Recruiting In 3D

Back from Hiatus – All the Fun of a Vacation without the Vacation

So it’s been a while since I put any new material up here. Since the end of the year, I’ve had my share of things going on which kept me away from contributing here – but not from all sites (more on that below). So let’s see, what have I done since the end of 2010:

  • Potty trained a two year old – when in doubt, offer M&Ms. TRUST ME my wife on this one
  • Started my MBA program, and am about half way through – Kicking ass and taking names with straight A’s. Anyone who knew me in college in the late 90’s knows that A’s for me in Accounting and Economics classes defy all known logic. Coming in 2012/2013 – Yours Truly with an MBA in Human Resources Management.
  • Continuing to build upon the foundation for the recruitment process at my current employer. Adding many needed processes, some of which are tedious. Raise a glass if you’ve ever had to implement a Digital I9. Now chug said glass, because it can be mind-numbing.
  • Remodeled the bathroom – much needed. One day I’ll post a picture of the rug that was our bathroom floor in that room for years. (Nausea sets in)

I’ve been fortunate to be asked to guest blog on a few sites and also had a short stint as a ghost blogger on a site that gained huge popularity in a short time frame. Alas, it is no longer, but it was a GREAT ride while it lasted and it was great to have a forum to talk about the real issues with pure anonymity.

I’ll have a guest spot as a co-blogger coming up soon on a very popular site, and I’m excited about the content. It gave me yet another outlet for my snarky side. (MOI?)  It’s a great piece and I’m excited to see the reaction from the community at large.

One of the best parts of my hiatus was having the chance to participate in the planning for recruitDC, a great networking event for recruiting professionals in the DC area, which I spoke at last year. This year I was a part the planning committee, which was a great opportunity to work with some of the most incredibly talented recruitment minds in the DC area and beyond – but in a more behind-the-scenes fashion. It was a tremendous success, and I’m looking forward to the next event where we can build upon the success. I’ll have a full rundown of that event, but here’s a peek at the slide decks to whet your appetite.

I could add in 100 other points of minutiae here and bore you to death (HEY, wake UP!) but I won’t. Instead, I’m just going to jump back in to the routine and get back to doing what I do, adding my two cents in about the world of work, HR, and Recruiting – with the occasional foray into some non-recruiting topic.  I’ll have some new content coming, including my takes on:

  • Employee Referral Programs
  • The new laws that are making life in recruiting and HR more difficult by the minute
  • Reference checking tips for candidates

Keep an eye out for a badly-needed site redesign which I’ll be working on this summer. It may even be time to pony up for a URL. Maybe.

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What Do Applicant Assessments Tell Us, Anyway?

You’ve seen it. Maybe you’ve lived it. Maybe you had to implement it, and you may even have taken it. The dreaded pre-employment assessment. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some of the more common types in the market are Wonderlic, Myers-Briggs, and Gallup. Sure, they are all legal, and legally defensible in court, and are praised by a vast amount of executives far and wide. But what do they really tell you?

Choices, Choices.

The types of information sought on these assessments can vary widely – from personality types, to sales acumen, to analytical skills. But in the end, how much does it really tell you about the employee you are about to hire. There are several areas to consider when looking at potentially using a pre-employment assessment.

1. What are you looking for?
If you are seeking people who have strong analytical skills, then an employment assessment that measures this might be a way to go. But without having to over-customize a solution, can you effectively get what you need? In most cases, a cookie-cutter assessment may seem like a one-size fits all, but it’s leaving out critical components about who is actually taking the assessment. A Director of Product Management may score vastly different from a Statistical Data Analyst, depending on how much of their day-to-day is spent in a purely analytical world. And, are you having your sales reps take the same assessment as these purely analytical candidates?

2. What kind of metrics are you assessing to validate the impact of these assessments on your hiring process?
Assessment without analysis is just testing. You have to look at your core metrics on this. If the point of testing is the reduce turnover in key critical roles, and to make sure that people in these roles are highly promotable, then you need to look at the data. Having detailed components about turnover, promotion rates, and performance reviews is critical in seeing how valuable this assessment toll has proven. If you can’t put a finger on seeing where the value was added (i.e. a 15% reduction in turnover in the inside sales group), then you just have a bunch of test scores. Considering the pricing on many of these products, that’s an awful lot of money spent on anecdotal data. Considering that HR is already a department that most companies consider overhead, we have to spend wisely.

3. Do executives put more weight in the assessment more than the people interviewing and selecting the candidate?
If you have C-Level people weighting the outcome of the assessment ahead of the other critical stages of the interview process (Resume, experience, interview & interview feedback, references, and background checks), then something is wrong. You’ll almost inevitably lose proven and potential “A” players because they refuse to be judged from an assessment, and/or you let them get away because some test score said they weren’t up to snuff. “A” players don’t have to tolerate the cynicism that comes with being judged on test scores alone.

I’ve worked in companies where if the test score was not a certain number, there was no hire – end of story. I think about all the people in the world who are great at writing the 30 page paper, but who are not good testers. Conversely, how many people can ace tests, but not come up with core analytical takeaways from a project? It’s a balance, and as I said above, needs to be looked at as PART of the process, not as the litmus for the WHOLE process.

4. Is the assessment linked to your organizations key indicators of success and performance?
If it is, then you can truly use this as a potential indicator for future success. Dr. Charles Handler really does some nice work in presenting views in this arena. If you’re seriously considering implementing something, his research and articles might be a good spot to start. He has a great deck on Slideshare, that might be worth reviewing.

Assessment for the sake of saying “well, we tested them, and they did well/poor” is a waste of valuable interviewer and recruiter time. I’m not 100% in favor on pre-employment assessments, nor am I 100% against. As with most people, I’m somewhere in the middle.

Please feel free to share your thoughts on this.

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You are the Red-Headed Stepchild. Embrace it.

Recruiting is classically the red-headed stepchild of any organization. It’s just a fact of life. You’ve known it, you’ve either embraced it or you’ve spent the better part of your career trying to fight it. But when it boils down, we hear the same things. “Its an operational role”, “They are not a revenue-generating department” “All they do is shuffle paperwork”. Yep, all of these sound familiar to you if you have been in recruiting for any significant period of time.

Is it true? Probably not. Think about it – sure, we are an operational unit, and yes, we probably are responsible for more deforestation than any other team in a company (But we’re all starting to digitize, right?!?). What I cannot get over, and trust me I’ve fought this battle in my head for years, is the “non-revenue generating” claim. Exactly who do you think produces the candidates from thin air who DO generate the revenue? Without a strong recruiting function, there aren’t any “rainmakers”, “sales kings” or any other fancy name you want to derive. We may not hit the P&L as “sales”, but almost all of our jobs involve a level of sales, and showmanship.

What we really need to do (and this includes me, TRUST ME), is to just embrace the fact that there are some perceptions we may just never overcome, no matter how much data and “metric-y” information we provide. What you can do, is to build a trust and rapport with those in your organization who will ultimately recognize the value of a strong recruiting function. By doing this, you’ll be building an army of supporters who can voice to the organization that they just can’t live without you. Having that voice be speaking on your behalf will ultimately get you the seat at the table you so desperately want. That, and solid data to prove what you contribute. Not just time to fill, and applicant source data. Data that speaks to the revenue generating side – cost effectiveness, business savvy with contracts (job boards etc.) How much money did you save by employing your vast set of skills. Sales folks don’t just say “hey I closed 3 deals this month!”. They say “hey I closed 3 deals this month worth $425,000!” You can be an efficient recruiter, but be sure to quantify HOW efficient you’ve been.

If you don’t, the beatings will continue.

Authors Note:
Sadly, I wasn’t sure sure how the phrase “red-headed stepchild” came about, but I got curious and looked. You should too. Looks like we have Charlie Sheen to thank, at least in part.

Thanks Charlie - you've doomed us all.

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Cover letters? Are We Thin-Slicing Recruiting?

What is it with the love affair people have with cover letters? Is it professional? Sure. Is it a nice way to give a complete presentation of your professionalism? Check. Does it show you completed a basic course in business writing in college? Probably. But is it absolutely necessary to have in order to be considered a top candidate for a role? In my opinion, no. But that would differ from a great deal of opinions from people in the Twittersphere and Blogosphere right now.

There are a number of people out there who feel the cover letter is an essential piece of the puzzle, and key in determining the validity of a candidate. Just this week, there was banter out there on Twitter about how one Twitster would toss out the resume of a candidate who did not have a cover letter! Really? Are you that flush with candidates that you can just arbitrarily throw out potential stars because they didn’t have the obligatory “pick me” letter? I’d be hard pressed to believe that is the case with many companies in many areas, where the pool for talent is being thinned by everyone, and in a market where a large percentage of seekers are top performers, hit hard by the economy.

What I don’t get, is what are you getting from the cover letter that ensures that this candidate is better than everyone else who doesn’t have one? Writing skills? Ok, sure, but won’t the resume give you some inclination of the writing skills? Or the e-mails you have traded back and forth with them (assuming you DID e-mail with them). Most importantly, won’t their previous experience, and the phone call that you have with them tell you a bit more accurately if they are the right choice? Thing is, I think we’re becoming to focused on the quick hit, the “thin-slicing” of the recruiting process, to steal a phrase from Malcom Gladwell’s book, Blink. Don’t mistake me, recruiting is a quick moving, minute-by-minute profession, but we also need to step back at times, and make sure we’re taking in the full picture. Too often, we see no cover letter, and think “oh well they are not professional”, or “they couldn’t take the time to write me a personal cover letter?”

Lest we forget, that in this day and age, it’s becoming profitable to be a cover letter or resume writer. Do a quick search on Twitter for “cover letter” and you’ll get a minimum of 5 services in the 1st 25 tweets, for people peddling their services. (I’m not knocking it as a profession, it’s actually quite a needed service for some folks.) But, let’s remember that there’s a better than average chance, the cover letter you covet (too much ‘cov-” there? Ah, I digress) so much has a good probability of being written by someone else anyway, so it’s still not giving you the indicator of the candidate you want.

We need not kill off the cover letter. I think it’s a nice touch, and I’ll read it if there is one. But that said, let’s not let it become the determining standard. As with social media, it’s not the end game, its not the sole strategy, but more of a tool in the arsenal.

What a lovely segue to my follow-up post.

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2009 – Whew, I am EXHAUSTED

Quite a year. Quite a decade, come to think of it. I’ve had some time to reflect recently on the last year, and also the last decade – Having to drive up and down the eastern seaboard does that do a man. I’ve come to know quite a bit in the last decade, my first one in the recruiting industry. But first, the year in review:

  • Changing jobs is never going to be easy. No matter how many times I’ve done it, or will do it going forward, its never easy. It might be right, but never easy.
  • 2009 was the year Social Media truly crossed over into acceptance. You know why? Data. And data doesn’t lie. It also helps you to get budget money.
  • There is a balance for work life and personal life. I’m not sure I’ve found the crux of said balance, but I got much closer this year.

All in all 2009 was a good year, per se. Hey, I’ve had worse. But raising a 16 month old, trying to be a good dad and husband, all while working, and doing all the things that life entails is truly exhaustive.

From the rest of the 00’s, or whatever the hell we’re calling this decade, I learned/determined, or was otherwise informed:

  • Recruiting without passion for it, is just not the same. I’ve seen great passion and great lack thereof. Great passion wins out every time, and makes more money.
  • The best recruiting bosses, are the ones who have been recruiters. Those that have not, well,……you know.
  • Social Media changed the way I do my job, the way I approached it, and grew my love for it. Calling resumes and scouring Monster, CareerBuilder, and the like, would have driven me out a long time ago.
  • This is a people business – if you can’t work with people, get out now. You don’t have to LOVE people, but you need to be able to sell, relate and empathize – everyday.
  • Be curious. No one is asking you to be a generalist, but know how all the pieces move together. With that, comes respect from others.
  • Let your career take you. It’s an exponentially more fun ride, that forcing everything.
  • Find a mentor. Be a mentor. Both help you to be your best, and having one helps you find the joy in the darkest of recruiting days.
  • Speaking of dark days – this profession is the worlds wildest roller coaster. The highs are high, and the downs are as low as you can imagine. Just remember at each end, it always shifts back and forth.

The best advice anyone gave me? Two pearls of wisdom:
“Remember, you are dealing with people, its the most unpredictable commodity in the world.”

“Treat people as though you were sitting on that side of the phone, because one day you just may be.”

Cheers in the New Year all. Do what you love, and do it well.

Twas a wild and wacky decade

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