How to be a Better: Recruiter – Part 1

[This is the 1st of a 3 part series on How to be a Better: Recruiter (Pt. 1); Boss (Pt. 2); Investor (Pt. 3).]

This article is a little off topic for Open Empire; I’ve written about this previously, but I’m going to add some new thoughts, and of course this time it’s part of a short series of connected articles.

To me the personnel, recruitment and HR industry does not function well … and there are many reasons for this, but I just want to talk about the solutions without too much discussion of the problems.

All jobs should be important hires:

Firstly, companies make the mistake of thinking that some hires are more important than others … and they make this mistake because they’ve decided that certain tasks are unskilled, menial labour, don’t require much thought, anyone can do them, only a desperate person would want the job, and it doesn’t really matter who you hire to do it.

All of which assumptions are wrong, and a symptom of a deeper problem that I’ll talk about in the next article in this series: “How to be a Better: Boss – Part 2”.

So I hear your head spinning, saying: “please, Trevor don’t tell me the janitor is just as important as the CEO”.

Yes, he / she is. Let me prove it to you.

Hypothetical:

Your janitor doesn’t get paid much, they desperately need the work, can’t afford to take a day off, and they’re under equipped so they come into direct contact with things in the rubbish around the office, and in the land-way where they dispose of it in the big skip bins. Since they don’t have enough disposable income to afford private healthcare, and your brain-dead CEO has been paying lobbyists to undermine the public healthcare and education systems, this person can’t get to good quality medical care even if he/she could afford it.

They’re trying to save money buying cheap nutritionally poor food, they get depressed about life and prospects, so they take up drinking & smoking which suppresses their immune system. Then they come to work sick, get viruses on you or your things, plus those of your employees.

One of your otherwise healthy employees who has been working themself to the bone on a big contract, is stressed and gets sick then misses a key deadline … you lose the contract. Not catastrophic, but you could have done without it. As a result, they appear less talented than they are, and you subsequently promote the wrong person.

Meanwhile, you take the virus home with you on your person and property, and while you may be wealthy and healthy, some friends visit with their new baby, the baby gets sick and eventually almost dies, but despite being saved from death, unfortunately comes out of it brain damaged for life, and you never knew it was you who did it; all you know is your friends are in pain and life seems unfair.

How do you know this kind of thing doesn’t go on all the time? You don’t.

It’s called CONSEQUENCES … and consequences flow … and they keep on flowing.

Solution:

  1. Redefine the role – it’s no longer “janitor” they’re an “environment beautifier”;
  2. Educate them – pay them to attend courses to learn everything they can about making offices beautiful & healthy;
  3. Learn about them – know your employee’s life, needs & dreams;
  4. Research the costs – find out the costs to actually support life, provide needs and achieve dreams;
  5. Increase their pay – pay them enough to achieve what you researched, and catch up from their resource deficit;
  6. Cut the CEO’s pay – someone has to pay for it, and the CEO probably earns too much;
  7. Stop worrying about whether they leave the company (either of them) – a CEO who leaves because you start treating others well and stop shooting yourselves in the foot, isn’t worth keeping … and the janitor you promoted to beautifier should be free to come and go like anyone else, so EARN their loyalty & desire to stay.

Summary:

  • To be a better employer, you must first be a better boss;
  • A recruiter can’t do their best job if the boss isn’t a good employer.

Your criteria is not your criteria:

So now that we’ve decided every job is important, how do you define the hiring criteria? Well, this is where everyone seems to get it fundamentally wrong also.

Go have a look how many job adverts say they want someone:

  • Who can “hit the ground running”;
  • Has experience across multiple roles each of which is a specialisation;
  • Require a university degree, and;
  • Have many years experience in PRECISELY the area you’re hiring for (or some other precisely defined and related area of expertise).

NOW … some of you are probably wondering: “but what’s wrong with that?” So allow me to explain.

  1. Hit the ground running is an idiotic catch phrase, not an intelligently thought out principle to base a job criteria upon;
  2. Someone with an extremely brilliant capacity in one area may lack another area entirely, yet sometimes be better for the role … and so long as they understand the limits of their knowledge, and they’re comfortable with seeking advice, there’s no problem;
  3. Someone may be brilliant in one area, not another, but they may be a quick study and someone who becomes an expert with ease … so don’t limit yourself by defining such rigid criteria;
  4. IF you need a brain surgeon, fine get someone with a degree, fair enough … but I’ve done 20 years worth of formal & informal tertiary level education across multiple universities WITHOUT getting an undergrad, and I’m mistaken in conversations by people as having a PhD in sciences, also mistaken as being a university professor, and medical students have mistaken me for a doctor (my parents are both doctors – retired – so I’ve learned a great deal from them). So a degree is only necessary in regulated fields;
  5. The tertiary education system has gone down the toilet in many countries (thanks mainly to right wing fuckwits like Rupert Murdoch and the like who prefer a fearful, brainwashed, dumb & gullible population they can manipulate) … and the support for students has disappeared. So the most brilliant candidates out there may not be the ones with the pieces of paper, and you’re an idiot if you exclude them.
  6. Skills, knowledge, experience … these things and others are transferable, and what you want is someone smart enough to transfer them … THIS IS THE PERSON WITH THE INSIGHTS YOU WERE NOT EXPECTING THAT GIVE YOU A MARKET EDGE / ADVANTAGE … why on Earth would you throw that away?

Summary:

  • You want the person with both the potential AND the capacity to understand and express that potential;
  • BUT you’ve got to take into account the advantages / privilege versus challenges people have had in doing so;
  • DON’T make a box and find the person who fits in the box … NOR … should you cram anyone in a box that isn’t suited to them … INSTEAD … define the role and criteria in broad and flexible terms, so that you are open to – and can thus compare – a range of unexpected possibilities & variations based on how the general principle of the role can be moulded and cut to fit each person like a bespoke tailored suit (or other style if they’re not the suit wearing type).

Turn your process upside down:

The recruitment process at most companies probably works something like this:

  1. You’re aware of someone about to leave the company;
  2. Someone has unexpectedly left the company;
  3. A new position has been made available (including startups).

So …

  1. You write a job description;
  2. You write a job advertisement;
  3. HR / recruitment people decide who to give an initial response / interview to;
  4. This creates a shortlist for the role;
  5. People who actually work at the company (the boss usually) do the interview;
  6. Someone gets hired.

Now of course there’s a lot of variation out there … but the point is that you’re often getting someone else to make the advert, define the job, whittle down the list, do interviews etc., who isn’t necessarily the best qualified to take control of this task … AND/OR … you’re excluding people from the process whom may have valuable input.

The Problem:

If you do the process even slightly wrong, you’ve got no guarantee the best candidate even applied, let alone made it through to the short list, nor final interviews.

The Solution:

You can’t shut your entire business down just to hire one person … BUT … if you’ve followed the previous point about redefining jobs so their are no shit jobs with shit pay, then after a while you’ve started to develop a vastly more robust office culture, in which people support each other and are less likely to leave because you’ve made it quite comfortable.

STEP ONE: So what you CAN do, is you can make a prioritised list with those at the top who have the most reliance on and interaction with the role you’re hiring, to those at the bottom with the least such … and you can send an email to this entire list of people with a link to an intranet team or project site (if you have an internal CRM/CMS), where the existing/vacated/new role is currently defined, and you can ask everyone to prioritise at least 20 minutes (ignoring anything but emergencies) to write their own comments about the role, how they feel it needs to be improved, what should remain unchanged, who they’d like to be working with, and why.

STEP TWO: next take your most intelligent and wise employees whom are the closest to the top of that list, and get them to each summarise the discussion about the role to define the job & hiring criteria; then hand those summaries to a recruitment person whom will make and place the advertisement across various media … and of course you’ll need to decide on the scope and budget of the search, ie – how far and wide are you willing to search and over how long to fill the role, plus what is your absolute maximum budget for everything including possible relocation expenses for the new member of staff.

STEP THREE: when the applications start coming in from the advertisements, see if you can get them entered into your CRM system immediately, with their application and resume data-mined for profile details, and the original application documents attached to the profile in CRM. Then have your IT department automatically enter a link from each candidate to the aforementioned team site where the role is discussed. Again, instruct all your staff to put aside 20 minutes each day for looking through these applications, and writing comments as replies to each post linked to each candidate in the CRM … ie – in the news feed for the role, you now have all comments attached in discussion threads on a post about each candidate, which is linked to their candidate profile in the CRM system. In this way, everyone is adding their positives and negatives to every candidate.

STEP FOUR: Additionally instruct the members of staff selected in Step 2, to monitor these discussions (on whatever basis they can) to earmark candidates that can be either shortlisted or weeded out, and once per week to go through these and do some due diligence to ensure no mistakes have been made, before flushing the bad and keeping the good; also (if you can) get them to enter such notes into the CRM on each candidate profile, describing the reason each was flushed or shortlisted. Thus, at the end of a period of a few weeks, you’ve got a discussion thread on the job profile (intranet team site), which has been continually cleared of redundant conversations regarding flushed candidates (which conversations may be archived or deleted to remove from the news feed), you’ve got new applicants coming in that are more easily visible (via notifications to all appropriate staff), and you’ve got a gradually evolving shortlist for interview.

STEP FIVE: Ask those same staff from steps 2 & 4 to conduct first round interviews, ensure that at least 1 person who works directly with the role is present (without exception, and I do mean AT LEAST one), and they shall reduce that short list to a shorter list. Thus you now can be sure, to the best of your entire company of staff’s abilities, you have not accidentally removed any of the best candidates.

STEP SIX: Final interviews, pick an interview team including the owner/manager, BECAUSE (and I cannot stress this enough) you absolutely categorically without fail – genuine emergencies aside – MUST be able to hire on the spot (ie – don’t miss any opportunity for good people) … find the person who challenges you the most (the one you’re most afraid to hire), balanced by who contributes something culturally to the company that you don’t have … AND BY THIS POINT I DO NOT MEAN to find the person who “fits” your culture – not that I don’t mean it either – BUT BE WARY of making your company a homogenous and sterile environment with no original thought. IN OTHER WORDS: you company can be “peaceful”, but this does not equate to “balanced”, as sometimes that peace is just a symptom of its sterility, and what you need is the person who brings balance to that culture by shaking it up.

STEP SEVEN: Seek additional hires. You may have found the one(s) you were looking for, but if you have the resources and the talent is there, get ahead of the game and hire them IF it is safe to do so.

STEP EIGHT: Review the unhired. You may have business partners or allies who are in need of good people, so if you can’t hire someone and you think they’re worth hiring, tell everyone you know … because their advantage is your advantage.

STEP NINE: Find the worst applicants, discuss what may be causing their life problems, what may constitute at least a partial solution or help for them, and then invite them back for a discussion. REMEMBER: you’re talking to a person whom – for all their failings – is still a human being, and still the owner of an organic mobile supercomputer the likes of which humanity is only beginning to comprehend the parameters of … So help them. Do something.

Summary:

  • Is this a more resource intensive process than what you already do? Probably.
  • Is it worth it? Definitely … and if for some reason it’s not, then you’ve got much bigger problems than who to hire, and why or how to hire them.

Retaining Staff:

So this is the easiest part, and can be summarised with one single point:

Try not to be a cunt to your staff.

If you can remember that one point, you’ll retain them as long as it’s possible to do so.

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