Recruiters admitting failure

I’ve previously written about the role of recruiters in the current climate. I absolutely appreciate that for hard pushed recruitment teams, dealing with the volume of applicants that you get in a recession is tough. As people try to get a job, any job, you find yourself dealing with more and more applicants who simply don’t have the experience or knowledge that you need. It is a super tough job, but not half as tough as that of the unemployed.

I’ve seen numerous posts and Linkedin statuses complaining about the use of unnecessary qualifications for selection. I’ve got a long and proven track record of suggesting this is blunt thinking, even in the best of times. And of course that remains to this day – education is not a meritocracy. It never has been. But before I get distracted and start beating my truly old and battered drum, I want to talk about something else.

“We advise you to apply early, because due to volume of applicants we may close this advert early”

I cannot tell you, in how many ways this makes me want to scream. But I’m going to try, because it is raining and I appear to have nothing better to do for the next few minutes.

The vast majority of recruiters and resources will tell you that their job is to find “the best talent” for XYZ Corporation. They will tell you that the main attraction to their job is when they find a truly brilliant hire. I genuinely believe they believe this, however, if they ever use the line above they are admitting that these assertions are a sham. They are only interested in filling a seat and making their own lives easier. A more accurate statement would be, “the best fit from the people who can be bothered to apply”.

In some ways, I’m not against this latter assertion. It is honest, in reality it is what most recruiters do and whilst there is increasingly a level of active search, the goal is more to find an acceptable bum on seat, rather than to find the best talent. However, and it is a big HOWEVER, by closing down a role early, you are absolutely signalling that to the candidate pool. The logic is, “I’m saying this explicitly so the best candidates will apply quicker”, the reality is that you’re reducing your chance of finding the best person or people.

And of course, particularly in early careers recruitment, this also builds in a massive bias towards those candidates with pushy parents, school teachers or mentors and disadvantages those who might come to the recruitment process later or not recognise the importance of acting sooner rather than later.

It is a process that introduces another, non job related, bias filled selection criteria – SPEED.

Life is hard enough for job seekers at the moment, and whilst I really do understand the pressures on the recruitment teams (I used to recruit 18,000 Christmas temps each year) I implore you to put this in Room 101 with the other stupid recruitment practices. If you want to know more about those, you can read them here.

The distraction of talent management

We love to over engineer a management practice, don’t we? And never more so than the area of “talent management”. We take something with a relatively simple principle at it’s core and turn it into an elaborate, process driven, complex, laborious practice. Then wonder why it doesn’t work.

Let’s start by understanding the core principles behind talent management:

To ensure we have the organisational capability that we need now and in the future in order to be successful.

That’s it, nothing more complex than that. But “management science” would have us believe that in order to deliver this we need a range of complex interventions, grids, assessments that require hours of time to complete with little, if any, visible benefit. And then we repeat it on a regular basis.

One of the challenges is our inability to have good quality, meaningful conversations about the ability and capability of people within our organisations and to convey those conversations to them in an honest way. It is also our reluctance to think openly about the future, especially into areas of uncertainty.

Organisations thrived and succeeded before the 9 box grid was created, I’m not sure any of the great industrialists ever attended a calibration session and I’m certain the sun would still come up in the morning if we skipped the annual “talent review”. We’d be much better prepared for success were we to put the processes away for a while and sit and focus on the why not the how.

Simplifying our view on the capability we have, need and will need and how to build and develop is the real trick, not creating more forms that need to be filled in.

 

Talent management starts at home

We talk a lot about talent.

But in any situation, on any day, I’d rather have a hard-working, committed but good team member, than an exceptional, but erratic and slightly lazy one.

Of course, I realise that the reality is seldom binary but the point remains the same.

We’re obsessed by “talent” we seek the “exceptional”, but in the process are we overlooking the essential? Are we missing the most exciting opportunities because we’re always looking for something more?

My instinct is this, if we were to focus a little bit more on developing and growing the people who already work beside us, if we were to be more ambitious about our colleague’s potential, then we’d discover more success than failure.

I would struggle to think of any individual who (when they were being balanced and thoughtful) didn’t think they had more to give, more to offer, more to contribute. And yet the amount of time we spend focusing on helping them to deliver on this, is marginal at best.

Sometimes, we overlook the opportunities that we have right before us. If we’re serious about talent management, we’d start at the closer point to home.

Give better interview

Let me start this piece with a giant caveat – I know I’m not the world’s best interviewer. I get bored, I have a tendency to wander in to areas that interest me and I want to explore and I have (on the very odd occasions) been known to be judgemental – don’t wear Christmas socks to an interview with me in March.

Whilst I’m willing to accept my own foibles are far from ideal, I’m also constantly surprised by the approach taken to interviewing by HR professionals and business leaders alike. Let me put it another way…

If you were making any other £50,000 investment decision, would you turn up to the investment meeting five minutes late, not having read the investment proposals and make a decision based on a variety of criteria and questions that have little if anything to do with the required product or service?

Ultimately each piece of recruitment, each interview is exactly that – a piece of procurement. And as such there are simple steps we can take to make sure we increase our chances of a better outcome.

  • Looking far and wide for the best providers (recruits)
  • Carry out good research and due diligence on the shortlist (application process)
  • Assessing against relevant and comparable criteria (interview questions)
  • Selecting based on moderated assessments (marking and rating of interviewers)

Too often we approach the interview process through the lens of employment law and regulatory requirements. And whilst this is a necessary consideration it shouldn’t be our ultimate focus.

Best practice is about best outcome and delivering real commercial value, perhaps more than anything else.