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One in hand vs. Two in the Bush

I am sure we are all familiar with the old story/proverb of the value of having one of something vs. the potential of having two or more of the same “something.” In many countries this is known as A bird in hand is worth more than two in the bush.  Essentially, the lesson learned is that having something in your grasp or in fact, something that is “yours” is far more valuable than the potential of having more things but with the risk of having to give up what you already have.

bird-in-handI have found this proverb to be very applicable to modern day recruiting and dealing with hiring managers. You see, at the end of the day, hiring managers are always looking at the value of two in the bush. Meaning, while they may have a candidate presented to them by you as the recruiter that meets a significant portion of the job requirements, many of them are always keeping an eye out for that other potential candidate that meets all of the requirements, requires no training, is a superstar, comes from an identical industry and doesn’t mind working 40 hours of overtime a week with no extra compensation. I am being a bit facetious here, but you get the point.

This is a constant struggle for recruiters – managing hiring managers – and the acceptance of a highly qualified candidate is probably at the top of the list. I know we have all felt the frustration of a hiring manager’s indecision. You source, recruit and present a great slate of candidates. The hiring manager interviews and is impressed, especially with one in particular and indicates to you that they would be a great hire, but…they want to wait “to see what else is out there.” WTH? It is at that point in time the recruiter snaps and wants to put the hiring manager in the rear naked choke hold .

How can recruiters avoid this scenario from happening? Well, the tough answer is that generally speaking, you can’t. Hiring managers often suffer from decision-making paralysis. They have been brought up thinking that there is a “right” hiring decision to be made and all other decisions are wrong. They have been led to believe there is a perfect candidate out there and they want to wait (for you) to find that candidate, because, well you know, they EXIST (yeah right).

How can you minimize this from happening? Well, this is the good news. You can control this a bit.   A lot of this occurs at the intake meeting. Make sure you get a hiring commitment up front from the hiring manager – this works best when it is in writing (can be as simple as an email). You want the hiring manager’s commitment/agreement on:

  1. Providing you with an accurate performance profile: what a person in the job needs to be able to do (this is different form a job description). The reason this is key is because if a hiring manager gives you a job description, it will simply be a laundry list of wishes of things they want in the perfect candidate. Don’t fall for this trap.
  2. Their availability – get a commitment up front as to when they will be interviewing for the role, because well, you WILL find them good candidates. If possible, schedule some dates in advance. This way, you can progress with your screening and your hiring manager has to review potential candidates efficiently as they already have interview times set up.
  3. Agree in writing as to what constitutes a good candidate vs. a great one and get commitment on hiring any “great” candidates. This should be done before the interview and scored immediately after the interview. That way, if a hiring manager agrees that a score of 4+ overall is a “great” score, anyone that scores a 4+ will be made an offer.

Point number 3 is a key one because you are getting the buy in before you meet candidates. This will help you avoid the scenario where you have a candidate interview, they get scored a 4.5, and the manager (despite loving the candidate) still defers and wants to see more candidates. You then need to ask the manager: “So, Bob, you agreed going into the interview process that anyone that scored a 4+ would be considered a GREAT candidate based on the performance profile. Therefore, we were looking for 4+’s during the selection process. We have found you a 4.5 – which is better than the 4+ considered to be great…why would we not be hiring this person? Has the selection criteria changed? Is a 4+ not great? Have the expectations/standards changed? What have we missed here?” It is at this point in time you have to remind them of one in hand vs. two in the bush. “Bob, we can certainly continue to source for you. It may take us another 2-6 weeks to present more candidates that may or may not be as good as this one. In the interim, it is highly likely you will lose the candidate you scored a 4.5. Are you willing to take that risk? This means your job will have been open for over 2.5 months? If you are willing to take the risk, we are willing to continue to source for you.”

Above all, you need to get the manager to understand that THEY were the ones who identified what they were looking for and what GREAT looked like. They have found GREAT and now GREAT is no longer GREAT. What has changed? At the end of the day, the pre-commitment approach will work with many managers. There are still others (who shouldn’t be managing or hiring) that will want to look at other candidates regardless. My advice, if you are an agency recruiter – work closest to the money. If you are in-house, you will need to focus on other clients reqs. if you have them. If you don’t, you still have to suck up the hit to your time to fill metric and soldier on…or move into HR. As always, I welcome your feedback and comments.

Photo courtesy of Pezibear/Pixabay.com

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“I’m Bringing Respect Back”

If you didn’t pick up on it initially, sing that title to the tune of Justin Timberlake’s “Sexy Back.” Now it is pretty cool isn’t it? Seriously though, when did a lack of respect for people leave our workplaces? Jay Kuhns wrote a great post on Monday that really struck a chord with me. Here is the link to it, but his point was simple. That is, he was trying to show how disconnected many of us are from our hiring and onboarding processes vs. reality. He further went on to make the point about how when we ask candidates for their feedback on how their hiring and onboarding went, we don’t really seem to listen to them.

Respect Sign PostTo me, and I think Jay was trying to make this point, was that it comes down to a matter of respect. Think of the front end (recruiting) side of things first and all the touch points we have with candidates. How many of us and/or our organizations are guilty, somewhere along the line, of doing at least one of these things to candidates:

  1. Interviewing a candidate and then never following up with them again (either way)
  2. Interviewing a candidate but sending them an email “regrets” note
  3. Experiencing delays in coordinating next step interviews but not keeping the candidate informed of the reason for the delays
  4. Not clearly spelling out the required pre-hire steps with the candidate and/or introducing surprise new steps without an explanation as to why. (i.e. 3rd, 4th, 5th interviews)
  5. Telling a candidate that you will follow up with them (perhaps with a decision) by a specific date and then you don’t follow up with them (for whatever reason).
  6. Offering a candidate a job 4 weeks after they last heard from you (similar to #3) and expecting them to still be available
  7. Inflexibility and refusing to accommodate/respect a candidate’s time when interviewing with you. i.e. “I have one time slot left for you to meet with the manager.”

The bottom line is that none of these things show respect towards a candidate and for them as a person. It gives the impression that you are doing them a favour by interviewing them and/or even considering them for your company. Similarly, I have seen equally deplorable behaviours on the onboarding side of things that show a similar lack of respect:

  1. Manager(s) not prepared for a new hires arrival
  2. Organizations inundating new hires with forms, policies and manuals to read on their first few days instead of taking the time to actually develop an onboarding plan that would integrate a new hire into the current team and culture. Nothing says “I don’t have time to deal with you” like throwing a manual at someone!
  3. Lack of computer and phone access on the 1st day
  4. The new hire is left to have lunch on their own on their first day.
  5. The manager checks in with their new employee only at the beginning of the day, most days, when they first start. Or better yet, the manager disappears for the day and the new hire is left trying to figure out where they went, if they should leave for the day, etc.

Unfortunately, this list could go on for a while. The bottom line is that we as HR Pros and all of us as leaders have to get better at this. We need to stop anything that we are doing on these lists. Let’s all vow to bring respect back to our workplaces. That starts with showing more respect for candidates and new hires. If we do that, we can start to bring respect back to all of our workplaces because we have made this part of our cultures and our brands. Now sing it with me, “I’m bringing respect back……” Come on, you know you want to. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I Want Them Now!

One of the biggest challenges that recruiters face is dealing with managers with unrealistic hiring expectations. Typically it has to deal with things like the hiring manager’s expectations that recruiting will find the “perfect” candidate, but more often than not the biggest challenge centres on how quickly the manager expects to have a candidate hired by you as the recruiter.

Temper TantrumThe irony of all this is that if you ask recruiters what their top challenges are with hiring managers, they will often cite manager (lack of) decision-making in their top three. Quite the dichotomy isn’t it? I have typically seen the first scenario as being more prevalent. That is, due to some combination of poor workforce planning, poor communication, lack of departmental integration, lack of foresight and vision, reactive management style or just overall poor planning, the common scenario we see is that of a hiring manager running to recruiting with a requisition demanding that they hire them four network security specialists “this week.” (You can insert whatever hard to find, specialized skillset you are required to hire for here!)

Sadly, I see and hear these horror stories all the time where managers think/demand that a qualified skilled professional position can be sourced and hired within a week. My advice to others, and my typical response to “requests” like these, is to take a deep breath and fight the urge to respond with why that is a completely insane request and can’t be done. I then fall back on the three legged stool of business which is: Of Fast, Cheap, & Good…you can have two of these things. So that is how I tackle things with a hiring manager who wants someone sourced and hired in a week. In other words, when I hear a request like, “I want them now,” I pull out the old three legged stool.

GoodFastCheap_Pick2In the cast of the example for this blog post, obviously the manager has already picked “Fast” – so if they want someone good, it isn’t going to be cheap. In other words, we will have to throw copious amounts of money at a candidate to get someone committed in that short a time period (perhaps a specialized subcontractor.) We will also need to spend a lot of additional resources to source, pre-screen, interview, test, reference check, etc. within a week. Staying with this theme of already having selected “Fast”, if they also want to minimize costs, (and won’t/can’t commit to the resources required to do this) then quite frankly, you just aren’t going to be able to provide them someone good.

Here is the thing, whether you are in recruiting and/or HR, the worst thing you can tell your business partners, from a credibility perspective, is “no” or why you “can’t” do something. It takes discipline to respond and think differently and respond with the mindset that you can do something and provide options. Likewise, there is no rule that says you have to respond with a “yes” and blindly try to meet the manager’s request – you aren’t in the military!

Provide your manager’s with options and leverage the three legged stool – it can be a very eye opening experience when they truly see what needs to “give” in order for them to “get” what they want. It has been my experience that most rational managers will understand that they can’t, in fact, have it all – that is, a fantastic candidate, hired quickly and at a cheap salary and/or without spending additional monies on the resources required to execute. Clearly spell out what it will take to meet the hiring manager’s demands and then ask them how they would like you to proceed with the campaign.

Here is the other important element to consider – you will also need to clearly identify with the manager what you need from them to make this “Fast” hire happen. That is, they will need to block out most of their own calendar that week for interviews and commit to making a hiring decision as soon as the interviews are done and a candidate is found (from the current pool). More often than not, the “Fast” element will change for you and perhaps you can, in fact, take some more time to hire someone and the request to have someone now will move out a bit.

Better yet, with some basic analytics and reporting, you can show the hiring manager the turnover rate and cost to replace staff that have been hired on short timelines/quick recruiting campaigns – I can pretty much bet the success rate of these campaigns is pretty low. Once the manager sees that they will be going through this same exercise again, or hiring staff, in a month due to the likelihood of attrition, they may change their thinking. Over time, the more you revert to this approach, the better and more reasonable expectations hiring managers will have of you as a recruiter. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Little Golden Nuggets of Recruiting

As Talent Acquisition Specialists/Recruiters, we have many tools at our disposal to help us find the right candidate(s) for our client(s). Setting aside technology/social media, the greatest “tool” at our disposal is our ability to build relationships. That’s right, news flash, if you are in recruiting you are in the relationship building business. Great recruiters actively grow and cultivate their networks and actively work to maintain these relationships within those networks. Candidates want to work with recruiters that they know and trust. The only way you get there is by building relationships.

Golden NuggetNow at this stage, I know I am not telling you anything that you don’t know. In terms of tools and sourcing tactics, there are far more qualified folks out there that you can follow and read about that will provide you with a TON of great information. Folks like Glen Cathey, Will Staney, Lars SchmidtMatthew Jeffery, Stacy Zapar and Jeremy Roberts. These folks are recruiting rock stars. What I can tell you though, is what has worked for me. I have probably conducted hundreds, maybe thousands of recruiting campaigns in my career. By far, the single most effective tool at my disposal has always been employee referrals. Depending on what/where you read, referrals seem to be often either overhyped or undersold. In my opinion, there is no such thing as overhyping the effectiveness of referrals. Most people know that (your) talented employees know other talented employees. It has been my experience that talented people don’t just refer someone because they want to receive some sort of monetary referral bonus. No, they refer because talented people want to work with other talented people. If your employees are engaged in what they do and they believe in your talent brand, they will refer others.

The beauty of referrals is that it is like having 50, 100 or even 1000+ recruiters working for you. My first stop on any campaign is to leverage my internal networks. I make it a point to constantly be speaking with employees about current and upcoming hiring needs. That way, we can manage the (passive) referrals proactively and then the (active) referrals during an immediate campaign. You need to make it a point to get the word out to your employees about EXACTLY what it is you are looking for. You should be doing this for all levels of positions; however, typically the more difficult the skillset is to find, the more effective a focused referral campaign probably will be.

Case in point, we recently ran a campaign out on the west coast of Canada for a very unique skill set. We knew that typical sourcing and recruiting tactics would not give us enough reach and access to the types of candidates we needed to be speaking with. Our first step was to get out in front of staff. We spent days spreading the word across our offices about the type of person (knowledge, skills, ability, performance profile) that we were looking for. We also honed in on our employees whose backgrounds were most similar to the type of individual we were looking for. (Thank you HRIS!) By knowing our employees’ backgrounds as well as being able to identify our best performers, we were able to leverage this referral/recruiting campaign with a great deal of success. The end result was that we were able to hire the majority of the individuals through referrals – no other recruiting costs involved. This couldn’t have been done just using LinkedIn ads/searches, internet searching, etc.

So, to come full circle, as I mentioned earlier, recruiting is about building relationships. However, these relationships are not always externally facing. You must look inside your organization at your current employees. Build these relationships and continue to nurture and foster them. Better internal relationships mean better referrals for you the recruiter! As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Photo courtesy of Les Haines/Flickr.com

Recruiters: Can you answer THIS question?

As part of one of the ongoing themes of The Armchair HR Manager, I like to blog frequently about recruiting and all things talent acquisition. My writing, while often focused on Recruiters and HR Professionals, also tends to have messaging focused on job seekers as well. You see, I firmly believe that in order for the job seeker/recruiter relationship to work well, both parties need to be on a level playing field. That is, both parties are as transparent as possible with each other, as this helps promote candidate credibility and recruiter/organizational branding.

Recruiter QuestionIn order for recruiters to establish credibility as trust agents (credit to Chris Brogan for this term) of their organizations (whether they are in-house or third party recruiters) they need to first build trust with job candidates. A major step in doing this is to properly understand the position you are trying to fill. You don’t have to be a technical expert on the role but you do need to understand what it is you are recruiting for (so you can convey and evaluate) so you can explain to candidates what the expected performance outcomes are for the position, how success will be measured and how the role fits within the organizational structure. This knowledge will also help you to close, but more on that later.

Savvy job seekers will ask these types of questions in interviews (above), so recruiters, you better be prepared with the answers! With all of the focus on “passive” candidates these days (although I am not convinced that passives are the Holy Grail for recruiters) and the much improved job market, many recruiters are finding the scales tipping a bit in terms of the balance of power. That is, many job seekers are more informed, more patient and more selective than they ever have been. So recruiters really need to up their game to compete and land the best candidates.

For me, there is one very important question that recruiters must be able to answer in order to keep a top candidate engaged in their recruiting campaign. As mentioned before, the savvy job seeker will ask this key question EVERY time they interview and HOW the recruiter answers it will influence the candidate’s continued interest and involvement with the position for which they are being interviewed for.

The question is pretty straight forward: “Why should I come and work for your company/client? “ In essence, this where the recruiter demonstrates that they have been listening to the candidate so as to determine what is causing them to look for other employment, what their motivators are for making a change and what their job acceptance factors are. If they have truly been actively listening, the recruiter, vis-à-vis answering this question, can now sell/close the candidate on the job opportunity.

Let’s be clear, the “answer” to this question is not things like:

  • Free parking, free coffee, etc.
  • Great location
  • Great/fun co-workers
  • Vacation policy
  • Flexible Hours
  • Social events/social committee
  • “Good” pay and benefits

I think you get the point. Those are all “nice” things that can help define your culture, but for many candidates they are just perks. What the candidate wants to know, and what the recruiter needs to show, is that there is a potential match here for things like:

  • Ability to greater utilize their skills (which are perhaps very underutilized where they are now)
  • Opportunity to work on projects that provide them with a greater/different scope (i.e. as Project Manager)
  • Enhanced opportunities for professional development which may also include the opportunity to obtain a designation (PMP, P.Eng, CHRP, SPHR, CPA, etc.)
  • Opportunity to be mentored by a more senior professional
  • Greater alignment between their personal demands and work life
  • Greater career path for them – whether horizontally or vertically

There are many more “good” answers to this question, but you can clearly see the difference between rhyming off a bunch of work perks to a candidate vs. providing a deeper response(s) that align(s) with their professional goals. At the end of the day, that is what good recruiters can do – align the brand, culture and selling features of the organization with the candidates professional goals. So as recruiters, next job opening you are trying to fill, make sure you can answer that very important question. If you can’t, you have some homework to do. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Idea go/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Reminder to Recruiters – You are in the people business!

Based on what I see and hear from people involved with the job search process, I would describe their experience(s) as nothing short of dehumanizing. Yes, I realize that is quite a generalization and strong statement; however, out of all the candidates, colleagues, friends, family members, etc. that I have spoken with in the past couple of years (who have been job searching and/or approached about jobs) about their experience(s) with recruiters, I would peg the satisfaction level around 5%. (Note – that is based on a completely unscientific survey that was not validated by anyone.) You get my drift though; they haven’t had many positive experiences.

Recruitment wordAdditionally, based on other blog posts and articles I have read on this subject (candidate job search) this seems to be a widespread problem. Bottom line – candidates seem to have a real distaste in their dealings with recruiters. The reasons for their distaste vary; however, it is typically one or more things/experiences from the following list: (keep in mind, I mostly referring to experiences here once a candidate has engaged with a recruiter in some capacity).

  • The recruiter won’t return their calls (like, ever).
  • The recruiter can’t/won’t give them an update on the status of where they are in the process (primarily post-1st interview).
  • No feedback on why they didn’t proceed forward (post-1st interview); or worse yet, someone else is hired and the recruiter didn’t bother to tell the candidate the competition was over.
  • No consideration for the candidate’s ability to interview (i.e. must be done during regular business hours).
  • Lack of discretion when discussing the candidate with other people outside the organization (major pet peeve of mine!)
  • Everything is done piece meal with no respect for the candidate’s time – i.e. interview one day, come back to complete testing another, etc.
  • Overall, no expectations set re. what the candidate can expect as it pertains to the overall hiring process, how the interviews work, anticipated timelines, etc.
  • The recruiter seemed intent on “tricking” them with the type of interview questions asked or the recruiter spent too much time talking about themselves and not interviewing/finding out more about the candidate.

There are many more, but these are some of the real “hot” buttons with candidates. I find that as a profession, we as recruiters often lose sight of our role and what line of business we are in. Let’s be honest with ourselves – we are in the people business. People are our lifeblood and the relationships we have and the experiences we provide these candidates are the currency of our profession. So, as recruiters, the next time we think we are in the requisition filling business, we need to pause for thought and remember what we need in order to fill those reqs. – oh yeah, people! Therefore, doesn’t it make sense to cultivate that resource properly? I mean if we were farmers, we wouldn’t neglect our crops for 2 months and then expect to reap a great harvest would we?

Here is the other thing, by NOT doing those things listed above, you will automatically enhance your professional brand and the employment brand of your company. What easier way could there be to separate yourself from your competition? Simple – start humanizing the recruiting process and the candidate experience and most importantly, treat your candidates like people…the rest is gravy. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Job Seekers – Ask these 10 questions first!

A lot of my writing focuses on human resources, recruiting and leadership. Typically I tend to dispense advice and share ideas and lessons learned as it pertains to the management side of things. For this post, I thought I would flip things around a bit and try and help out some of the job seekers out there.

One of the most important and integral parts of the job search process is/are the interactions that candidates have with agency and/or corporate recruiters. Regardless of which type of recruiter you are interacting with, it is important that you get what you need from them during the recruiting process so that you can make as informed a decision as possible. This Job Seekerbecomes all the more critical if you are nearing the end of the process and an offer may be in order. Here is the thing, before you enter or continue along the recruiting path, you should make sure that you are fully gripped in on the opportunity at hand and are getting the REAL story about the opportunity and the organization. You never want to accept an offer and start a position without knowing as much as possible about the job, the company and the person you are going to be reporting to.

You find out this information by asking the recruiter some key questions. Their responses will let you know whether or not you are dealing with an opportunity that is worth seeing through to the end, or if you are better off walking away and not wasting your time.

It has been my experience that the very best recruiters can answer the following questions (see below) and therefore as a job seeker you know you are dealing with a competent recruiter and thus, a legitimate opportunity and organization. So next time you are contacted by a recruiter and/or begin the process, make sure to ask these questions so you can determine whether you have an opportunity and an organization worth pursuing:

  1. How did this opening become available/why is this position open?
  2. Do you have a job description or performance profile for this position?
  3. What is the salary range?
  4. How is success measured for this position?
  5. Who does the position report to?
  6. Can you describe their management style?
  7. When are you looking to have someone start?
  8. What is the next step/are the next steps in the hiring process?
  9. How would you describe the organizational culture at Company XYZ? Is this the same or different from the departmental culture where this position fits?
  10. What will the three biggest challenges for someone in this position during the first 3/6/12 months.

Bonus question: What job/position is considered to be the next logical progression from this one?

(I never said HR people could count!)

If candidates came armed with these questions it would better help them flush out the right opportunities. I have never met a competent recruiter who couldn’t answer ALL ten of these.   If the person you are dealing with cannot answer all 10, be very wary of what you might be getting yourself into. Bottom line is that the job interview process needs to be one of mutual exchange. The candidate questions are just as important as the recruiter questions.   In fact, when I am recruiting and interviewing, a great deal of information is gleaned from candidates when they ask questions of me and in fact, their line of questioning (or lack thereof) can often make the difference (in their favour) during the selection process. So job-seekers print off this blog post and take these questions with you next time you interview for a position – you will be glad you did. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Photo courtesy of phasinphoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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