Ethical Hiring

There is an adage ” If you are an experienced professional, it is whom you know and not what you know that lands you a job”. I have got friends who had worked with me in yesteryears who have more belief in me than myself on me. Interestingly such good buddies do refer me to interesting opportunities that they feel I would fit in(sometimes I may not have that confidence honestly), mostly due to my soft skills and leadership skills.
But the way most of the hiring works at the senior level is someone gets selected and then the job gets advertised to fill statistics unfortunately. And the highest filter takes place at the recruiter’s end (wrongfully called as ‘talent’ acquisition folks) – and these filters do not have a clue most of the time as to what the job really entails, but they send their pre-selected lists to the hiring manager who disposes off the profiles accordingly.
When these recruiters call, first you can very well say that after 10 minutes into the conversation, they are just having a small talk because it came through a ‘referral’ internally that they cannot bypass. They seem to be so disinterested in listening to you. After the usual few minutes, as you know, they would close the call with “we will get back to you”. Then nothing happens.
For senior roles, you need to check what the candidate brings in to the table and what value he adds rather than fitting exactly to the description and ticking the skills against the profile. Have a holistic view – you can still reject on some mandated criteria
I had a certain experience recently of an interesting opportunity that this head recruiter calls because someone internally had pushed my profile. I was on a vaccination week for my mom and myself and I had informed I would be available the next day at a particular time. He agrees, no call comes, I followed up and no response comes and two weeks later, I called up my referral to see what is happening and the referral tells me that the head recruiter had called me many times and sent many messages and no response came from my end and hence he had informed that I was not interested. No calls or messages ever happened. Such is the ethics. Do I even want to trust this company anymore? Usually such behavioral pattern gets established by the senior team and this trickles down. The message this recruiter just gave me is to avoid this company at any cost. If this is the experience I have now, even if something positive happens, I would not trust anything that they would say – this speaks a lot about the company and its management itself.
We keep having such discussions with my ex colleagues, and almost everyone have the same experience many times over. Best hiring takes place when the actual hiring manager and his team filters the candidates and chooses whom to call and not have recruiters send him the profiles that they select – yes, the volumes would be high but your people are good investment if you are serious.

When do you need a job?

Irony of any job seekers: When you want a job, you cannot get it. But when you find a job, you do not need it then. Unfortunate. If you are satisfied where you are and your boss supports you, there is no reason for a change but this is when all these calls happen.
Always remember, in a free world, you cannot be locked in forever. And when it rains, it pours. Realize there are no such thing as a bad situation, it is you who has to create outcomes based on whatever situation gets presented to you. Keep the faith and be positive.
Yes, you would see a lots of recruiters who do not respond back and this speaks a lot about the company you want to join. Yes they do get lots of profiles but there is no harm in sending a note as a process for everyone who applies(remember this can be automated as well).
Make the best of what you have at that time

Recruiting the right talent

   Once someone sees a job advertisement in the local newspaper or on social media, and if one feels that they do fit into the role, one immediately applies. Then of course, you are in dark days where nothing happens, and one goes from applying from one to another trying out their luck.

    But recruitment as such is both an art and a science:  art because many a times we are very ambiguous in what we are asked to look out for, and science because there does lie a process behind it, although it is hardly being practiced religiously.  Usually they companies are looking for that ‘missing piece’ in a jigsaw puzzle that has to ‘fit exactly’ – this is what they want ideally.

    Nowadays, I find in every company there are three divisions:  Human resources (either general or business oriented), Recruitment and Staffing, and then Learning and Development.  Eventually all fall under the Human Resources department.  I have a philosophical problem with the word “ resources” – this means people are treated like machines.  On one hand, the corporate big wigs talk about their people being their Intellectual property (IP), their Knowledge Solutions, their  Talents that they nurture and on the other hand, they have a department that maps them as a resource.  Finding a talent, training them regularly and retaining them is a continuous process and this has to be individually based, rather than a policy document or an objective in some performance assessment.  People have to be recruited  slightly differently based on whether it is a product development organization or a professional solutions organization. Then as a large team, they talk about ‘Pyramid fit’.

    What should a recruiter ideally do in order to get the best talent available into his or her organization?

Capture/Document:  The expectation of the hiring manager must be very clear to the person who is looking out for profile. The required technology skills and the soft skills have to be enumerated in order of priority.  It is better to have three Must haves and three nice to haves.  If one cannot capture the exact requirement in 6 lines, then one cannot recruit properly.  It is always desired for a hiring manager to put in everything that he thinks it is important, but it is like a matrimonial match – you cannot ever get an exact wife!  One needs to understand that the recruiter has to select the best fish that fits the size somehow from the ocean full of fishes. So, capturing the requirements and expectation must be the very first step. This is the reference for the recruiter to start his work

Research/Study:  It is not a given that the recruiter may be versed in the area that he is recruiting.  It is better for him to research and study the area or the technology that the recruitment is happening for, so that he is aware of the key jargons and outlier areas that may be interested as well. It is imperative that he understands what is that he is looking out for, given that he has a published reference point before him.

Search:  Now he scouts for the best fitting profiles and also uses his judgement to see if any outlying areas does fit the requirement as an extrapolative guess.  He must be able to see the profiles, make a quick call to understand the candidate and have a folder with 6-8 profiles that he deems are the best fit available.  It is always better to do a video call of the candidate at the very first instant so that there is a personal connect with the person. A quick 15 minutes call would be more than sufficient. This is just a pre-selection and once you are convinced, you must have the candidate send his updated profile across with an embedded photo. If he is able to send his profile within a day, we have some sort of assurance that the candidate is also showing interest.

Shortlist:  Based on the screening calls, a recruiter must confidentally be able to shortly 4 candidates now to further interview processes within the organization.  It would also be better if someone from the technical side is able to wet the candidates at this point with a quick call to ensure this fitment is there.  It is always better to avoid calling in more candidates for a  Face to Face than needed.

Select:  This selection MUST NOT be done by recruiter nor anyone from the human resources , nor do they have a right to reject. Selection is always done by the hiring manager as the candidate would be reporting to him and he has to be fully accountable for the same.  And al the final interviews must be done within a day and must be done face to face (F2F) and not spread across many days and over phone – this gives a professional look for the candidate as he comes in and leaves with a feeling that he is indeed joining a professionally run organization or a group.  From here on, the engagement with the candidate should be through the hiring manager and no more the recruiter. This gives a professional touch to the entire organization and makes the candidate very proud that he is wanted and  gets a feeling that he is already engaged with the group he is to join. One of the inputs to the selection process should be given mandatorily by the human resources person, both a generic HR and a business HR as they view the candidate from two different lights – this would include all the behavioural skill they had observed during the interview and the financial numbers (budget ted vs present and expected numbers of the candidates) – they must be able to sell the entire organization at a high level during this interaction.  A good 30 minutes must be spent with all interviewees and all inputs collected and decisions must be arrived at – select one, have one backup and reject two.  The hiring manager calls up all the four candidates and gives them the message within a day of interview and not later. For  the backup, one can just say we can looking at him for a different role to give a positive spin and this may take a little while for you to get back. This process is the best remembered by the candidate and they carry memories of the organization and the group here. The files are sent back to human resources department for further processes of hiring.

Secure:  I added this step as this is usually missed by any recruiter.  Once we have the selected candidate, it is important for the recruiter who called him in the first place to keep the channels with the candidate open and keep him engaged with the group and organization. Having a 5 minute call every week or so would be most ideal.  Any questions the candidates may ask can be referred to the right authority and information fed back to the candidate appropriately. By ‘securing’ him,  one knows for sure the candidate joins. If not kept engaged, you may have a no show during the joining day and the process has to repeat.  Atleast during this engagement one gets a feel of what is going to happen.  Depending on the market conditions, if it is especially for the skills you are hiring to, one can do two things:  Add a hiring bonus as a carrot (based on the person joining within a month) and making an offer for both the primary and backup candidate – this way you have a higher probability that one of them would join. If both join, it is merrier as there can always be a place for a candidate that the team selected and more work can be added to the groups plate.

How do you measure the recruiter’s work?  We used to have a metric that measures success by number of resumes screened and shortlisted that has been sent to the number of candidates selected. It has to be 33% and above (some product development companies have 25% and above), meaning one out of the three shortlisted is selected. If over 5 jobs that this is lesser than 25%, then it very well says the recruiter is not doing his job well.  We usually have this metric of 33% for consultants that we may hire for some ‘extra-ordinary’ hiring (in terms  of numbers to be filled or in terms of niche skills that may be sparsely available) – for normal recruiting, it is always beneficial to have an in house recruiter on contract to hire you the best talent. Once a consultant accepts the requirement to hire, it is their responsibility to get you the best.  Never have a external consultant contact a hiring manager and have the interface only through your internal recruiter on roll. For the first time, if external recruiters are called for, it is better for them all to come in one room face to face, get the expectations and their measurement criteria from the hiring manager , and then after that their only point of contact should be the recruiter only.

Now comes the debate of whether you need a recruiter on your roll permanently or hire a contractor. If you have a good human resource personnel on roll, then my take would be to hire a suitable contractor who has recruited in like fields for 6 months to a year and pay them a base and a bonus for successful hiring. On days that no recruitment happens, this recruitment is actually a liability on your financials.  The same rule applies for a guy on bench on any professional services organization- if he is not able to market his skills or convince his client and he does not pay back to the organization, his days are numbered within.

Bucketing (labelling) in lateral hiring

Imagine this. You have applied for a specific job online that you think you like or confident you can take on.  And after a few days, you get a standard (auto) reply in the negative.  Chances are that your resume was never sent to the hiring authority but rather filtered by a clueless recruiter.  (S)he has skimmed your profile amongst the thousand profiles (s)he may have received and cursorily seen couple of words in it and then had put you in the ‘reject’ folder.   I would then say you have been ‘bucketed’.  There are lots of other words used to describe the phenomenon – Tagging, Labeling,Cookie cuttingetc.   It is not what you know or what you can do, but rather what the recruiter thinks you don’t know or what you cannot do.  

      During lateral hiring, the assumption for the recruiter of the hiring company is that you should have almost all of the required skills stated in the job description, and anything beyond those skills does not matter to him/her.   As one gets more experienced, one evolves gradually to be less hands-on and are more valued for your execution skills, positive behavior and your overall holistic systems knowledge – the companies would term it as ‘you need to have a bigger responsibility’.   And there is a good chance that more senior the role is, irrespective of the domain in many cases, the more value that you bring in are these non-technical skills that you had acquired within your past and present organizations.  With that said, being bucketed does not help either the job seeker or the employer.  Assuming instantly that the job seeker would not be capable of learning and doing the job advertised is a complete farce as one completely oversees the other value that the seeker can potentially bring in to the organization. One can overcome this tag or label only after a couple of discussions have taken place as only an open dialog can address mutual expectations. 

    Lateral hiring itself is difficult for experienced folks as what you have done in your first few years sort of puts you in a pre-defined bucket and whatever you would have done in the later years may not be seen as offering any value. After about 12 years in the professional market, you need to realize that it is NOT what you know but WHOM you know that is going to land you in your next job.  The more experienced you are, it is always better to have the HIRING manager be able to see your profile rather than have some junior recruiter, who may not have any clue of what the job really needs, dictate your destiny.    (S) he would see couple of jargons in your profile and immediately label or tag you and moves on assuming you cannot be a fit to the present opportunity.  There is an assumption made that your X domain expertise will not be useful to the Y domain expertise that they are looking out for.  Here I am assuming X and Y domains both fall into a common superset and there are some commonalities between them.  I am not talking about metallurgy and literature, or farming and power transmission as the two domains, just to put my line of thought in perspective, although personally I know of a friend of mine who quit an electrical transmission and distribution company and became a successful vanilla farmer.

  The irony also would be that an employee who is already inside the company may not even have half the skills that they are looking out for in the new candidate but still has learnt the art of survival from within.  And many of us have had prior working relationships with executives in the higher branches of the management of various companies to wonder how these folks are actually there at such critical high decision making levels? Again, this is sort of a Tagging and Labeling we unconsciously get trapped into ourselves.    

  The college degree that you had got hopefully may help you get the first job but may not be same domain you would be actually working down the road in your career.  Putting it differently, I would say that you do not get to use about 80% of what you have studied but still are able to make significant contribution to the organization you work for.

    There are reasons beyond one that an employee is valued within any organization, be it at any level which most of us may not be aware of while passing an unnecessary judgement from outside.  It is also not right for a recruiter to assume that a lateral hire is not capable of learning and executing in the newer domains but can be brought in for other values that (s)he brings to the organization.   Normally recruiters do not operate with an open mind and they blame the volumes of resumes they get for a particular job for not going through most of them.  It is important for all profiles to be considered properly, evaluated for what the skill sets and values they bring in, have a short dialog with the job seeker and then to make a decision one way or the other – this is the proper “Due Diligence”.  

      No successful entrepreneur would have made it if they had been bucketed to a particular domain or expertise.   In fact, their accomplishment is to think outside a defined box and offer a unique solution that they can market.  It is also known that a person in his/her mid-life(40s)  would have other interests in both personal and professional life that (s)he would like to experience,  which means (s)he would be more than open to newer ventures , within his risk appetite.   I am also of the opinion that  (s)he also can innovate and learn quickly by applying ideas and learning from his/her discipline onto another newer discipline in a precise methodical manner.   Doing something new every now and then keeps one motivated and hungry to learn to be able to execute and deliver and I know that most of us have this craving within us to be the best in what we do.  I also feel that they get bored after a while in doing what they are doing and want to do something different.

    Some examples to remind you that your past does not dictate your future, and it should NOT: Scott McNealy, one of the co-founders of Sun Microsystems – a major server company, had a Bachelors of Arts in Economics.   John Chambers, the former CEO of Cisco, the networking giant actually had a Bachelor’s degree in Science and Art and a Law degree and started off his career as a Sales engineer with IBM. As we all know Bill Gates of Microsoft fame, Larry Ellison of Oracle and Steve Jobs of Apple fame are drop-outs and still made their name; in fact, Steve got his hands wet with Pixar which brought to us Toy Story and other successful animated cartoons.   Rowan Atkinson, the actor of Mr. Bean fame, does have a Master’s degree in Electrical engineering from Oxford.   

       My point is as you climb the convoluted career staircase based on aspirations and accumulated expertise, each step can be different but must be climbed to get to the next step that may turn in a different direction – all previous steps do materialize.   If these individuals were bucketed or tagged, they would not have gone anywhere and done anything close to what they have achieved.  

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.

Can AI and Automation replace recruiters?

Are recruiters going to be replaced by AI and Automation? This is the question that has many posts now. Let me dig into a ‘rather -simplified’ process of recruiting before we can address this, I sure this is not as simple as this sounds though:

– sourcing is the first and critical part: this would include searching external databases and social sites for suitable candidates according to the requirements, weeding off unqualified candidates, ranking and giving prelim rating for the candidates

– coordinating interviews and any work assignments and tests that needs to be given for details technical fitment

– most important is the negotiating part with the candidate and influencing them to take the offer made, and to on board the candidate

When you look at it, the first step of sourcing and the tasks underneath it can all be automated and AI tools with good search engines with high accuracy can be used to get the top 10 candidates that would be the greatest fit for any particular requirements from the available database. One can easily automate the receipt of applications as well to go into the database through a proper document management system with adequate meta-tags. The issue is most of the large companies have made talent acquisition as a manufacturing process unfortunately with little human interfacing with the candidates before and during on-boarding and recruiters do not come with a ‘recruiting’ degree – still no college offers such programs. This step in the recruitment process has a strong probability of being lost through automation in my opinion in couple of years.

As for the second coordinating role, I feel even though the tests and assignments can be automated for particular job codes and some companies do the first level of interviews through audio and video bots, this step in the process cannot be replaced completely. But I feel technical hiring managers and the hiring team would mandate to talk with the candidates directly or through video conferences to get a feel of the chemistry of fitment. So, this responsibility of the recruiter, although can be automated, may not go that way as this would mean no human touch at all in the recruiting process.

And lasting the negotiating and influencing part would remain with the recruiter as this is where they give their return of investment (“Worth”) to the companies through their soft skills and situational leadership attributes. Good recruiters whom you see would be the one who close a candidate properly within budget and timeline and this is a skill that I believe AI cannot replace (or rather should not). It is more about the proper usage of your social skills that converts a candidate into an employee.

Having given a quick spin on what goes around with recruitment and AI and automation, I certainly feel the number of recruiters that would be needed would be lesser in years to come and these would be the cream of the available pool. I always believe that if you have to dig for gold, you need to go deep and mine for it and no automation can give an optimum result here unless there is a human element interacting with the candidates. But given a likely Post COVID situation though, where we would see more working-from-home employees who later would turn into ‘skill-based Just-In-time contractors’ needed for that particular job, less and less human interaction would take place for establishing an employee-organization relationship as the cultural fabric established through interactive across-the-hallway connects would all be things of the past – I hope this is wishful thinking but still worth analysing further and introspecting as to how the future workforce would actually look like if there is no physical office to go to and how recruitment as a role would have to morph to newer realities.

We are Business Intellects, a remote/virtual consulting, training audit and recruitment firm based out of Bengaluru, India.

What is wrong with Linkedin for hiring?

I am so surprised to find lots of job requirements has never been taken off Linkedin job posts (same positions, same title, same companies for over a year sometimes) for a long long time. What does this mean?
(i) the company is just collect profiles and sitting on them?
(ii) company wants to make believe they are still recruiting when they are actually not?
(iii) Recruiters not able to close despite getting 200+ applications per requirement which means they do not know what they are looking out for? Even assuming 90% of profiles got were junk.. still from the 10% they must be able to make a closure.
(iv) a byproduct of (iii), they are looking for a 100% fit for a position in the history of talent recruitment has never been the case, or
(v) they have paid for the posting and they want to just post something there.
In any case, Linkedin has to check the validity of each requirement to ensure quality is maintained. Anyway, Linkedin looks like a good place to advertise and not necessarily to close. If the requirement does not have an actual recruiter name in it, it means they are hiding something and do not want to be contacted. Linkedin is or has lost its relevance when it comes to job postings now… what do you say? Any feedback? #linkedin #recruitment

Be Judicious while hiring

In the newspaper headlines today:” Companies would be cautious and judicious in hiring”. Interesting, I thought. Should it not be the normal behaviour? In India, where one’s power is ‘assumed’ based on the number of people you manage, and not by the impact or revenue your team brings to the table, should not being lean and mean and letting employees assume more responsibility be the order of the day? Always employ at 90% of need and let the gap be addressed by the employees to take one more work, with a careful balance on not to burn them.