Vendors and Education – Servant Leadership

I wrote a post a while back talking about the infuriating trend of vendors who speak at events and do nothing but sell. It gives others a bad name, and leaves the audience with a bad taste in their collective mouth. It’s not ok, and I maintain that if you ever see it happen, you are not only allowed but obligated to walk out. The tragedy is that there are many of us in the vendor space know our topics, know what matters, and have a lot to love for HR. And too often, that is forgotten.

So I wanted to take a moment to share a great example of people in the vendor space who not only know how to share their vast knowledge without making it a commercial, but who are making the HR space a stronger community in the process.

Anyone who has spent time around Eric Winegardner will know that he is not only brilliant, but he is of the most caring, giving people in our space. And he IS Monster to most of us. I’ve had the pleasure of watching him present several times and have always been blown away by the depth and breadth of his knowledge. I remember at an HRevolution event a couple of years ago talking to Dan Crosby about Eric. Dan’s comment was, “If you are presenting, and Eric is sitting your room, you better be ready because the conversation level is about to be ratcheted up several notches.” That’s the kind of game the man throws.  And that resonates throughout the team.

So it fills my heart with joy to see the Power Recruiter Workshops Monster is putting on right now. (Full disclosure: I do no business, spend no money, and receive nothing from Monster on a regular basis. Just so we’re clear.) Eric, Lisa Watson (who is divine in her own right) and their team are out on the road presenting six hours (SIX HOURS) of free, HRCI certified training for recruiters out in the trenches. It’s been several years since these were offered (the last round, I hear tell, were before Twitter was a thing). The content is designed to teach recruiters how to be, well, recruiters. (Don’t take that lightly. Too often recruiting as a job gets short shrift in the HR world. We like to think anyone can recruit, which is kind of true. But not just anyone can recruit in a way that changes the business.)

How much does the course cost, I can hear you asking. That would be zero dollars. Nothing down, nothing a month. How many new clients does Monster expect to sign at these events? I’m guessing also zero. This is them giving back to our community and making it stronger. It’s what we should ALL be doing, though most vendors in the space pass it over in search of the quarterly sales numbers. This kind of contribution is important, and we need more of it.


I had the chance to drop in on the team, which included Alanna Lombardi, Karla Russell and Paul MacGillivray, in Boston as they were preparing for a session the next day. There was no marketing team getting everything ready. No army of minions making sure there were just the right number of bottles of water, bowls of M&Ms (no browns, of course) in strategically placed areas, no one making sure Eric, Lisa and their team were picked up in black s500 with the interior at exactly 71 degrees. The team were all in the room busting their humps to make sure the people who came the next day had a great experience and learned as much as possible.

You know what that’s called? Servant Leadership. And we need more of it.

I’m proud to know these people, and to think of them as friends. I’m even more proud to work in the same space and share their service with others. If you are in Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Los Angles or San Francisco, and have any interest at all in learning more about the recruiting space (or just in learning in general) check out the upcoming dates in those cities. (Sorry Dallas and Boston. Maybe next time.) More importantly, keep your eyes open for vendors in the space who do this kind of service to our profession and ask nothing in return. Those are the people we should appreciate and support. They are worth your time and attention. Give it up.

Are You Overworking Recruiting?


All of us over at Dovetail Software are pretty excited to be adding new talent to the team.  So naturally we all like to get in on the act with sharing the job openings with our networks via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Vine, Klout, Quora, Yelp, Circle and so on.  I posted up the following on Twitter, just to get things going…


Seems simple enough.  Here’s a job, and here’s how we pay people.  Interested?  Come take a look.

What surprised me, though, was the feedback I received on the post.  Not about the job, but just the post itself.  Both on Twitter and directly, I was told how “inventive” the post was, and how “refreshing” my approach seemed.  I saw it show up in a recruiting Twitter roundup.  It was even stolen borrowed by one of my Dovetail teammates.  Which I did not get at all.  How inventive is it, really, to offer to pay people?  Are we that far down the “candidate experience” rabbit hole that this is forgotten?

So much time and effort goes into landing talent.  I’m not saying it is wasted, but we’ve built up entire companies just for attracting the right people.  Sometimes the process starts with something as simple as letting the target know you are aiming at them.  Instead of spending hours creating a strategy on where to source the candidate, I’ve gotten decent traction with thirty seconds of typing.  Has it landed us the right person?  No idea.  I’m not that involved in the search.  But I do know that those thirty seconds, multiplied by the number of people in your organization, multiplied again by the number of people in their networks, adds up to serious amplification for virtually no cost.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t have a plan, have a crack recruiter, have a candidate experience program, or have extensive job postings all over the Internet.  All I’m saying is sometimes just a little effort in just the right place can also have a surprising result.


Rehiring Ex-Employees


Recruiters all know that there is gold to be found amongst your alumni.  Hiring a former employee is a great way to bring talent into the workplace that knows the business, your culture, the team and the environment.  They are, depending on how long they have been gone, a known quantity and, let’s face it, potentially a cost effective sourcing method. We love them.  But don’t forget that they talk to each other in most cases.  If you have a chance to bring one of them back into the fold, you have to execute correctly or you might poison the well.  So treat them like an internal, pay special attention to them, and make sure they feel valued throughout the process.

But what about the employees themselves?  How easy is it to go back to a place you’ve left?  Let’s assume you left on good terms, of course.  Greener pastures and all that.  Or, at worse, you left in the middle of downsizing.  Either way, you didn’t leave under “take this job and shove it” terms.  In theory, if you are willing to go back, it’s an easy transition.  You know people, you know the work, you know where the bathrooms are.  You are ready, willing and able to do the job.  Once you know the door is open, inyou go.  No worries, right?  Not always.  Is it ever really that easy?

There are a multitude of problems you might encounter, whether you are the employee or the employer.  Here are a few that you are likely to encounter, and some ideas on how you can mitigate them.

“They should know that already.” – You brought back an alumni because they are better suited for quick production.  But that doesn’t mean nothing has changed.  How often do you go six months in your workplace without a major change initiative taking place?  Never, that’s when. So don’t treat them like they should know everything.  Let them go through orientation and assimilation like everyone else.  Give them all the information you can, and let them discard that which is redundant.  By the way, it’s not a bad way to handle employees coming back from extended leave as well.  They’ll appreciate the chance to get up to speed.

“If it’s so great here, why did you leave?” – Yeah, you knew that was coming.  You’re going to have to deal with it.  The corollary of this is “If your new job was so good, why are you back?”  Sometimes things don’t work out.  No one wants to work in a job that is unsatisfying, unappealing or just flat unwelcoming.  Sometimes you just want to go home again, right?  How do you spin that to your coworkers?  For the employee, it can be as simple as discussing the recruiting process, how much you wanted to come back, and how happy you are the door was open.  For the manager or HR side, there’s no shame in discussing the value of the alumni network.  Plus, it never hurts to send others the message that if you leave on good terms, the door might be open for you too.

“If you’re so great, why did we let you leave?” – Similar to above.  We got rid of you once, and here you are again.  This one will really depend on the way the person left, and their reputation internally.  Hopefully you got that out of the way during the interview process, so there won’t be anything too damaging.  But it’s OK to admit that you while you didn’t want to leave or couldn’t find a way to retain the person, when the opportunity arose to get back together, the right thing was done. Just be sure you don’t send a message that this person is somehow superior to those that never left.  That can get ugly in a hurry.

“What do you mean you already want a raise?” – I saved the best for last.  Salary inequity.  Depending on how long someone has been gone, the salary structure could be very, very different when they come back.  Or worse, your organization may have fallen into that old trap of paying more for incoming talent, throwing market equity out the window.  Bringing someone back often means they come in at their previous salary.  Suddenly you are looking at a new hire that is far removed from the “typical” compensation on your team.  Can it happen?  Boy howdy can it.  Can you fix it?  Of course.  That’s what HR is for, right?  Deal with it up front, swallow hard, and make it right.  Don’t chalk it up to an alumni discount.  Because as soon as that person figures it out (and they always do, right?), you can kiss your alumni recruiting goodbye.

These are pretty common things to encounter.  But the value of recruiting from your alumni group doesn’t change.  They still have the ability to get up and running much faster than an outsider, and potentially bring a lot of valuable relationships into the fold from day one.  Take care of these issues, don’t neglect their needs as a new hire in general, and you’ll get a lot of bang for your recruiting buck.  But blow it, and your alumni network may dry up in a hurry.

Are you a College or Pro Recruiter?

Football season is almost upon us again, and the lockout has had an interested effect on the free agency period.  (This is American Football, of course.  Sorry for any confusion.)  And while I’m in a candidate experience mindset, I thought it was a good time to talk about the differences in the types of recruiters, and how their stakeholders drive their tactics.

College Recruiters

College gigs are tough.  It puts you, in theory, on a level playing field with your competition if you can’t pay the player.  (Yes, it’s a flawed assumption.  Just roll with it, OK?)  You are trying to bring in talent for your team based on:

  • Playing time
  • Location
  • Amenities
  • Academics
  • Prestige
  • Long term (meaning Pro) career opportunities

Pro Recruiter

The pros can recruit on those things.  But often, it comes down to one thing when wooing a free agent.

  • Cash

Too often, cash is king in the professional sports world.  (It is one reason I think it is so interesting that there is still so much anger towards LeBron James when he took less money to play with his friends and try for a title.  I mean, I get the anger, but that part gets glossed over.)  And there are plenty of examples where a professional player made their decisions strictly on the dollars.  They are pressured by the player’s association to do so in many cases.  It doesn’t mean the other things aren’t important, but there is a reason why people still joke about Mike Hampton signing with the Rockies and saying “the schools are better” in Denver.  The stacks of cash were higher, too.  It matters.

This came up a bit on my recent Drive Thru HR appearance.  Friend of the show William Tincup asked if I felt a candidate would choose company A over company B if company A provided a horrible candidate experience, but 20% more money.  My response was yes, maybe.  Depends on your situation.  (There’s more to it than that.  You should go listen to the whole thing.)

So which are you?

If you’ve done any time in HR or as a manager, you’ve done some recruiting.  So what’s your style?  Do you roll out the amenities and dance around the question of compensation as long as you can?  Or do you open with a strong package and then spin the “extras” around it?

There’s a time and place for each approach, I suppose.  Recruiters seem to want to talk comp after you are hooked.  It’s a bit like the car salesman that goes after the “is it just the price” angle.  If I know you love the car, and you want the car, the emotional decision is made and the logic part can be wrestled to the ground.  Likewise, if you want to join a team, and they want you on the team, the rest is just details, right?

The truth is, though, our world doesn’t always work that way.  Sometimes talent goes to the highest bidder.  You’ve got to know you candidate, where they are coming from, what is important in their world, and what their hot button will be.  Just like sales.  And if your candidate is all about the Benjamins, it doesn’t matter how new the exercise center is, or the quality of food in the cafeteria, or the free coffee, or the scenic view from their new office.  Sometimes is it just about compensation.

Of course, we all know that compensation doesn’t motivate performance (once moved past the point of being a demotivator, anyway).  That’s when the college recruiter should kick in and make sure that they are aware of the new treadmill, the gourmet salads, the French roast and the 5-acre lake.  They do matter.

There is one other kind of recruiter.  High School recruiters.  For the most part, a player is going to a  school because that’s where the bus takes them.  The recruiter’s job is pretty easy.  They also mostly live with the luck of the draw for getting talent on their team.  And as long as they don’t expect to succeed at the next level with that strategy, they are OK.

Don’t be the high school recruiter trying to fill out a pro or college roster.  You will fail.  So will your team.  Use the perks, use the cash, and create a comprehensive package to get the right talent.  Otherwise, you’re left with hoping to get what you need.  And we all know that hope is not a strategy.



Negotiating an Offer, Freakonomics Style


I really enjoyed Freakonomics. Great read. SuperFreakonomics was pretty good, but the lesser of the two, I think.  And it is interested how often something from the books will come back in another for.  For instance, in reading a blog post from James Altucher this weekend, this bit struck me…

 Stephen put on his Freakonomics hat. We didn’t pay our bill and we packed up our backgammon set and began walking out. “Lets let the manager set the price of the bill for us.” At the door, the manager came up to us. Stephen said, “look, we mostly finished our meal but now we don’t feel so well, given the mouse thing. What do you suggest we pay for this meal?” Stephen’s theory was that if the manager was good, he would have us pay nothing, even offer us incentives to come back.

What caused this discussion?  Go read the post and see.  It’s not really relevant here, though it is a good story.  But it reminded me of the passages in the book regarding negotiations, as well as the “set your own price” business model that is becoming more prevalent.  In short, letting people pay what they think is fair often results in them paying more than what you would have charged them in the first place.  People are weird, but often more fair than you would expect.

What I love about this approach is that it is so counter-intuitive, and very much against how most people react in a similar situation.  When dealing with poor service/food/product, many people sit back and wait for an offer.  If you look at this strictly as a negotiation (“What should I give you and what should you give me?”) most people are happy to open with their demands (usually more than is realistic), and hopefully get something close to them.  But Dubner’s approach is a little different.

“What do you think we should pay?”  Not “what are you willing to give us” or “here’s what we are willing to do.”  A simple question.  By stating the facts on your end and putting the onus on the other party to determine what is proper given those facts, it removes much of the pressures of a one-on-one zero sum negotiation.  It let’s the other party take care of you without caving to demands, while at the same time not boxing you into a corner.  You still have the option of responding with, “Interesting.  I would have expected to pay…”

It works in HR as well.  The sticky part of talent acquisition is often salary negotiation.  Sure, we have databases and comparables to guide us, but in the end we have to reach an agreement between a couple of people.  I’ve always been a believer that once you have found two people who want to work together, the rest should be details.  So wouldn’t you want that details bit to go smoothly?

So here’s the Freakonomics approach:

As the candidate: “I have X years of experience in this field, and Y years of training doing the things you needs.  Here are my credentials, my results, my education, and my current compensation package.  What do you thing would be a reasonable expectation on my part for an offer package?”  This allows you to discount your current package if you are looking to make a big step up, and can shift the emphasis away from your value and onto the job’s value.

As the recruiter: “This is the position, how it matches your background and experience.  Our expectations are X for timing and for productivity, our benefits package is Y.  So, given that information (as well as other potentially relevant variables), what would you expect as a reasonable offer to a candidate of your stature?”  Package discussions have usually been going through the candidate’s mind since the recruiter said “the range is from X to Y, depending on the candidate.”  (And, of course, all they only heard Y.)  It lets you refocus on their fit for the job and what would be reasonable, not necessarily their demands.

Of course, this only works in some situations, and it puts a lot of value in being the person who opens the discussion.  But given how awkward that first round can be, it’s a tactic that might just help you get the conversation off on the right foot.

Turning Strangers Into Referrals

We all love employee referrals, right? Cheaper than most job boards, hopefully more reliable in producing good candidates, and a great way to engage employees in building a team and a culture.

Ideally, referrals come from broadcasting to your team your need, and having them say, “Hey, I know someone who would be great for that role!” But too often referrals come from a friend (or at least someone who connected to you on Facebook) asking you to endorse them as a candidate, regardless of your real feelings. If you even have any. Networking! Ain’t it grand?

So how do you respond? Sure, you can take the easy way out and respond “I’d love to help!” while slipping their resume into the trash. You can pass them along and risk your own credibility if they turn out to be duds. But neither of these does anyone any favors. Neither does ignoring their request. Just because you don’t know them well doesn’t mean they aren’t a great candidate, and we all need more of those, right?

There is another option that is more work for you, but can return the most value to your organization. (That’s why we are here, right?) You can treat those referral requests into ad hoc interviews and ask some questions. They’ve approached you to help them, don’t you deserve a little more information?

When you are searching for a job, the worst response is none at all. You put your professional life on paper (which, for some of us, is as tough as doing the same with our personal lives) and send it to the world, hoping for at least validation that we are worthy of attention. When you ask for a referral, it’s even more personal, and no response is even more mentally wearing.

A short Q&A session helps on both sides. Referrer gets a little more information about the referree, strengthens a connection, and potentially finds a good candidate. Referree gets feedback on their potential fit, information about the position needs that a job posting might not have, and recognition of the worth as a person. Yes, it’s a bit of a time investment (and can be a real drain, depending on how well connected you are) but it strikes me as a small price to pay on both sides for a great return.

Recruiting as a New 419 Scam?

We all get emails from time to time from recruiters.  Some are better than others.  This one got my attention, and since I can’t contact them, I’ll share it here…

From: Erica Bestwick


We wanted to contact you at the job search portal, but unfortunately didn’t receive answer from you. Our company has 3 vacancies now for parttime job, every of which guaranties you a good profits. If you are still without a job or have some spare time to earn, let me know your Phone number, Contact details and the most comfortable time to speak to you. Our HR-manager will reply to you with detailed information within 48 hours.

You’re in no doubt to be interested in any of the offers!

Please send a copy of your CV or a laconic resume at: [redacted] please mention,  that we use public mail server to ensure the deliverance of your request.

Please do not answer to this automated mailer but send your resume directly to our specialist at e-mail shown, stay in touch until you are satisfied with your current employment position. Please check your bulk folder.
Cordially yours!
HR Team, A&S Int

Some pretty typical scam indicators.  Bad grammar, yahoo email, non-specific company.  But this is a whole new area of trying to track down personal information.  I worry that people who are on their guard against the latest Nigerian Prince appeal could be sucked into this email pretty quickly.

This is where LinkedIn is very valuable to me.  Any email that flows in get vetted there first.  This particular person doesn’t register.  Anyone know a recruiter that isn’t on LinkedIn?  Me neither.

Keep a sharp eye out, folks.  The bad guys are encroaching on our turf now.  And there’s not much we can do about it.

If You Can’t Google Your Employees, Who Can You Google?

Much has been written over the last few weeks about Google searches on applicants.  In this week’s edition of the Riverfront Times, the lead story is about Kendra Holliday, author of the blog The Beautiful Kind.  (Word of caution, this blog is as NSFW as you can get.)  She has been blogging her personal stories for some time now, always anonymously.  In honor of Coming Out Day this week, she has for the first time revealed her name and face to the public.

The story is an interesting one, but the part that caught my attention is in regards to her Twitter feed.  Due to a glitch, her real name was, for a brief moment, attached to her feed.  It was quickly corrected but, as we know, the Google never forgets.  She was fired from her part time job at a non-profit in St. Louis because of it, being told:

“We simply cannot risk any possible link between our mission and the sort of photos and material that you openly share with the online public. While I know you are a good worker and an intelligent person, I hope you try to understand that our employees are held to a different standard. When it comes to private matters, such as one’s sexual explorations and preferences, our employees must keep their affairs private.” (For the complete article, click here.)

My post isn’t about her so much as it is about her employer.  They were concerned about the image their organization projects to the public.  This is the corollary of the “can I Google an applicant and not feel dirty” discussion.  In my mind, I completely understand what was done and why.  It’s unfortunate, and I would hope it was handled with grace, but I can see the issue for a non-profit.

At the same time, this is a cautionary tale to those that have worked to create an online presence.  Never forget that what you put out there can be found, and you can be called to account for it.  So be thoughtful.

So is it OK to do these searches on your team?  And is it OK to act on it?

How Google Can Change Recruiting

We’ve long been trained against asking personal questions in the process if interviewing candidates, even though we’ll accept it if offered.  At the same time, we move into a more open world with Facebook, Twitter, blogging and other types of social media.  For some reason, many managers, even in HR, don’t take the simple step of examining a candidate’s online presence during the interview process.
This is potentially the richest source of information on a candidate.  Are they insightful, presenting new ideas in their chosen discipline, investigating potential avenues of learning more about their work?  Or are they disruptive, combative, or even just rude?  People are more themselves when they think they are anonymous, even if put their name at the end of their post.  It’s a different world than just a few years ago, and indicators of a candidate’s personality are now available in the public space for your perusal.  So why aren’t we using it more?
Regardless of readership levels, I know that if I search on myself, I’ll find this blog, my LinkedIn profile and Lean For HR LinkedIn group (feel free to join!), and several online discussions I’ve held on work relevant topics.   But this rarely comes up in conversation with outside recruiters.   
To me, that work is more indicative of my thought process and outlook on key tenants of HR than anything on a CV.  Between your CV and your online presence, I can get a handle on not just what you’ve accomplished, but how you did it and how your personality is likely to fit in with someone else’s culture and team.  Why wouldn’t we use that to its full extent?
I suspect, or at least I hope, that we will dig into this at the HR Technology Conference.

5 Ways to Reduce Waste in Your Recruiting Processes

Talent acquisition is rewarding, but can be a painful process for both the recruiter and the applicant(s).  Here are some suggested methods for cutting waste and improving the overall recruiting process…

1)  Online applications.  Most companies are either in this game or going there, but many that use an application tracking system also have paper applications.  In some cases, they require both.  Not to mention the redundancies of having a CV or resume, then the online application, then the paper application.  Don’t waste you applicant’s time with rework, and don’t waste your own in dealing with reams of unnecessary paper.

2)  Incentives your externals the right way.  The best system I’ve seen offers their external recruiters a bonus payment if the first candidate they present is hired.  This gives them incentive to really learn the culture and position to give you a great candidate the first time.  If you think of the wasted time and money in looking at multiple candidates, it’s a small price to pay.

3) Cut your interview to offer time.  Sometimes the bottlenecks are simple ones to reduce, once you realize that time is not a free resource.  One team I worked with waited until the end of the process (meaning post-acceptance) to perform the background check and drug screening.  It added 5-10 days to the end of the process.  The cost for each round of checks was about $50.  Once I asked them if the position added more than $10 per day of value, it became an easy decision to move it.  Now they perform those checks on the final three candidates just before the last round of interviews.  Results don’t come back until after the interviews and (generally) the decision is made, but the delay in getting the offer and acceptance in greatly reduced.

4) Create a pull process in staffing.  Recruiters will tell you there is a limit to how many searches that can do at once before you start to lose quality.  Ten seems to be the average.  If you are using an online talent system, hold the requisitions back until one of the ten they are currently working is closed out.  This also allows you to track your staffing levels and know if you have the right number on the team, too many, or not enough.  Speaking of which…

5)  Centralize your staffing team.  Just like a call center, shared staffing resources allow you to handle the peaks and valleys of demand across your business without over- or under-worked people (as well as often needed fewer recruiters overall).  Rather than have a staffing person for each location/department/business leader, build a central team that can take requests from across the business and triage them for best responses.  Within that team you can still have specialists as needed, but you reduce your risk of losing an expert recruiter because their knowledge can be more easily shared. 

And the unnumbered bonus tip is, of course, get really good at talent retention and development.  It will help keep the recruiting needs to a minimum, which is the best way to reduce the waste in the first place.

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