Is there anything more broken in HR than recruiting ?

I am not an HR expert – can’t even make a stretch claim to be one . Few months ago , I was convinced that performance appraisals were the most broken part of the HR realm . I wrote a few posts on my views on talent management and several readers joined the discussion . Eventually my conclusion became “Performance appraisals are evil , but the winner of the most broken HR process is recruitment”.

In hindsight , this is quite simple and something I should have known a long time ago . Guess I took it for granted somehow and didn’t realize the scale of bad consequences it has on a company .

Here are half a dozen random thoughts

1. Who owns the hiring process ? A line manager or HR ?

This should be a rhetorical question , and the problem is that it is anything but . If the hiring manager is not actively involved , HR in most cases cannot be effective . But HR is hardly empowered in any organization I know of in pushing back when hiring reqs are thrown over the wall mechanically . If you throw the req over the wall and wait for action – better not expect to find candidates you would like to work with .

If I am a candidate looking for a job – I will have amber lights flashing in my mind all the time if I don’t see the hiring manager actively involved in the process . I know from experience that it is a sure shot sign of a poor experience for me on the job , should I get it . My instinct is to walk away when I am in this situation – I learned it the hard way.

2. Can you read the hiring req with a straight face to a colleague ?

I recently read the job posting for an entry level admin job that pays $10 an hour with no benefits . If I didn’t read the title – I would have thought they are hiring a head of HR in a 1000 person company . This req was from a very successful manager who would fight tooth and nail to remove features from products because most customers don’t need it .

Some managers hire for talent – not for a given job opening . This is a double edged sword . On one hand – it is really hard to find good people and hence it makes sense to hire them when you find them and then figure out a meaningful job for them . On the other hand – these candidates need work that is worth their while (and lower patience levels to sit around) and you as manager might have other pressing issues once the hiring is done . So think very carefully about next steps if this is the route you take

3. Is salary such a taboo topic ?

I don’t know it for a fact – but I often have wondered if HR bosses give recruiters a KPI on how much money they can negotiate down for a given candidate .

Candidates get dragged through a lengthy interview process and then they get a shock when they hear the offer is a complete low ball . While money is not everything – for most candidates it is a deal breaker . Why not ask candidates if they are comfortable with a range you can afford ?

4. What about retention ?

Hiring is one half of the problem – the other half is retention . Hiring is a costly process for the company – and it involves the risk of screwing over someone else’s life and career .

Yet , with maybe one exception – I have hardly seen long term incentives for managers to retain their best talent .

5. Will they join if they really knew you and the team ?

One of the things I am very particular about is to tell potential candidates about everything that I think can go wrong for them when working in my team , and only then explain the good stuff . I also insist that they talk to everyone else currently in my team to make sure they are fully comfortable in taking forward the process . It is also important that everyone (or most people) in the team feel comfortable with their potential new colleague .

About 3 out of 4 times , people choose to not join when I do this . For many of them – I was able to find them other jobs that I thought would fit them well . But almost without exception – they are happy to still help me and work with me when I need a hand with something . And the few who choose to work with me – these are folks I can go to ANY battle with .

This didn’t come naturally to me – I learned it over time that hiring fewer right people is always better than hiring a lot of people who may or may not be right for you . A big reason for bad hiring process is the inflexible corporate budgeting policies that mandate across the board hiring freezes , not allowing managers enough freedom to handle their budgets and so on . I will go on a limb to say that impact on hiring is perhaps the biggest evil of planning and budgeting in companies .

6. The best time to plant a shade tree was a few years ago , second best is today

Everyone tells candidates to build a network . But what about managers looking to hire people ? Just like sales people need a pipeline , so do hiring managers

The worst solution is putting up job reqs at random and saving every CV that comes from applicants . That does not make a qualified pipeline . You need to get out and know the up and coming players outside your team – internal and external to your company, and win their trust . At executive levels – this is common practice . But this is usually not the case for non executive jobs .

For some weird reason – companies tend to put a higher bar for internal candidates . I have fought this almost all my career – and I think treating your internal candidates as sub par is one of the biggest hiring mistakes one can make .

There are many jobs where similar jobs in a different industry might be just as good . One of the best project managers I know of was a nurse before she shifted to IT . I never had the chance to meet the manager who hired her , but he surely saw the potential despite it not being a conventional hire . World needs more of such managers


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