There are a handful of beliefs within most professions that need to be examined from time to time for validity and accuracy. Assumptions can be very dangerous when they are swallowed without critical thought or current evidence. The medical profession believed for years that ulcers were caused by stress and certain foods. It took a modestly qualified medical researcher in Australia to prove that they were caused by bacteria and could be cured with antibiotics. He spent fruitless years trying to persuade highly qualified, educated, and experienced peers that they were wrong. No major university or hospital would have hired him.
This is but one example of the many times we accept tradition for it face value. Assumptions and beliefs are like computer programs – they are encoded actions or patterns that allow us to act quickly but without much thought.
From time to time, though, it is important to surface them, examine them, and either keep them or discard them for new ideas. Far better to be a bit of a skeptic and question everything that seems to be common sense or that everyone believes.
Here I examine a few of the common beliefs that most recruiters hold:
Interviews are Critical to Make a Good Hire
One of the greatest myths of all is that interviewing is the best way to assess people. Numerous vendors provide interview training and promise that if you conduct interviews well you will select people who will perform better and stay longer. If you conduct highly structured, well thought out interviews consistently and apply what you learn, research shows that you can make better decisions than chance alone would dictate. But in my many years of experience, I find that interviews are rarely done well and most of them are little more than chitchats. Recruiters often have no real idea of what the criteria for success are for a given position or what evidence would be a predictor. The usual interview – one that consists of a handful of questions and a swapping of information in a very general way – is about as good a predictor of success as pure guessing.
As I have written many times, only a combination of assessment techniques will really work — and then not perfectly. Research has consistently shown that by combining a variety of tools such as skills and aptitude testing along with tests for decisions making or other behavioral traits you can significantly improve success in predicting good hires. By necessity these tools are based on evidence and are reliable predictors of success. They are also faster and frequently cheaper than the normal interview process. Well designed tests have less adverse impact and are far more defensible than interviewing, which even when it is well done, is a highly subjective process.
Many organizations are now adopting games and video-based simulations for screening and assessing candidates. These are more engaging and better predictors of success than other tools.
If I were to skip anything in the hiring process, it would be interviewing. I would give assessment tests based on careful research to gather evidence as to which skills and competencies contribute most to success. Once there is a final list of one or two candidates, I would let the manager select based on his or her face-to-face assessment and then go through a normal face-to-face closing process.
Finding People Who Fit our Culture Is Critical
Culture fit may not be necessary for every position. For some reason, it has become a mantra these days. Everyone is testing for and selecting for what they think is culture fit – an ill-defined and hard to nail down concept. Does it mean fitting in with the hiring manager and his or her team or does it mean fitting the general corporate culture, assuming that that has been adequately mapped and vetted?
Fit may be completely unimportant for transactional jobs or jobs that require little interaction with customers or clients. And as we move toward a more contingent workforce with people entering projects at all times and for set periods of time, culture fit becomes less and less important.
I would rather hire a highly competent and experienced engineer than one less accomplished but a better cultural fit. Sometimes it is more important to have skills, but sometimes fit is more important. I think we should use cultural fit as screening criteria where hard data has shown it is important for success.
It is also important to have some people who are not considered good cultural fits, especially in organizations that want to be innovative. Creativity and innovation occur frequently where you least expect it. Employees who do not fit the mold, so to speak, may become the ones who have the breakthrough ideas or who shake up the normal way of thinking to refocus a project or stimulate some new ideas.
The Candidate is Your Primary Customer
There is a strong belief that the candidate is your customer among recruiters today. While there is no doubt that it is very important to market and brand your organization and the job to the candidate and to maintain impeccable relations, candidates are not your most important customer.
The hiring manager has always been and remains the key to your success. Recruiters that are not aligned to their hiring manger’s needs are usually not successful for long. By aligning yourself with the hiring managers and making sure they get the types of candidates they are looking for in time frames they accept, you will ensure your own ability to continue doing good recruiting.
One manager I used to work with told me this: “I know what kind of person I need and I actually know several people that I’d love to hire. I am just not sure how to approach them. If you can get them interested and bring them in here, I’ll convince them to work for me.”
My job became simply a liaison – the go-between – and we were able to hire a number of great engineers as a team. I am sure you all have similar stories and experiences. When you are an ally and partner with a hiring manger, everything else seems to go smoothly. Your messages are clearer. Your assessment is more accurate. And your success is ensured.
Make sure your metrics, your sourcing strategies and your selection tools are all acceptable to your hiring managers. Involve them and keep them informed at every level and you will get the budget and staff to recruit the best people. Branding and candidate relationships come second to this.
Technology is Essential to Success
I love technology. Mr. Gadget is my middle name. But, you can successfully recruit with no technology at all. Any of us who began our careers in the B.C. era (Before Computers), are still comfortable with a manual system of filing, telephoning, and face-to-face conversation.
While I do not believe you should forego the tools we have, it is always good to focus on what is core: building relationships with hiring managers and candidates. Your first goals should be building networks, getting to know lots of people, and engaging as many potential candidates in conversation as you can. Being able to tap into a vast group of contacts and connections is the ultimate key to success. . These networks can be created and maintained using social media and I encourage every recruiter to use all the social networks. But be sure you personally are engaging with candidates, initiating conversations, and deepening the knowledge you have of each other.
I do not advocate going back to paper and filing cabinets, but I do recommend keeping a healthy perspective on what is important and never let technology get in the way of your core business of building relationships. Use it to further them.
Always be a skeptic. Always question the common wisdom. Work out your own answers, march to your own drummer, and you will reap the benefits for a long time.