The Recruiting Blog of RG Search
As a recruiter in Austin, I read article after article about the talent shortage here, especially in technology, engineering, online marketing and the life sciences
(biotech and medical devices) industries. If you're a hiring manager and have had to recruit a team here or in other in-demand parts of the country, chances are that you are very aware of this as well, and have found it difficult to attract talent. The question is, why? While I don't disagree that there is a talent shortage in certain expertise areas, you can be successful in building a highly talented team with the right approach - but you may need to make some changes.
Problem 1: You are looking in the wrong place
Posting your job can be part of an effective recruiting strategy, but 9 times out of 10, your candidate isn’t going to come from a job post. You’ll typically be bombarded with resumes, but the overwhelming majority of candidates won’t be qualified -- and those who are will likely not be the top-performing candidates that you need. Why is this? Top performers – or “A-players” – the top 10% of candidates are typically passive candidates – and aren’t looking for a new role. They have to be approached, and they have to be presented with a compelling opportunity in order to be attracted – they have to be recruited. Much of your pool of qualified candidates won’t even see the job posting.
Problem 2: Your Job isn’t Compelling
Or to be more specific, your story isn’t compelling. To reiterate the point above, top candidates need to be recruited – and an exciting story is essential to
generating interest from prospective candidates. How do you do this? First, think through the answers to these questions:
- What is attractive about this job, and why would a top-performing candidate be interested in this opportunity over their current role? Is it company or organization growth? Is it a brand new role? Will they be building a new team from scratch?
- What are you expecting this person to accomplish in the next six months? 12 months? Three years?
The answers to these questions should be the fuel that you use to create your story, or the “pitch” that would be presented when trying to recruit prospective candidates. It should also be the content that you use to develop your position description. Top candidates want to make an impact, and to be able to overcome a challenge.
One other key consideration here: if you’re having trouble recruiting and attracting A-player candidates, it may be that you need to re-scope the position – or even more importantly, you may need to address more significant organizational issues such as a poor culture and/or reputation. A-players talk with other A-player candidates in their network – and one of the most detrimental impacts to long term recruiting can be a bad experience from a new hire.
Problem 3: You Lack the Recruiting Reach
In order to attract the A-player candidate, you have to be able to identify them and then recruit them. How do you identify them? Hundreds of ways.
Social networks like LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook. As a recruitment firm, we have access to premium resources as well that provide us the reach that we need – but if you have the time and motivation, you’ll be surprised at the recruiting resources that you can access for no cost.
Have you been unsuccessful recruiting for your organization? Contact us and we’ll be happy to evaluate your recruiting process and see if there’s something that you’re missing.
Last year, I was contacted by the VP of R&D of a medical device company who was growing his team and was looking for recruiting assistance. After discussions and due diligence, he decided to work with us on an exclusive basis.
The result? The client company couldn’t be happier. Over the course of several months, we’ve recruited and hired on several A-player candidates, who then recruited other top performing former colleagues, and I’m still recruiting for them.
I’ve written about exclusive recruiting agreements in the past – this is where a company who has a hiring need agrees to work with one recruiter exclusively for one or multiple searches. This can be either through retaining the recruiter, or working with one recruiter or recruiting firm for a set period of time on a contingency basis (contingency means that the client pays only if the recruiting firm finds the candidate who is hired).
In my experience and in the example above, exclusive recruiting agreements, when done right, work exceptionally well – and in most cases, work significantly better than working with several recruiters on searches.
Can you afford to work with only one recruiter?
Some hiring managers would never consider working with just one recruiter or search firm for their recruiting needs…especially for their hard to fill positions / searches. I understand the logic, but I respectfully disagree and would submit that in order to find the A-player, especially for difficult searches, you have a much better chance when working with just one search firm.
The logic for wanting to use multiple recruiters on a search is that by casting more "nets", you'll catch more "fish". The flaw with this approach is that a hiring manager might ultimately see more candidates for their searches, but most of these candidates will likely be unqualified or lower performers. The hiring manager will also likely spend a significant amount of time sorting through unqualified resumes and interviewing unqualified candidates.
The other problem with this approach is that recruiters want to focus their time and efforts on searches where they’ll be rewarded for successfully delivering the A-player. Chances for success are significantly less when they have a low level of commitment from their client company and are competing against several other recruiters for the same role (and recruiters do know). This means that a client may have several recruiters working on their searches, but they may stop receiving new candidate submissions after a short time from those recruiters as they move onto other searches.
Can you trust just one recruiter to deliver the A-player, hard to find talent for a role?
I’m glad you asked. The answer: absolutely. BUT - it takes spending the time and effort up front to find the right recruiter, and ensuring that they know exactly what you’re looking for. Good recruiters look for client relationships where they are a trusted partner – and knowing that a hiring manager has put their trust exclusively in the recruiter for their search or searches fosters a committed, consultative relationship and a very high sense of urgency for the recruiter to find the right person as quickly as possible. This ultimately results in an effective recruiting strategy and a hiring manager who is thrilled with their team of top performers.
If you're a hiring manager and have ever needed hard-to-find talent, chances are you have worked with a recruiter, and if you have -- I sincerely hope it has been a good experience.
I've heard anecdotes from my clients about experiences with recruiters ranging from stellar to disastrous. If you are one of the unfortunate people to have had a bad experience, or you just want to be proactive and ensure your recruiting success, well, this post is for you.
Working with a headhunter is critical when you're searching for hard-to-find talent. A good headhunter can significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to find and hire the right person. They should also be able to help you identify who is (and who isn't) the A-player, with a thorough and rigorous interviewing and reference checking process.
Today we'll talk about tips for working with a headhunter to help you find the best talent for your organization in the least amount of time.
Tip #1: Do Your Due Diligence When Choosing a Recruiter
Ask your network for recommendations. Look for recruiters who know your industry and have a successful track record – and also have a strong cadre of client references who you can contact. Partnering with a recruiter who won't quit until he/she successfully completes your search is imperative.
Tip #2: Offer Your Recruiter a Time-Bound "Exclusive"
If possible, consider working with one recruiter exclusively for a certain amount of time – say, six weeks. At the end of this time period, if you're not satisfied with his/her performance on the search, you can engage another recruiter. Another option worth considering is a retained search where you retain their recruiting services by a retainer, such as 1/3 of the estimated search fee up front, another 1/3 upon a milestone, and the last 1/3 upon completion of the search.
Giving your search to a large number of recruiters is typically not a good idea. As with anyone, recruiters don't like wasting their time. They want to maximize their chances of a happy client, successful outcome and get compensated for the work they do. When a recruiter gets a search on which several others are working, they're most likely not going to spend much time or effort hunting for candidates – the odds of being successful are just too low... which brings us to tip #3.
Tip #3: Choose a Hunter
Make sure your recruiter is a hunter. When you set your sights on finding the A-player, you want a recruiter who is truly going to hunt for “passive candidates”. Passive candidates are those aren't actively looking and typically don't have their resumes posted – but are open to hearing about new opportunities that might be better than their current role.
Much of my recruiting focus is in the medical devices and diagnostics industry – where specialized expertise and talent is in extremely high demand. Let's say you need an R&D Engineering Manager with heavy Class II medical device experience in Austin. The pool of qualified candidates at this level is relatively small, and the number of A-players (top 10% of performers in this pool) is even smaller. To attract the A-player, you need a recruiter who will actively work to find and recruit them. Actively recruiting means sourcing (or identifying names of potential candidates through all means available), approaching candidates, and being able to generate interest in the opportunity by presenting a compelling value proposition - and in a talent market that is heating up like it is, this is critical for your success in winning the war for talent.
I hope that this provides you some insight on which you can begin acting immediately. In our next installment, I'll go into more details on what to look for in a recruiter and how to ensure your recruiting and hiring success.
Resumes paint the picture that the candidate wants to convey – highlighting successes and accomplishments over their career. A résumé doesn’t tell you about the bad stuff - about their mistake that helped get their company an FDA warning letter, or the miscalculation that delayed a project by months.
Getting to know the real candidate is key - and this where the interview comes into play – but it often takes the right techniques to get the entire story. Most candidates easily present what they want for you to see during the interview – and too often, hiring decisions are made based on just this – with maybe a few softball reference checks.
So, how can you get past this and get a candidate to reveal who they really are, warts and all? The most effective techniques I’ve seen at doing this is one described in the book Topgrading, called the “Threat of Reference Check”. This method lets the candidate know that, as part of the interview process, you will want to speak with their managers for each of their roles over the past 10 years. Then, when you ask the question, “How would your manager describe you?” – you are much more likely to get the real answer.
This interviewing technique can be extremely powerful, but take care to be sensitive in this process, and wait until you have established a level of trust before you spring this on a candidate. For example, it might be more appropriate to do this in the on-site interview as opposed to doing this in the initial phone screen. Some candidates also may not allow you to speak with one or all of their former managers – sometimes for very good reasons. You will have to use your best judgment in a case like this and see if it makes sense to proceed with the candidate.
The interview phase is one of the most critical phases of the entire recruiting process, and having the right techniques can be the difference between hiring an A-player, or making a bad hire who can cost you millions.
A friend of mine got invited to Tiger Jam, a Tiger Woods Foundation fundraiser held in Las Vegas. He told me about getting to meet some celebrities and even sitting down with Tiger to talk golf and life. Then he told me something that struck me as odd. As he was passing through the casino one day, he saw Dr. J playing the nickel slots. My friend had to take do a double-take and walk back to make sure it was him.
Dr. J (one of the all-time great NBA/ABA basketball players, winner of 3 championships, 4 MVP awards, 3 scoring titles, and famous for the Baseline Reverse Layup in the 1980 NBA Finals against the Lakers) playing the nickel slots...it was an unusual place to see him.
My friend's story has stuck with me, because in many ways, hiring managers deal with their own version of Dr. J playing the nickel slots when interviewing potential candidates. These candidates come to you with stellar backgrounds, having worked at well-regarded companies with a solid track record of producing results, but you sense something that is just not right. Maybe it was a way the candidate answered a question or how they didn't elaborate fully on their motivation for leaving a company.
Hiring managers....in the same way my friend had to do a double-take, you must also dig deeper to get to the truth in an interview. It means asking tougher, direct interview questions that require candidates to explain in a more detailed level - the questions that allow you to get to truth so that you can make an informed assessment of the candidate and their fit for your organization.
In our experience recruiting, we have found that the ability to ask tough questions is one of the best indicators of a hiring manager's success in assessing talent. It’s a simple concept...but it takes practice and a willingness to do the uncomfortable.
If I conducted a survey of my clients for whom I recruit asking them what they would say is the most daunting part of the overall recruiting process, I'd predict that 9 of 10 would say finding, or sourcing, the A-player candidates. To most hiring managers, this process is a necessary evil – and most have had bad experiences with it...but planned and executed well, sourcing can position your organization to be exceedingly successful.
As we've been discussing, recruiting is an essential part of building a successful company, but is oftentimes one of the most overlooked functions in an organization. A good recruiting process has to be well planned, spending a considerable amount of time up front on defining, truly understanding, and documenting the requirements and expectations for the role, creating a candidate key behavioral and technical competency scorecard, and a sourcing plan.
Today we will discuss sourcing.
How to Develop a Sourcing Strategy
A sourcing strategy is the roadmap for how you are going to find the right candidates for this search. This plan will need to outline how and where you will plan to identify the largest and best pool of candidates available for this role.
Why Posting a Job on Monster Just Doesn't Cut It
Don't get me wrong: job posting can and should at times be one of many elements to a sourcing strategy – but it rarely yields the A-player. A-players are largely “passive candidates” - meaning that they're typically doing well and are mostly satisfied in their current role, and aren't actively looking – but might be willing to consider a new opportunity better than their current role.
What does this mean to a hiring manager or leader? It means that your sourcing strategy absolutely must include a large portion dedicated to identifying, targeting and attracting these passive candidates.
A sourcing strategy should basically answer the following questions:
- What is the “story” behind this opportunity, and why would a candidate be interested in leaving their current role for this one? How do we sell this opportunity to prospective candidates?
- At what companies might these candidates be currently employed?
- How do we identify the candidates within these companies?
- How will we approach the potential target candidates?
Putting in the time and effort at the front end of the searches will give you a massive return on investment - and can ultimately transform your overall recruiting process into one that is efficient, agile and is best in class.
In another post, we'll address some tactics and methods that you can use to more effectively and efficiently source and attract passive candidates.
In this series, we're discussing key aspects of building an effective recruiting process that can give your organization a sustained competitive advantage. For part two, we'll focus on a few fundamental philosophies and mindsets that are critical to your success in recruiting.
Commit to Hiring the Best Talent and Fit
We use the term “A-player” to define the best. In the book “Topgrading”, Dr. Bradford Smart defines an A-player as a candidate in the top 10% of available candidates for a given role, considering all factors...including the responsibilities, company, compensation, location, etc.
After conducting several surveys which included respondents including companies such as Boeing and Rockwell among dozens of others, he concluded that the average cost of a mid-level manager “mis-hire” is 15 times annual base salary on average, and the cost increases the longer the person is in the role. To quantify: a mis-hire with a $100K annual base salary costs the company $1.5MM! This sounds outrageous, and it is – but true.
Consider all of the potential cost impacts that a senior level manager can have: driving the top performers to leave the organization due to discontentment with leadership; lower levels of productivity, innovation and quality; a greater potential for costly mistakes, such as a warning letter or worse; not to mention the direct costs of recruiting, compensation and severance.
Sadly, in this situation, your best case scenario is that a bad hire only performs below your expectations, stays under the radar and doesn’t produce the results expected. The worst case scenario is all too often much more damaging to an organization.
On the other side of the spectrum, when you commit to hiring the best, it not only brings you immediate measurable results, it also creates a winning culture that improves the quality of candidates attracted to your organization. Top performers attract other top performers in several ways – through their network, through the fostering of a company brand known for its success and high standards of talent, as well as by having an organization full of managers who can more effectively identify and manage the top performing candidates.
Hiring the best must be a company-wide commitment, and that means getting buy-in from your executive team, all levels of managers, individual contributors, human resources and search firms. This needs to be more than them just agreeing on the principle, but should result in taking the steps necessary to implement a robust process that produces results.
It is not easy and takes significant effort to begin with – but it will benefit you, your career and your company more than you can imagine.
Develop a Robust Recruiting Process
The recruiting process is a funnel - you want to ensure that you have the largest possible pool of candidates going into the top of the funnel from which to select the best candidates, with an ultimate result of selecting the best from the group, as well as having them choose to join your organization.
Before you start the recruiting process, you should know and document in detail exactly what the role is – What are your expectations? What are the outcomes and accomplishments that you expect this person to achieve in the first 6 months? 1 year? 2 years? What behavioral and technical competencies does this person need to possess in order to be successful in this role?
A successful recruiting process includes casting a broad yet targeted net, having a rigorous screening and interviewing process, and selling candidates on the company and opportunity throughout the entire process – especially after they start. Hiring decisions are all too often taken too lightly, with the resulting negative consequences.
Constantly Assess the State of Your Organization
Knowing your organization’s overall mission, the skills critical to get you there, as well as the current makeup of your group is fundamental to building and developing the team that can best deliver on that mission. This may seem like common sense, and it is – but formally identifying and tracking this is critical for succession planning as well as adapting your organization to an evolving mission.
You should always be evaluating the direction of your organization and what you expect your hiring needs to be in six months or a year out. Identifying competency gaps or those lacking depth in your organization should be a part of your recruiting plan, making those competencies that you will want to seek in new hires. Succession planning is another key area that is integral to this process – this is not just the problem for global multinationals either. Just like Warren Buffett or Steve Jobs worry about who will replace them, you should be honestly asking the same hard questions to yourself, especially for your star performers today -- the one’s that you cringe when you think about having to replace them.
Always Be Recruiting, Constantly Build Your Talent “Bench”
Budgets and organizational factors can shut down your ability to hire from time to time – but that should never stop you from developing and cultivating relationships with candidates that you’d like to hire at some point. As the economy improves, it is more likely that people from within your organization are going to be looking to make a move and leave. If and when that does happen, it is imperative that you jump start the recruiting process and shorten the time it takes you to backfill or even grow as the market expands.
Recruiting can be one of the more frustrating aspects of leading your organization – but it is something that can be developed into a sustained advantage if you know the “how” and the “where”.
In my next post, I will discuss sourcing - how and where to find the A-players.
Why do some companies thrive, while others fail? One word: Talent. Hiring the wrong person can cost a company millions of dollars, and hiring the right people is essential for enabling a company’s success. Recruiting top talent in the medical device industry is highly competitive, and there are wide ranging philosophies on the best way to do this and develop a best in class organization.
Most of you are all too familiar with the scenario: you have a critical hiring need, and you really needed the right person in this role weeks ago. You wonder…should I post the job and if so, where? Should I retain a recruiter? How do I ensure I am hiring the right person for this role? Once I decide on a candidate, how do I get them to accept my offer and what is my risk that they would just turn around and use my offer to negotiate a counter offer from their current employer?
Over the next few weeks, I will be walking us through three key areas of the recruiting process: sourcing, interviewing and hiring. I will share advice and best practices to hire the best talent to fit your organizational goals. Our next segment will focus on laying out foundational philosophies that are important to being successful when it comes to recruiting.