Time on the front-end will save time and money later…Part Deux


So it has been about a week since my last post, which is slightly unusual, but believe me when I say there is good reason.  Some of the reasons have been somewhat negative, such as acquiring some type of stomach bug that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy and taking almost 3 days to recover.  Other reasons have been more positive, such as working on my Cultural Anthropology class and being inundated by interview requests.  As it is after the first of the year, I had a reasonable expectation that interviewing would increase.  With that being said, I think it’s important to add some further detail to my last post.

While it is certainly important to spend the time and money upfront to ensure that you are getting the right talent, and the process that you follow in achieving this is important, keep in mind that each time you conduct the process there are certain judgment calls that must be made.  In other words the process should have a certain amount of dynamics to it; it doesn’t need to be a static “do-it-just-because” process.  As you are going through the process and interviewing potential candidates and you begin make filter decisions of who goes to the next round, it’s helpful also to keep in mind the candidates who are going through the process.  I speak from personal experience when I say that if you think it is exhausting for you to conduct the process, imagine what it is for the person coming back for fifth and sixth interviews or having to wait weeks to get a decision.

As with anything in business you should be evaluating and re-evaluating your talent acquisition process on a constant basis.  This means before, during, and after.  As I discussed in my last posting, there is obviously quite a bit of work that should go into the acquisition process before even beginning, so let’s talk about making changes during and after.  Part of the process prior to beginning should be setting certain criteria that if met during the acquisition process, will stop the process and therefore have an identified candidate.  Having these criteria will help your process to have a certain amount of dynamic flow to it, and can save all parties involved from an unnecessarily lengthy process.

Something that generally gets bypassed is talking to new hire’s about the interview process after they begin.  When was the last time you can remember being asked about your opinion on the interview process?  What about the last time that you can remember asking anyone about the process?  This type of qualitative data is definitely necessary to continue to grow, develop, and refine your process.  Was it too long?  Too many interviews?  Unrelated skill testing?  How applicable were the questions asked?  These are all things that you can collect quite effectively by simply conducting a post-hire survey, discussion, or (dare I say it) interview.  Imagine what type of precedence this sets with a new hire as well; from the very first day you are saying that you value their opinion and experience, as well as open and complete honesty.  I have to believe that this does noting but pave the road to success.

Hopefully with these things in mind, you can create your own successful talent acquisition process and make things quicker and easier for both you, and those whom you are working to bring into your organization, while not sacrificing the ability to get the best quality and best matching candidate.

Time on the front-end will save time and money later


I was trolling around looking for new blogs to read, as I often do, and found an excellent one called “Cutting-Edge Leadership” by Dr. Ronald E. Riggio.  The article that caught my attention is titled “Learn the Right Way to Interview Job Candidates.”  Immediately I wanted to read further and see what thoughts and opinions were contained within, and compare to my own.  I was thrilled to find that Dr. Riggio hit the nail on the head with his synopsis.  As he explains, “Interviews only work if they are done right, and even then, they tell us little about a candidate’s employability.”

As most of us have probably been through at least one interview, the observations presented in the article are not that surprising.  What is refreshing is that this article isn’t simply bashing the practice of interviewing but rather giving the pitfalls and challenges of interviewing while suggesting alterations to make the process more effective.  As usual, I had some of my own thoughts that I left as a comment on the article itself, but I wanted to share them here as well.

Hiring is not a singular process, and needs to be viewed as one systemic component of a greater system.  In fact, hiring should be referred to as “talent acquisition”, which in turn should be viewed as only the very beginning of a much bigger picture.  How many times have you gone through the hiring process, brought someone on-board, trained them, and within a relatively short period of time had to let them go, had them walk away, or become a performance problem?  How much does that cost your organization in terms of time, money, productivity, and man-power?  Do the math on it, if you haven’t already, and it’s enough to make you queasy and potentially throw-up in your mouth just a bit.  So what is the alternative?  Start correctly from the beginning.  After all, the beginning is the best place to start.

Simple changes can make a huge difference for you, the organization, and the other people in the organization.  The first such change is take a strong look at how you are attracting talent.  Where are you searching for your next employee?  Where do most of your hires come from?  Are they looking for you, or are you searching for them?  How many referrals do you get from other employees?  These are the first types of questions to be asking because before you can even assess and acquire good talent, you need to have good talent available.  Once you have a good pool of talent available to select from, the process of sifting through them is just as important.  It must be standardized, objective, rigorous, and effective.

As Dr. Riggio suggests, using assessment centers is costly up-front but can be tremendously effective.  To be effective you should be testing for knowledge, skills, and abilities that have been identified (generally through competency mapping) as necessary to be successful in the position.  How can you do this?  Simulations and role-plays can work well in some cases.  For other positions it may be a written test, or a demonstration of ability.  In yet other cases it may be a combination of multiple methods of assessment.  And let’s not forget about actually talking with the candidate.  When conducting the verbal interview, whether by phone or in person, it is important to follow a standardized and repeatable process.  This means asking the same questions of each candidate which will create results which can be compared equally, as well as having a regular process to how interviews will be conducted.  This refers to utilizing multiple different stakeholders, and having set stages or phases to the talent acquisition process.  Multiple stakeholders involved in the interview process, both individually and in a group or pair scenario, can also help to get multiple different perspectives on a potential candidate and mitigate the silo effect of one interviewer.  If the person you want in the position needs to be good with multiple generations, have multiple generations of people interview the potential candidates, and see what types of reactions you get.  The same goes for male versus female; mix genders, races, ethnicities, departments…whatever you can to create a relevant cross-section and get a good feel for how the potential candidate will respond and react within the organization and even potentially outside of the organization.

While this is a rather high-level overview of an in-depth process, hopefully you can get a good sense for the time, effort, and value that should be placed on it.  Once you have put a candidate through a process such as this, you should have a strong picture of their knowledge, skills, and abilities and can make a well-educated decision on whether or not to bring them in to the organization.  And believe it or not, the person being put through the process will appreciate it once they make it as well because they should feel better about their fit with the organization and the position, just as you will.  Performance management doesn’t start after someone is hired, it starts before they are hired.  If you haven’t heard it before, please let me be the first to tell you: “Proper prior planning prevents piss-poor performance”.

Very close to home!


As an article came up on Twitter today from @Reuters, the title struck out at me: “Jobless Americans wary of losing their edge.”  I couldn’t resist reading it, especially since I can relate.  The article, written by Kristina Cooke, is very well written and extremely familiar.  After losing my job in February 2010, I wasn’t sure what my next steps would be.  It was something that I had really never planned for and didn’t expect.  But somehow once it happened I started to think about what to do next, where was I going, how was I going to keep myself sharp and improve myself; I also had to think about how recruiters would be seeing me going forward.

In my own situation, I was fortunate to have the financial means to take a chance at starting my own business and furthering my education (thankfully my amazing wife has stood behind me through it all!).   Also, to continue to improve my knowledge and skills, I continued to read the periodicals that I receive through my membership in the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI) and American Society of Training & Development (ASTD).  I also continued to read books, and write blogs, and join in on conversations around the web.  I believe that all of these things have helped me in keeping myself up-to-date and relevant.  Needless to say, I was still unsure of how much of an impact these events would have on my marketability.

I think this article really speaks to the fear that most people would never think of while they have a job, but I’m sure that going forward those of us who have experienced this event will never forget.  The idea that what you know and your experience could become irrelevant because of the amount of time you have been out of a job, or the fact that you might lose your ability to do your job effectively because of not using your skills regularly can be deeply frightening.  Even worse, finding a way to continue to stay sharp is not always as easy as it may seem either.  As a father to an almost-two-year-old, my wife and I have found that financially it doesn’t make sense for me to “just take a job.”  Neither would it be very likely that I could take a volunteer position due to the cost of child care.  With all of these factors in play, it can really become daunting to meet the expectations of recruiters and hiring managers, and to continue to catch their eyes.

It will be interesting to see what the long-term effects will be on society and the culture of both our country and corporate America.  Is this the event that changes the job market as we know it?  Is this the thing that will open senior positions and change the way we do business?  What will be the trickle down effect?  Perhaps there will be some new studies on this and more, and I for one will be reading them to make sure to keep my skills sharp, and my knowledge relevant.