Can You See the Elephant in the Room?

by | Nov 9, 2016 | Talent | 0 comments

Can You See the Elephant in the Room?


Chris Gootherts, Founder and President, International Talent Recruitment


You have already declined the candidates that could have filled all your needs.

I have had the privilege of managing recruiting departments in three of the world’s leading tech companies: Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon domestically and internationally (I’ll call them MAA). Recruiting at MAA have a lot in common. Here is a partial list:

  1. MAA each claim to have a world-class recruiting system and people.
  2. MAA claim to hire “the best of the best”… (BTW: I love that scene from Men in Black!)
  3. MAA all fish in the same pools for their talent, because that’s the only place to find fish.
  4. MAA perform the same behavioral interview training programs.
  5. MAA have a senior level sign off interviews:
    1. Microsoft calls it the As Appropriate interview (scheduling nightmare)
    2. Apple it’s called Three Kings, three VP interviews even for mid-level roles (scheduling nightmare)
    3. Amazon it’s called the Bar Raiser (scheduling nightmare)
  6. When a niche candidate is rejected at MAA and the candidate gets hired by Google for twice the money… all the hiring managers at MAA say the exact same thing… “Well, we just have a higher bar than Google”… (the last words heard as the recruiter jumps off a bridge because it took 4 months just to find this one candidate!)

Sound familiar?

Assessing the root cause of unfilled positions:

There are several reasons these companies struggle with hiring. Usually you will get a different theory of the root cause based upon who you ask:

  • Hiring Managers: “You just have to find better recruiters, or use outside agencies.” – Quality
  • Hiring Managers’ bosses: “Why doesn’t HR approve hiring more recruiters?” – Quantity
  • HR: “You just need better ATS tools to track and report on your activity to create a more efficient organization.” – Tools
  • Recruiting Leadership: “You just need to search in the right places, and be more innovative in your recruiting strategy.” – Innovation
  • Sourcers: “Candidates aren’t interested in us because: We don’t offer enough money, or we require them to relocate, or we have a reputation of poor work/life balance, or we can’t find anyone that hasn’t already been rejected by the company.” – Brand
  • Recruiters: “Hiring managers and interview teams don’t know how to assess appropriately and they pass on too many great candidates.” – Assessment

In my ten years working with the leadership of these companies I can tell you that these are the most prevalent complaints about why jobs aren’t being filled, and why they’re not being filled fast enough.

There is something to be said in the story of the Elephant and the blind men:

Once upon a time, there lived six blind men in a village. One day the villagers told them, “Hey, there is an elephant in the village today.”  They had no idea what an elephant was. They decided, “Let us go and feel the elephant.” All of them went where the elephant was.


Everyone of them touched the elephant. “Hey, the elephant is a pillar,” said the first man who touched his leg. “Oh, no! it is like a rope,” said the second man who touched the tail. “Oh, no! it is like a thick branch of a tree,” said the third man who touched the trunk of the elephant. “It is like a big hand fan” said the fourth man who touched the ear of the elephant. “It is like a huge wall,” said the fifth man who touched the belly of the elephant. “It is like a solid pipe,” Said the sixth man who touched the tusk of the elephant.

They began to argue about the elephant and everyone of them insisted that he was right.

A wise man was passing by and he saw this. He stopped and asked them, “What is the matter?” They said, “We cannot agree to what the elephant is like.”

The wise man calmly explained to them, “All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all those features.”

I do believe that all in all the recruiting issues are correct in part, and most have been addressed to differing degrees of success. But I also believe that a robust solution is waiting to be discovered, and it would address the entire “elephant in the room.” First, here’s my observation of how the individual issues have been addressed:

  • Recruiter quality: I can say that it is my experience that MAA, and others in like industries, have the right talent on board to source, qualify, and arrange interviews efficiently. Outside agencies can be more effective because they are compensated high enough to devote more focus on each hire, and they do not have the overhead of working inside the corporation.
  • Recruiter quantity: Headcount planning and aligning with recruiter headcount is done, although recruiting resource planning requires more lead time than is usually provided.
  • Tools: Good tracking and process tools are certainly needed (and there aren’t any good ones for big companies as of this writing), but the inefficiencies are not the root cause of under hiring.
  • Innovative sourcing strategy: Not to say there aren’t innovations out there for better discovery, but generally it’s still fishing in a pool with a limited fish population.
  • Employment brand: There may be some tweaks needed in compensation, brand, work/life, relocation verses remote options, but these are not keeping us from hiring.
  • Candidate assessment: Everyone does have a mandatory behavioral interview program combined with a high level “veto” involved with most interviews.

A solution that looks at the entire elephant:

Discover the teachable experienced candidates. Create an in house training department that can take experienced technical people who would have previously been rejected, and turn them into talent you are dying to hire.

In future, planned posts, I will continue this theme forward with the following topics:

  1. The largest pool of hires have already been interviewed by you.
  2. Why do we “hire on potential” from college, but not from industry?
  3. Creating a corporate-university program to train industry experienced people.
  4. Talent assessment – how high is a bar if you can’t measure it?



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