Thursday, May 3, 2012
Sunday, April 15, 2012
Best Practices of Top-performing Recruiters
In more 6 years in the search & selection industry as a Consultant, I have interviewed, coached, and trained many recruitment consultants. Though local differences must be taken into consideration, the characteristics that make you a top performer works everywhere. Based on what I saw, heard, and learned, here is my quintessential list of the 5+1 habits that make a top-performer in any economic cycle or market:
1. Work close to the money: We work in a very dynamic environment where priorities can change many times during the day. One call from a Client saying the job is filled or one email giving us a new job order can change how we spend our time from one second to the other. “Close to the money” is probably the best indicator that will tell you if you are currently working on a) the right things and b) in the right order. Ask yourself constantly “What am I doing right now and will this action get me a bonus?” Think in a binary way: when the answer is “yes,” this means “yes”; “no” is “no”; and “maybe/ not sure” — is “no.”
2. Stick to the knitting: Focus on your core jobs and core markets. It is here that you can make a difference, have the domain expertise you need to succeed, and the most credibility with your client and candidate. Don’t lose focus as it will most probably not work out.
3. Look for a) similarities and b) inconsistencies: Some candidates are lying to us. The “safety net” I use is what I call the “Lieutnant Columbo technique”: in one episode, Columbo says “I always ask the same questions — but I often get different answers.” Make this technique yours by asking the same question again throughout the process. If the answers are different (often on the last salary or the reasons for leaving), this can mean that the candidate is not telling the truth.
4. Create a sense of urgency: time kills all deals. It will always work against us. I see too many recruiters who are reluctant to set deadlines to their clients. Yet: we are paid to deliver a result. Always go for a close. Explain why (“Mary, my candidate is very committed, but there are other jobs around. We do not want to lose her, do we?”). Whatever date your client suggests, shorten the process. When your client says “I can see your candidate Friday PM,” answer “Great, and what about Thursday AM?” If your client suggests “I will have a look at the resumes and call you back,”respond “Good, thanks. When will we talk again? If you don’t call me by the end of this week, I will call you.”
5. Control your business or your business will control you: Surprises are a good thing for a kid’s birthday party — and they are nasty in our business. You must be the one who drives the process, the client, and the candidate. You should be the one calling up the candidate to fix interviews, ask feedback — and make the job offer. Do not ask your client “This is what I suggest. Is that OK for you?” You decide the process and not the client. Asking your client to confirm the process is as if you ordered a rib-eye steak for Rs: 3500/- and the chef came to your table to ask how to prepare it.
1. Bonus best practice: Don’t over-complicate the business: Peter Drucker says: “Successful leaders (and successful recruiters too) don’t ask “What do I want to do?” They ask, “what needs to be done?’” Make this philosophy yours. Don’t ask too many questions but do what has to be done to get the money in: call and meet people in your core business and core market, talk to them, and ask what you can do for them and what they can do for you. Understand what makes them tick and how you can add value. Do it once. Do it again and again and again.
Sunday, February 12, 2012
Everything about the way we start our day runs counter to the best conditions for thinking creatively
Brrriiinnng. The alarm clock buzzes in another hectic weekday morning. You leap out of bed, rush into the shower, into your clothes and out the door with barely a moment to think. A stressful commute gets your blood pressure climbing. Once at the office, you glance through the newspaper, its array of stories ranging from discouraging to depressing to tragic. With a sigh, you pour yourself a cup of coffee and get down to work, ready to do some creative, original problem-solving.
Good luck with that.
As several recent studies highlight, the way most of us spend our mornings is exactly counter to the conditions that neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists tell us promote flexible, open-minded thinking. Take that hurried wake-up, for example. In a study published in the journal Thinking and Reasoning last year, researchers Mareike Wieth and Rose Zacks reported that imaginative insights are most likely to come to us when we’re groggy and unfocused. The mental processes that inhibit distracting or irrelevant thoughts are at their weakest in these moments, allowing unexpected and sometimes inspired connections to be made. Sleepy people’s “more diffuse attentional focus,” they write, leads them to “widen their search though their knowledge network. This widening leads to an increase in creative problem solving.” By not giving yourself time to tune into your meandering mind, you’re missing out on the surprising solutions it may offer. (If you happen to be one of those perky morning people, your most inventive time comes when you’re winding down in the early evening.)
Your commute filled with honking cars or sharp-elbowed fellow passengers doesn’t help, either. The stress hormone cortisol can harm myelin, the fatty substance that coats our brain cells. Damage to these myelin sheaths slows down the speed with which signals are transmitted between neurons, making lightning-quick “Eureka!” moments less likely. And while we all should read up on what’s going on in the world, it may be better to put that news website or newspaper aside until after the day’s work is done. A recent study published in the journal Psychological Science found that subjects who watched brief video clips that made them feel sad were less able to solve problems creatively than people who watched an upbeat video. A positive mood, wrote researcher Ruby Nadler and her coauthors, increases “cognitive flexibility,” while a negative mood narrows our mental horizons. The segment that made participants feel worst of all? A news report about an earthquake.
The only thing most of us do right in the morning, in fact, is drink coffee. Caffeine not only makes us more alert, as we all know — it also increases the brain’s level of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that influences feelings of motivation and reward when we hit on a great idea. (Nicotine does this, too, but I can’t in good conscience recommend an a.m. cigarette.)
So what would our mornings look like if we re-engineered them in the interest of maximizing our creative problem-solving capacities? We’d set the alarm a few minutes early and lie awake in bed, following our thoughts where they lead (with a pen and paper nearby to jot down any evanescent inspirations.) We’d stand a little longer under the warm water of the shower, dismissing task-oriented thoughts (“What will I say at that 9 a.m. meeting?”) in favor of a few more minutes of mental dilation. We’d take some deep breaths during our commute, instead of succumbing to road rage. And once in the office — after we get that cup of coffee — we’d direct our computer browser not to the news of the day but to the funniest videos the web has to offer.
For decades, psychologists have manipulated the emotions of subjects in the lab by showing them short film clips. But now there’s YouTube — and, in fact, the clip that made the participants in Ruby Nadler’s study happiest of all was a YouTube video of a laughing baby. Laughing babies and a double latte: now that’s a way to start the day.
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
It’s round two in the battle of who can learn what from whom. The battle continues between corporate talent acquisition and agency and executive recruiters. It’s easy to sit back and say that corporate recruiters have it easy and that agency and executive recruiters have the only legitimate experience when it comes to “hard-core recruiting”. Well, there is another point of view. If you manage an agency you may want to take note and use some of this information in your next staff training.
It is true that agency recruiters and executive headhunters are hungry and thus motivated to be better sales people when it comes to finding new clients and sourcing candidates. Their paycheck depends on their ability to sell to both candidate and employer. If they aren’t excellent at their job they just simply won’t make enough money to continue working as an agency recruiter or headhunter. Natural selection weeds out the weak, so the only ones left are necessarily pretty good at sales and negotiation. So, from the sales aspect agency recruiters will “win” for having generally higher motivation, sales techniques, and negotiation tactics.
However, there are many business skills that excellent corporate recruiters have that a lot of agency recruiters don’t.
“Easy recruiting”- Agency recruiters are often called in to fill highly complex and difficult roles, whether specialized software engineering roles or sophisticated executive positions. Corporations will rarely pay 20% of salary to find an account executive, customer service agent, administrative assistant, or accounting clerk. Agency recruiters can easily dismiss this type of recruiting as easy. However, far from being easy, hiring these types of roles (especially in volume) requires finesse, careful planning, and thoughtful technical execution.
Do agency recruiters know how to handle 50 job applicants when most of the 50 are actually qualified? Do they know how to hire 100 positions or fill 10 different jobs in 4 different locations? How about hiring jobs with zero job qualifications except for having a good work ethic? These types of jobs without a significant level of talent scarcity pose their own unique challenges. Corporate recruiters must develop workflows and hiring techniques to deal with these issues. It’s a world that most agency recruiters don’t have to worry about.
Creating Brand Identity- Corporate talent acquisition must work to create a world class recruiting brand that will ensure they receive a steady flow of candidates. They put to use their brand and marketing skills by having presence on college campuses and other outlets, succinctly creating messaging around their “employer of choice” brand, and they have to fight any sort of negative publicity that may impact a candidate wanting to accept a job with them.
Think about how difficult a recruiter’s job is if the CEO was just fired for embezzling millions of dollars? What could a recruiter say to “save” a candidate if a major lay-off had just occurred, or earnings were missed by a substantial amount, or an IP lawsuit had just been filed? Perhaps most challenging: what if the company is just kind of boring or is in a lackluster industry? A recruiter must block and tackle any negative publicity while building upon a positive brand identity and make sometimes boring positions sound exciting. They have to create sizzle, whereas agency recruiters are often recruiting on hard-to-fill and often already “sexy” positions – and corporate recruiters have to do this day-in, day-out for the same company.
Jack of All Trades- A Corporate recruiter has to learn a little about everything in their company. They must be flexible and quick to learn to a degree in order to be able to source the right candidates for those niche positions. They also need to sell positions in departments they may know nothing about and have little to no interest in. It’s only at the largest company’s where recruiters get the “luxury” of specializing in a specific type of recruiting. Any company with less than 1,000 employees a recruiter is almost certainly recruiting for anything from an hourly admin, to a software developer to another HR person. That’s not easy! It’s involves expertise in the actual process of hiring and selection and not just specific trade or industry experience.
Mavens of Cost Containment- Let’s face facts. The corporate recruiting department isn’t generating any revenue. If a company has to look to cut costs and potentially outsource, the HR staff have targets on their backs larger than most other departments. They need to prove their worth and continuously improve their processes in order to justify their costs. This may mean putting up with an archaic recruiting database, being understaffed, and not having access to today’s best recruiting tools. If a company can’t justify additional costs to assist the recruiting team, they have to overcome those challenges and make do with what they do have. In parallel, the corporate recruiter has to constantly justify their existence and fight off hiring managers whims to hire outside consultants or agencies which could drive up the costs the recruiting department is try to curtail.
Operational Expertise- Corporate recruiters need to understand not only what positions and departments do, but how this fits into budgets and overall company operations. Agency recruiters will often master what particular professions do during the day and what makes a great candidate for that position, but they won’t develop knowledge of talent mapping and forecasting, budgeting, and turnover challenges. Knowledge of these internal processes by which hiring happens is an incredible asset – it is often what distinguishes senior professionals. Corporate recruiters know everything that has to happen in order for a job to open and what happens after it is filled; agency recruiters are often knowledgeable only about what happens in between. In this way, corporate recruiters can often be said to have a better understanding of business, unless agency recruiters are involved with their own internal operations.
Compliance- Lastly, corporate recruiters are HR professionals. They must have a detailed understanding of employment law, and are furthermore often involved in employee issues outside of recruitment. In theory, agency recruiters should be experts at all things recruiting (which includes legal and compliance matters.) However, in practice, the focus on sales often takes precedence over HR issues, and many times, over ongoing education in general. If agency recruiters develop expertise in this area, they can not only impress corporate recruiters, but get more involved with positions “higher up the food chain” that involve a sophisticated level of legal and compensation understanding.
The bottom line is that both corporate and agency recruiting jobs have their challenges and nuances which others can learn from. Agency recruiters can look at some of these areas and incorporate them into their ongoing education. When agency recruiters develop some of this knowledge and competence while keeping their “killer edge,” they can go really far in the recruiting industry and experience a lasting high level of success and career progression.