

Employee referrals are arguably the most effective way for companies today to recruit.  Here are the stats:

#1 in quality of applicants

#1 best source of above average applicants

#1 in retention within the 1st year and beyond

What can we learn from the success of referrals to make all of our recruiting efforts better?

The premise of the great employee referral is simple – you like the people you have working for you now, so you want to hire more like them.  Not necessarily creating a homogenous workplace devoid of diversity, but certainly a team that shares similar values, work ethic and passion for the company.  The easiest way to work the odds is to hire the friends, classmates and previous colleagues of your best people.   Great humans know other great humans.

3 important things happen with a good referral program:

  1. Your employees will do the screening for you, only referring people who they like and trust – people who they think will make them look good.  They’ll instinctively refer people with the right ‘fit’ for your team.
  2. Your employees have pre-sold the job and have probably prepped candidates for the interview.  So you start the process with a candidate who is pumped up about the job and who has extra insight into the organization, the hiring manager and the role.
  3. The referred candidates end up, no doubt, on the top of your stack of resumes and are fast tracked into the process.  They are treated with extra care and probably have a better overall candidate experience.

The bad news is that you can’t rely exclusively on employee referrals to fill every open role on your team.  The good news is you CAN get the same results, even when your candidates come from other sources.  Here’s how:

1. Discover the human behind the resume

Odds are, meeting an actual live candidate to determine ‘fit’ is only done after you’ve sorted resumes by education, technical skills and other magical ways of turning a big anonymous list of applicants into a managable group.  While your employees are thinking about fit from the start, your traditional resume gathering and screening tactics rarely go past the cold hard facts on a resume.  At the extreme, big companies will use software to further de-humanize the process, turning a candidate into a few dozen fact-based points on an application form and a file attachment.

Granted, interviews take time so you ideally want to meet just a few people and then make a decision.  But if you’ve only looked at a resumes, or worse yet done a keyword scan, you’ve certainly missed some great humans who could make difference on your team.

To get better insight, try this:

  • Take the time to look at your best people and understand what values, characteristics and attributes are common and how they make your company great.
  • Find ways to ask revealing questions to uncover ‘who’ the candidate really is at the beginning of the process
  • Look at other sources of insight, like LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs etc.
  • Expand your ‘employee referral’ network to partners, suppliers and customers and make sure they know what human qualities you are looking for

2. Prep and Pizzaz

Enable your candidates to put their best foot forward by arming them with as much information as possible prior to the interview.  They will be impressed and will be able to better provide you with the information you need to determine whether they are the right hire.  It is easier than you think, and it really doesn’t give anyone an unfair leg-up.

  • Send your candidate a list of people who are going to be involved in the hiring process and links to their LinkedIn profiles.
  • Share relevant press releases or links to parts of your website that are particularly relevant to the role.  This is an easy email to prepare and can be used again and again.
  • At later stages in the process, connect the potential hire to someone in the company who would be a peer, so that they can have a candid conversation about the culture and the daily work
  • Make sure your job description is not just a shopping list of skills.  Tell candidates about the role, the company and build in some excitement.  Then describe the type of person who would be most successful in the role, so that your candidates can see themselves in the role.

3. Treat every hire as a strategic hire and every candidate as your next top performer

This may sound like more work than necessary for some hires, but every great employee has a story of a job they didn’t take because of a bad recruitment experience.

  • Provide timely and personal feedback after each meeting
  • Aim to progress candidates as quickly as possible through the process, so that they see that the role is an important hire, that the manager is decisive and that the company is indeed moving and growing quickly
  • Be respectful of a candidate’s time and effort in the process and avoid last minute cancellations, unprepared interviewers and ambiguity about next steps

So really, why are employee referrals better hires?  Because they are always better candidates, or do better results come from a hiring process that starts with an assessment of human factors like fit and values vs the dry facts on a resume?  If we do a better job of helping our candidates prepare for an interview, will we have better results?  And if we treat our candidates with more care during the hiring process, do our employee relationships have a stronger start?  I believe that these answer to all of these questions is a resounding Yes!

Please comment with your feedback and with more tips and ideas!

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Metrics Schmetrics… How do I really know if my search is on track?

I had a client ask today about metrics.  How do we know if our search efforts are successful and if we’re effective?

There could have been a complex answer about call and interview stats, but for me it boils down to how many people we introduce to a client before an offer is made, and how long it takes to find the ideal hire.

Our goal is to keep that ratio low and the timeline short, so that everyone’s time is respected … so that we are like snipers hitting the right target on the first shot.

As a general rule, a successful search means that we introduced 4 or fewer candidates within 3-4 weeks and someone great was hired.  When this to happens all of the following were probably true:

1) We knew exactly who we were looking for and found them

2) The hiring manager trusted our pre-qualification and didn’t need to date a dozen people before he/she knew what a great looks like

3) Expectations were realistic (the ideal candidate really exists and would take this job)

4) The company and hiring manager had real motivation to fill the job

If we send more than 7-8 resumes or we are at week 4 of a search without being close to an offer, one of these things is missing.

Whether you are a hiring manager or running a recruiting firm, you need to know whether you are on track with every search.  Make sure that the answer is YES to all of the above points before investing resources and spending time chasing your tail.

Happy hunting.

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The Return of the Tire-Kicker

I’ve noticed a recurring theme in recruitment circles of late.  “Frack! I lost another candidate to a counter-offer!”

This reminds me of my early lessons recruiting in the late 90s when the tech market was booming and the war for talent was intense.  We’re in a very similar place today and the challenges of signing the perfect candidate are the same.  We’ve got multiple offers, counter-offers, and my personal favourite – the Tire Kicker.

If you are a tech company looking for an exceptional leader or contributor, you may think your biggest challenge is getting your name out there and ensuring that people know why you’re SO much better than the rest. Granted, these are critical parts of the recruiting equation. But, getting attention from the right people is only part of the equation. You’ve built enthusiasm into your recruiting pitch and balanced the selling of your opportunities with sound selection and evaluation of fit. This is all good stuff. Now you’re thinking “if I didn’t already run the company, I’d take this job!”

So why is it that, after you’ve invested hours in the courtship process and crafted a masterpiece of an offer, your hot candidate goes cold on you.  You ask yourself … Where did this other offer come from?  Why does he need to go and talk to his current boss before he decides?  Why does she need a week to think about it?

One secret of a successful recruitment outcome is thinking about closing the candidate, from your very first conversation and at every step along the way. You need to begin with the end in mind.

All of your interviews should include these 3 questions:

 1. Why would you consider a move now – are you unhappy in your current role? 

  • The financially motivated candidate may be persuaded to stay with a raise
  • If the response is that there is nothing ‘wrong’ with their current job, but this might be ‘better’, you need to understand this reality.  You may be dealing with a Tire Kicker.
  • At the very least, understand what ‘better’ needs to look like; and whether or not you can offer it.

 2. What is happening in your current job – Are there things that could change and make you want to stay? 

  • It may seem counter-intuitive, but you’re wise to suggest that a candidate go back and ask their current boss to make those changes … before you invest more time with the selection process. In most cases, the desired changes won’t materialize because there’s no compelling event for the boss. But, if the request comes when the employee is ready to resign, the smart boss is more motivated to make a bold counter-offer, complete with salary and role changes. If that conversation has already happened, the candidate will detect the boss’ desperation and motives.

 3. What else are you looking at and how do we compare? 

  • Strong candidates who are active on the job market WILL have other offers. It’s important that you know what else they they are looking at.  Understand the competition and what criteria your candidate is using to compare opportunities.

I haven’t lost my last candidate to a counter-offer, and following my best advice won’t ensure that you land every great candidate. Always assume that you are competing for talent and bring your ‘A’ game, every time.  Invest time early in getting to know what motivates your prospect, and it’ll pay off now and when you start to think about keeping them happy as your next star employee.

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Talent Acquisition … Seriously?

I just need to vent for a moment and tell you why I so dislike the title Talent Acquisition that many companies are slapping on their recruiting departments.

Maybe it’s just me, but ‘acquisition’ sounds a lot like a purchasing function. And perhaps this is symptomatic of the underlying challenge that these businesses have with recruitment. If you are looking to purchase some talent, you might put up some postings, clearly stating the skills and experience that you’re looking to buy. Then when the sellers of talent come to show you their wares, you’ll scrutinize them carefully and try to negotiate the lowest, fair price for the product. Sound familiar? Wonder why the talent for sale seems mediocre, or doesn’t show up at all?

What exactly is wrong with calling recruitment ‘Recruitment’? Does it sounds a little salesy, maybe too aggressive? Competition for talent is intense. A sales strategy and some creative aggression is exactly what you need. You are not purchasing the skills and effort of the individual, you are crafting and pitching an opportunity to a person who has options and wants to be inspired. If anyone is purchasing in this equation, it is the ‘Talent’.

Start thinking about your recruitment function as marketing and sales. Job descriptions should tell the prospect why the job is great, and what it’ll take to succeed. Interviews should balance qualification with a sincere effort to assess fit for both you and the candidate. Treat prospective employees like your most important new customers and partners and you’ll see your ‘Talent Acquisition’ challenges disappear and your ‘Recruitment’ success begin.

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The Mission Matters: Are You Pitching Passion or Pizzaz?

If the team with the best talent wins the technology race, who are you betting on? With a view from the front row, my money is on the company that can spark passion in its people. This is not the cult-like workplace with people dancing in the aisles, but the one that hires and inspires based on the difference the team’s efforts will make in the world. This company will successfully build a team that rallies behind their mission, with each individual bringing their best game every day to further the effort.

For some companies it will be a model based on goodness: changing the world with medical breakthroughs or green energy, by delivering education or information, or creating a safer internet, or finding love… Others will be inspired to innovate… to solve important problems or apply technology to an existing passion, perhaps for music or books or movies. Companies like Rypple, are inspiring their people (and their customers!) to create more fulfilling workplaces. They get it! Without losing sight of the profit motive they are attracting, retaining and motivating great employees who want to make a difference in everyone’s workplace.

Other companies recruit solely by seeking and getting attention. They promote a culture that is fun and funky. And many will say it works! These employers may get volumes of people knocking on their doors – all of them wanting to have fun at work. But, you see the problem, right? Are these the best people? Is a team that is having fun necessarily productive? Is fun sustainable? To find the best talent, and to get these individuals fully engaged and focused on your business objectives, you need to touch them somewhere deep, and fun just scratches the surface.

So while the demand for great talent is increasingly fierce, I believe that companies founded on a purpose will outperform the rest. Because, while there are lots of jobs out there for great people, if you can get the message out that you’re doing Work that Matters, then your message will be heard and embraced for the long term.

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Recruitment after the Social Media Apocalypse: What happens when everyone can find anyone

There is talk lately about social media revolutionizing how companies recruit, with some concluding that we’re witnessing the end of the recruiting profession as we know it.

While I agree that social media will transform recruiting, I don’t think it will make things any easier

The arguments go like this:

  • Social media tools (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, blogs etc.) will change the way companies find prospective employees. Search will be faster and more targeted.
  • Companies will use these tools to build relationships with pools of highly qualified individuals (who might work for them tomorrow or sometime in the future).

Here’s my take on how things will look and work after this big online wave washes over us.

What happens when everyone can find anyone

Imagine a utopia where everyone has a detailed online profile. Every recruiter will be able to ‘see’ all of the talent and companies will have equal opportunity to market to candidates.

A world like that will soon be overflowing with competing messages.

Generating a targeted message that will be heard above the noise will become increasingly difficult – and more critical. More than ever before, companies will compete for the top people in every industry.

The war for talent will rage, but it will do so in an online world.

How to win an online war for talent

The companies that attract talent will be those who:

A) Deliver a compelling story

Recruiting great people will be like marketing and selling a product. A company’s message will not be the only one that candidates hear. HR will need to borrow strategies from PR.

Companies will need to understand what motivates talented people and offer a ‘product’ (aka job description and career page) that gets them excited. For instance:

Will they work with leaders and innovators?

Will they build revolutionary products or solve meaningful problems?

Will they be challenged professionally and be given opportunity to grow?

Remember, these people will probably be happily employed elsewhere. In order to entice them, the company must offer a compelling opportunity.  And the product message must be delivered professionally by real people who can answer tough questions.

Finding the best candidates will be easier, but attracting them will be more difficult.

Companies will also need to . . .

B) Build long-term relationships with future candidates

Smart companies will stop looking at recruitment as a reactive process characterized by bursts of frantic activity.

Social media tools will enable companies to build an engaged audience of individuals interested in their message and their vision.

Teams will be built based on the value great people can bring, rather than qualifying against a grocery list of skills and keywords.

Many Recruiting Companies and Recruiters will Drown

I am actually hopeful that a big wave of change is coming in the world of recruitment. I won’t miss the high-churn personnel agencies selling mediocre talent to desperate companies, or the recruitment departments that act more like purchasing teams than sales teams.

In many ways this apocalyptic change will be good. The new world of recruiting will be smarter, faster and tougher. The role of the recruiter will change.

As in every apocalypse, only the resourceful will survive.

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