Hiring Managers: A cautionary tale on lip service from HR

The last several months LinkedIn and other news agencies have had an endless series of stories evidencing the turnaround of the economy. Perhaps not everywhere, but in the space I live – technology – the recession ended about 4 years ago, and has hit hyper-drive lately. A smattering of recent posts on job boards:

“How to quit your job without burning bridges!”

“10 secrets to interviewing”

“Tips to negotiate the best job offer”

“5 signs of a bad boss”

(I love the last one – Apparently there are some people who are unsure how to tell the difference?)

Companies – especially large ones – have had a hell of a time filling open positions. And the HR departments all provide assurances that they ‘get it’ and ‘trust me, we will have candidates to you shortly!’. There have even been articles such as the one here that quote specific action plans and “A New Approach”. Great – except that it’s all lip service. I won’t be specific, but even in the CIO article referenced, I have worked with one of the companies quoted and can tell you that their average time to fill positions is greater than 6 months.  Yeah…. you just don’t get it.

I submit then that there is a direct correlation between the true competitiveness and potential success of a company, with their recruiting and on-boarding process. Whether evaluating as an investor or job applicant, or considering whether to stay with your current employer, evaluating how effective the company is in recruiting is a critical. Can’t find and retain the talent? Run. The rest is irrelevant.

Real rocket science here, right? Yet in working with various mid-size companies, all the way up to the F100’s, the story is the same. There is an organizational entropy that drags down even the best-intentioned staff – the effort to get the HR department to recognize the trend and need to change is just too much for mere mortals.

So the company starts down the slow inexorable march to mediocrity.

Have you heard any of the below?

“We haven’t had any recent applicants to the position”

“The applicant lacked the requisite years of experience or education”

“We received some negative feedback from 2 of the 15 interviewers on the panel”

“The offer letter is being approved by corporate. Finance should have the final approval within the next 2 weeks, and from there…”

If any of this applies to your company, and/or if you are that unfortunate hiring manager, here are some tips in working with your HR team: (The general theme? HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE!)

– Ensure all necessary approvals are in place for the position before it’s posted

– Find out what the boundaries are re: negotiating with the candidates

– Review their job posting – is it an ADVERTISEMENT for all the cool reasons someone should apply? If not, shred it and start over

– Agree on where it will be posted and how the recruiter will proactively find people. The days of posting on the company website and waiting for candidates to find you is SO OVER.

– Ask for metrics on the hiring process. Time to fill is the most telling metric of all. If the HR team can’t provide that, look at them very stupidly and repeat the question.

– Understand who has the leverage. Again, This is a very IT-focused post, and of course business conditions are different elsewhere, but in IT, the candidates have the leverage. So:

– Be prepared to SELL. This is a SELLER’s market. Recognize that!

– Define up front what is truly REQUIRED vs. PREFERABLE. Be prepared to TRAIN on the preferable stuff

And most important:

  • Define the process and stages, establish a specific timeline for each step of the exercise, and agree on SLA’s if possible.
  • How fast do you expect to see the resumes? In batches, or streaming in?
  • What’s the timeline between submittal and phone screen? Phone screen to interview? Interview to offer?
  • What is the interview format? Consider: not everyone in your team is qualified to interview! Also consider: the people you have interview your candidates have just about zero upside in pushing someone through, and ALL the reason to reject candidates. They will get little to no recognition if you hire a rock star, but everyone will remember who green-lighted the turd!

My experience is that while companies are talking the talk, if you really dig into the meat of their recruiting and hiring process, they still just don’t get it. And while that may be nothing more than a minor irritant to you as the hiring manager, consider where those bright people are going, and who is hiring them. And consider how long that condition can last before it becomes terminal.

“If you are the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room” – Mark Cuban.


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