Ten things HR departments don’t understand about hiring

Finding the best candidate requires some nifty detective work.
Finding the best candidate requires some nifty detective work.
Image: Getty Images/Ben A. Pruchnie
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This originally appeared on LinkedIn. You can follow Lou Adler here 

There was an interesting story on Harvard Business Review’s blog about corporate board members giving most of their companies an “F” for talent acquisition and development, blaming the HR department for the failure. Since my company helps companies around the world improve their grades on the hiring side, we have good visibility in where they both excel and underperform. Based on this, here’s what we’ve seen it take to make the “Dean’s List” for talent acquisition, and why most companies miss the mark.

What it takes to get an “A” for hiring great people

  1. A clearly communicated and comprehensive talent acquisition strategy that’s understood, supported and tracked at all levels of the organizations. Most CEOs and companies give this lip service, without the proper support, focus, resources or controls.
  2. Hiring managers are ranked on how well they improve the quality of their team. If hiring top talent is number one, this needs to be the primary topic of every manager’s performance review. If it isn’t, it suggests that the mantra “talent is #1” is all talk and no walk.
  3. The hiring decision is too important to leave solely in the hiring manager’s hands. Hiring managers tend to focus on their short term needs to fill a position, rather than giving emphasis to developing future leaders for the company.
  4. A different hiring process is used in a talent scarcity situation. Most company hiring processes are based on a surplus of talent model, which focuses on “weeding out the weak.” This same process can’t be used when a surplus doesn’t exist. In this case, an “attract the best” approach is required. Here’s a video I did with LinkedIn describing the critical differences.
  5. Workforce planning is used to create a proactive, forward-looking recruiting process. If a company isn’t working on its critical hiring needs 2-3 quarters into the future, it’s left with little time, fewer recruiting options, and a hurried hiring decision.
  6. Quality of hire should be the primary metric, not filling positions quickly and at low cost. In most cases corporate recruiters are measured on filling positions quickly with the best person who applies. This rewards maintaining the current talent level rather than raising it. Here’s a sample form we use to measure pre-hire quality of hire to prevent the “can’t measure quality in real time” excuse.
  7. The best talent leaders don’t make excuses. Too many talent leaders blame their hiring managers, their compensation department, the ATS (applicant tracking systems), or their legal team for their lack of improvement. Here’s a report from a senior legal compliance guru at Littler (U.S. labor law firm) and short video on why these excuses are self-imposed. (We’re hosting an open Q&A webcast with the guru on July 9th.)
  8. The hiring process is fully-integrated from beginning to end. Concurrent engineering has been around for years for process improvement and product development, but somehow HR didn’t get the word. Sourcing, recruiting, interviewing, closing, on-boarding, and performance management needs to be an end-to-end continuous process, not an independent and contradictory silo. Retention, performance and job satisfaction all improve when the right people are hired.
  9. Hire the best person available, not the best person who applies. While 83% of fully-employed candidates are not actively looking, and won’t apply to a job posting (here are the survey results), most of them are willing to talk with a recruiter or hiring manager on an exploratory basis. This requires skilled recruiters and fully-engaged hiring managers using a talent scarcity hiring process.
  10. Offer career opportunities, not lateral transfers. Just look at these job descriptions to get a sense of why good people aren’t applying. Some of these jobs are great, but they’re so poorly written they turn off even the desperate. Here’s a sample of how job descriptions should be written to attract career motivated people. (This is legal!)

Some of the deficiencies noted above are caused by the lack of the right strategy rather than poor tactics or bad implementation. In this case, responsibility for the “F” should be on the CEO’s shoulders, not HR’s. In fact, one could argue that it belongs with every board member, including the thousand or so who took the survey. If hiring great people is so important, it should be a primary topic discussed at every board meeting. I remember sitting in a big meeting as a newbie MBA flipping slides at an F50 company, where the Chairman lambasted a group president saying that strategy drives tactics, not the other way around. The same holds true for talent. If valid, the “F” grade belongs with those responsible for setting the talent strategy. As Red Scott said “hire smart, or manage tough.” The way I see it, hiring smart starts with a smart strategy.