Published on CFO innovation ASIA
Sins of Recruitment: How Not to Hire the Best Talent
by Brad Remillard, 11 June 2012
I recently asked over 100 CEOs and their key executives: "Is hiring top talent critical to the success of your organization?" Not surprising everyone replied:"Yes, it is critical." Not simply important, but critical.
So then I asked: "If it is critical, then how much time each month is spent focusing on hiring, excluding when you are actively looking to fill a position?" Only three people raised their hand.
Something that is critical to the success of the organization gets virtually zero time unless there is a current need. Is that the way most critical issues are handled in your company? No strategic planning? No thought or action discussed or taken until the problem arises? Only when the problem arises is it dealt with. Until then, it's "Out of sight, out of mind" or "We will cross that bridge when we get there."
Most other critical issues are regularly discussed. On-going programs such as cost reduction, product development, increasing sales or market share, customer service, improving operational efficiencies are all constantly discussed and are often major components of the company's strategic plan.
I have seen many strategic plans that all have great plans for growth, yet few ever include a strategy for hiring the people needed to execute the plan as the company grows. Strategic hiring is rarely part of a strategic plan.
I believe companies that truly want to hire top talent and do it on a consistent basis must avoid these four major land mines when hiring.
This is hands down the number one reason why hiring fails. Few managers are actually properly trained how to hire. Most have never even attended one course or read a book on hiring. For the few that have had training, it is usually limited to interviewing training. Granted this is better than nothing, but interviewing is only one step in an effective hiring process.
If you aren't finding qualified candidates, all the interviewing training will do is validate that they aren't qualified. If the job isn't properly defined, then you may be looking in the right place for the right candidates. You may then waste a lot of time interviewing unqualified candidates.
The fact is the vast majority of managers use the "Tribal Hiring Training" program. Too often a person learns to hire from the person that hired them. And the person that hired them learned from the person that hired them, and so it goes all the way back to Moses. All this really does is perpetuate hiring mistakes from one generation the next. It doesn't resolve the problem.
If companies are serious about improving hiring, step one is to develop an effective hiring process and then training every manager in all aspects of the process.
Poorly Defined Job
This mistake results in the search going sideways before it even starts. Traditional job descriptions for the most part aren't job descriptions at all. Most describe a person.
Does this read like your job descriptions? Minimum five years' experience. BA degree required. Then a list of minimum skills/knowledge and certifications. And let's not forget the endless list of behaviors the candidate must have: team player, high energy, self-starter, strategic thinker, good communicator.
This traditional job description defines a minimum qualified person, not the job. So before the search starts, it is all about finding the least qualified person. Any wonder why the least qualified person shows up at your door?
Instead of defining the least qualified person, start by defining superior performance in the role or the results expected to be achieved once the person is on board. For example:
Improve customer service feedback scores from X to Y
Reduce turnover from X% to Y% within the next 12 months
Implement a sales forecasting process that includes a rolling three-month forecast that is accurate within X% of actual sales
Now this is the real job. It defines expectations, not some vague terms or minimum requirements.
For every job, there are usually at least four of these results required. The job is being defined by performance. In order for the person to be able to achieve these results, they must have the right experience. Maybe it is five years, maybe three or maybe ten, it doesn't matter. If they can fulfil the expectations, it is enough.
Now go find a person that can explain how they will deliver these once they are on board. Now you have the right person.
Again, this is one of the biggest problems faced by companies. It happens as a result of poorly defined jobs. Most companies search for the least qualified candidates to start with, then complain all they are seeing are unqualified candidates.
The other issue causing this problem is that most companies start the hiring process too late. They wait until they absolutely need someone. They expect that when they decide they are ready to hire, at that moment in time, top talent will magically appear on the market. These people will then be compelled to update their resume and respond to the company's minimum job description. Yes – and a multimillion-dollar customer will magically call too.
Reactive hiring is a thing of the past. Hiring top talent requires proactive hiring. This means your hiring managers must be in the market engaging people all the time. They should be connecting with people on LinkedIn, they should be involved in professional associations, and commit at least an hour or two a month to hiring.
Few managers spend anytime engaging potential candidates when they aren't actively hiring. In fact, many even discard resumes as they come in if they aren't hiring. Finding top talent doesn't take a lot of time each month, but it does take a consistent monthly effort of an hour or two.
Disrespecting the Candidates
Top talent, especially those candidates working, who are in no hurry to make a job change and are referred to as passive candidates, will walk away from a manager or company if they aren't respected in the interviewing process.
Some common complaints by candidates about being disrespected include the hiring manager being late for the interview. Few managers would look kindly at a candidate who is lated. So why is it acceptable for the manager to be late?
Lack of preparation by the interviewer – again, if the candidate came in unprepared would that be acceptable? Taking calls during the interview. Finally, telling the candidate that if they have any further questions to call them, then ignoring the calls. If managers don't respect the candidate during the hiring process, the candidate is justified in thinking it isn't going to get any better once they are hired.
The interview is a PR event. Candidates will make sure others know how they were treated. They may post it on a website. They may hear that a person they know is interviewing at the company and speak with them about their experience. Bad PR is never a good thing. This is an easy thing to fix. It only takes treating candidates the same way you would treat a customer.
About the Author
Brad Remillard is a Founding Partner of IMPACT Hiring Solutions  in the U.S. and co-author of You're Not the Person I Hired  and This is Not the Position I Accepted . He is an international speaker, retained executive recruiter, and expert on hiring and retaining top talent and executive job search.