10 Things That Still Puzzle Me After Recruiting for 45 Years

September 28, 2017

I’ve been thinking about hiring when I first become a hiring manager 45 years ago and 1,500 hires later (as a recruiter). Mostly I’ve been thinking about why hiring processes are still as outdated as they were when I became a recruiter. Here’s what I find puzzling:

  1. Why do recruiters need to review 150 resumes to make one decent hire, but only 3-4 referred candidates to make one great hire?
  2. Why do we hire people we know based on their past performance and potential, but we hire strangers based on their past experience?
  3. Why do hiring managers want to hire candidates who can hit the ground running, but the best people who can hit the ground running want to run on different tracks?
  4. People who see the job as a career move don’t need as big a salary increase compared to people who are accepting ill-defined lateral transfers. So, why do we negotiate the salary, the location and job title as the condition for having a conversation with someone?
  5. While we all want to hire more diverse people, why do we expect them to have the same skills and experiences and look and sound like everyone we’ve already hired
  6. Why is it we still can’t measure quality of hire?
  7. Why do people in the top half have less or different experience than those in the bottom half? That’s how they got into the top half.
  8. Why do we design the candidate experience largely for candidates we’re not going to hire, rather than for the candidates we do want to hire?
  9. Why do recruiters and tech vendors get excited about doing the wrong things more efficiently?
  10. Why are we still fighting the war for talent?

Here’s what I think is the root cause of all of this based on over 40 years of upsetting the apple cart.

The underlying talent strategy is flawed.

It seems pretty obvious to me that you can’t use a surplus of talent strategy weeding out the weak, when a surplus of talent doesn’t exist.

We advertise and offer lateral transfers rather than career moves.

I knew this was dumb on my first search project 40 years ago for a plant manager up to my last one a month ago for a CEO. So rather than using a skills-infested job description, I  always ask the hiring manager what the person needs to do to be successful and why a top person would see the job as a career move. Without this you can’t hire a top person for the right reasons. I contend a career move requires a minimum 30% non-monetary increase consisting of some job stretch, faster job growth, more satisfying work and more important work.

If you can’t measure quality of hire, pre-hire, you can’t improve it.

During the interview, I ask candidates to tell me about their 3-4 major accomplishments most comparable to the real job needs determined when I asked the hiring manager what the person needs to do to be successful. I rank these candidates on how well they compare to measure pre-hire quality of hire. That’s how I measure quality of hire and how you can, too, using these instructions.

Some proof: Two-thirds of the 1,500 people over 20 years we placed were promoted in less than two years and only 5% were replaced under our one-year performance guarantee.

The lack of a big picture, system perspective.

There’s too much sub-optimization happening in hiring. Just ask a process control engineer what this means. Process improvement must consider the system impact rather than the individual step or sub-process. When it comes to hiring, the job analysis, sourcing, interviewing and recruiting need to be seen as a complete system designed to improve quality of hire, not to make each step independently more efficient. For example, by filtering out candidates based on skills and compensation or using impersonal behavioral interviewing to minimize mistakes, you eliminate the best people from consideration.

Overvaluing scale and efficiency over quality of hire.

It only takes 3-4 great referrals and a dozen or so direct-sourced candidates who are “cherry picked” (top achievers who would naturally see the job as a career move) to make one great hire. If this approach was initially taken to scale the hiring process, you wouldn’t need to process resumes of people you’re not going to hire, and you would have won the war for talent.

Talent should report to the CEO!

Done well, hiring great talent provides a company a strategic and competitive advantage. In my opinion recruiting is far too important to report to any function.

Walk the talk.

If talent is #1, hiring managers need to be hired and measured and promoted on how well they do!

As I’ve watched business processes evolve over the past 40 years (one of my first system-level projects was implementing an early ERP system) I’m dumbfounded hiring is still archaic. This is despite all the new tools and technologies available. The problem: they’ve been bolted on to antiquated thinking, poorly architected ATS systems, and outdated processes. But that’s what happens when talent and business leaders overvalue tactics, efficiency and cost reductions over strategy, ROI and improving quality of hire. 

*Image from Star Trek: The Next Generation

To receive blog posts like this one straight in your inbox, subscribe to the blog newsletter.

Topics