Candidate Experience Part II – The tip of the iceberg

Part I of this series focused on the people aspects that drive the Candidate experience. Now we will discuss the processes that drive the Candidate Experience.  Managing the processes to deliver a great candidate experience is a balancing act of competing needs where you try and strike the right balance between the candidate and organizational priorities.

The most fundamental question to ask yourself is:  ‘Is the candidate at the center of each of the recruiting stages of your candidate experience?’.   What does it mean to put the candidate at the center?  It means that you are optimizing for the candidate throughout the process by either  a) finding creative ways to meet both the candidates and your needs or b) you are making a tradeoff that prioritizes the candidate’s needs over your organizational needs.

Here are some of the top complaints by candidates about their experience:

  • Your career site isn’t mobile friendly
  • You didn’t provide all the information I want to know about the job (e.g. salary range and benefits information) before I take the time to apply
  • Your application is too long
  • Did you get my application?
  • When will you let me know about your decision? Is the job filled?
  • How long will it take to get me the offer, because I need to give an answer to another company?

caniddate waiting

Great – we’ve identified the most common sources of negative candidate experience. Whoop-dee-doo.  These are well known complaints. But why do these things keep happening?  No one intentionally wants to create a bad candidate experience, do they?  What is driving these outcomes?

Well… it’s complicated, right?  At least that is how it can be rationalized.  What the candidate sees is just the tip of the iceberg compared to what is actually happening during the recruiting process. Beneath the surface company values, compliance, talent acquisition philosophies, the job details and hiring team behaviors drive what the candidate sees and experiences.

Candidate Experience Iceberg

Why would you collect more information than you really need during the application process? Is it for compliance reasons? Is the data being collected just in case it is needed during the screening stage you would want that information already available? Is it to help your recruiters do less work during the screening process – then you are shifting costs that your recruiters could absorb to the candidate.

For example, if you click on the ‘Apply’ button for a Fortune 50 company, this is what you will see:

What a great way to begin the candidate experience with this company. Or not.  Creating an account with a company just to apply for a job seems doesn’t seem like it solves for the candidate.

As a recruiting organization, does your company prioritize cost-per-hire and time-to-fill over quality of hire and candidate experience, then very likely you have a large range in how candidates will be treated because you are more focused on making filling the role quickly and making the hiring manager happy. As a recruiter, how much time do you spend keeping candidates informed on their status.  Do you make yourself readily available and respond to their inquiries in a reasonable amount of time?  Or do you just invest your time in the most promising candidates and ignore the ones on the backburner until it suits your needs? One well-known technology company we work with aims for their rejected candidates to have the same Candidate Experience Net Promoter Score as those they will make an offer to.  This mindset and measurement dramatically changes recruiter behavior and the process they follow to engage every candidate they bring in for an interview.

So how can you take a systemic approach to your candidate experience process?  To start, map the end-to-end candidate experience. Specifically only look at the world from what the Candidate sees, by stage, and by decision status (yes, no, maybe, not reviewed).    Look at each activity (or inactivity – e.g. not following up with every candidate).

How much of the process that candidate’s experience is due to the internal demands of the iceberg?  How much is due to limitations in the tools you use?

hiring process

Once you have mapped the process look at all the sources of friction that the candidate experience.  Whether forms to fill out, periods of ‘where do I stand’ or gaps in information required to be well prepared for an interaction.  Collecting data on each of these sub-experiences allows you to apply lean manufacturing principles to the candidate experience.  Basically, evaluate if each one is adding value for the candidate and how can you only focus on activities that add value to the candidate experience and reduce candidate experience waste.

Finally, many aspects of the candidate experience are driven by the tools you have available.  Part III of this series will dive into the details on this subject, but in a nutshell there are two ways to look at tools. The first are the set of tools that enable the process which both candidate and hiring teams work with. The reality is that all tools have their limitations and they may not have the flexibility to perfectly align with both candidate and your organizational needs. So figuring out where automated tools fall short and how to the hiring team can close those gaps is key to candidate success.

digital tools

The second is to look at the tools which measure the process. Whether it is something as basic as measuring your candidate experience Net Promoter Score or more robust, like applying digital marketing techniques to measure abandon and  conversion rates at each stage of the application process.  Without measuring the process effectively you cannot optimize and improve.  Instead you are working with anecdotal data and cannot properly apply lean manufacturing principles to reduce friction in the end-to-end process.

Once you examine you candidate experience from the candidate’s perspective and understand the internal and externals factors the drive the each activity in the process. From there, you can begin to making optimization trade-offs.  With the tidal wave of recruiting tools now available, next up we will explore how to deal with all the noise to ensure that the ‘people’ and the ‘process’ align to your technology choices to deliver a great candidate experience.

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About the Author: Ray Tenenbaum is the founder of Great Hires, a recruiting technology startup offering a mobile-first Candidate Interviewing Experience platform for both candidates and hiring teams.  Great Hires was named as one of Entrepreneur Magazine’s Brilliant Companies of 2016 where it was ranked #2 in Business Tools.  Follow Ray on Twitter @rayten or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Candidate Experience – Do You Really Care?

Recently I met with the head of talent acquisition at a 200-person startup with about 40 open reqs and asked him how important the candidate experience was to him and his company.  He said it was important but not high on his list of priorities because they already do a good job on the candidate experience. I asked him what measurement he used to make this conclusion. He told me the main source of feedback was by asking new employees about their hiring experience soon after they started at the company.   This made me realize that there is a large spectrum of what it means to really care about the candidate experience.

I have spent quite some time analyzing the Talent Board’s Candidate Experience 2014 report.  As you probably know, the survey compiles very detailed, behavior based data from 95,000 candidates who applied to approximately 140 companies.  It is clear these companies are trying to transform their recruiting process to be more candidate-centric.  Like any business improvement initiative, in order to have a great end-to-end experience, a company must successfully align their people, process and technology.  However getting each of these components to effectively deliver for both candidates and the company is no easy task.

This is the first of three part series that focuses on each of these factors which drive a successful Candidate Experience capability for your organization, starting with ‘People’.  What is clear from the CandE report, that behind the numbers are all the people involved in each stage of talent acquisition that drive the bus – and without whom, process and technology don’t really matter.

The question is, when you start peeling back the candidate experience onion, what are the key components to set your regular employees and recruiting teams up for success?  From what I have seen the major drivers are:  company values, empathy, rewards and being tech savvy.

why I should care

If your company doesn’t really care, why should you?

Many companies state that “people are their greatest asset”, but is that reflected in their behavior? If your company has a high unwanted turnover rate, then it is not easy to sincerely tell a candidate that the company is a great place to work.  How involved in the selection process are the leaders of your organization?  How do they measure recruiting success beyond financial metrics?  The companies who truly care have Quality at the top of their recruiting Key Performance Indicators with Cost-Per-Hire and Time-to-Hire a fair distant behind.  As a result, these companies understand the importance of the candidate experience starting at the top of the funnel.   All you need to do is go to the Zappos , Capital One or Enterprise career pages to see how much they care about their people and who they hire.  An excellent contrast would be Mass Mutual , a Fortune 500 company, who is ranked #1 for the least loyal employees.  It is impossible to even see a list of job postings on their career site unless you complete a form with your personal information.

It is apparent which companies who have ‘attracting and retaining great talent’ in their DNA from your first experience with them.  If you are a recruiter who works at a company where people are secondary to other priorities, then you are probably facing challenges getting the leadership focus and resources you need to be successful. It is hard to expect a recruiter to a deliver great candidate experience if their company doesn’t truly support them in their efforts.

frampton

Empathy: Do you feel like we do?

Do you treat candidates as you would want to be treated yourself? That is essence of a recruiter who really cares about the candidate experience.

Here are some basic questions to compare yourself to some of the best practices of CandE award winning companies:

  • Do you pretend that you are a candidate and apply to your own job to see how easy it is to apply?
  • Do you set expectations (whether directly or indirectly through via your job posting) and meet those expectations – such as calling a candidate when you said you would.
  • How much time to do you spend with a candidate helping them through the interview process by either explaining the end-to-end process or prepping them for the people they will be interviewing with?
  • Do you decline candidates who came in to interview directly by phone or with a form email?  Do you provide any feedback?

Displaying these types of behaviors really differentiate top candidate experience recruiters from those only focused on filling job reqs.

The effort required by recruiters requires a significant time investment and tremendous attention to detail. If you have 30 open reqs assigned to you, it is nearly impossible to give the attention needed to all candidates. So, either you care and are willing to go the extra mile, or you are going to skip steps and short-change candidates so you can focus how you are measured and rewarded.

say do ratio

Rewards – aligning the Say/Do ratio

The bottom line is, what gets measured gets done.  Recruiting metrics need the right balance between short term operating metrics such as Cost-Per-Hire and Time-to-Fill and long term balance sheet metrics like Quality of Hire and retention rates.  If companies aren’t measuring and rewarding quality metrics related to the Candidate Experience, then they are ignoring the impact it can have on both recruiting KPIs and corporate financial metrics. The latest Candidate Experience report states that 24% of candidates are more likely to buy from a company if they have a positive experience while CareerBuilder found that 69% of interviewed candidates are less likely to buy if they had a bad experience.

However, let’s not forget that recruiting costs time and money. A recruiter with the right incentives can’t do it all themselves, they need the right balance of workload, tools and cross-functional support. Companies that measure and reward both talent acquisition and hiring managers based on quality of hire may have above average candidate experience metrics but they typically also invest disproportionately more in their recruiting and retention programs.

techsavvy

Tech Savvy – Your personal competitive advantage

There are a lot of great tools to help recruiters and the candidate experience – some need to be implemented by the company, but there are many point solutions any individual recruiter can use on their own. Whether it is as basic as Google Docs or using email tools like Tout or Yesware to improve your candidate management – the options are out there, but it requires you to figure out which ones actually work and have real candidate impact.  Your company probably already has tools that you can use to help you be more successful, however there is a good chance they are not dead simple to use and require you to invest in both getting set-up and learning how to use the application in a way that works for you.  Your average recruiter would just give up and stick to their existing behaviors.  A recruiting innovator (or even an early adopter) is comfortable learning new technology and testing what works best for them so they have a competitive advantage in converting top prospects.

When it comes to the candidate experience, it all starts with people.  Without an engaged recruiter with the right incentives, no fancy process or tools will magically make your company a CandE award winner.

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About the Author: Ray Tenenbaum is the founder of Great Hires, a recruiting technology startup offering a mobile-first Candidate Interviewing Experience platform for both candidates and hiring teams.  Great Hires was named as one of Entrepreneur Magazine’s Brilliant Companies of 2016 where it was ranked #2 in Business Tools.  Follow Ray on Twitter @rayten or connect with him on LinkedIn.

10 things I learned researching the ATS platforms used by the Fortune 100

Last week I decided to research the applicant tracking systems (ATS) used by the Fortune 100. The analysis was prompted by a fellow recruiting startup founder who suggested that Great Hires invest in becoming a partner for a newer ATS company’s marketplace.  This made me want to estimate the size of the opportunity based on the volume of candidates that pass through the ecosystem of these providers.  Despite how fragmented the ATS market is, I was surprised that there are only two ATS system providers who serve more than two companies of the F100.

  1. Taleo/Oracle and Kenexa BrassRing dominate the Fortune 100

2. The number of jobs flowing through the top systems (Taleo/Oracle, Kenexa/BrassRing and homegrown) dominate everyone else.

3. The average number of job openings of the Fortune 100 is 2,172. These firms must have very large talent acquisition organizations to keep up with their hiring needs.

4. Many companies have started using a second platform such like a recruitment marketing system (e.g. Jibe or Smashfly) or even a second ATS-oriented company  (e.g. Smartrecruiters or Jobvite) to deal with CRM, Recruitment Marketing or Talent Community needs. However, these “second” platforms have less than 20% penetration in the F100.

5. Six firms built their own ATS: Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Verizon, Statefarm. What makes Statefarm unique is that they aren’t a technology company, but they seem to have unique needs with a franchise-like recruiting model.

6. Only one Fortune 100 company has adopted the Workday ATS in the two plus years since its release.

7. Amazon has 17,000 job openings and 230,000 employees. They are a much bigger organization than most people think and ranked #20 of the F500 by number of employees. For comparison, Wal-Mart is the largest employer with 2,300,000 employees.

8. Oracle has 8,000 open job reqs. I wonder how much input/feedback the Oracle recruiting function has provided the Taleo development team about their ATS?

9. Three of the top 6 companies with the most job openings are healthcare related and combine for nearly 43,000 openings

10. American Airlines gives candidates the option to apply using their Yahoo credentials. Not LinkedIn, Facebook, Google or Twitter.  Are they signaling applicants who they are really looking for?

American_Airlines_Apply_with_Yahoo

Note:  Berkshire Hathaway was not included in this analysis since it is really a holding company, and was replaced by #101 DuPont.

Recruiting Coordinators: The unsung heroes of talent acquisition

If you ask the average hiring manager what a recruiting coordinator (aka candidate success coordinator, talent acquisition operations specialist etc.) you will probably get a perception that they are just someone in HR or a recruiter.  Most people on a job’s hiring team think stuff just magically happens when a candidate arrives for their interviews and are clueless that a talent acquisition coordinator is working behind the scenes to ensure everything runs smoothly. Then the cherry on top is that recruiting coordinators tend to only get noticed when things go wrong.   But the truth is that recruiting coordinators are the secret weapon of hiring success and they do not get enough credit for the value they add in the recruiting process.

superheroes

Recruiting Coordinators + Candidate Experience = Hiring Success

Recruiting coordinators are focused on giving candidates a concierge-like, white glove experience. Beyond greeting candidates, making them feel comfortable, giving tours, providing water, coffee & snacks, coordinators also set up all the technology whether it is a projector, dialing into Webex, or recording a presentation.  However, that is just table stakes for the role.  Talent acquisition coordinators are like the Chief-of-Staff for a job (Note: “a job”, not the hiring manager, recruiter or candidate).  Their role is to manage all the logistics for the recruiting process, including travel arrangements and expense reimbursement.

It’s very easy to think interview scheduling is pretty simple. But the reality is that finding a date and times when everyone on the Hiring Manager’s interview list is available is non-trivial.  When you factor in how everyone’s schedule appears as ‘busy’ in Outlook or Google calendar and is likely out of date, the battle has just begun.  No one sees the relationships a coordinator needs to build with executive assistants to sweet-talk them into finding a mutually agreeable slot to interview a candidate.  Then factor in that over 50% of interviews get moved, rescheduled, rooms changed, or have last-minute interviewer cancellations…who has to deal with the consequences of each change? You know who.

keep-calm-and-get-stuff-done-3

Of course being a coordinator requires you to strike the right balance for all stakeholders (hiring manager, recruiter, interviewers and candidates).   Coordinators are the front line troops for the candidate experience.   Being thoughtful of putting together an interview schedule where the candidate stays in the same interview room and having interviewers come to them is much more candidate friendly than having the candidate go from office-to-office or building-to-building to find each interviewer.  In addition, making sure the candidate and interviewers have the latest information is no simple task. Between resumes, travel information, interview guides, the latest schedule, company information etc. there is a huge amount of information that needs to be distributed and tracked.  When something gets missed or forgotten, who do you think gets a call or email?  You know who.

 Untold Recruiting Coordinator Stories

Here are a couple of examples of where coordinators go above and beyond to deliver a great candidate and hiring experience.

Kari Scheidt from Salesforce describes the importance of the coordinators relationship with the candidate. She explained how coordinators can be an advocate for the candidate to the hiring manager or interviewers, especially when the candidate has shared something important the team should be aware of in their decision process.  Kari highlighted the importance of candidate empathy with a story of super-hero effort that most hiring team’s don’t see. One winter day, Salesforce was flying in a candidate from the east coast which was experiencing horrendous storms.  The candidate was freaking out that they would not make their interview.  Despite all the flight delays and being oversold, she was able to beg the airlines to find a way to re-route the candidate and get them to the interview on time.  The candidate really appreciated the effort that was taken to go above and beyond to make it all happen. “People forget that the way you are treated as a candidate is how you think you will be treated as an employee.”

adamas-5-star-white-glove-service

John Tran, a Talent Acquisition Ambassador at Yahoo!, takes great pride in seeing someone he brought in as a candidate and then helped onboard, turn in a superstar.  Many times, it all starts with a tour John gives to prospective hires of the Yahoo! campus to help reinforce the emotional bond they already have with the Yahoo! brand.   Once hired, he enjoys seeing their success and relishes the feeling that comes with having helped pave the way for folks he helped hire to accomplish great things in the company.

At a previous company, Phyllis Yoshimoto (currently a talent coordinator at Pharmacyclics) woke up one morning to find out a top candidate had received several offers and her company needed to act fast if they wanted to still be considered. At 8 am she confirmed with the candidate, who was based in Seattle, they could fly to the Bay Area that day for a slate of interviews.  Phyllis was able to both coordinate the candidate’s travel and pull together the full interview schedule to start at 2 pm that day.  In the end, it all went perfect and the hiring team was able to make an offer to the candidate that day.  The candidate accepted and turned into a great hire.

What you can do to help your recruiting coordinator

So now that you understand the importance and value of your recruiting coordinator, here are 5 things you can do immediately to help coordinators be even more successful:

  1. Make sure your hiring team responds back in a timely manner (within 24 hours) to attend an interview
  2. Prepare your interview team on which competencies to evaluate and questions to ask
  3. Provide timely feedback about each candidate
  4. Pass along any insights your learn from the candidate that would help with any information to be distributed to the hiring team or logistics for the interview day
  5. Reinforce to your hiring team the importance of the candidate experience, and that showing up late or being disrespectful to a candidate has a big impact on the entire recruiting team

Finally, if you don’t do so already, thank your recruiting coordinator every time you make a hire.  They are truly the unsung heroes of talent acquisition.


About the Author: Ray Tenenbaum is the founder of Great Hires, a recruiting technology startup offering a mobile-first Candidate Selection platform for both candidates and hiring team success. Ray has previously spent half of his career building Silicon Valley startups such as Red Answers and Adify (later sold to Cox Media); the other half of his career was spent in marketing and leadership roles at enterprise organizations including Procter & Gamble, Kraft, Booz & Co. and Intuit. Ray holds an MBA from the University of Michigan as well as a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from McGill University.

Follow Ray on Twitter @rayten or connect with him on LinkedIn.

7 Things I learned examining 199 recruiting startups newly added to AngelList

Several times a week I get asked if I’ve heard of some new recruiting startup, and I jokingly respond that there is new one started daily and it is impossible to keep track. Well, it turns out I was off by a factor of about three.  There are 2800 companies that are tagged as Recruiting Startups on AngelList , of which 199 were added in August and September 2015.  I decided to take a look at each of these recently added companies to see what trends can be gleaned from them.  After ignoring 31 firms that weren’t really recruiting-related, here is what I found about the remaining 168 companies – so almost three per day.

AngelList Recruiting Companies

1.       Is recruiting broken?

One theme I saw consistently in either the company description or on their website is some form of the statement “recruiting is broken” and their mission is to either reinvent how companies and candidates find each other or improve the process. Inefficiency and friction plague end-to-end recruiting. Companies are trying new methods to match candidates with companies like having candidates bid on being able to apply to a company or a tool for candidates to supply a form for recruiters to complete about the role before being allowed to contacting them.  Who knows if any of these companies will truly reinvent talent acquisition, but at least there are many that claim to be trying.

2.       Niche marketplaces are very popular

Nearly half (80) new companies reviewed are trying to bring recruiters and candidates together more effectively. In particular, niche market places for any type of narrow market you can identify is being created.  Examples include two marketplaces for the cannabis industry:  Hemployed and Greenseek;   hyper-local job boards   and sites for professional specialists to connect like healthcare and cyber security experts.  For any marketplace, the challenge to is to get enough traction with both job posters and candidates to have a reasonable size marketplace and achieve some level of network effects. If nothing else, each of these sites should at least appear in the top 3 organic search results for ‘{name of the niche + jobs}’.

3.       Big data is a big deal for sourcing candidates

Fifteen different companies using some form of big data and secret sauce algorithms to find the right match for your job. Terms like AI, machine learning and predictive analytics showed up several times.  Each of these companies claim to be able to look at resumes, LinkedIn, Twitter, GitHub and other social sites and crunch all the data and then be able to spit out the winning candidates using their magical secret sauce tool.

4.       Next generation digital resumés:

Given the dominance of LinkedIn, many candidates feel there are better ways to project themselves online and provide a more accurate portrayal of their capabilities.  There were seven new companies trying to integrate great visual design, multi-media and social media to give candidates more opportunity to showcase their personality and experience.

5.       Not another ATS company

As if there aren’t enough Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) companies already out there, another seven declared their intent to reinvent managing the recruiting the process from job req to onboarding.   While this industry segment is not yet a complete commodity, given how poorly most companies rate their ATS, the level of competition is so high that taking a truly different approach will be the only way any of these companies stick around for a meaningful amount of time.

6.       Point solutions solving specific needs

The companies that interested me most were the 20 or so companies trying to solve well know challenges in the recruiting process in a more efficient manner. Whether it is targeted skills assessment, new tools for interviewing or a new wave of mobile social recruiting and referral apps, several of these new companies are trying new ways to leverage your personal network to find the right match.

7.       AngelList can be challenging when looking for real recruiting startups

Many companies have their industry misclassified or Recruiting is clearly a secondary element to their primary strategy and therefore shouldn’t really be tagged as such. In particular, College Admissions should be a distinct tag, separate from College Recruiting.

It is also amazing how many typos and grammar errors there are in company descriptions. Finally, if you are service company like a placement firm, you really should not be putting your site on AngelList;  many companies or people are using Angellist for SEO juice/ link building rather than using Angellist for its intended purpose: to connect startups with investors and potential employees

Summary

The good news for recruiters is that there is a lot of innovation taking place in the space and a handful will surely bubble to the surface and be successful. The challenge for companies and talent acquisition folks is being able to pick from the many solutions out there that match their specific needs.

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Ray Tenenbaum is the founder of Great Hires, a recruiting technology startup offering a mobile-first Candidate Experience platform for both candidates and hiring teams. Ray has previously spent half of his career building Silicon Valley startups such as Red Answers and Adify (later sold to Cox Media); the other half of his career was spent in marketing and leadership roles at enterprise organizations including Procter & Gamble, Kraft, Booz & Co. and Intuit.

Follow Ray on Twitter @rayten or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Should you have Bar Raisers at your company?

‘If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs, but if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, Ogilvy & Mather will become a company of giants.’

– David Ogilvy from “Ogilvy on Advertising”

Womens_high_jump_3

Introduction

Recently companies like Amazon and Google have challenged the traditional methods of giving full control of candidate offers to the hiring manager.  In order to remove hiring manager bias in the process (such as trying to solve a short-term hiring need), other hiring team members are given the power to either make offers or veto the hiring manager offer recommendation. At Amazon, these individuals are called Bar Raisers.

What are Bar Raisers?

Bar Raisers are involved in each step in the candidate selection process. They help with filtering and screening candidates.  They help the hiring manager and recruiter select interviewers with a range of experience for on-site interviews. Bar Raisers work with the hiring team to define the competencies and divide and conquer them across the team to ensure full coverage of the evaluation criteria.

The main raison d’être for Bar Raisers is to ensure that a new hire is accretive and not dilutive to the overall organization capacity.  Bar Raisers have the power to veto a hiring manager’s offer if they believe the candidate would not ‘raise the bar’ at Amazon.  Of course, they must have well-substantiated reasons for such a decision. Bar Raisers can also help find a different opportunity for a candidate elsewhere in the company even if they were rejected by the interview team or hiring manager.

At Amazon, Bar Raisers can spend 10-20 hours per week across several jobs on top of their daytime job. There is no explicit reward system for Bar Raisers in their performance management process, but it is considered a prestigious role earned by only to a select few.

Is your company ready for Bar Raisers?

First off, does you company have a problem with the quality of your hires?  Do you feel that you are making too many bad hires? If not, then there may not need to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.

If you do have concerns with your quality of hires, what are the sources of the false-positive signal that led to the offer? Was it the wrong skills or a company fit issue?  If it was a skills issue, does your company have a structured interviewing process? Do your hiring teams define the skills or competencies required for the job ahead of candidates being interviewed? If it was an issue with fit, have you defined your company values and cultural traits that you are seeking? Once again, without some structure for the hiring team on what to evaluate, inconsistency is bound to permeate your hiring process. If your hiring process does not plan ahead with competency and culture/value fit evaluation, then your organization may have more fundamental issues that Bar Raisers alone would not be able to solve.

Pros

When it comes to interviewing, almost everyone thinks they are an above-average interviewer.  Most hiring managers and interviewers have an inflated view of their evaluation capabilities. Having candidate selection experts who are regular employees solves a real problem by bringing experience, best practices and consistency to every job req.

When hiring managers have an immediate need that needs to be filled, they are much more focused on their short-term goals than the overall health of the company.  Hiring someone that partially solves a near term problem for the hiring but then creates downstream organizational issues. Bar Raisers are specifically responsible for ensuring this short-term pressure is minimized.

In fast growing organizations that are hiring thousands of new employees each year, it is very common for a relatively new hiring manager to be less familiar with the company culture and organization work norms.  Bar Raisers ensure that new hires will fit in well with the company’s values and adapt well to their new environment.

Cons

What is average? In a company with thousands of employees, determining if a candidate would be in the top 47% vs the top  53% is very subjective.  Given a natural bell curve distribution, being able to make that kind of judgment call with such accuracy is very difficult even for someone who is familiar with hundreds of employees. This leads to the next concern…

Are bar raisers really above average at picking winners?  Another large high-tech company is testing their modified version of the Bar Raiser program, but will not give Bar Raisers veto power until they have collected statistically significant data which proves that a Bar Raiser has shown to have a better hiring recommendation-to-good-hire batting average than hiring managers and regular interviewers.  While it is nice to assume that Bar Raisers are better at drafting great team members, each Bar Raiser will be different and you may find that not all Bar Raisers have the golden touch.

One additional item to consider is to ensure the proper context of the specific functional role and business team.  Google now has over 50,000 employees.  It is very difficult to see how an ad support specialist in their customer operations group is raising the bar for the company compared to a software engineer working on the next big idea. In large companies sometimes you just need someone who wants to come to work and do their job really well without bigger aspirations or greater organizational impact. This is good for both the company and the employee, even if the role does not require someone to be an above average contributor when compared to the entire organization.  Not every role requires demonstrated leadership and creativity skills in order to be successful.

Conclusion

Introducing a Bar Raiser program is a big investment for both the company and the Bar Raisers.  The key to hiring great employees is ensuring consistency in how the job-specific competencies and cultural fit attributes are evaluated. This can be done in many ways. At Procter & Gamble, a ‘promote from within’ company, all managers are expected to be able to have these abilities – so the responsibility is shared amongst the hiring team. Picking the best practices that are right for your company’s stage in its lifecycle and your specific culture is most important.   What is probably most important is senior level commitment to a structured candidate selection process and ensuring that there is a data-driven system in place to continually improve your hiring capability.


About the Author: Ray Tenenbaum is the founder of Great Hires, a recruiting technology startup offering a mobile-first Candidate Selection platform for both candidates and hiring team success. Ray has previously spent half of his career building Silicon Valley startups such as Red Answers and Adify (later sold to Cox Media); the other half of his career was spent in marketing and leadership roles at enterprise organizations including Procter & Gamble, Kraft, Booz & Co. and Intuit. Ray holds an MBA from the University of Michigan as well as a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from McGill University.

Follow Ray on Twitter @rayten or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Don’t hire bad hires

In my last article I wrote about four causes of bad hires that I’ve encountered in my career.  Now I will discuss a few ways to avoid making a poor hiring choice during the candidate selection process by addressing each of the causes one by one. While many of the recommendations might seem obvious, it is amazing how many large companies we work with do not employ any of them. Many talent acquisition organizations just let the hiring manager use an unstructured process which relies heavily on personal choice and entropy to evaluate a candidate.

  1. Try before you buy: To address “Lack of technical/functional expertise”

Anyone can claim they are an expert in something and stick it on their resume or LinkedIn profile, but how do you really know they have the specific skills needed for your role.  If it is a deep technical skill requirement there are many assessment tools available from a variety of online and offline companies.  My preference is to have a test drive with the candidate where you create a simulated experience to the actual job they would perform. Ideally it would be an actual task or problem that currently needs solving (or was recently solved).  It is uncanny how this type of exercise can quickly separate the wheat from the chaff.  For someone who is really an expert, the simulation should be a breeze – and it should also quickly expose the fakers. The challenge with these trials is that they take time and (many times) money.  Depending on the situation, paying people for their time is quite valuable and makes them feel that they are being compensated for the ‘work’ they are performing.  In the end, investing a few hundred dollars up front to see if someone really has the technical chops for the role, can save you thousands of dollars down the road.

 

  1. Pattern recognition: To address “Inability to develop domain expertise”

When you hire someone from a different industry, market or customer segment, there is risk that they are a hammer who thinks everything is a nail.  Therefore, it is important to assess how good they are at pattern recognition and if they notice the differences between industries, markets and customers for the job compared to their past experience.    For more junior level positions you can have a candidate take a pattern recognitions test like Procter & Gamble does for all their entry level positions.  For experience roles it is important to spend the time seeing if the prospect grasps the differences and has the business acumen to appreciate the situation.  How much research has the candidate done into the market, customers, company & job?  Can they articulate the similarities and differences between their past roles and this one?  Do they have the intellectual curiosity to dive deep and appreciate the different dynamics? Without the ability to articulate both the strategic and tactical contrasts, then you risk hiring someone who won’t adapt well to their new situation.

  1. STAR methodology:  To address “Can’t deliver results”

Past experience and results are usually the best predictors of future success.  Even though past roles may not be the same level of responsibility or challenge as your job opening, seeing that someone has succeeded in similar situations or has shown a trajectory of results and expanded responsibility are pretty telling.

Using the STAR interviewing methodology is the most common behavior-focused method to understand what results the candidate was able to deliver.  The key to this approach is making sure the candidate talks specifically about what they themselves did, not the team or the company.  Teasing out the specific results that were directly tied to the candidate’s efforts is not always easy and without peeling back the onion on the unique contributions they made is what’s most important.

Implementing the STAR method takes time and effort to prepare before candidates ever come in the door.  How much time do you spend with the hiring team discussing what to look for when during their interviews?  We have a client who has the entire interview team get together for at least one hour to holistically discuss what success looks like for the role, get alignment on the competencies to evaluate for the job and then divides and conquers the competencies/ questions amongst the team.   This is a big up-front investment, but it is uncanny how it pays off for them.

One of my favorite pieces of advice I received about ensuring someone can deliver results is to show them exactly the results they would be expected to deliver for the role. Yes, the actual targets. And then have a collaborative discussion the strategies and tactics that they would employ to deliver the results. It’s amazing how this can both help the candidate self-select if this is the right role for them and also set expectation & motivation for the a new employee – since they knew exactly what they were signing up for when they took the job.

 

  1. Self-Awareness triangulation: To address “Lack of self-awareness”

A lack of self-awareness is a killer trait for a bad hire. Someone who is self aware will pro-actively make adjustments to address gaps in the performance and typically will also be open to feedback.  Without self awareness, the opposite holds true. But how do you measure self-awareness?  This isn’t as simple as asking ‘What is your biggest weakness?’.  I recommend using a combination of techniques to triangulate information collected from the candidate, the hiring team and references.

 

During the interview process, asking probing self-awareness questions about specific projects can be very revealing about a candidate.  Here are some of my favorites:

“Looking back what would you have differently for this project?” –Note: this question can be used for both successful and unsuccessful situations.

“’What skills are you lacking?’

“If I called the past manager that has liked you the least, and what would they tell me about you?”

“What would you do if you realized you were failing in this job?”

 

References are another way to learn about a candidate’s abilities and development areas.  Asking a reference to compare the former direct report to the best person for the same role they held and understanding the gaps is very telling.

Taking the candidates responses, your hiring team’s probing questions , triangulating them with the candidate’s professional references and your own observations can be a powerful way to assess self- awareness.

If you’ve ever made a bad hire you know that there was likely at least one piece of data captured during the selection process that signaled a red flag for a candidate.  But for whatever reason it was ignored and eventually came back to haunt you.  Being able to recognize the sources of a bad hire and how to spend the extra time, effort and money to tackle them head-on before an offer is essential.  Hopefully these methods will help you learn from the mistakes of others and avoid making a bad hire.

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About the Author: Ray Tenenbaum is the founder of Great Hires, a recruiting technology startup offering a mobile-first Candidate Experience platform for both candidates and hiring teams. Ray has previously spent half of his career building Silicon Valley startups such as Red Answers and Adify (later sold to Cox Media); the other half of his career was spent in marketing and leadership roles at enterprise organizations including Procter & Gamble, Kraft, Booz & Co. and Intuit. Ray holds an MBA from the University of Michigan as well as a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from McGill University.

Follow Ray on Twitter @rayten or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Four Sources of Bad Hires

Making a bad hire sucks. And usually you have no one to blame but yourself.  In hindsight, 99% of the time, you could have figured it out before making the offer. So why does it happen?

A lot has already been writing about how expensive a bad hire is to an organization when you add up the hard costs of salary, sunk recruiting & training costs plus the lost productivity and/or revenue.  And it is easy to place the blame on needing to fill the role quickly.  But when you look at the underlying causes of a bad hire, it has more to do with what you are looking for than making a hasty decision.

No one ever plans to make a bad hire. In fact, at the time of the offer most people feel like they are making a well thought-out decision.  However, within a short period of time (2-6 weeks) you realize that you made a bad choice.  Surprisingly, more times than not, there was a voice of dissension to making an offer to the candidate which you had ignored. Whether it was that little voice in the back of your head that you didn’t listen to, or a member of the interviewing team that raised flags that were either trivialized or not sufficiently followed-up on…now that voice you either ignored or rationalized starts telling you ‘I tried to warn you’.

When you have a bad hire, there isn’t usually a single item that is wrong with a hire unless the role is very technical and the person clearly does not have the technical chops for the job.  While it typically comes down to ‘skills’ or ‘company fit’ as the cause, that is too general a classification to be very helpful. Instead, by peeling the onion on the most common ways a bad hire fails, you can then adapt your candidate selection process to address the issues at their core.

From my experience, the reasons someone does not work out falls into four buckets.  In some cases, multiple buckets are at the root of the person not being right for the role. Here they are:

1.       Lack of technical/functional expertise:  Yes, I’ve kinda done that before, ahem.

Unless a new employee is brought in at an entry-level position and is expected to be trained for the functional role they were hired for, they are expected to have some basic technical knowledge required for the job. Whether they are a sales person who has sold before, a developer who has coded before or a designer who knows how to design, there is a repertoire the hire brings with them in their competency portfolio.  But each specific role has a different emphasis on specific functional skills. For example someone who is considered a consumer marketer may know search-engine marketing and display ads, but that is very different from television advertising and market research.  A Rails developer may know how to write decent code, but also needs to know how to write tests and make sure their code fits the architecture of the entire system – which can be different for every product. While some of the principles for a function are transferable, the differences and nuances of a specific role may cause an experience worker to struggle to be proficient in areas they have had limited past hands-on experience. The good news is that this could be the case of ‘right person, wrong role’ if the organization is big enough. But the key is that every functional job is different and being able to prioritize the specific traits for that job are critical to ensuring the right alignment of experience and skills.

2.       Inability to develop  domain expertise:  The hammer who thinks everything is a nail

It is very common to hire someone with functional expertise in one industry and expect them to be able to apply them in another industry.  But many times it can be a struggle to adapt to these differences.  In my career, it is amazing how often I have seen someone who comes from a different industry who does not have the ability to recognize difference between markets and customers and blindly tries to re-apply practices from their previous industry to their new one.   This is where an individual’s ability to take the initiative to understand the nuances between domain and industries is important. They must also have the analytical skills, patience and perseverance to figure out why something seems to work in one industry but not the other.  The awareness to go back to first principles to compare and contrast company- or industry-specific models are not skills everyone has.  In my experience, people who have demonstrated the ability to adapt well to a new domain typically have had at least two completely different career experiences, which made them adept at being ‘multi-lingual’.  People who have had a past life in moving between two industries, working in different countries or roles in very different functions, tend to be able to mentally wear different hats. This gives them an appreciation to better diagnose a situation before prescribing a thoughtful solution instead of the generic ‘this is how we did it at X’ statement.

 

3.       Can’t deliver results – Look at all the effort I put in!

Let’s begin with the end in mind. If someone can’t deliver results, they are a bad hire. If someone doesn’t have the drive to focus on the achieving their goals and working a project from beginning to end they aren’t going to be successful.  But knowing the ‘how’ to deliver the ‘what’ is critical. At most companies, this involves teamwork, influence, tenacity, and some form or leadership or functional excellence to play nice with the rest of the organization. This is where fit, adapting to the cultural norms and using soft skills to get stuff done make a big difference.  If someone doesn’t play nice with other or doesn’t have the talent to figure out how to leverage existing company systems and practices, they will struggle to be successful. It is very much like sports where an athlete’s statistics look good on paper, but when you are looking for them to perform on the field, they disappoint.  Despite all the activities and energy they may (or may not) put towards the inputs, the output isn’t there.    Evaluating passion, ownership and drive are not always part of candidate evaluation feedback forms, but it is an intangible worth measuring.

4.       Lack of self-awareness – {silence}

If there is one trait I have seen in nearly every bad hire I have made, is that the person was        mostly unaware of the cause of their ineffectiveness. While several of them knew things weren’t  going great, there was a lack of inward analysis and curiosity to try and discover why. They did  not have the ability to look retrospectively on themselves and reflect at what is transpiring. If  they did seek guidance, they simply didn’t (or weren’t able to) apply the feedback.  Instead they       just keep repeating the same methods over and over and seeing the same outcomes.  Not being            able to self-identify the problem or apply feedback is one of the most frustrating aspects for the     hiring manager, because now you have two problems to solve. The first is the competency gap      between the new hire and the job and the second is expending a large amount of energy      preparing and delivering the reality check to the person. This is a big time and emotional           investment.  Ugh. There is nothing more draining than having a conversation with someone who             is oblivious to their performance.

If you’ve made a bad hire before, at least one of these items probably crossed your mind (or was pointed out to you by a hiring team interviewer) before you made the offer.  It is perfectly reasonable to ignore a flag that was raised if it can be fully dissected and weighted against the role’s critical success factors.  But if a debate about the qualities of candidate is identified by a single voice of dissension, you may be missing a potential bad hire’s Achilles Heel even before making the offer.

In my next post, I will discuss how to address each of these buckets/ issues during the candidate selection process so you can catch bad hires before the offer is made.


About the Author: Ray Tenenbaum is the founder of Great Hires, a recruiting technology startup offering a mobile-first Candidate Experience platform for both candidates and hiring teams. Ray has previously spent half of his career building Silicon Valley startups such as Red Answers and Adify (later sold to Cox Media); the other half of his career was spent in marketing and leadership roles at enterprise organizations including Procter & Gamble, Kraft, Booz & Co. and Intuit. Ray holds an MBA from the University of Michigan as well as a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from McGill University.

Follow Ray on Twitter @rayten or connect with him on LinkedIn.