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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Employer Brand … and why your foosball table doesn’t matter

Lots of people are talking about employer branding these days. While I agree that all companies should be conscious of how they are viewed by employees and prospective employees, I think many branding efforts are misdirected and a plain waste of money and effort.

It’s not about how many people think you’re great. It’s who, and why.

Brains over beans

I work with young tech companies who, by their very nature, are selective in who they employ. Most really are great places to work. Some have foosball tables.

But if any of these companies wanted to invest in a marketing campaign to make sure everyone knew about their ‘hip environment’ and the bean bag chairs in their office, I would think that they had lost it.

Don’t get me wrong. I think that a company’s employer brand – its reputation with employees and prospective employees – is absolutely critical. I just have to look at the tech companies in my own backyard to see how employer reputation directly impacts their success and ROI.

Marketing to future employees is a lot like marketing to future customers, it is all in the targeting.

Let me give you two real-world examples:

Company X is well known in the region and across the country. They get a lot of great press and are generally well regarded as a company with a good product idea and a bright future. I would even go so far as to say that a decent percentage of the population would think it is a good place to work – they probably have little trouble finding loads of people to apply for their jobs.

Yet I would argue that they do not in fact have a great employment brand. Sounds crazy, I know, but while they may win the popularity contest with the general public, the opinion of the people the company really needs to hire may be different.

When Company X comes up in conversations with great technical, marketing or leadership talent, the reaction is a rolling of eyes and a sad shaking of the head. “Neat product idea, but I hear that place is full of mediocre people. I wouldn’t want to be on the B team” they say.

They don’t care about the beer in the fridge or the company camping trips, they want to solve hard problems with a bunch of the exceptional people, and they want to be on a team that will only accept the best.

Company Y on the other hand has a very low profile. I can safely say that the general population is largely unaware that they exist at all.

But if you were to talk to the very best software professionals in their field, they would not only know the company, they would seriously consider leaving their current job to work for them. Company Y has an incredible employer brand. They have a solid reputation for hiring only the most talented people, and working to solve highly complex and important problems. The leaders within this company have exceptional backgrounds and great track records.

Employer branding is not a popularity contest. It’s about making sure that top-tier talent knows what you do, how you do it, and who you have doing it. It never hurts to offer cool perks, but the best people want more.

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Creating a Headhunter-Proof Company

I just talked to an HR Manager who told me that they had a no-headhunting policy, so I wasn’t allowed to talk to their people … what a terrific idea! Or maybe not.

I know of companies who train receptionists to block recruiters’ calls, and ensure that Monster and Workopolis are banned from company internet. Heck, while they’re at it, why not block LinkedIn, Twitter and halt conference attendance and rendezvous’ with former colleagues and miscellaneous strangers in coffee shops.

If you are losing top talent to the competition, it is logical to want to keep headhunters at bay. But the truth is your people have lives that extend beyond your four walls. In reality, trying to keep your people from connecting with headhunters is like building a fence around your yard to keep the birds in.

Good news> Your best employees are probably not out there actively looking for a new job. They are too busy working, and solving problems, and networking on behalf your company.  As your people build ties for your business and learn and grow professionally, you benefit  – even though it makes them more visible.

The top headhunters have the tools and the networks to find your most talented people – and your brightest stars have free will and are clever enough to entertain a conversation. Your best employees are not only talking to headhunters, they are investigating opportunities, learning about your competitors and evaluating who has the best team, the best technology and the best environment.

The trick is not to keep the headhunters from finding your people. You have to make sure that your employees will always choose you even when they know what other options exist – because they just can’t imagine being more fulfilled somewhere else.

If the headhunters are circling, it means that your people are the envy of your competition. But …if your people are never recruited it is not because you have a great ‘no-headhunting’ policy. It is because you have mediocre talent and maybe you need to deploy some good headhunters of your own.

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