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How Skipping Ahead Leaves You Behind in Recruiting — 6 Steps to Success

“So, are you lazy, or just stupid?”
That was the question my father would pose when I brought home a mark less than 95. An “A” was great, but followed by a minus sign, it became a disappointment. And “I don’t know” was NOT an acceptable response. So, not wanting to admit to being stupid, the right answer was always “lazy” with a promise to work harder. (Because who wants to own that label?) I’m a long way from my father’s household, but that question still pops into my mind at work on a regular basis (though I never ask it aloud), the answer almost always being: lazy. But lazy wont get you very far, not in my father’s home, and not in your office. Now, as an adult, I have shifted my thinking away from promising to work harder, and learning how to work smarter. It’s gotten me pretty far and I hope others in my field will follow suit.

I have happily spent the last few years (consulting in-house) being criticized for being “overly concerned” with process. It has never bothered me because I know that I’m an effective recruiter because I am not too lazy to first set up necessary processes, among other qualities. When I look back at my previous consulting engagements I have left behind a legacy with each company, in the form of some process I implemented. From interview rubrics, to new hire intake interviews, what I leave behind is more than just new hires, who will eventually move on. I understand the importance of process, even for small companies and startups, and want to share 6 steps that should never be skipped in the hiring process. These are ones that can potentially:

  1. affect your hiring decision,
  2. change your hiring process, or
  3. impact the candidate experience.

Team Buy In

This isn’t something I often find missing, but from time to time I will work with a startup where the team will learn that a new hire has been made when that person shows up for their first day. This is a problem. First, your team should always be aware of all of your current openings, because how else could they refer friends and past colleagues? Also, as a startup resources and space are usually stretched, so it’s important for the team to know why the need for an increase in headcount exists. Another problem, how the heck are you building a strong team if you aren’t including existing members in the selection of additional members? You have a lot of gall if you think think a couple folks on the leadership team are equipped to completely own the hiring function, with no input from the people who will be working directly with new hires. Be transparent about hiring, and include key players who are trusted by the team. Buy in from those few will translate to the entire team.

Candidate Check-ins

I am not sure why it’s so easy to forget that hiring is a two way street. In fact, often the tables will turn midway and suddenly you find yourself doing the hard sell with candidates. If you have any clue how to close, you aren’t waiting until offer phase to start the sell. Candidates should be treated as though they are the #1 prospect for the role until proven otherwise and eliminated. That means that every step of the way, as you are deciding to keep moving forward, you should check in with the candidate to make sure they still want to work for you as much as you want them, probably more so. Fail to do so and you end up one of those companies struggling (failing) to surpass a 50% offer acceptance rate.

Practical Interview

As an in-house recruiting consultant I spend the first couple weeks observing and analyzing existing practices, so I can make recommendations. One step I often ask is for hiring managers to link the steps in their interview process to the criteria of the job they are trying to fill. Too often the evaluation process never tests a candidate’s ability to do the work that needs to be done. Startups especially, are so concerned with making a quick hire, they often forget to determine they are also making a “good” hire. If you’ve invested in an employee who you had to let go within 12 months of hiring, you need to revamp your evaluation process. Whatever it is that you need that candidate to do, make sure you see them demonstrate their ability to deliver, or hear it from a trusted resource. That is a great segue…

References

This one seems obvious, right? There isn’t a company I have consulted with that hasn’t hired someone without checking any references. This is clearly just laziness. Most candidates expect to share references, and have them readily available. References can serve multiple purposes, from clearing up any lingering questions, to confirming what has already been decided. I’ve seen references change hiring managers’ minds, from hire to don’t hire, and visa versa. That was lesson enough for me to see the importance of checking references. Not only that, you want to have consistency in your hiring practice. It doesn’t reflect well to have some employees know you checked their references, but not others. It could raise questions of equality that you would probably rather not engage in.

Background check

Since I feel I’ve been a bit “lecturey”, and this section should be informed by common sense, I shall now regale you with tales of woe.

The first is my own, when I was hired to work under a “Chief Talent and Culture Officer.” Long story short, they kept telling me the wrong (sometimes illegal) way of doing things. After a particularly glaring mistake (not knowing the ADA age protection applies to persons aged 40+), I decided to do what I should have done before taking the job. I went to LinkedIn, and visited the web page of each of my supervisor’s former employees. The 2 startups they “grew from the ground up”? Both were their spouse’s sole proprietorship, one where they were the only 2 “employees” and the other where they were joined by a contractor. Then I realized that one of those companies was unnecessarily hosting our Greenhouse career page, and we were paying them to make our lives more difficult. (I wasn’t able to update our postings myself.) I realized I had taken a job reporting to someone who had never done my job, and in fact had never even sourced a single engineer. I didn’t stay at that contract, as I couldn’t be a part of that level of deception. Consider yourself lucky if you skip the background check and all you lose is a really, amazingly great recruiter. Best case scenario.

Worst case scenario? It really depends on you, so you can decide for yourself. Yahoo? Yammer? YOWZA!

  1. Mark Thompson Lied to Yahoo
  2. Marcus Tillman Makes Us Want to Check Contractors too
  3. More Liars (Go Irish!)

Feedback Collection

Unless you’re afraid to hear just how bad your hiring process is, you should be gathering feedback from candidates, whether an offer is made or not. Without feedback you cannot iterate, and will never improve. There are different ways to collect feedback. You can create your own survey using tools like Survey Monkey or Poll Everywhere, or you can refer to manuals and online resources which have ready to use templates. The work may already be mostly done for you. If you’re using a robust recruiting software, like Greenhouse, candidate surveys may be a feature you’re already paying for, and just need to implement. My personal preference is to have conversations. If a candidate has gone through the process, visited your office, and met with your team, they deserve to hear the disposition of their application, not receive a stock rejection email. And this consideration will reinforce their trust in you, so they are more open to giving honest, and critical feedback. (Which you need).

Change is good, and inevitable, so embrace it, prepare for it, and when the time comes, dive into it. Being afraid of change, to the point where you avoid anything that could bring the possibility of it, will harm your bottom line. And I’m sure you would rather not look lazy or stupid.