“I am convinced that little that we do as managers is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies.”
Laurence Bossidy, author and former COO of GE

Author: Thomas Alva Edison; {{PD-US}}; via Wikimedia Commons

Author: Thomas Alva Edison; {{PD-US}}; via Wikimedia Commons

Hiring the right people into the right positions is one of the most critical responsibilities of any manager, and yet it is one that most managers do extremely badly (see “Why are so many managers so bad at recruiting ?” posted December 12, 2011).

One would think that in today’s economic environment, with about four people unemployed for every job available, companies would have a wonderful treasure trove of candidates available to choose from, and would therefore find it easier than ever to bring in the right people to fill their vacancies. However, this does not appear to be the case, as studies show that on an average it takes twice as long to fill a vacancy today than it did just three years ago. In itself, this is not necessarily a bad thing, as I believe that we should not rush to recruit at any time nor at any level, but it also appears that the quality of recruitment has not improved much in that same time.

A recent study documented in the Harvard Business Review found that over 70% of staff turnover can be directly linked to incorrect recruitment. One problem is that companies still tend to recruit more for skills than they do for attitude, something that I have long felt is the wrong way around, as the needed skills can always be developed much more easily than can the right attitudes.

However, the real problem that I see today is that in most companies, managers tend to be measured more strongly on how long it takes to fill a vacancy in their area of responsibility, rather than on how well the vacancy has been filled, despite the fact that incorrect recruitment can have a devastating effect on a company. It is estimated that a bad hire can financially cost a company three to five times the annual salary, but over and above the direct cost there is also an impact on employee morale and productivity, as well as the potential indirect costs of the impact on customer and partner relationships if the role is an externally facing one.

To speed up the recruiting process, managers tend to give away most of the responsibility for recruitment to third parties. This is understandable, as few managers have the available time to sift through wads of CVs, and then do a raft of initial interviews to come up with a final shortlist, for personal and serious one on one interviews.

Author: Rkwriting; via Wikimedia Commons

Author: Rkwriting; via Wikimedia Commons

This means that the development of this critical shortlist is generally left to the HR organisation to deliver, which despite being skilled in interview techniques, and despite probably having some understanding of the role to be filled, may not necessarily be in total synchronisation with the attitudes, culture and values of the hiring manager and his team. And yet, this approach is meant to work, despite the fact that people tend to join companies but leave managers.

In my own experience, I have found that letting my own team vet the available CVs, and hence develop the shortlist, has had considerably more success than using HR for this task, even to the ultimate point of allowing my team to come up with the final candidate for me to meet.

While your team may not have the same level of professional interview techniques as trained HR recruitment specialists, they will have a better understanding of what characteristics and attitudes are needed in their team (rather than your team), and in reality I have found them to be even more significantly bloody-minded than I am about ensuring that the right person is added to their group.

Author: bpsusf; CC BY 2.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons

Author: bpsusf; CC BY 2.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons

If you have great people working for you, and you know that they can do their job well, who better is there to recognise someone else who could do a similar job, and who would fit well into the team ?

I have also been fortunate in my time to have some great PAs, and I never hired anyone without getting their opinion of the people we had shortlisted. If the interviews had taken place in our office, I would also check with the people on reception, as they generally had a good skill for recognising the arrogant and self-important.

Source: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

Source: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

This process of team recruitment may take longer than the normal one of using HR, but I have always found that this approach delivered a better end result than doing it myself, and had the added benefit of getting a team commitment to the new hire, even before they actually started on the job.

This also means that there are more people ready to volunteer to get involved in the new person’s induction, in the effort expended on them coming up to speed, their education about the land-mines and barriers that exist in most companies, and a greater commitment overall to their success. It also means that the team will take a greater responsibility for ensuring that team values and culture are maintained, without necessarily needing the team leader’s involvement.

If something is worth doing at all, it is worth doing well, and recruiting the right people into the team is such a critical part of an organisation’s success that responsibility for doing it well should not be parcelled out to HR. HR can be involved in ensuring that the net for recruits is thrown in the right ponds and HR should manage the relationships with external professional recruiters who are an increasingly important part of candidate identification, but their role is really just to give you some realistic choices.

It is ultimately a critical part of your role as a manager to make sure that you recruit those people that have the best chance of succeeding, and who will have a serious chance to add value to your team and your company, and you should therefore never rush to recruit.



  1. Stuart says:

    Les, perhaps an interesting corollary to this is “People don’t leave companies they leave bad managers.”

    • leshayman says:

      Stuart, that’s exactly what I meant. People will leave if they can’t form a valid working relationship with their immediate supervisor, as s/he has control over an employee’s work life … what they do, who with, how measured, how rewarded, if trained and developed, if promoted and so on … no wonder. If a bad manager they just leave faster. Les

  2. Frank says:

    Les, totally agree, “don’t rush to recruit”. Rushing to recruit often means you will repeat the problem, people often leave because the role really doesn’t is pretend job satisfaction, a band aid to the real problem and role. Hesitate and allow the real need to unfold.
    I often use the head count to solve a new real business need. Regards,, Frank

    • leshayman says:

      Frank, you hit on a critical point, that many managers rush to fill a historic role, when they could use a vacancy to build the future rather than to protect the status quo.
      Also, I find that in today’s economic environment managers rush to recruit because they are worried that they will lose the slot through yet another hiring freeze. Les

  3. jennifer says:

    great article. i love the comment that many recruit for skills rather than attitude. Skills can be built, and attitude can’t easily be changed.

  4. As one of my favorite ex-managers said, “Hire for attitude, train for skill.”

  5. Adriana says:

    Mr. Hayman, attitude was at some point included in the “soft skills” and “soft skills” at some point got also a negative connotation. When that happened and why, you probably know better. Adriana

    • leshayman says:

      Adriana, I don’t see “attitude” as a soft skill, but as a starting point. I am also not saying that there is only one sort of attitude that is right for every team and every company, just that the attitude needs to fit the culture/behaviour. For example, there may not be a good fit hiring an “amiable” person into a team that acts as though Gengis Khan is their main role model. Les

  6. Great post and great discussion. The thing about attitude is that its easy for good interviewers to fake it during the selection process. Most candidates today have more interview experience than the managers. Therefore its critical to add data to the hiring process with proper use of behavioral science, structured interviews that truly seek to answer the attitude question and lastly automated reference checking which again can glean insight into attitude and on the job behavior in a way that no other selection method can.

    You might be interested in a recent research report “Best Practices in Talent Selection” at this link It’s a well researched document covering both pre-hire processes and post hire data mining that can lead to continuous improvement.

    • leshayman says:

      George, I agree that many managers can be “snowed” on attitudes during an interview process, which is why I believe that multiple team member interviews are mandatory to get a broader, varied view of the candidate. I also have no issue with using other tools to evaluate candidates as long as they enhance and support the interview/selection process rather than replace it. Les

  7. Pingback: Attraction & Acquisition, Chemistry & Technology - HR Tech Europe – Human Resources and HR News on Technology and Collaborative Software

  8. Pingback: Attraction & Acquisition, Chemistry & Technology

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