Need number 1: Hire Good Candidates (and get them onboard fast)


So, now that you know you should not be using the word “Talent” anymore, how do we approach the quest for the “best candidate” for that vacancy you have in your organisation?

Stop looking for the Best candidate.

Well, first of all by avoiding to look for the “best” candidate. It does not exist. For the very simple reason that finding a person that perfectly fits a) a job description, b) the unexpressed desires of its managers, c) the expectations of HR and d) the wished on any further involved stakeholder, simply does not exist. Yet, in this quest for “talent”, HR organisations have very often delivered a very negative service to the business, based on the (wrong) assumption that “even if we take a bit more time, we’ll get the best candidate, so that it will start delivering faster“. So what we have observed is an increase in the time-to-fill benchmark, both in the US and in Europe. Even if you just take the 2011 Linkedin Survey Results, data shows that there is an average of 45 days of Time to Fill a position. But what’s worst, is that Managers and Business leaders feel this is too long.

2011 Time to Fill Benchmark. Source: LinkedIn

2011 Time to Fill Benchmark. Source: LinkedIn

And the Time to Fill (or Time to Hire) ratio, longly considered one of the most accurate metrics of the “performance” of the recruiting function, already heavily misses the real point. As it measures the time that is necessary from the moment the vacancy is opened and the job advertised, to when the identified candidate signs the contract, it misses three key elements of the performance in this area.

  1. First o fall the amount of time that is needed from when a position is created within the company (or an employee resigns) and the actual creation of the “vacancy”. This period of time has been constantly growing in many organisation as a result of the attention on costs linked to the economic uncertainty of the past years, that often led to a de facto freeze of new hires.
  2. Secondly, the amount of time needed to get the person “on board”. For sure this is influenced by external factors (above all the rules linked to termination in the other company of the candidate), but cannot be taken as something that HR cannot influence.
  3. Third, the amount of time needed to get the person “productive”. The easiest example is in the case of a substitution: ho much time does it take for new recruit to get to the same level of productivity of the person that is leaving the company?

Four frequent mistakes

By focusing too much on the quest of the “best” candidate, many recruitment organisation have put in place a series of techniques which are not always best placed, and sometime have been adding complexity and caused part of the problem.

  • Too many Assessments. I truly believe that assessment centers are a key tool for personnel development within an organisation. But I have always doubted about relying too much on them during a selection process. Reason? They tend to focus on soft and managerial skills, thus giving too few consideration on the technical knowledge of the candidate. And they express results in terms of potential, which means it is not something you can have immediately available once the person enters its job. I believe that some kind of fast assessment (for example through personality tests online) can help when you are dealing with a large number of candidates, especially if they are young.
  • Too much focus on Experience. In certain cases the focus of the evaluation has been focusing a lot on the experience of the candidate, more than on elements such as motivation and competencies. The reason being that experience appears to be more “objective”. But having worked 5 years in one role, does not make yourself automatically an expert of that role, and we all know this. Issue is that experience has been often used as a proxy for competencies, often also by line managers, too lazy to establish a real evaluation framework for the candidate skill-set.
  • Too much attention to “recruiting” as an event. In many companies recruitment is an activity that is performed only when needed. Instead of nurturing a pipeline of candidates that may be in line with the company activities, the process is initiated only “on demand”. This causes a “stress” for the HR performing the search (because s/he will need to start activating contacts all over again each time, a phase that is very difficult sometime), and also increases time to find potential candidates.
  • Too much outsourcing. Headhunters are a vital component of the recruiting world. But in many ways they exist because too many organisations have simply “given up” a strategic function of their business: getting in touch with candidates. You see, I didn’t write an “hr function”, because I truly believe that Recruiting is an HR assisted process for sure, but it is part of the key business requirements of an organisation. It is the most complex piece of the “procurement” activities an organisation does. Look at best practices, many very large organisations that are really successful, use Headhunters only when it is really needed (for example when entering a new market, or when they need a competency not linked to their industry, or for top executives). But for the rest?

So, what to do?

Personally I really believe that that there are a couple of key elements that need to be taken into consideration to make sure your recruiting process works delivering the best results. And essentially it all gets down to finding the one answer to the business need I have posed as the basis for this post:

Hire a good candidate for each open vacancy in the shortest possible time, and get him ready to be productive as fast as possible.

This can be translated into focus on three elements:

  1. Hire a good candidate for the position, not the best one. This is going to help you save time on the actual recruitment process, by helping you focus on the few “key requirements” for the candidate to be a “good fit” with the position and your organisation. After all, you will have to train him before he gets onboard. Often this also means the candidate can be a bit cheaper. But also (other key element that is very underestimated) that he will have a higher degree of motivation for improvement, thus better performing in your organisation.
  2. Hire fast. Compressing the period of time between the opening of a vacancy and the signature of the contract, is a key element that is under HR control. The only way you can do this, however, is have a clear sourcing strategy acting based on the “funnel principle”. You should have “warm” and “hot” candidates more or less around any given period in time. This scouting activity is not only precious because it can allow to identify a good candidate almost immediately, but also because it allows you to have a constant flow of information with the market. This also includes having an active reference system… and we all know how powerful is to find the good “friend of a friend” candidate.
  3. Welcome aboardGet it productive fast. This is the real challenge, and that is why I believe an HR function should start measuring its effectiveness not just in terms of time needed to get the new hire, but until the hire is actually performing in the position. This ensures that the idea of a “a good” candidate does not transform itself in “whatsoever” candidate. But also ensure the real capability of HR to answer the request of the business. This aspect also means that HR needs to take full ownership of a key process within the organisation: onboarding. Way too often this part is limited to practical and administrative tasks, as well as often underlines the incapacity of some HR organisation to link in processes of other functions. After all the first day at work is about tying with all different parts of the organisation. Effective on-boarding is so powerful in producing engagement, that not having this process in place is real sign of the incapacity of HR to add real business value. Why does this happen btw? My theory is simple: being effective in onboarding involves presenting yourself as a strong HR with a really holistic approach. If your organisation instead continuous to segment everything by specialty (recruitment, administration, comp&ben, training etc.) instead of becoming a unifying moment, it resembles more to the old days in public offices, where you had to visit 12 different counters giving 15 different stamps to process an easy request…

Above all this also means really engaging with the business into something that makes the difference for them. Try it. If the last recruit you hired took 9 months to get to an acceptable level of performance, and this came after 30 days of negotiation to check if the position was really needed, 45 days between the job posting and the hire, and 2 months linked to the notice period this person had on his former job… well you have about 1 year of potential cost savings for your organisation. Because that year can be really seen as a “cost”.

Nice challenge uh?😉

This is the second post in a series of six articles:

  1. Getting Rid of the Word Talent
  2. Need number 1: Hire Good Candidates (and get them onboard fast)
  3. Need number 2: Develop people internally
  4. Needs number 3: Retain your people
  5. Need number 4: Enhance creativity and innovation
  6. A new paradigm for People Management

5 responses to “Need number 1: Hire Good Candidates (and get them onboard fast)

  1. Pingback: Getting rid of the word “Talent” | Sergio G. Caredda·

  2. Pingback: Need number 2: Develop people internally | Sergio G. Caredda·

  3. Pingback: Need number 3: Retain your people | Sergio G. Caredda·

  4. Pingback: Need number 4: Enhance Creativity and Innovation | Sergio G. Caredda·

  5. Pingback: A New Paradigm for People Management | Sergio G. Caredda·

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