Is your Recruiting on solid grounds?

Recruitment, as defined by the Business Dictionary, is the process of finding and hiring the best qualified candidate for a job opening, in a timely and cost-effective manner.  The process itself includes analyzing the requirement of the job – the must haves and the nice to haves, attracting the employees for the same through targeted advertising, screening and selecting applicants, hiring and integrating the new employee to the organization. 

     And during recruiting, there is no such thing as an ideal fit – this never exists. And better fits always costs more, just like a tailor-made suit would be more expensive than the one available readymade in retail stores.   If cost is the main driver and the job opening is budget bound, look for ‘less-expensive’ candidates and settle for someone with lesser experience and a little lesser fit.  If time is of essence, and it is critical to get someone immediately, get the best qualified candidate from the available screened list and hire quickly.    Remember, recruiting comes with several boundary conditions set by the organization and the hiring team.

Now let us dissect each of the verbs in the definition:

  • Analyzing the requirement:  The recruiter must know clearly what exactly is  the hiring team looking out for, what technology area that they want the candidate from, what level of experience  they need, any salary bounds, what compromises can be done, etc.  At the end of this process, it is a good practice to formally quiz the recruiter to ensure he has understood the requirement well and is confident to get the right folks.  
    • The requirements must be clear, precise to the role and realistic– you cannot expect a technical lead or a manager of say 10-12 talents to also do hands-on technical work 100% of the time – if he has to manage talents well, then all he can do is offer technical insight and monitor the work progress of team regularly and sometimes roll up his sleeves and start working.   Managing talents well is an art by itself and if you are looking at successful employees, you need to create successful managers first.   The immediate boss is the embodiment of the entire organization for all his/her employees.
  • Screening:  Based on 2 to 3 essential skill sets that are absolutely needed for the job, the recruiter parses through various job portals and internal referrals and generates a few resumes that will meet the requirement. He must be able to use all different channels to get the best talents, with preference given to local candidates(unless there is a void of skill set in that geography) and look out for a diversified set of candidates who can offer more than what the job requires (but not fall into the trap of over employing anyone).
  • Selecting:  This is done at two levels:  First the filtering of screened resumes by the recruiter through a short call with all the candidates which would translate to a bunch of 5-10 resumes that meet the requirements; from here on, the hiring team actually selects 3-5 resumes and have a direct personal discussion with the candidate.   The recruiter needs to get updated resumes from candidates with their photos attached, and have a video call with them during the first level.  It is important because in certain countries, the so-called candidate who takes the phone interview may not be the candidate who comes for the personal round! Surprise, Surprise!
    • Itis equally important to value the candidate’s time in a similar way the hiring teams time is being managed – having all the necessary personal interviews in one day with the required stakeholders sets the right tone, and the last two interviews must be with the Talent office team who would check on general expectation, soft skills, etc. and a 15 minute wrap up with the hiring manager who would talk about the next steps and thank the candidate for attending.  The first interview must be with the recruiter for 15 minutes who would describe the process being followed during the day and what to expect that day and in the coming weeks.  One must not look at bringing in the candidate each day for every interview which would frustrate the candidates very much. Once selected, it is important to inform all candidates within 2-4 days of the interview, one way or the other.  If the candidates see this professionalism, the company automatically goes high on their potential next employer list.  Every action that the company’s employee does must be with the intent to lure the candidate to join them.   Consider the candidate as the customer irrespective of the market conditions, and you need to sell the opportunity well to them.
    • As part of selecting, it is important to do all the required reference checks – some mandated by the law, and some mandated by the job itself.  Examples can be employment and education verification, professional references that can vouch for the candidate, any required medical checks, license (to operate a vehicle or operate machinery) checks, psychometric tests etc.   Do not roll out an offer without doing these mandated checks.
  • Attracting:  All the candidates called for the personal round needs to be sold about the company – the benefits, the growth potential, the culture and environment of work place, etc. The recruiter must be able to keep the candidates engaged in this process and infuse excitement in them. He must be following up with the candidate every week once the offer is given till (s) he joins so that the candidate ‘feels important that they are valued’.
  • Hiring:  This is when the offer is rolled out and a discussion happens with the candidate around the offer.  If all parameters fit well, it is important to ensure the candidate takes the offer and all efforts should be made by the hiring team to have the candidate on board as soon as possible.  It is also critical for the recruiter to have the second best candidate talked to and ensured that if something goes wrong with the first candidate, this candidate is made to join immediately.   In certain hot markets and hot domains, it is always better to roll out both the offers even for one opportunity so that any last minute absenteeism in joining is taken care of, and since this is a hot domain, there would always be projects available for both the candidates.
  • Integrating:  This is where most of the recruiters and even the organization believe it is not the recruiter’s responsibility.  Essentially since the recruiter has been the single point of candidate prior, it is important that the recruiter takes care of all the candidates till their probation gets over (or first six months) and develop the appropriate training plans for them to fill the voids in skills that are essential and were noticed as gaps during the interview process.  Stopping with a training plan is not enough but they need to ensure that the training gets completed by the candidates.  It is important to have a successful probation to all the candidates joining and this is one of the success metric for any recruiter’s performance appraisal.

     How many of these actions does your recruiter actually do?  Most of them would just parse through some resumes and give it to the hiring team based on their understanding of the requirement, and just schedule the interview. Is it not?

    It is always critical to hire the candidates quickly as due to changing times, the budget for the job opening may not exist for a long time.  Think about the reverse view of the same – if the budget indeed goes away and no one can be recruited in time and the company goes about their work normally, then may be this position was redundant in the first place.   Have you given this a thought?

    Organizations are about people and the quality they bring in.  Knowledge management is about managing the collective intellectual capacity of the employees put together.  It is a known fact now that diversity increases innovation and being innovative gives the company the much needed competitive edge.  Getting new products in newer technologies and offering better solutions to customers always gives one the leadership position. While recruiting, it is important to have the best recruiters for the job who understands the job fitment and requirements better, is on top of the market conditions, has a good knowledge about the organization from both the strategic and tactical sides and one who has had lengthy conversations with the hiring manager to understand what is absolutely essential for the role and what are the nice haves.  They must be able to make a judgement call on what the candidate brings in to the equation, more than what the job actually prefers and sell them back to the hiring team.

    Recruitment is more about the process of getting the employee into the organization, rather than the end product (employee). Recruitment is about acquiring the best talent there is available, and ensuring (s)he is welcome in such a way that they give their best to the company.  It just should not stop in screening, scheduling interviews and rolling out an offer letter – these are just a few tasks that are part of the process. 

     Let us NOT confuse recruitment  with Human resources (I hate this name personally – prefer to call it Talent Office) as latter is about ensuring the employees lives a good career inside the company by giving him/her  the best in terms of opportunities, growth, responsibilities, work-life, etc.  Once you call an employee a resource, our mind has the nasty habit of looking at them as machines and not humans which is not healthy.  Recruitment can be part of the Talent office though, as long as their roles and responsibilities are clearly specified and understood.  The PEOPLE office hence should have at least three verticals that have some overlaps in their functionality – Recruitment, Talent Office and Learning & Development.  And let us be clear who has the responsibility of hiring – it belongs to the hiring manager ONLY and the recruitment team is just a facilitator in the process.

      Recruitment should ideally own integration of the employee for their first six months and should own their training and development during this period to ensure proper training takes place for the employee so that he is more successful in his job – this is filling the voids they found during recruitment which are needed in the job.    He works with the L&D department to ensure that the needed courses are properly scheduled.  A proper way to appraise the performance of a recruiter is to correlate it from the probationary performance appraisal of the recruit after 6 months.  If he has brought the best and made him better in the first few months, then this recruiter is a golden egg for the organization.   

     Talking about appraising the recruiter, a few KRIs have to be listed: 

  • How good was the engagement of the new employee between the time of the offer and the day they join as measured by the employee’s feedback on the joining date?  A good way to measure is how quickly he has facilitated the candidate to join – minimal is better.   Also you can also infer the recruiter’s performance through the acceptance number compared to the offers rolled out.
  • How good was the skill fitment based on the feedback from the interviewing panel – this would really give you an indicator how good pre-filtering was done by the recruiter?     If this is not happening well within the first couple of candidates, I guess another talk with the recruiter by the hiring team is essential.
  • How many resumes did the recruiter manage to qualify and how many of them were appropriate – Qualify just means that the candidate has most of the skills needed for the job, and being appropriate is measured by talking to the potential employee and going through the resume and seeing whether the skills required for the new job was actually worked upon by the candidate and the candidate fits into all the conditions of the hiring team– for this, the recruiter needs to be knowledgeable in the area he is recruiting from, and this goes back to the previous point, look out for a recruiter who has been in the same area for many years.   While sourcing resumes, how many channels did he use to get the resumes – referral, social media, sourcing consultants, etc.?   Reducing recruitment cost would be a good criterion which may translate to using the sourcing consultants as a last resort only. 
  • Feedback from the hiring manager and the interview panel, and the employee on the joining day about the technical knowledge and professional conduct of the recruiter is also another measure.
  • Key element nowadays is diversity and minority recruitment –the  more diverse the company is, more different perspectives comes into any decision which makes it more effective.  Diversity is measured by two angles – how diverse the set of candidates are in terms of gender, age, experience, etc. and how diverse are the skills sets of any candidate which may translate to buying more for the same price – you can either catch a shrimp or a whale with the same fishing technique!  Studies show that diversity increases innovation which translates to better operations for the company.  Is the recruiter voluntarily or involuntarily rejecting experienced candidates?  The last point is more prevalent in emerging markets as more experience is usually directly correlated to higher salary, they consciously want to fit a younger profile within the company and they wrongly associate experience with non-trainability.
  • Did the recruiter document what the person needs to be trained at during the first few months to carry out his work effectively and was this mapped back to what the interview panel actually found? A training chart has to be published for every candidate by the recruiter in assistance with the hiring team as part of the probationary process.
    • An evaluation after 6 months whether the employee really met the requirements based on his skills and training and how effective he was performing at his job.

    I always believe in the “Rule of Two”.  Ensure you have two and only two technical or domain skills (non soft skills) that one needs to qualify a candidate.  More the number of skills, the lesser the number of resumes that can qualify.    Usually testing technical skills is more objective and testing soft skills is more subjective. The more senior the role is, it is imperative that the candidate comes in with loads of honed soft skills.   The more quickly you need a candidate, the more compromising you need to be as filling up a role may be more important than finding that exact candidate. Sometimes close enough is good enough as long as a good on-the-job training is planned.  The faster the need to  ramp up a team, it is best to have a daily lunch session with hiring panel to look at resumes, select a few and speeden the process.

   When the hiring manager sits in some other site than where the job opening is, and this is common with multi nationals having teams outside of their headquarters, the most common complaint (s)he has is the lack of transparency of the  recruitment process and the quality and quantity of resumes he gets.  Again, the hiring process is owned by the hiring manager and given the global nature of today’s work force, it is imperative that good regular communication happens with the recruiter to ensure they get the best candidates for the interview process and to keep the pressure on the recruiter to get the best.      

    Hiring managers need to ensure the following during recruitment:

  • Is the recruiter the right person for the job?  Does he understand the technology that the company works in?  Is he someone who has been through many industries or focused on your own industry?  Is the recruiter capable of asking relevant questions to the candidates?  It is always good to interview the recruiter first and ensure the expectations are correct and the ‘two must haves’ are applicable to all candidates.
  • Set the success criteria and how many qualified appropriate resumes you would want to see every week and how many interviews needs to be scheduled and with whom.
  • Is the recruiter getting a good mix of screened candidates from different channels? Is he consistently getting only sub-standard candidates?  If this is the case, immediate having a quick discussion with the recruiter would help to ensure the proper correction happens.   From a practical perspective, there is a stronger likelihood of a ‘local’ candidate joining the organization than one from another city – make it a point to source more ‘local’ candidates.
  • More importantly, are there any compromises happening on the ethics front?  Is the recruiter working hand in glove with certain external consultants and are they having some ‘understanding’ in the background?  It is not uncommon to notice this if you look hard. Recruiting, along with vendor management and facilities management, are few of the common roles where ‘income from other sources’ is not so uncommon.
    •  It is time to get suspicious if the recruiter always sticks to a set of consultants even if they do not give proper resumes and keeps blaming the market for the quality, and is not able to accept resumes from other consultants with whom you would have better experience in your earlier avatar.  It is better to audit the whole exercise after every recruit to see if any violation has been there for business excellence.  
    • You can get suspicious if you have called a few candidates for interview, and only one stands out as the ‘closest match’ – this may mean that the other candidates are just ‘fillers’ having been set-up by the recruiter who would know well in advance they would be rejected for various reasons (technical fit, salary, etc.).  It is an expectation that all the 4-5 candidates that get interviewed face-to-face must be close enough to choose from which means the recruiter had done a fantastic job.
    • In a few cases, in larger private or publicly held organizations, candidates pay money to get a job. Then the recruiter works with certain senior managers within to interview and select ‘this candidate’  and everyone gets a piece of the pie.  Nobody notices such infraction because this is just some little noise in one tiny corner of a huge company.
  • Is the recruiter doing his best to get good referrals from existing employees?  This is the best way to get good results as good employees always get good referrals and they can also start engaging with the potential candidates to make them join earlier.   The referral bonus schemes must also be motivating enough for the employees to bring in good folks. Never let go of a referral from your super performer – the chances are they are also good.   Even here, there are incidents where the recruiter would sell the referred candidates to the hiring manager only if offered ‘some piece of the referral bonus’ – one way to beat this is to ensure the existing employees refer their candidate formally through the internal system and send a brief note directly to the hiring manager and recruiter about their friend.
  • It is also equally important to interview all external consultants and be measuring their contributions regularly.   It is imperative you put some hard expectations on the recruitment consultants and not necessarily go with whom your recruiters go with.  You may know a particular consultant from a different organization that has done wonders for you and it is always nice to invoke their services so that you know what you are getting. 
  • If you are recruiting for fresh graduates, are you recruiting from the very best of institutes? Yes, they could have higher expectation but if you want the best of talent, this is the best avenue to bring in the best. Remember, a second tier institute usually may not shape up a good well-rounded candidate.

        The company itself must ensure they do not advertise for external candidates, even if this is part of a process they need to follow if they have some candidates already in mind for the opportunity.  This can be disappointing and discouraging for the external candidates.   They should think of rotating certain ‘valuable’ employees to newer roles and look out for their replacement in their former roles. Also ‘selfish’ managers here must also let go of their good employees to other roles with the organization if the talent is interested, and the senior management must mandate that a good percentage of senior roles be filled only by internal candidates – this would be great for global companies to transfer employees  to other countries. Look out for managers readily offering some of their employees as this could be ‘bad performing ‘employees that they want to get rid of.   This happens! Merit must have its way and only the better performing employees must be given opportunities with the company that they want to pursue.

      They must look around only if they cannot fill with any internal candidates and once they feel they need to go out, then all external candidates must be viewed on equal footing, except may be for internal referrals.   The recruiter must also keep his or her options open and must not have ‘someone’ in mind while he starts screening the candidates, as it would sound hollow when he talks in a more ‘eliminating voice’ even during the first call.    An example here would be to pick on something not related to the job and he may say “you do not seem to have this”, “your experience does not relate directly to what we want” – if you have been called, it looks like you have been qualified for screening and these statements just give a negative vibe.  And the worst thing is when he is trying to lowball you on the salary front even in the first call which is something uncalled for – he may say “your experience is much higher than what we want” or “you seem to have worked in unrelated areas than what we need”. The proper way is to go through the resume with the candidate over this call, and understand what each other’s want rather than making initial decisions during the call itself.       

     Now the debate is how many recruiters does a company need?  A company, however big they can be, does not necessarily need a big full time recruitment team, but just a handful permanent trustworthy team who would be able to standardize the process across recruiters who can be hired on contract for a specific time period.  The on-contract recruiters should be paid based on the metrics listed above and the small recruitment team must have a smaller base pay and a high variable pay so that they work for the best interest of the company, similar to the way the top executives are getting measured.

     Recruiting  less experienced candidates  (< 12 years) works more on “What You Know” basis whereas for more experienced candidates (> 12 to 15 years) it usually works on “Whom you Know” basis.  Hence it is important to have an extensive professional network as your career progresses, and keep oneself ahead of the technology by acquiring new technical skills every 3-5 years.   Senior leadership would always bring in the folks who they were comfortable working with and whom they can trust – there would always be enough churns at the senior level when a new CEO is appointed externally who would more likely get his ‘comrades’ from prior organization to be placed at critical positions and since the ‘old gang’ becomes uneasy with this, they start to attrite and this is an opportunity for other external seniors to fill in these positions.  Have you not seen this happen? Infosys now under Vishal Sikka is top heavy with former SAP employees!

     Recruitment in one geography can be totally different from another, and similarly recruiting for certain technology areas can be tougher than others.   Some companies have turned recruitment process to an art , and on the other side of the spectrum, in many companies it would look more like a joke because you do not feel that they on top of things when it comes to recruiting.  Recruitment can be tough when the market is hot as it would be difficult to get the right candidates but there are personal ways any recruiter can role model best intent to get the right people even in those tough markets.  At the end of the day, a company wants a good talent pool who can passionately contribute to the organization and this is possible only with a strong recruiter driving things properly.

    In these days, where there are more recruiting consultants than the available jobs, obvious if you get calls from different sources for the same position, recruiting the best need not be a challenge. There are enough smart talents out there who will be thrilled to join a good organization if approached properly and engaged professionally.  The success of the team unfortunately is directly related to the recruiter one has and hence getting the most knowledgeable, ethical recruiter with excellent communication is the need of the hour.

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