Step Up and Be a Distinctive Recruiting Leader

Move Beyond the Ordinary

I have been reading a book about the well-known and not so well-known American generals from our many wars. The book rates these generals on their effectiveness, skill, teamwork, and ability to deal with constantly changing conditions.

What distinguished the really great generals from the ordinary or poor ones was partially their communication skills and their ability to gather and use intelligence to anticipate enemy action. But most of all, it was their originality – their willingness to improvise and buck conventions when necessary. They were innovative and daring - even when their commanders were opposed to their actions. Yet, they were willing to act and accept the consequences.

The great generals all had the one trait that Jeff Bezos, the outgoing CEO and founder of Amazon, in a final letter to employees, says we should all have,

"We all know that distinctiveness - originality - is valuable. We are all taught to 'be yourself.' What I'm really asking you to do is to embrace and be realistic about how much energy it takes to maintain that distinctiveness.

The world wants you to be typical - in a thousand ways, it pulls at you. Don't let it happen."

Recruiting leaders are faced with daunting challenges. They can no longer rely on volume to meet demands. For some positions, few people, if any, apply.  For others, there are hundreds of applicants.  Sourcing strategy is challenging in the face of remote and virtual work and the gig workforce. A technology and automation strategy are indispensable, but how, when, and how much to spend are major issues. Never have the strategic and tactical challenges been as tough as they are today.

And on top of this, hiring managers don’t care – they just want good people fast.

But even in the face of all these challenges, recruiting leaders are still following outmoded recruiting benchmarks, standards, and precedents.

Virtually all recruitment leaders are content to tweak rather than take chances or try new ways. They have failed to act distinctively, challenge the system, or try out bold new approaches.

Here I have listed a few approaches that leaders could use to transform themselves and the recruiting process.

  1. Take action.  Don’t waste time trying to fix what will never work. Acknowledge when current methods are not working and that tweaking and fussing around with outmoded recruiting methods will not achieve your goals or the hiring managers.

  2. Defend your proposed changes with your leadership. Set a new strategy or approach to what you normally do with defined goals and success criteria. Be willing to modify and change as you learn and improve. Every strategy fails out of the box and has to be continuously updated as new data comes in.

  3. Remove recruiters unwilling to try new ways. One of the characteristics of the great generals was their willingness to remove any subordinate who could not or would not take action, adapt, and focus on moving forward. Push hard for change even when it uncomfortable and make people changes as needed. Do not wait to do this.

  4. Reduce bureaucracy- Employ technology.  Make sure that the recruiting process is understood by all the parties involved.  Clearly define roles and responsibilities.  Ruthlessly get rid of every process step that does not add real value. Implement technology but always work with vendors to deliver what they promise or cancel the deal. And never use a technical solution when a human can do it better or make it more personal.

  5. Measure what you do.  Gather competitive intelligence, collect and analyze internal data looking for bottlenecks or areas for improvement. Establish predictive metrics that tell you things you can act on. Forget the useless backward-looking administrative metrics recruiters usually collect and report. The rearview mirror never helps you see the road ahead. Focus on speed, candidate, and manager satisfaction.

  6. Use an evolutionary approach.  Take things one step at a time.  Don’t expect recruiters to change overnight but set incentives that encourage forward-thinking and reward those who act decisively and fast and remove anyone who cannot or is unwilling to change. Make people want to use the new approaches because they are faster, better, or cheaper.  And set a single top-level goal – give hiring managers what they want and need – good talent as fast as possible.

I urge recruiting leaders to stand up, be distinctive, be original, and challenge conventions that don't add value.

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Related Links

The Generals (by Thomas Ricks)

Jeff Bezos Article (Article from INC. magazine)