Recruiting and how the ‘Rule of 3’ breaks down: communication, meetings, cross-purposes

Feel like I’ve been posting a lot recently about the flaws in the recruiting process, so I’ll keep this one a little brief to avoid overload on that front. I saw this Lou Adler post on LinkedIn today about “The Rule of 3” — no, not the American Pie idea that when a guy tells you how many girls he’s slept with, you divide by 3 and when a girl tells you how many guys, you multiply by 3 — which is basically a simple way to look at the recruiting process. Essentially:

1. Have a great job to offer.

2. Have a great recruiter.

3. Have a great hiring manager.

It’s that simple, and now we can all go home!

Problem is, it doesn’t work like that and the base reason why is simply communication. The idea of talent strategy should be rooted in HR — it should, unquestionably — and, in fact, that (along with processing data on employees) should be the central way that HR becomes “a strategic business partner” or, to use a term more readily used, “gets a seat at the table.” Top management is usually confused about talent strategy — for example, 89 percent of managers think people leave primarily for more money, whereas only 12 percent of people report actually leaving for more money, which is a massive disconnect — but at the same time, top management often views HR as a personnel/admin/paperwork area. They can screen, but the hiring manager — “the team lead” — will interview and hire. This often leads to a major disconnect in terms of priorities and communication across roles. Check this out, from the comments section of Adler’s post:

One piece of advice I’ve heard repeatedly is to avoid HR and find the hiring manager. A few years ago, I went on a few interviews for the same position. The last one was with the hiring manager, and he eliminated me from the search. None of the previous interviewers–an HR Director, Vice President, and a counselor–seemed to know what was actually required. Hiring managers get paid one way or the other, so they should get involved much sooner.

HR wants to be involved and be strategic, but they’re being made transactional. The hiring manager has one idea; HR has another. The wrong people get screened to the hiring manager. Chaos ensues. Talent strategy fail.

There was one interesting nugget in here, though: the idea of a career-oriented job posting, rather than simply a list of necessary skills and qualifications. Here’s an example. Basically, this type of posting allows you to conceptualize the big picture and idea of what you’ll be doing, as opposed to a checklist. I hate checklists because they mostly exist to (a) make it easier to screen off a large percentage of a big pool of candidates and (b) because no one in the org really knows what they want from that role, so they cobbled together other things they saw elsewhere. Here’s another comment from Adler’s article that sums it up pretty nicely:

Speaking as someone from the other side of the table: when I see one of these “checklist” job postings I know one of the following is true: 1. We already have a candidate and these are his qualifications; this job posting is merely a formality. 2. We want someone to solve a very specific problem; when we’re done with you, we’ll probably let you go and post another job ad with our next set of extremely specific requirements. 3. We’re clueless.

I think “talent strategy” by itself sounds like a massive buzzword, but it’s tremendously important. The difference between having the best people and the third-best people could literally be millions to billions of dollars per year for your organization, depending on industry. The base problem, besides communication between levels, is that American businesses are set up to reward processes and products, not people; people are almost viewed as an after-thought at many large companies. The model is so simple, and even works legally: look for good people, get good people, pay them slightly above board, and give them time to work on projects close to them as well. Align your talent strategy with your on-boarding (bringing people into the company) with your overall culture — and stop looking for people who hit check boxes.

The other thing I’d say about Adler’s post is that item 2 — have a great recruiter — is much easier said than done. Yesterday I had two job interviews. I live in Minneapolis, and the second one was for a job in Austin. Lady calls me and after the initial pleasantries, she says, “So, you’re based in Austin, right?” She’s literally looking at my resume which has Minneapolis info at the top. That’s ludicrous. I don’t care how busy you are in a given day, you should be able to differentiate between two words that start with different letters at the vey top of a document. It’s lazy. First recruiter call yesterday asks me if I live in New York, then tells me (after he called me) that there might be some gap time on my resume; essentially puts me on the defensive. I have more experiences like these than really positive experiences — so the idea of a great recruiter, one who can get those 77 percent of passive job-seekers and bring them into a new org (but also one who actually looks at resumes before doing a call, or thinks about how the pieces fit together) is fairly rare.

Ted Bauer