Tag Archives: recruitment

Check your Attitude! The Buy and Sell Sides of Recruiting

So you’re trying to improve the quality of your recruiting.

You want to hire more people, people with talent who bring their ‘A’ game every day.

How do you do that? Do you need new tactics?

Better tools and technology, or a recruiter with a better network? Before you do anything, check your attitude. That’s right. The fundamental difference between success and failure in recruiting comes down to attitude and the role you choose in the process.

What’s your stance? Are you a buyer of skills or a seller of opportunities? You might think you’re a little of each, but most recruiters and companies lean strongly one way.

Don’t know which you are? Here are some hints.

The Buyer:

  • Your recruiting function runs like a purchasing department and probably rolls up into Admin and Finance; you use words like Talent Acquisition.
  • Your job descriptions look like shopping lists; you advertise pre-requisite skills and qualifications.
  • You look for exact fits; square pegs to fit into square holes.
  • You focus on the quantifiable attributes of a candidate that are usually listed on the resume.
  • Your interviews have the primary goal of qualifying candidates and minimizing the risk of a bad hire.
  • You pitch a role based on the deliverables. “We need you to do this/ make this/ behave this way.”
  • You feel that you have the control and power in the recruiting process.

The Seller:

  • Your recruiting function is quite independent and might report to Sales, Marketing or the CEO.
  • You advertise jobs based on the opportunity, culture, perks and benefits to the candidate.
  • You create loosely-defined job descriptions, defining outcomes and projects more than qualifications
  • You look for great people and create roles so they can add maximum value.
  • Your interview is an extension of the sales pitch. And you often do much of the talking and ask questions to define what the candidate wants in a role, with the focus on how to close the candidate on a future offer.
  • You see the candidate as having the power in the recruiting process.
  • While each of these recruiting positions might have merits, the risks are worth noting.

To the Buyers out there, you are scaring off great candidates by treating them as though they are lucky to be under consideration. You are making offers to people who don’t mind this feeling, but understand that you are simply purchasing skills and output, but not loyalty. You and your company will have a tough time with employee engagement and retention.

And Sellers, you’re not perfect either! You tend to oversell jobs and are at risk of hiring underqualified candidates. You might also pay more per hire than is required. The people you hire may approach their employment with a sense of entitlement that may not be deserved.

So what’s a good recruiter to do? How can you effectively embody the best of both Buying and Selling and find a happy balance where the prospective candidate is seena potential partner.

Perhaps it is too simple to suggest that a change in attitude alone will immediately fix your recruiting woes. And the outcome will be many interactions won’t be an immediate hire. But I guarantee that when a hire is made and a partner found, the level of engagement and overall success of the relationship will be incredible.


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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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The value in a reference check – really, it’s not just a waste of time!

Paradoxically, many of the hiring managers and HR leaders that I work with believe that references are both necessary and of little value. “You have to do them to cover your ass and to validate your choice, but really they are no indication of whether an individual is a good hire” seems to be the reigning opinion. Really, who would give as a reference someone that would not say wonderful things?

While it is true that I have seen very few bad references – I can recall just 2 instances where a reference actually said that they would NOT rehire an individual – there is still a load of value that can be derived from a well-conducted reference check.

Even though almost all references are prepared, and sometimes coached by the candidate for the call, there is still an opportunity to garner insight that adds value to both the hiring decision and the management of the individual. It is easy to verify employment, but if that’s all you do with a reference check, you’ve wasted a great opportunity to get to know the person you may be hiring.

So – in addition to the standard verification of employment questions, here are some sample questions that will help you have a valuable reference conversation:

How would you describe his/her leadership style?

How does he/she behave in a highly stressful situation?

How much direction does he/she need when given broad and complex tasks?

What do you feel that he/she is capable of as a leader? (described in terms of team size, scope, industry, change etc)
Where would you draw the limitations of his/her leadership capabilities?

What were some of the leadership challenges that he/she faced, and how were these handled?

Speak to me about a specific success or accomplishment as a leader that you witnessed.

How would he/she be described by the people who reported to him/her?

What advice would you give for his next employer in terms of getting the best performance?

I also ask what else they’d like to add… and then leave some dead air. People are always uncomfortable with silence and your reference will continue to talk, to fill the void.

You should keep the tone conversational, to keep it comfortable and honest. This is another form of interview really, and you don’t just want the formal answer, but the person’s insight and opinions. And you can only get this if your develop some quick rapport. This is tricky if you’ve delegated the reference check process to a less experienced interviewer or someone who does not know the candidate.  The more skilled your ‘reference-checker’, the more value you get from the call.

When you design your reference question list, look at the types of characteristics you were looking for when you designed the job and conducted interviews. If the role demands resourcefulness, your reference can be asked whether this is a strength. If your interviewers were a little concerned about the person’s ability to present to an executive team, ask a question about that. The results of your reference should validate your choice, and give additional insight into your new hire’s past work performance.

Finally, many companies are quite careful about the legal implications of letting managers give employment references for past employees. While, in practice, I have never been denied a detailed conversation about an individual’s past employment history and performance, I’ve specifically not touched on the issues around privacy laws and liability. A quick google search will give you some tips relating to regional laws – I take no responsibility.

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