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3 Surprising Truths about Recruiting

On Association Success this past month, Jamie’s been writing all about recruiting.  Check ’em out!

What We Can’t Admit About Recruiting

I think we can all agree that the hiring process can be frustrating, on both sides of the equation. For the employer, the pressure is on to find the “best talent,” but it’s flat-out hard to tell who’s the best in a series of interviews, and even then, there’s the risk that those “best” people won’t like our culture and leave quite quickly, and that’s expensive for the organization. On the candidate side, you’re trying to make a big decision about where you’re going to work (arguably for a long time), yet you have very little information to go on about what it’s truly like to work there. It’s a big decision, yet neither side really seems to have the information they need to make a good decision. Why is that?

Because, in short, the hiring process is fundamentally dishonest. I don’t mean recruiters and candidates are lying outright (though obviously that does happen). I mean that the entire system is built on the premise that neither side in the process is going to be speaking the whole truth. 

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How to Hire Your Next Rockstar Employee

Most of us think we know the best way to hire someone, and it looks roughly like this. First, you post a job opening with a brief description of responsibilities and expected level of experience, and then you sift through paper resumes and cover letters and prioritize the candidates (okay, LinkedIn is probably involved these days), granting in-person interviews to the top ones. There can be several rounds of interviews, depending on the position, and sometimes they are group interviews. Then a small group usually convenes to decide which of those top people will get the job.

So I have some research to share with you. This method is not a good predictor of job performance. Read Pfeffer and Sutton’s Hard Facts, Dangerous Truths, and Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-Based Management for the details. I know it’s 10 years old, but that just makes our current practices even more embarrassing. They provide data that suggest that picking one of your top resumes at random is approximately just as likely to predict job performance than your interview process. Just think of the time you’d save!

So what should we do instead? How about watching them work.

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An Employee Forever or a Temporary Tour?

I hear a LOT of leaders concerned about the fact that their new Millennial employees don’t seem to stay around very long. They’re “job-hoppers.” We invest in them, and then they leave. While I understand the general concern, there are a couple of really important flaws with this kind of thinking.

First of all, the Millennial “job hopping” behavior (so far anyway) is not that different than Boomers and Xers, who also job-hopped a lot when they were that age (ah, how quickly we forget). At least that’s what the Bureau of Labor statistics says. I think the basic truth here is that all young people move jobs a lot, and we should really stop worrying about that.

Second, our concern about them leaving is based in a seriously flawed assumption: that the goal is to have people come work at your organization and never leave. Yes, I recognize that lots of turnover can be disruptive and inefficient, but there is nothing particularly “natural” about working one place your whole career either, particularly if it limits your learning and growth.

As an alternative, I like what Reed Hoffman (LinkedIn co-founder) suggests in his book, The Alliance: base your hiring on a “tour of duty” concept, rather than an expectation of lifetime employment.

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