So How to Crack the Recruiting Code?

now hiring

Recruiting is the reason I went back to school to pursue training and development to enhance my HR skill set. Combining several organizations over recent years in my career, my teams have recruited over 350 new employees. In one case the organization had over 60% turnover and so it was a bit of a revolving door. Through a variety of engagement and HRD principles we shaved off 20%+ turnover in a year’s span. One of the magic pills to do this is to develop your people. Thus, my school pursuits. Don’t keep recruiting if you don’t know how to retain them and develop them. Internal recruits are always best – someone you have developed who is stepping into a new role. If you are interested in a really deep dive into the topic of finding the talent you need and the broken mindset we have in America, pick up Peter Cappelli’s book, Why Good People Can’t Find Jobs.

This said, it is still absolutely critical to recruit well as recruiting is always going to be part of the HR job as long as there is competition, retirement, performance management and life change to take our employees away. As my favorite job coach told me, recruiting is the way to win the heart of your management team. If you can’t recruit well, management won’t believe HR is good at anything else.

While there are certainly a myriad of ways to develop complex recruiting systems, the secret formula boils down to just five things in my opinion:

1. Make sure your recruiters are salespeople. Generalists are not natural sales people. Let me rephrase. Generalists are not natural recruiters. We’re too rule and process focused because that is what we learn in PHR and SPHR class, and in HR college programs. As such we have to be taught how to be good recruiters if we are going to own some of this role. Good recruiters are salespeople, plain and simple. Good recruiters are hungry for talent and set out on a talent hunt with failure not an option. They’re slick. They can overcome objections. They know the features and benefits of the company and job. They are not afraid to cold call and they don’t give up.

There are a few ways I’d recommend you train your recruiting team, especially if you as most companies do are going to use your generalists. First, be sure they are social networking adept and on sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Bullhorn Reach, Twitter and so forth. Second, since the world of recruiting is mostly electronic these days I suggest you join ERE-Electronic Recruiting Exchange and pay the bucks to send your recruiting team to learning opportunities. Third, make sure they know what a Boolean search is and are PC savvy. Fourth, teach them to cold call like the best headhunters out there (there are headhunters you can pay to teach you this – a large company I worked at put all us recruiters in a class to learn to be shameless headhunters). Fifth, make sure they can analyze stuff and sink the advertising dollars and activities only where it counts. Process is nice, but if you focus on too many things that aren’t working it’s an obstacle. Be flexible to change up what you do to include only what gets a return – that’s where good analysis comes in.

2. Remove bottlenecks. Time and time again I’ve shaved off months of time-to-fill problems by removing the perfectionists from the crowd. If you have hiring teams that think they can find Prince Charming to hire but they don’t have a Castle and Cinderella to offer, kick them off the hiring team. If you have an old office, unknown business name, low pay, or any other impediment, you need to be equally realistic about who you can find. Find good and fits, not great and perfect.

3. Employ behavioral interviewing techniques and realistic job previews. This means that you are asking questions that demand answers that really show how the candidate is going to respond under a certain circumstance. This means your questions require examples, substance, detail and a realistic preview of who the person is going to show up as if you hire him or her. In similar form, you need to be transparent yourself to give a truthful and realistic overview of what the job entails. And be sure to include culture in this preview. I once was hiring for a dining services leader and I was very realistic about the 70+ hours a week that was required and the formal setting. No need to drag a new hire through something unexpected as everyone’s time is wasted. Rather, hire someone who gets it and is on board with what really is.

4. Offer something that is not an insult. If you want strong talent, pay good dollars.

5. Be Pushy! Good recruiters are a little pushy. This gets back to the sales streak. They drive the process and keep the hiring team accountable to not sit on a good talent find. When they find talent, they push through to get to offer, and to get to offer quickly. There is too much competition out there (equal and better employers) so we cannot sit on our laurels and think we are the best thing there is.

Learning from the Masters: What our Sales Folks can Teach About Creating Happy Teams


104px-Team_work!_2013-06-24_11-59 (1)


By, Cari Desiderio

Over the course of my HR career I have supported sales, manufacturing, engineering and healthcare organizations predominantly. Each genre has it’s strong suits when it comes to creating an attractive employee environment. My healthcare friends were masters as creating an environment of care and belonging. This was related to their slant towards nurturing and nursing I suppose. The engineering and manufacturing folks had a very organized and steady culture in terms of laying out expectations and having clear communication.

But I’ve learned the most from my sales teams. There is no team in the company that has a better handle on “gut check” when it comes to understanding the state of employee contentment and engagement. Even the HR professionals miss the boat, sometimes. We can get so fixated on the process and the policy and completely miss what is going on on the streets and in the trenches with our people. We can become more concerned with form and less about substance if we forget the art of people that our sales teams know so well. So what is the remedy?  A little Sales 101 my friend. It is the cure all for any HR person afflicted with the malady of being a schoolmarm instead of a being an effective team coach.

Why do our sales folks get it? Well I think it’s simple actually. To be in sales you just simply need to be a people person. It’s in the salesperson’s blood. That said I’ve thought about this a bit and I think there are four main ways that sales people can teach us the art of creating happy teams.

Intuition. This is the quality of just “getting it” you might say. Street smarts. It is the art of sensing what is going on in person’s head and what it around the bend based on the circumstances in front of them. This is about having a sense of how your employees are feeling, who is a flight risk, what they need to be motivated. Some people would argue that intuition cannot be learned. But I think some of it can be. If you get out there and hang with your people enough, and make yourself approachable, you will soon be in the know. Lower that window of separation and pretense and get real. Take them out to lunch. Crack a few jokes in meetings. When you break the ice people open up. Listen to them.

Communication. This is the quality of speaking the love language of others as well as the discipline of just making yourself frequently check in and talk with teams. Sales people communicate all day long. They go to industry events and chat with people. They fly on planes to visit customer sites and talk to all the key people. Now applied to teams this is about one on ones, walking the floors, talking to people about their lives and what’s going on. Finally, this art form is also about being able to speak the language of others. A simple book I’ve taught multiple times on this is Julie Straw’s The 4 Dimensional Manager. It’s about knowing your personality makeup, studying that of others, and learning to tailor your method of engaging and approaching to reach others.

One Class Act. This is the art of treating people like they are special. Sales folks figuratively wine and dine their prospects all day long. This simply means they treat them like they are special. This too is not a complicated thing. When you go out on a date to McDonalds for a burger and fries in your shorts and tank it just doesn’t feel as special as a night out on Lake Michigan on the Odyssey Boat with formal wear, a four course meal and stars in the sky. Now treating employees with a little class act thought doesn’t need to involve nights out on the town. But when a service with a smile culture culture is applied to employee engagement there can be simple ways to make your teams feel special. I’ve seen grill outs with leaders donning aprons and serving food. I’ve seen recognition ceremonies where leaders thank team members for contributions and provide service awards and a gift. It can even be the little things like being sure to recognize the team as the real reason for success (and downplay self) when a leader is speaking in a group setting. Class Act behavior is about respect and treating people like they are special. Because, they are.

The Art Of Negotiation. This is probably the skill that is the more substantial that our sales friends teach us.  Sales folks are very aware that if they go to their customers and threaten them with contract loss and insist they pay higher rates that they will commit sales suicide.  Now do they want to get a contract signed and charge more money?  Of course.  But they have to immerse themselves in discussion with the customers, talk, negotiate, give and take a little here and a little there in order to get that contract signed. Transferred to the team management dynamic, a healthy team is one that learns to manage conflict among themselves and negotiate the working structure.  The leader who can step back from any need to be the big boss who imposes rules, and step into the role of negotiating a team structure that works for all will create the most lasting engagement success.  This is because people are hard wired to need to be heard.  So if they are at the table in negotiating team rules and structure they will be most bought in.



Picture By User:Jacquelene88 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons!_2013-06-24_11-59.jpg

Saving Manufacturing: The Return of the Apprentice


Just about every time I peruse a manufacturing industry article or website it seems the topic of skilled labor shortage in US manufacturing comes up.  The problem is simple and stark.  We have roughly 600,000 too few skilled laborers for the trades (Business Week).  Combine this with the fact that the skilled workforce that exists is comprised of many nearing retirement age.  The math shakes out to a stark reality. Either manufacturing jobs cannot stay in the US at the clip of the past. Or, we need to reform our education system and motivate more young people to study manufacturing trades.

Companies today may be wise to study the apprenticeship programs of long past.  I have seem a superb example of this on the floor.  A cross training method to take less skilled workers and rotate them during down time through lathe, mill, assembly and other skilled aspects of machining and manufacturing.  I have also seen a trade program that partners with at risk high school students to introduce them to a trade. After all, a skilled machinist can earn a very respectable incomes that easily doubles or triples minimum wage. If we can do a better job of changing the perception young people have about manufacturing, we can bring a lot more good jobs back.

Perhaps the picture in this post is not just nostalgic old school America.  Perhaps, with a little investment in training and development and our American workers, this can become the new face of American manufacturing.



Picture By Wmpearl (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia

Smart Succession Planning… It’s for far more than your Top Jobs!

Succession plans are utterly critical to business success. They are indeed different by person.  The higher potential person needs significant challenge to be motivated, grow and become a future leader.  The mid level person, perhaps content in their role without career promotion, needs to have job enrichment activities to further engage them in their existing role.

An author I recently read likens a company with a solid succession plan to a successful sports team (Hill, 2012).  I really love this analogy.  You see, the team (or company) can remain a top tier team (or company) because of the systems and structure and training in place.  Players (or employees) come and go. So, if a company has a solid succession and training plan in place, they can rest assured that even as employees come and go, they will remain solid and performance strong.

A very practical methodology to place high and even mid performers in the right path and  plan is to start with the discipline of the nine-box grid (Noe, 2013, p. 400-402). Here one can identify who all the players are and where they fit organizationally. If you are not familiar with this nine box concept, it is essentially a set of boxes laid out like a graph.  On one axis is the performance output of the person. On the other axis is their potential.  So, in the bottom left you have a person with little ability and little interest in performing; in other words a person to weed out.  In the top right is the opposite–your superstar.  However, the notion is that a company is a blend.  Yes you must weed out the ill performing.  Yes you need to promote, retain and focus on the top stars.  But what about the rest?  You see, the “middle of the road” is in fact the heart and soul of the core business.  We need to have a plan for those jobs same as the more critical high level ones. Without this a company cannot stay market strong, agile and able to flex and move as retention ebbs and flows.

Now let’s dive a little deeper into the idea of creating a succession plan for all roles; again the activity that lets a company be an A-player team.  Succession planning is stereotypically seen as a way to fill key roles.  The reality, however, is that all people are replaceable and when that retirement hits, promotion comes, etc, the company needs to be agile and ready to act.  The idea extended further is that while the company can recruit from the outside, it’s better to have the knowledge on the inside from the get go to avoid the toil of bringing in new employees and getting them up to speed.

Here is a proposed method to develop the varying levels.  To keep this simple I’ve proposed three layers here:  the mid performance track, the high performance track and the leadership track. The plans will be unique to the type of role, but in the end the totality of them all is what keeps that company strong and prepared for turnover and change.  The degree of weight placed on individual learning opportunities will simply depend on the need of the individuals in each of these plans.

The Mid Performance Track. The mid performance track employees are the core.  They need to be developed to take on lateral moves when others leave.  And, they need to have succession plans in place to back fill their jobs when they leave.  So, the approach here is more of a cross training approach.  An example of this might be a factory environment with various pieces of equipment. One worker runs one piece of machinery, while another is trained in a slightly different piece of machinery operation.  Yet another worker assembles while another boxes and ships.  Left in their individual silos, the company is weak.  However, it’s entirely possible to cross train and flex workers so as to enhance the skill set.  And the same can be applied to an office environment.  Office workers can be trained in multiple software programs, different aspects of customer service and administrative work, and so forth. This not only helps build bench strength for the time a person retires/leaves, but it also helps build interest and respect for fellow workers, and it breaks the monotony of one task all the time.  Point being, for the core jobs that are held by workers who are content there for the long haul, simply focus on cross training and skill broadening.  And, lastly, be sure to be bringing in the new and current technological and other training to remain agile.

The High Performance Track (could be more technical/not leadership management. These are the employees who are technically highly skilled but won’t become managers.  For example, engineers or accountants.  The same approach as listed in the mid performance section above applies in terms of cross training to create job enrichment and the ability for employees to cover when a person leaves.  However, this group possesses more complex and critical skills.  For example, a high performing engineer may be a critical contributor to patents for the company.  If he/she leaves the company will suffer great loss.  As such, there need to be more rich and in depth coach and shadowing partnerships to cross train. There should also be investment in outside curriculum.  This might be patent writing classes for engineers, accounting continuing ed for accountants, PHR classes for HR generalists, and so forth.  Finally, there needs to be compensation to reward the employees for their extra strides.  So, on the whole, more time, care, attention and money will be paid to this group than the mid performers.

The Leadership Track. This group of employees are your current and future leaders.  They require everything listed above to develop a strong core of skills. However, they need special mentoring, coaching and leadership development to boot.  The most money will likely go into this group.  Every high performer on this track should have a job coach (likely an outside consultant) and a formal development plan.  The plan should be a partnership where the employee owns his/her development and actions/commitments, but the company also commits.  There should be special projects assigned to grow the leadership and management skills.  There should be entry level management opportunities to pave the way.  This might start with project management.  Then perhaps intern management. And, in time, these employees should be given staff in small to greater quantities.  They should be very involved in directly shadowing key executives at the top level to learn from them as well.  These are internally mentors.  And, there are many outside seminars and leadership institutes to also get involved with. Last but not least, compensation is key.  The company needs to reward this group well so as to not lose them to outside competition after all the investment.

Hopefully the above gives you a small sampling of the ways to blend and deviate paths to tailor as role appropriate.  Every person needs to be touched here.  Let me repeat.  No company can thrive if they are not planning to develop and have succession paths for every role.  That is because strength lies in numbers, in the totality, and in the whole team.


Noe, Raymond. (2013). Employee Training and Development. New York,

         NY: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Hill, Scott. (2012). Creating a Dynasty. Grant Rapids Business Journal.

          Vol. 30 Issue 31, p11-11