Early in my recruiting career, I was hired onto a team that had a monthly hiring quota of 35 specialized engineers, many of whom had specific government security clearances. It was a great team with good leadership, support, and resources which helped us successfully maintain a healthy hiring volume. Pretty quickly it became clear why we had the team quota of recruiting 35 engineers a month: 35 engineers were leaving the organization every month. That theme became a common refrain in my career as a recruiter and managing talent acquisition teams. We were often called up to fill the attrition gap for the organization. The number always varied, but the reason was always the same: X amount of people, who are crucial to driving revenue, are leaving the company every month and we need that many plus Y more a month to grow. As an internal employee it was an opportunity to show what you can do, provide innovative solutions to a problem, and build a successful reputation. However, I always got the feeling the we were using a hammer to solve a problem that required a scalpel.
Now that I’m out of the corporate world, I’d like to provide some unsolicited input for business leaders. You are not going to recruit your way out of an attrition problem. At best, you are just sticking fingers in the wholes of the proverbial dike. Most talent acquisition teams will happily scale up their operation to meet the challenge. Many large companies can afford to do exactly that and spend their way out of the attrition problem. They simply buy talent in the labor market over time to replace their losses. However, having been there before I can tell you the effort can take a year or more (in the case of tight labor markets) and cost millions of dollars.
In the best situations, the organization throws itself into the attrition problem as a separate issue and works to solve the underlying challenges feeding the flow of talent out of the organization. When labor markets get competitive even those efforts become a talent management arms race with the cost of retention initiatives climbing into the millions of dollars. However, I submit that spending $250,000 keeping people is far better than spending $100,000 hiring new replacements given the time and cost to onboard, lost productivity over 3-6 months, and not having addressed overall attrition causes. I try to keep these to less than 500 words, so maybe we can explore those numbers in more detail on a separate post. The key is to use a holistic approach that takes advantage of all the assets in your talent management arsenal rather than looking at your talent acquisition department as the bottom line solution.Read more
I’ve always found it interesting that I’ve met far more people who rely on their gut instinct or intuition to make hiring decisions rather than hard data (or seeking hard data). It came to a head for me years ago while I was managing a talent acquisition team in the corporate environment. One of the recruiters found an excellent candidate for an engineering position. During the interview process the candidate revealed a hand injury that was inconsequential to the job, but impacted movement and strength. After the interview the hiring manager called and said they really liked him and thought he was a strong technical fit, but would have to pass on extending an offer. A few probing questions revealed that the team got a bad feeling about the candidate because he had a terrible hand shake. Despite being a fit for the position and an obvious ability to perform, they didn’t think he would fit in based on his hand shake. It was a cringe-worthy, teachable moment. In the end he received an offer and became a great contributor to the team.
The intent of this story was not to discourage all use of intuition; but I wanted to point out that it has limits. Over reliance on intuition in hiring decisions can lead to poor decision making and overlooking otherwise very good candidates. If your intuition tells you a bad handshake can be interpreted as a personality flaw, I might be talking to you. Yet, the blame in these situations must fall directly on HR and talent acquisition professionals. We are the experts and should own the selection process. This includes ensuring anyone conducting an interview is properly trained and understands how to use probing behavior based questions to collect data. For example, when an interviewer is concerned about how a candidate will fit within a team, they should have a repertoire of questions to ask and answer data:
- Can you tell me about a time you wished you had acted differently with a coworker? What happened?
- What has been your approach to integrating with a new team in the past? Were there any lessons learned you would incorporate in the future?
The list of questions could be endless. The primary point is that intuition is better utilized when you have actual information to start drawing conclusions. Whether that data is through interview questions or formal assessments, it is critical that interview teams be trained on how to gather and interpret the information.Read more
Reflecting on the changes that have occurred over the last 20 years in talent acquisition is a humbling activity. I don’t consider myself to be an old timer by any stretch of the imagination, but I have watched the changes happen and been very happy along the way. In the late 90’s we still had filing cabinets of resumes to flip through if the databases weren’t producing enough, and faxing a resume to a hiring manager was an everyday occurrence. This was in the midst of Monster’s disruption of the industry through their aggregation of resumes in one place leading to an explosion of resume databases.
As we continued into the new century, cell phones became more common and our ability to communicate started to become a 24/7 affair in conjunction with email. In the early 2000’s most of us were still tied to our desktops and bringing home our work every day wasn’t yet prolific. During this time, resume databases started to strangle print ads as companies saw the advantage of online job postings and people stopped reading the paper. Applicant tracking systems were making companies more efficient in their hiring and everyone began to fall in love with Managed Service Provider programs and mark up rate caps in contract labor.
Blackberry had been around for those people who liked to have access to email and the internet 24/7. However, the iPhone served as a model of convergence for recruiters, candidates, and hiring managers with essentially everything you need to consume data and communicate in the palm of your hand. Never mind the iPad, which was a performance enhancing drug.
Social networks changed the way we communicate and how we consume information. LinkedIn and Facebook gave us digital footprints which could be data mined by savvy sourcers who didn’t need to pay for resume database accesses. Tools began to change to focus on the new way we communicated through social networks and talent acquisition became integrated with the technology.
We are still seeing a proliferation of new tools coming available. It often feels like there is something new on the market to try every month. As I look forward, though, I haven’t seen the technology align much in the area of big data and predictive analytics. I once pleaded with my LinkedIn rep to investigate data mining their network to produce useful insights when I looked at a profile. Obviously, that didn’t go anywhere and I think talent acquisition providers are behind technology curve.
LinkedIn, CareerBuilder, Indeed, etc. have millions of data points for analysis that are not utilized. They could be providing tools for recruiters to make their lives easier and improve decision making. For example, they have enough data points to start correlating and making probability statements on whether a potential candidate will leave their position based on a profile. What is the probability that someone who has worked in a private company for 10 years in X,Y, and Z locations would consider B location in a public company? The data points exist within the confines of their proprietary database to provide that insight. The dozens of questions that recruiters ask themselves when reading a resume can be answered without requiring the need to rely on intuition or opening a new window for research. For instance, I’m looking at a resume that has some gaps or periods of short tenures. An overlay of the unemployment rate or sector economic performance would give me data to make an informed decision. A direct link to aggregated company news from public sites and search engines would allow me to deep dive further into company performance.
My dream is that someone brings the data under one platform to allow recruiters to make more informed decisions about resumes. Providing a robust level of data analysis and insights will allow recruiters to make reliable decisions and reduce the reliance on intuition and gut feelings when viewing a resume. The data is there in droves, but who is going to use it?Read more