Talent Wars Episode I: The Recruitment Menace

Written by
Giovanni Everduin

23 Nov 2015

23 Nov 2015 • by Giovanni Everduin

Recruitment, resourcing, hiring or even talent acquisition – a rose by any other name – relates to the activity of finding and hiring new employees from the job market. Recruitment serves as a gateway, filtering who gets in and who doesn’t, and the impact of this activity is absolutely crucial to sustainable business performance.

What I say next may sound like blasphemy to some HR folks out there but it’s my personal belief that despite talent, rewards and yes, performance management, recruitment is by far the most important function in HR. Get it right at recruitment and all your efforts in the other HR disciplines will become much easier and significantly less costly. Get it wrong – the opposite will come true.

Over my career, I have lead various recruitment process and system transformations and implementation efforts across the globe, which has developed my understanding of what a good recruitment process should look like. As a candidate looking for my next killer job and as a hiring manager searching for my next killer candidate, I have seen the good and the bad in recruitment, and it’s clear the typical dynamics between employer and candidate leaves much room for improvement. So what are different leading and lagging organisations doing right and doing wrong? For now, I will focus mainly on the role of the employers, referring to the HR function in general and recruitment teams and hiring managers alike. The following are my insights into where we are going wrong and how we can start to reboot recruitment.

Three things that employers can start doing, now

It’s an art, so hire artists.
Your recruitment team should be seasoned professionals that can understand your business, manage stakeholders, build effective relationships, and act as brand ambassadors on top of managing the hiring process. There is a reason headhunting is a lucrative business – while most organizations have no problem paying obscene amounts to an external agency, they often follow the old-school view of regarding their internal recruitment teams as a glorified admin function – the lowest in the HR totem pole. Proper recruitment isn’t about paper-pushing, it is an essential resource and requires a specialised skillset, much like training or talent management.

This means you can’t staff your recruitment team with people who didn’t cut it in other HR roles – just like staffing the HR department with people who didn’t cut it in other business roles doesn’t help the cause either. ‘So, you don’t have any analytical skills but you like working with people? – let’s move you to HR!’ You want quality output? Invest in quality input! Oh –this also means that you pay your recruiters well, to reflect the enormous impact they have on your business. ‘Pay peanuts…’ you get the idea.

Screen for experience and capability, not a degree.
The amount of times I’ve seen potentially great talent been rejected for what I consider shortsighted reasons is staggering. Like anyone else, I appreciate the value of a good education, however; this should never be a sole deciding factor for good or bad candidate. Your degree and academic institute can reflect your academic capabilities and to some extend the financial means at your disposal, but I am yet to find a conclusive study that shows a direct causal relation between grades and/or the ranking of your alma mater and business performance. I’ve worked with some truly brilliant and ridiculously talented people without any formal degree and I’ve worked with the opposite of that coming from top tier schools and institutions.

Redefining the importance of education is gaining traction in progressive companies. Deloitte recently removed education from their (graduate) screening because they are moving away from the traditional standards of how they measure valuable candidates. Deloitte recognises the paradigm shift happening in academia and places greater importance on candidates who have the attitude and behaviors to thrive through work-integrated learning. Obviously there are roles and industries where qualifications are critical (e.g. healthcare, education) but even then it should be a qualifier at best. Recruitment must explore the intersection between skill, experience, capability, and interest. Overall, relevant experience and talent should always trump degree. Ask yourself this question: between a candidate with great, relevant experience but no degree or a candidate with a prestigious, relevant degree but no experience – who would you pick?

Commit time, then commit some more.
Think about it, finding the right candidate, at the right cost is not easy. Finding plenty of wrong candidates that look right however is very easy! Each of these wrong candidates is a ticking time-bomb, waiting to go off and cause significantly more damage than if the role would have been left vacant. The cost of replacing a bad hire (especially within the first 6 - 12 months of service when there effectively is little return on investment) is significant, just consider the cost of hiring, training, the ramp up time to average productivity; the frustrations and increased workload for you and your team and the loss of productivity during the leavers notice period. And that is the best case scenario because if a bad hire ends up staying with you the impact will be exponentially worse!

Considering all of this you would expect hiring managers to invest significant amounts of their time in the process right? Wrong. Most hiring managers in my experience (and I have been guilty of this myself!) tend to outsource most of the process to recruitment and only involve themselves in the final interview and offering stages. Then, due to an unwillingness to sit through yet another interview (it does take time away from running the business) they often end up selecting the first warm body that happens to be slightly better than the average thus far, rather than holding out for the best fit for the job. Reading through stacks of CV’s, properly preparing for interviews, conducting structured interviews and documenting feedback can be tedious activities, but in the long term these activities do pay off in getting the right candidate in and keeping the wrong ones out. Just remember that at Google, managers invest an average of 4-10 hours each week on recruitment. That’s up to one full week each month! Now Google is not in the charity business so the only reason they do this is that this investment is significantly outweighed by the long term business impact. Invest time upfront and I guarantee you it will save you time, money and a lot of pain in the end.

With shifting paradigms, evolving technology, and an ever-changing work environment, we need to redefine what a good recruitment process should look like. For recruiters to be the artist of their industry, they must hold a specialised skill set, be open to anticipate and adopt new trends, utilise data analysis and employer branding tools, and reinvent their approaches to be more applicable to the millennia talent pool. Recruitment is by far the most important function in HR and must be considered a strategic driver for business performance. Effective recruitment ensures we place the right talent in the right role at the right cost. For this to happen we need recruitment that is data-backed, aligned to the business and a true ambassador of the organisational brand.