A Hiring Tale...Is It Time For a Change?

Recently a company that I know well went through an interesting hiring adventure. Their story is typical and companies of all types experience these same particulars every day. You’d think that the pain of having to endure wasted time, poor decisions, and missed opportunities would change the way we go about hiring, but we’ve been doing it this way for decades and change is hard. The interesting thing is that for quite some time we have had at our disposal the systems that can change the story I am about to tell. Stay tuned and afterwards I will tell you where they are…

Like any other company, they placed a handful of ads at places that would grab the attention of the type of people they needed. After a while people started replying to the ads. Of course the company requested a resume from each person that was interested. There were about 15-20 that came from people that did the work at companies the recruiter recognized. Other than that, most of these 20 resumes pretty much had similar bullet points of work they did and the types of things they were able to accomplish.

Essentially, the basis the recruiter used to cull out people they wanted to pursue was the reputation of the company that the person currently worked at, the school and type of degree the person earned, the tenure they had at each of their career stops and the ones that were able to craft the best looking resume. He took the best ten and then ranked them top to bottom. I actually got a chance to see these ten resumes, only reviewing the best and the worse of the bunch. For the life of me, I didn’t see a whole lot of difference between these two resumes. This company was big on phone screen calls, so the hiring manager got on the phone and started at the top of the list and moved down until she had 3-4 people to invite in for an interview. She called, and called and called…and after conducting nine fifty to sixty minute phone calls (added up about a full day…) had found three people to invite for interviews. She was pretty frustrated for having to spend so much time.

I asked the recruiter what had happened and he told me that she found most of them to be weak on answering her questions fully, were obviously nervous and a few of them she had a bad cell connection and couldn’t hear clearly. One of them had such a thick accent that she struggled to understand him, and for what she could fathom – he had the best answers to her questions. All of these people she passed on. The three she invited to interview were all articulate, likeable, confident in their answers and seemed to possess the knowledge she needed.

None of this surprised me at all. Resumes have been around so long that most of the bullet points you find have been used thousands of times. There are websites and books that provide them to review and copy. Very little of what the hiring manager experienced was available to her before actually calling each of them on the phone. In addition, at that point she had already scheduled and blocked out the time on her calendar – so even the weakest phone screen she spoke to for at least fifty minutes or so. I asked the recruiter why he hadn’t called the candidates up first to check them out before wasting the manager’s time, but he was already on to other search activity and he couldn’t do it. Besides, the resumes were all very good and met what the manager was looking for…

So the scheduling began for the three “finalist” candidates. It was especially difficult to nail down as the interview schedule included six people – all who traveled for their jobs regularly. In addition, only one of the three candidates was out of a job and they had their own work schedules to contend with. Eventually all three candidates were scheduled for their interview days spread out over about a four week period. This took the scheduling admin all told about 12 hours of time to organize.

Probably don’t have to tell you what happened…sure thing, they all bombed. One of the three came to the interview with reams of data and past projects to show the manager. During the interviews this candidate proceeded to talk non-stop through the entire day. At the end of each hour long interview no one knew what he could do as they were unable to ask him any questions that they needed to answer.

Another candidate came dressed like he was heading to detention in the Breakfast Club. He literally wore ancient Chuck Taylor Converse High tops full of holes and a sport jacket over one of those T-shirts that have a tie as part of the decal. To make matters worse, he smelled as if he hadn’t been introduced to a bar of soap in quite a while. No one said anything about what he knew or didn’t know – just couldn’t get past the presentation.

The final of the three was very presentable, was articulate and confident of what she knew and was able to demonstrate to the interviewers that she could handle the work. Unfortunately, she was a tad too confident and got into an argument with one of the interviewers about the best way to accomplish a particular task. That interviewer was the one person that she would be supporting and interacting with just about every day on the job. So you know how that went…badly.

The hiring manager decided after spending three months to that point that she needed to bring in some outside help (us – that is how I know the details of this story…), and just under three months later she had a solid top performing person to add to her team.

So to recap this not very unusual story, the process to get one person hired took six months with hours upon hours of unproductive time interviewing, phone screening and scheduling and a fee that typically averages well above $10,000. Surely not all new hires take six months, and Agencies are used typically less than 10% of the time, but the amount of time spent on activity that is fruitless is extremely costly, a regular occurrence and impossible to ignore. The quality of the people being hired also must be questioned when a resume, phone screen and typically an hour long interview is used to determine if the person will fit into the culture, succeed in the job, and stay at the company for several years to come. It almost seems like a really bad dream if it weren’t such a regular happening…

As promised above, there are solutions that can change this reality. One key is to improve the interaction between the company and people interested in them. When both interact positively, both will learn more about the other moving down the path toward a possible engagement. We seem to forget that management and workers are people and the laws of attraction are the same here as in any relationship. Probably the other most important key is unlocking who a person really is, what motivates them, how they present themselves and interact with others (understanding if they can functionally do the work is also a key – but that can be measured with less ambiguity – personal chemistry – not so easy…)

So what is the new solution that can unlock this riddle better than current methods? Solely using a resume and a 45 minute phone call to try to determine whether the stars will align is really asking for trouble as outlined in the story above. If a hiring manager or a recruiter had information about a person’s attitudes, interests and motivations - their chemistry, and was given the opportunity to observe them in a group setting where specific topics were discussed the ambiguity would be much less. They would be able to see who reacts the best, who has the clever idea or who speaks and presents concepts with clarity – wouldn’t that change things?

The recruiter would still send out ads and field resumes, but with the blanks of information all filled in, now when a person is invited to interview they are someone that is known to them – not a sheet of paper or a voice on the phone. The possibility of increasing the quality of hiring will go way up. If those group networking settings actually discussed work issues from the company, the people hired would have an easier time hitting the ground running and their time to productivity would decrease. Most importantly, all that unproductive time phone screening, interviewing and scheduling unappealing candidates that don’t have a chance will be eliminated as no one would be invited in without making a new hire “short list.” They would all be people you NOW know.

Is this hiring nirvana, have the seas parted, is this Iowa (couldn’t resist that Field of Dreams bit…). No but it will

take a journey to realize it – a Clean Journey.

With a Workforce Sustainability Program, sustainable techniques are employed in the employment game and inefficiencies are eliminated. This is a program that uncovers people that have a passion for the high level of work that they do, and who are willing to make the sacrifice to do what it takes to make their company a success. These types of employees are sustainable employees where retention is a foregone conclusion and turnover is virtually non-existent.

Who wouldn’t want a workforce like that?

Clean Journey can help a company build this type of workforce with their interconnected Sustainability Programs. Very concisely an example of a specific company’s path to Workforce Sustainability would play out like this:

A Career Community of people interested in the company is confidentially developed and maintained, members are provided an “Assessment as Experience” survey that makes up the guts of a Professional Brand Portfolio (a person’s career scrap book) of which members are urged to make a 5-10 minute Career Investment each week. The company management reviews the Professional Brands inviting those of interest to participate in Advanced Networking Events where they are cultivated for new hire “short lists” that management keeps until they are ready to make a hire. An Employee Shout Out is offered to the company employees to share the firm’s “inside story” so Community Members have a pretty good idea if it’s the type of place they want spend their career…that’s it.

It’s interesting, provocative, compelling – and fun… Only great new hires emerge at the end of the Journey! Any questions, Bueller, anyone, anyone, Bueller, anyone…

Comment by Paul Alfred on September 30, 2010 at 10:48am
Wooo KC - Not sure if the concentration of your blog was on Weak Corp Recruiter or Company Acquisition and Retention Management Best practices ...

I hate to break it to you but there are still great companies (Plastics, Pharma Industry as an example) out there that take 6 months to make hires do they make top 1000 best places to work yes. 25%- of my business can be described as such - these are clients that need Executives for major impact highly visible roles.... In the beginning of your blog you describe what I would call an in-experienced internal recruiter... With experience and proper training those ratios can be brought down and If those numbers persisted I would fire that Recruiter if I were Director of Talent Management.

Now for your "New Solution" You know we all want the perfect hiring process between Hiring Manager his/her boss and the team back to the Internal recruitment team and whoever the thid party Vendor list is supporting that company ... I did some internal consulting work for a Global Company who was running behind over 150 Requirements per internal Recruiter per desk x8 Technical Hiring Managers that had needs yesterday but no time to interview ... From 6am meetings with VP's to walking out of last interview at 9pm if I proposed some of the "new solutions" you mentioned Id be walked out the door ... All of these programs are great but the hiring process has egos, personalties, bureaucracy, time constraints, Project budgets to be met cost overruns .... VP's wants results and in my scenario it came down to sitting down with Directors and VP`s and asking them point blank should we cancel the requisition or make hires... and Yes I do have clients who have 1,2,3 lets go processes ... That is the reality.
Comment by K.C. on September 30, 2010 at 2:12pm
Hi Paul - Of course there are great companies out there millions of them...what I am referring to in my Blog are the myriad inefficiencies built into the recruiting function that these great companies endure...the example I used was from a 25 year top performing recruiter that I have known for years. His work was neither weak nor amateur in any way. What I am pointing out is that the tools at his disposal were weak...

For example, the mere act of screening out is one that is rife with inefficiency. The effort that goes into drilling down to the best looking resume is unproductive when tools exist today that add additional input criteria improving and speeding the decision making. You would probably agree with me that in a situation where there is a high degree of technical work and a very small pool of people that do it, the likelihood that on-target resumes are similar is very high. If a resume is the key tool being used to make a determination – in these situations and many others - something else is needed.

How about this - a scenario where hiring managers spend 1/3 the time on hiring activity as they do now? Using Networking Events (one hour session with no prep – they just show up) they create “short lists” of candidates for their next hires...well, call me a kook, but I know quite a few that would absolutely go for that...don't forget that 75% of all hiring is through networking - not by "going though" a Third Party recruiter (which only represents about 10-12% of hiring).
The potential candidates get to network directly with the hiring manager – it’s what they want Paul...no offense, but most candidates really would much rather go directly to the source...

I agree with much of what you say...in fact the story I describe is from a multibillion dollar global med device company whose recruiting staff was as frenzied as the tech company you describe. Within this context the type of result I describe is commonplace where a hiring manager says, "O.K. we met with the three candidates you set up, none hit the mark who else do you have..." Back to the drawing board...and a very unsustainable business practices.

By engaging people interested in your business to show more of themselves in a company specific community - a recruiter has more information at their finger tips to make the right decision. I'm not talking about candidates that a TPR provides - but people that answer ads, apply at the career page or the merely curious that don't want to apply now, but go to a career page to see what's open... If none of the other solutions I recommend are done, an internal recruiter will now have an additional tool to use to make placements. Maybe that would help mitigate some of the unproductive work that a recruiter does everyday...improving the level of sustainable work.

Not a bad thing is it?
Comment by Paul Alfred on October 1, 2010 at 10:06am
My experience has shown that for heavy duty Software Enterprise Environments Hiring Managers have no time to go out to Networking events especially when they have 6-10 hiring approvals open where it took 3 months to approve the budget for the hiring decision... Its go go go ... We are talking about companies that have Frameworks in place for Product delivery... Rare they have a framework in place for client acquisition and if so if its even followed (HR still works outside of the IT Cloud they do not connect smoothly reason why I try to avoid dealing with the Internal HR layer out side of High Level Executive roles where a VP of HR is so much easier to deal with ) ...

Yes most candidates would love to work with Companies directly but Great Recruiters have and own the relationships on roles that are not advertised and I come from the school of thought that the Best candidates are NOT on the Market... I would put my candidate up against any one applying for a Job directly from an ad offline or online any day of the week.

You know a hiring manager working in Telco coming out of say Business Intelligence will make a great recommendation of a colleague he/she worked with at the Competitor ... That does help on the Profit/loss report with respect to hiring internally but that's 10- 15% in my experience even when you throw in the $2k for referral fees ....

Your new solutions can work in a overall "comprehensive" Recruitment/Retention strategy but I could never say on its own it has any "major" significant impact... When we are looking for specific crucial resources shared by competitors within the same industry and we are on a timeline...
Comment by K.C. on October 1, 2010 at 2:31pm
No question Paul - your experiences are fast paced...you seem to have a great handle on it too!

Let me ask you - what if the Enterprise SW guy didn't even have to leave his office - or could participate in the networking event from a slate, tablet of IPad? Say it would take 45 minutes and after which they would have a sense in real time of how someone promoted, collaborated or reacted to an idea or topic or theme...these are all online networking EVENTS that 6-8 people are invited to that are "working" project oriented meetings where digital whiteboard, video or conversation software is used for everyone to communicate with...if the HM liked it you could invite the same group again (adding a few alog the way that surfaced that met the "invite criteria") and he or she could begin cultivating the best ones in the group - call it "phone screen replacement" activity...the best part is that the HM has virtually no prep needed - just show up and participate...

Maybe your HM's would balk at it - but in 3-4 sessions (about 3 hours total time spent) the HM could have potential finalist candidates lined up to interview for those 6-10 reqs you reference...
Comment by pam claughton on October 1, 2010 at 4:07pm
KC,
The hiring manager might be more likely to participate though than a passive candidate. I guess that's the part I see being an issue. Unless someone is actively looking or considering a change I doubt they'd want to invest the time into doing something like this. Or maybe this is more for active candidates? I guess my way of thinking is more aligned with Paul's in that top passive candidates are usually employed and too busy to do much networking, unless they become active job seekers.
Comment by K.C. on October 1, 2010 at 5:29pm
Ahh - there's the rub Pam...I agree that most only look for a job when they think they need to...but if you were invited to network with say...the Talent Acquisition VP at EMC or Raytheon or A123 Systems to discuss candidate assessment techniques wouldn't you highly consider it - regardless of your career status? (not sure what your specialty is - just fill in the blank with your most coveted company...).

Maybe you personally wouldn't, but I assure you that most high achievers do, and if there is one thing that I am 100% certain about is that a hungry ambitious career minded person will jump at the chance to be exclusively invited to something like this...(by the way this isn't theory...we have several clients happily using our sustainability systems as we speak).

What we also do is capture anyone interested in a company and turn their curiosity into more interest in the company for a career possibility. Just like dating, once you have more dates you get a sense of whether you want to take things to the next level or not...we try to set up the dates with folks that have things in common...if it moves to a hiring "short list" great...

...if a client gives us a list of the top 25 sales exec competitors and says, "can you get some of them together in the same video conference as me, " we do it and after 2-3 networking events, she has begun to cultivate a few of them...all she needs is to pry away a couple of game changers to join her team and her numbers will soar...so will her career! Get it?

we also collect everyone else that shows interest too (not just high flyers), if a client now needs to hire a new admin, customer service, accounts payable - anything, they can check with their Community first before going anywhere else...and their Community is assessed for "inner chemistry" along with a resume (all applicants are also urged to complete a Community Survey that gets to their AIM's...). Certainly adds another dimension don't you think?
Comment by K.C. on October 1, 2010 at 5:44pm
By the way Pam - I forgot to mention that I totally agree with your passive v. active observation.

Those working hard are being overworked (and if you believe Bureau of Labor Statistics - underpaid). Hard to have time for anyting else...in additon, most people that would consider a move may not be ble to due to housing woes or timidity due to the still high unemployement figures.

Its why we are getting HM's to be more engaged in putting themselves in the position to doing online "networking events." They can't keep paying you guys $20-30K a pop for one hire - its unsustainable business practice and they are screamng for alternatives.

By Q1 2011, the number of math, science and technology people in the candidate marketplace will be worse than it is now - as long as the economy continues limping along there will be smaller percentages of these guys - if you are not trying to fatten up your rolodex NOW 2011 will be sacry for those guys...we're trying to help...
:)
Comment by Sandra McCartt on October 3, 2010 at 12:51pm
I am delighted to know that my business model is no longer sustainable. I guess it's time to go fishing since all my clients will be spending their days doing online speed hiring with anonymous candidates.

When that Sales executive "peels off "the top two or three of those executive sales candidates from the competition who have been chatting with her during all those networking events, what does she do about their non competes?
Comment by pam claughton on October 3, 2010 at 5:29pm
KC,
I don't see that what you are proposing really competes with us though. Keep in mind that less than 10% of hires are made through recruiters for "$20k-30k a pop". What you are offering seems more complementary in that I could see it making sense for a company to try this as part of their overall pipelining efforts and maybe it might result in a few hires along the way...and if so, that may be a success. However, when that company needs to hire someone NOW with a very specific background, that's when we are more likely to make sense. Your model is one that happens organically, over time, whereas we are targeted and deadline driven, and key to remember is that we don't just source candidates, we deliver and close them as well. Your model will never replace the need for recruiters, like all the newest social media tools and technologies, it's just another option that may complement what is already being done. I don't think headhunting is going anywhere...we're busier than ever in my office and I see that increasing in 2011.
Comment by pam claughton on October 3, 2010 at 5:32pm
Meant to also add that I do wish you well. You seem to have an interesting and unique offering that you are passionate about. I hope 2011 is good to you as well!

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