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.

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.

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.