NEVER RUSH TO RECRUIT
June 3, 2013 13 Comments
“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
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.
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.
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.
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.