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The Recruiter's Guide to Dumb Hiring Managers


9/15/2008 4:50:43 PM

By Peter Weddle -- No gathering of recruiters is ever complete without tales from the crypt-like cubicles of hiring mangers. These men and women are our colleagues, to be sure, but sometimes … well, sometimes they think and act as if they come from another planet. Not Mars or Venus mind you, but someplace so remote that there is no way we mere mortals can recognize or understand what motivates them. I mean, how do you relate to a person whose current and future success depends upon the caliber of the talent with which they work and yet they can’t seem to find the time to develop accurate job descriptions, review resumes, prepare for interviews or even communicate with someone who has accepted an offer to join their team? That’s not just stupid behavior; it’s dumb behavior on an intergalactic scale.

While we can joke about this penchant for the perverse subversion of our recruiting efforts, we also recognize that such nonsensical behavior can be a drag on our own performance and thus a danger to our security and wellbeing. As most of us know all too well, when things go wrong with the people we’ve recruited (or tried to), hiring managers don’t blame themselves and their inattention or carelessness. No, they huff and puff themselves up and then, with a cheekiness that would make Paris Hilton proud, they point at us as the ones who blew their house down.

So, what are we to do?

I offer forthwith my Recruiter's Guide to Dumb Hiring Managers.

They Don't Know What They Don't Know

We work with the realities of mismatches in talent demand and supply every day. Hiring managers seldom do.

  • They don’t know what it takes to write a reasonable and responsible description of the requirements and responsibilities of their openings. They don’t know when they’re asking for too much in a candidate or offering too little in compensation for the talent they need.
  • They don’t know what it takes to get that description translated into a recruitment ad that will engage the best talent. They don’t know how to communicate the organization’s value proposition as an employer or how to articulate the opportunity their opening represents.
  • And, they don’t know where to promote that message so that the best talent will actually see it. They don’t know where their target demographic hangs out online or off and in what specific venues or formats (e.g., email, networking, print) they are most likely to be reached.

    They Don’t Know What They Think They Know

    We meet and interact with candidates every day. Hiring managers seldom do.

  • They think they know how to interview, but just about everyone else knows they don’t. In fact, there’s a University of Michigan study which proves that hiring managers are only 4% better than flipping a coin—they get it right 54% of the time—when it comes to selecting the best interviewee for a job.
  • They think they know what it takes to attract and sell top talent, but more often than not, they are way, way out of touch. Motivating factors shift from generation to generation, and most hiring managers know their peers well, but are dumb as dirt about the younger professionals who work for them.
  • They think they know what their unit must do to succeed so they focus on doing—on activity—rather than on recruiting and retaining the resources they must have (and effectively lead) in order to accomplish that activity. Most of them don’t realize that talent must be sold and resold over and over again.

    They Don't Know What We Know

    We are recruiting professionals (or at least work in the field of recruiting regularly). They aren’t and don’t.

  • They are clueless about what it takes to woo a high performer from their current employer—the devil they know—to a new employer—the devil they don’t know. As a result, they consistently underestimate the time and resources required to accomplish that feat.
  • They are ignorant of the subtleties of candidate assessment and, all too often, have the interpersonal skills of a brick. As a result, they consistently overemphasize the data on a resume and make little effort (or don’t know how) to probe individual characteristics and values.
  • They don’t understand what we do, how we do it or why. More often than not, they see recruiting as an overhead function that doesn’t contribute to the bottom line (as they measure it). As a result, they fail to appreciate the importance of our work or the very real contribution it makes to their success.

    How can recruiters deal with dumb hiring managers? The easy answer would be to adopt the strategy Shakespeare proposed for attorneys: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” But that, of course, is neither appropriate nor conducive to good corporate relations. So, the obvious answer, though not an easy one, is to educate the poor dummies as best we can. Indeed, as onerous as it may seem, we must make their education a part of our job. Why bother? Because the reality is that our success depends upon it. We can’t do our jobs well if our customers are as dumb on an interstellar scale.

    Recognizing that truth doesn’t make the task of teaching any easier, of course. It’s a rationale, but not a game plan for success. So, it’s equally as important to know how to begin. To know where we start in our efforts to transform dummies into smarties.

    What is that first step? I think we must begin by giving them a rationale for learning that is equally as compelling as our rationale for teaching. What would that be? What one reason would justify their investing the time and effort to acquire the knowledge they need to be good recruiting partners with us? The answer was best expressed by someone they know and admire, W. Edward Deming, the Father of Quality Improvement. They’ll have to think about it for a minute, but here’s what he said: “Learning is not compulsory... neither is survival.”

    Thanks for reading,
    Peter



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