Hiring Process

Good LinkedIn Post

Definitely worth reading this, I’ll comment on it later, but I wanted to get it up here when I saw it.

Update: Ted makes some good points, but I think he misses the underlying problem: Sales!  The problem with sales, and specifically sales people, is they are detached from reality.  Sales people are notoriously disorganized, and they are ridiculously positive.  They are positive in the face of the most horrifying adversity.  Now, in sales that’s a good thing.  The problem is in any non-pure sales position, and especially one that requires management of any kind, it’s a recipe for utter failure.

Being positive all the time means a psychotic disregard for opportunity cost.  Sales people will pursue every method to make a sale, and the one time out of a hundred it works, they’ll say, “See, see, I told you it works!”  And they will ignore the costs of the 99 times it failed, even if the cumulative cost of those failures is  greater than the profit for the one success.  And if you have an industry controlled by sales people, like recruiting, it will be ridiculously slow to change, its participants will be psychotically averse to admitting error, they will all be psychotically averse to criticism and evidence based approaches that question the validity of their methods, and none of them will see a problem until it is so huge that it’s ready to destroy them.

That’s basically the state of recruiting today.  It’s dominated by agencies, those agencies are in the main run by Sales! types who will bend over backwards to fellate  the Almighty Client, however ridiculous and moronic their demands are.  When objective reality intrudes into the situation, they get confused at best, petulant and obnoxious at worst.  For example, if the prevailing wage for an Account Receivable person with 5 years of experience and a degree is X, and the Almighty Client wants one at 50% of X without compromising any on the person – same requirements for education, experience, etc. – it’s not a moronic white elephant hunt.  Nope, it’s a ‘challenge.’  The client is ‘challenging,’ not a fucking idiot.

Right now, the hiring process is essentially controlled by people who think it’s a pure sales process, when in fact it’s more of a supply chain process.  The Sales! types always want to concentrate on intangibles; culture, chemistry, job satisfaction, etc., etc., etc.  They never want to concentrate on objective reality: skill set and measurable ability within it, company structure, reporting relationships, time frames for delivery, etc., etc., etc.  Nor do they ever, ever, under any circumstances, want to talk about price, otherwise known as wages.  Because the Almighty Client doesn’t want to pay them, and therefore you’re not getting any.

We need to get the Sales! types out of control of the recruiting industry or it will die a spectacular death from them pushing it too far, pushing salaries too low, indulging the ridiculous requests of Almighty Clients who want people at rock bottom wages for 80 hour weeks, no benefits, no time off, etc., etc., etc.  People will get fed up with the bullshit and eventually hiring will come under the thumb of some bureau of the government who regulates every aspect of it, and quite frankly if this profession can’t kick these assholes out and get its collective shit together, we deserve no less a fate.

Myths That Need to be Busted

If there were two myths in hiring I’d say absolutely need to be busted, I’d say it’s these two:

1) Employees are a Cost.  This is utter bullshit.  In any exchange, it happens because of a reverse valuation; which means each person wants what the other has more than what they’re giving them in exchange for it.  If you value two things equally, there’s no need to exchange because it doesn’t matter.  In the context of employment, the employee wants the salary more than the time spent on the job, and the employer wants the work product more than the salary paid for it.  As such, employees are an addition to a company’s revenue stream.  When any individual trades something they have for something they want more than that thing, they have made a return, or a profit.  Same goes for employers.  So companies need to stop acting as if employees are a cost and see them for what they are: additions to their revenue stream.  They need to start realizing vacancies have a cost, both in lost revenue from that position, but also lost revenue for everyone who has to pick up the slack and so potentially not performing their primary duties to the best of their ability.  Over staffing is certainly possible, but as long as employees are seen as a cost, all companies are always over staffed, because at least on an accounting level, they would be better off without everyone.  Of course, if that happened then the company is gone too.

Newsflash for employers: you’re not doing anyone a favor by employing them.  It’s a mutual exchange that benefits both parties.  Pull your heads out of your asses and start treating your employees as what they are: revenue generators.

2) There’s a labor shortage.  Pure bullshit.  There’s a documented labor surplus, and I and other recruiters have routinely seen multiple instances of tens, hundreds, and sometimes even thousands of applicants for an open position where the hiring manager claims none are qualified.  It’s not the candidates, it’s not a labor shortage, it’s not the recruiters.  The problem is no accountability for hiring with the managers.  There’s plenty of qualified people out there, your hiring managers are not accountable, nor do you have an honest, realistic assessment of what you offer as an employer.  Every employer thinks they deserve the Fabulous 5%, the top performers in any industry.  Horseshit.  You’re an average company with average salaries and average managers, you’re going to get average people.  Fucking deal with it.  You’re not Google, you have no benefits, you offer mediocre to no time off, who the fuck do you think is going to want to work for you?  You had better do an honest assessment of where you stand.  Think of yourself as a manufacturer of employment opportunities.  And then realize that, if it were any other product, that if your market strategy was to bitch and moan about how inept your customers were for not being willing to buy your clearly superior product for the ridiculously high price you charge, you’d be out of business in a heart beat.  In this case the high price you’re charging is the ridiculous discount to the mean salary offered in the area that you expect people to take for the ‘privilege’ of working at your company.

It’s time for employers to pull their heads out of their asses and start taking ownership of the hiring process.  If employment at your company isn’t attractive that’s your fault, and you need to correct it.  Control bad managers, up your salaries to something more reasonable, and start holding people accountable for getting positions filled.  And for those places with screaming, abusive owners, have the balls to be the one who explains to them how pathetic that behavior is and how horrible it is for their own business.

And if you aren’t willing to do those things, then don’t blame everyone else for your problems.  You aren’t serving your customers right, and that’s your fault, not theirs.

The Real Recruiting Revolution Has Nothing To Do With Recruiting

I modified a comment I made on Ere.net slightly to make it a post here. I feel it’s right on the money, other opinions vary of course.

It’s not a revolution in recruiting that’s needed. There’s plenty of people out there, it’s getting easier and easier to connect with them via old and new school methods. What’s needed is a revolution in the interview/hiring process. It’s there and then that the process is most likely to go off the rails with multiple, sometime endless interviews, tests, and endless requests to, “see more people,” well above and beyond what should be necessary to fill one position. We need to start pushing back against poor managers, bad decisions, and out of control processes as much as possible. As long as our role is to facilitate the bad practices and decisions of others, we won’t be taken seriously as a profession. So, as a profession, we need to take a stand and start pushing for a quality process as much as possible. My suggestions would be these:

1) Any vetting method with no clear evidence supporting its effectiveness should be dropped, period. Credit checks and drug testing come to mind immediately, with the latter allowing exceptions for sobriety testing in safety critical situations. Nor should this step be limited to such ancillary processes; if interviewing itself is found to be ineffective, then drop it or change it so it becomes effective. I only recently looked, but I’ve yet to see evidence that interviewing itself does much if anything to ensure a good hire and subsequent good performance.

2) Push for standard, open salary requirements. Throwing money at people doesn’t solve problems, but lack of money does create them. Honesty and openness in the realm of salary from both companies and candidates is necessary and the topic should lose its taboo status. “Competitive compensation and benefits,” is a phrase that’s on par with, “cozy,” in real estate; the latter means small space to house/apartment hunters, the former means low pay in the world of the job hunters.

3) Develop evidence and research based standards for a more regular hiring process. We need hard research demonstrating what techniques work and where diminishing returns kick in. Otherwise the hiring process will continue to be an out of control monster with 1 step in some companies and 40 in others, one or two interviews here, ten to twelve there. And real research based on effectiveness is what’s needed, not LinkedIn surveys for God’s sake.

4) Treat recruiting and employment as steps in the same life cycle process for all employees. Accountability needs to be on the managers for engaging in the hiring process, accountability beyond the date of hire needs to fall on recruiters too for quality purposes. There should always be a presumed DSLA in place, and there should be hard research done into when and where in the process accountability for retention shifts from the recruiter finding a good person to the manager/company being able to keep them.

5) Push for better treatment of workers in the US. Recruiters and HR leaders need to stop being Yes men and women for the whims of whoever happens to be in charge and develop professional standards based on evidence for how much time off, hours worked, etc., should be offered. As the workforce increasingly globalizes people in the US are inevitably going to notice that their European counterparts get twice the time off and then some, and yet, through some miracle, the companies they work for don’t collapse into dust when they take a week off and don’t answer their cell phone and check email every ten minutes. In the US we are burning out our workforce with lower and lower pay, fewer and fewer benefits, and more and more hours worked. When people are dealing with capital equipment they know the machine’s limits and tolerances and maintenance schedule, and respect it if they want the equipment to last. But people are considered to have no limits, no need for real down time, no maintenance, and are just terminally pushed for more and more and more with no regard to burn out. We treat our machines better than our workers, that has to change.

Recruiting feeds people into a machine that is largely beyond our control. There is no talent shortage, there is no lack of willing and able people. There is a severe problem with hiring; it’s a meandering, standardless maze of conflicting and redundant and often useless processes that people get thrown into and it grinds them down. That’s where the revolution is needed.