Will A/B Testing Be the Next Big Thing in Recruiting?

Posted by Eric Putkonen on 04/25/2017 in NeoRecruiting Talks |

At the end of last year, ERE published an article called “9 Talent-acquisition Trends to Watch for in 2017.”  I was excited to see one of the bullet points was as follows:

A/B testing will become a critical factor in the battle for talent. Do fewer candidates drop off during the application process if you reduce your number of screening questions? Is a candidate more likely to join your talent network if you include an employee video on your site? Do candidates respond faster if you email or text them? More HR teams will be testing and gathering intelligence to optimize their process and communications strategies because chances are their competitors are already doing it.

If you are unfamiliar with A/B testing, it means testing one version of something against another to see which version performs best and then utilizing those results for future campaigns and even future tests.

I was excited because I have been speaking about split testing (i.e. A/B testing) for a long time now and about what it could do for us in recruiting.  I wrote about this almost two years ago in “This is What Recruiting Could Learn from Direct Marketing.”  I have long believed we should be A/B testing our most re-used job postings.  That way we can change elements of the job post, like wording, pictures, videos, etc., to see which job postings attract the most top level talent.

You change only one variable at a time, but over time the job post will become better and better at targeting and attracting the people we want to apply.  This does take time, because you need your sample sizes to be statistically significant – but it also doesn’t have to be a huge sample size either.  This continuous improvement, however, adds up over time and the talent acquisition department (not marketing) should understand how to test their own content.  It is not difficult to do.

You can test all sorts of things in recruiting:

  • Job Titles
  • Job Descriptions/Posts (format and content, including qualifications and requirements)
  • Template Email or LinkedIn Subject Lines
  • Template Email or LinkedIn Messages
  • Prescreening Questions in ATS
  • Phone and In-Person Interview Questions (number, type, etc.)
  • Application Process
  • Application Method
  • Corporate Careers Site (look, layout, length, etc.  Number of applications and time spent on site and how many pages viewed.)
  • EVPs or other “hooks”

Most companies still do not do this, and I just don’t understand that.  There are many reasons to A/B test in recruiting:

  • In marketing, there are numerous case studies showing utilizing A/B testing increases conversion rates.  For recruiting, conversion rates would most directly correlate to applications…and also quality of applications.
  • Reduces bounce rates.  In recruiting, this would be number of people who view the job post, but do not apply.
  • Better website content and content engagement because you must discuss which content is valuable and why. As you generate the variables to be tested, you create a list of potential content improvements.
  • It makes recruiting more fact and metric based.  Organizations using A/B testing value data over opinions.
  • Lowers risks in making changes because you test variables in a sample, get the results, and then if the results are good…implement globally.  You don’t make big changes without knowing what it will do.
  • One of the best things about A/B testing is that it is so simple to analyze real, factual results with the method. When analyzing data from an A/B test, it’s relatively easy to determine a “winner” and a “loser” based on simple, straightforward metrics (i.e. time spent on page, conversions, etc.)

I keep hearing that Talent Acquisition is ever more focused on metrics.  I think A/B testing is an easy way to measure (through the numbers) what changes we make are the right changes and have the most impact.  Otherwise, we are making changes blindly and not really knowing if what we were doing (before the change) was actually better or not.

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It’s Illegal to Inquire About a Job Applicant’s Salary History

Posted by Eric Putkonen on 04/11/2017 in Recruiting articles |

That’s right another joins in…the New York City Council has enacted legislation (effective in 180 days) prohibiting employers from inquiring about a job applicant’s “salary history.”   They are not the only ones.  There are several cities and states thinking about passing similar laws – some already have.  For example, Philadelphia passed such a law at the beginning of this year and it is in effect in May; and the state of Massachusetts passed an act that prohibits salary history questions (signed August 1, 2016), but it won’t go into affect until 2018.

The law in New York City prohibits asking about salary history (from candidates or prior employers) or even current salary or in any way search public records to find out salary history.  Basically, “the people” do not want us relying on salary histories in negotiating terms of employment anymore.

I think this is a good thing.  Too many times I have seen candidates get shafted because they were currently underpaid…and so the idea was to offer a lateral move or a very small increase.  Even though the people involved in the hiring decision knew that the market rate was much higher for the skill set.

For years now, when I have been asked by hiring managers – “what is their current salary”…I have declined to immediately answer and reply – “could you first please tell me what you think the person is worth?”  So many times, the hiring manager would tell me a programmer was worth 110K and that would make him comparable to his peers internally (based on skill set)…only to learn the candidate’s current salary is 90K and so the hiring manager wants to offer 95K.

I was just told by the hiring manager that the person is worth 110K, so why make an offer at 95K?  Is it just me that sees this is undervaluing candidates and they will be more likely to leave because they (likely) already know they are being underpaid for the skill sets?

Also, women are found to be paid about 85 percent of what men make (it varies depending on study, but usually something in the 80s is quoted).  This is known as the gender wage gap.  If she is already underpaid, how is she supposed to catch up if we keep basing offers on her current salary?  These laws could potentially narrow the gender wage gap.

Eventually, we may not be able to ask about salary history (current or prior) anywhere in the U.S., but that does not stop us from asking candidates what salary range they expect.  Expectations and preferences are kind of wish-washy, because that doesn’t really tell you how little they would work for.  I know that kind of sounds bad, but what I really mean is that often when you ask about expected salary or preferred salary…they would have gone lower if they had known the job doesn’t pay that much.  People just don’t want to undercut themselves.  At the same time, they want to be considered for the job.  So if they knew it was just a 5K difference, often that would have been acceptable…but they preferred more.  And that is the problem with asking for “preferred salary.”

As we still do not list our salary ranges on the positions we post…something I wish we would do and has many advantages…I think the best question to ask is, “for this position, please indicate the minimum base salary that you would require in order to consider this opportunity further.”

I think this would sit better with auditors of our employment practices if we reject an applicant because their minimum they specified was beyond what we planned on paying…versus the candidate was rejected because their preferred or expected salary was beyond what we wanted to pay.  Expectations and preferences can change with additional information (like knowing what the position actually pays)…but the minimum needed to consider this position further is pretty clear.

We should always be paying candidates what we think they are worth.  Of course, we have budgets for positions (what we can pay) and there are internal equity issues…but if we think someone is worth 110K (and that is within budget, comparable internally, etc.) then we should be offering 110K.  Someone’s current pay really should not matter.  The laws of cities and states are starting to share that opinion.

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Can We Please Stop Asking for Cover Letters Yet?

Posted by Eric Putkonen on 03/31/2017 in Recruiting articles |

From what I can see, it seems most companies still ask for cover letters.  Isn’t this just one more hurdle and inconvenience to make applicants go through that really doesn’t add value?

Based on my experience, cover letters are not needed anymore.  I know I am not alone in this (from speaking with peers), but I have not read a cover letter in years.  By and large, we don’t care what is on the cover letter.  Everything we need to see should be on the resume.

Thank you to David Davies (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Likewise, for many years now, I have not sent hiring managers cover letters either.  I figured I would not send them unless I was asked to send them.  Guess what…I have not been asked to send the cover letters, but once by a single hiring manager…ten years ago.

So if the hiring managers are not asking for the cover letters, I suspect that even if my peers are forwarding them, the hiring managers are not reading them.  It may be a surprise to some recruiters, but hiring managers do not read everything we send them.

Then the question becomes, “Why do we still keep asking for cover letters?”

I suspect it is just habit.  Perhaps sluggishness and inability to keep up with the times.  Cover letters are throwbacks from the 1950s when we still asked people to mail their cover letters and resumes based on an ad the person saw in the newspaper.

Now with email and online submissions…with prescreening questions asked as part of the application process…with LinkedIn and other sources of information…do we really still need to see a cover letter?

I have had hiring managers reject candidates for simply not listing a specific kind of experience on their resumes, although I spoke with the applicants and they have a couple of years experience with the required experience.  Didn’t matter.  The hiring manager wants to see it on the resume.

I sometimes see articles saying the resume is dead, but that is laughable.  We still keep asking for cover letters.  Until the cover letter is completely dead and no longer asked for, resumes are alive and well.

The resume could very well be replaced some day, but first we have to let go the outdated and often unread cover letter.  This is something I would like to see done as soon as possible.


It is a headache for applicants.  Also the very best, the most in demand candidates don’t need to jump through hoops to get work.  So if you require a cover letter, you may lose out of the very best and most in demand candidates from applying.

Also, it gives the impression to job applicants that they don’t have to update their resumes and/or tailor it to the job they are applying to.  They just would need to mention it in the cover letter.  Job applicants get the wrong impression that the cover letter can make up for missing information in the resume.

Cover letters were a way to screen out people when you had a lot of candidates.  For high demand and difficult skill sets, we don’t have enough candidates.  I don’t know about you, but for my Java developer openings…I wouldn’t screen anyone out for not including a cover letter.  So why ask for one?

Cover letters are just one of those things that companies and recruiting still does and have always done (since the 1950s).  In my opinion, asking for cover letters is a clear sign of a company behind on the times…still stuck in the rut of the old ways.

Can we please stop asking for cover letters?  As an industry, recruiting has to get with the times and embrace new ways of doing things.  Cover letters add no value to me or my hiring managers…and have not for years.  I don’t believe I am in the minority.  There is no point in asking for cover letters anymore.

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Why Are We Still Using Stock Photos on Our Careers Sites?

Posted by Eric Putkonen on 03/14/2017 in Recruiting articles |

I pretty consistently read the articles on ERE and have done so for years.  Many of the articles are geared towards showing innovation in recruiting and how we could all be doing things better.  Other times, you get articles that tell you things that are obvious but so many companies still are behind the ball on.

Last week, there was an article called “‘No Stock Photos Were Harmed’ in the Making of Cisco’s New Career Site.”  This is such an example of one of those “well, duh” type of articles for me…but a quick search of career sites still show it appears to be not so obvious to others.

The article said, “Cisco, like some other companies, tried to use its employees as much as possible in the site. In fact, all the photos were either of employees, or taken by employees. “No stock photography was harmed in the making of our career website,” Andrews jokes. “Our employees represent our company, not marketing, not PR.””

Why is this news?

Anyone looking for a new job opportunity wants to learn about the companies they are interested in.  They want to see what it is like to work there and the kind of people that work there.  Ideally, they want to hear from current employees what it is like or at least see current employees in their environments.

This is obvious…isn’t it?

And yet so many career sites show stock photography.  Diverse groups of happy people in business attire (of some level) around conference tables and computers.  How does this give insight into our company, our employees, or culture?

It is like those commercials you see on TV where the person is supposed to be an “off the street” kind of person and the conversation is spur of the moment/candid…and yet reeks of a production.  The falseness and contrived nature always makes me feel uneasy.

And yet here we have all these employees in the actual environment.  All we would need is an iPhone.  A few candid shots and a few signed photo model release forms later, and you could freely use actual photos of the environment and employees instead of stock photography.

At a purely financial level, we should get sign on by executives and finance.  Stock photography costs money…and often more than you would think.  I once had a job board that the site builders had put a photo in that was not paid for.  The site had only been around for 6 months and had not been making much money…and the single stock photo’s owners sent me a bill for $1,500.  They dropped it a bit when I proved I only used it for 6 months, but this was their annual fee to continue to use the photo based on the kind of traffic my website received.

Thank you to Liren Chen
(CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

For the want of $1,500, you would finance a really fun photo contest for employees to take photos of the people and the environment…with the top three winning cash awards.  You would get more than a single photography out of the deal.

With model release forms and a thorough review of the photographs to be used on the web site by legal, the lawyers would be appeased.  You can even layout the rules of the contest to make the photographers aware to leave out shots with Coke bottles and such that are trademarked or copyrighted work.

There is a major resource of photography that is being passed up here.  Also, these would be real employees in the actual business environment…so these would actually be of interest to job seekers and not just decoration that is mistrusted.

So my question is, why are we still using stock photos on our careers sites?

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Words Matter: Recruitment Copywriting 101

Posted by Eric Putkonen on 02/28/2017 in Recruiting articles |

If you have not read it, I recommend reading “The Psychology of Persuasion” by Kevin Hogan.  It is a book that many marketers would be familiar with and the content is backed by scientific studies.

The Psychology of PersuasionOne of the sections of the book is about the power of words.  The most powerful word that can be used is someone’s name.  Although this is not useful in job posts, it is useful in any and all direct communications like email or phone.  You don’t want to say Mr. or Ms. Rogers.  You want to use his or her first name.  Also, research has shown that if you use a person’s first name at the very beginning or very end of a sentence, the likelihood of persuading the person is dramatically increased.

The second most powerful words are please and thank you.  We are taught from an early age that we will get something if we say please and if we get it we should say thank you.  Therefore, using these words has a strong impact.  As recruiters, we probably should be using please more often in our job posts.  We also should be using please and thank you more in our conversations with candidates.

The fourth most powerful word is “because.”  There was an experiment done by Ellen Langer, a Harvard social psychologist, in 1977.  She asked for a favor of people waiting in line to use a library’s copy machine.  She would say “excuse me, I have five pages.  May I use the machine because I’m in a rush” and the other half of the time she left out the word because.  When she used the word “because”, 93% let her cut ahead.  When she did not include the word “because”, only 60% let her cut ahead.  33% more with just a change of a single word.

This section of the book then concluded with thirty-two power words that sell.  Among them was the word “you.”  Often in our job posts and other communication, we seem to try to soften it by saying applicant, job seeker, or some such thing.  We should be using the word “you” more.  This speaks directly to the reader, instead of some generic category (i.e. applicant or job seeker).

Thank you to Ged Carroll (CC BY 2.0)

Other words that were included in the 32 included fun, exciting, happy, and joy.  All powerful emotions and feelings you could have regarding the job itself or the company’s environment.  A word of caution though, we can’t just sprinkle these into a job post or email and think nothing of the actual job or environment.  The vast majority of people in the job better say their job is a lot of fun…if you are going to claim the job is fun.  This is not just fluff.  The word has power because it is believed.  If you claim fun and the person is not having fun when he or she is hired into the job, the disappointment will be all the greater.

Among the 32 words, the list included trust, comfort, and security.  This points to a deep seated need people have…to feel safe.  Again, we can not misrepresent…but some managers are like what Simon Sinek describes in his book, “Leaders Eat Last.”  He also had a TED talk called, “Why good leaders make you feel safe.”  If you have this kind of safe environment, this is something that will help sell the job.  If it is highly competitive and/or the manager throws people under the bus so fault never lies with him or her…it would be better to not use these words at all.

Another few of the 32 words listed were value, proud, benefit, and vital.  I believe these words could be incorporated into job posts as well.  People want to feel they are of value and would like to be proud of how they are benefiting others.  People want to feel that what they are doing is vital.  This is another classic need and these are the words that have been found to carry power – probably because of this need.

Lastly, another word with power is the word “easy.”  Jobs may not be easy, but if we can make the application process quick and simple…we could say it is easy to apply.  I can already feel the power of that phrase…easy to apply.  If it is easy, then why not?  One of the barriers is the complex and time consuming application process.  So if it is easy and say so, you will get more applications.



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Often Recruiters Can Never Truly Be a Partner

Posted by Eric Putkonen on 02/16/2017 in Recruiting articles |

I have been a recruiter for a long time and spoken with a lot of my peers about this.  In the end, I think Human Resources/Talent Acquisition has messed up the possibility of being partners to many hiring managers.  We keep saying hiring managers are our primary customers.  There is a difference between customers and partners.

We also all have heard the phrase, “the customer is always right.”  Some of us send out hiring manager satisfaction surveys and others have them integrated into the performance reviews of the recruiters.  I hear peers say that we do everything we can “to make our hiring managers happy.”  We want those glowing reviews of hiring manager satisfaction surveys because it will reflect upon our salary increases and bonuses.  In this way, it is dangerous to displease a hiring manager.

Thank you Mary Wang (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

We put all this effort and focus on making hiring managers happy, and to do so I have been witness (over the years) to breaking policies and standard procedures in order please the hiring managers.  Treat all applicants equally…oh, this one is the son of a friend of the director…interview him anyway.  Everyone must meet the minimum requirements of the position…oh, this is someone the hiring manager knows and didn’t know she was looking for a job and oh, she doesn’t meet all the requirements…but we want her interviewed anyway.

Think about the kind of relationship this creates with hiring managers.  When this kind of stuff happens, are we partners or are we underlings/minions?

Part of the problem is because many of us think it is our job to make the hiring managers happy and totally satisfied with their experience of recruiting.  It isn’t.  Our job is to hire the best people for the company.  Our highest priority is the good of the company, not a single hiring manager.  It is to make sure the policies and procedures of HR/talent acquisition are followed.  So that if we are ever brought to court for a discrimination lawsuit or our hires questioned by auditors, we can clearly show that we were doing things consistently and correctly.  Of course, this means that at times this is against the wishes of hiring managers.

Another part of the problem is that many companies have very little accountability required from hiring managers.  If our relationship is truly to be a partnership, then hiring manager’s should also have recruiter satisfaction surveys.  Did the hiring manager give feedback in a timely manner?  Was the feedback detailed enough to be usable in tweaking the screening criteria going forward?  In partnerships, things should be equal.

Recruiters at some companies are assessed by candidate satisfaction surveys.  Hiring managers should have candidates assessing them on their part as well.  Did the hiring manager show up on time to the interview?  Was the hiring manager prepared for the interview?

Thank you Steven Depolo (CC BY 2.0)

I think hiring managers’ performance reviews should also be linked to their performance as a hiring manager.  If a hiring manager takes 3 weeks to give feedback on candidates on average, then that should impact their performance as a hiring manager (and be reflected as a component in pay increases and bonuses).

Without having this accountability, the hiring managers really don’t care about the recruiter’s problems of not getting timely feedback.  As recruiters, we get more desperate and beg for feedback…and this is not the relationship of partners, but more like servants.

There should be a policy that any job that is open for four months (six if you want to be generous) or longer without an offer being eminent…the position should be cancelled.

I have seen jobs stay open longer than a year.  You get hundreds of applicants.  The hiring manager interviews two dozen applicants or more and none are quite strong enough in all the categories they want.  Who is doing the job while this is open for so long?  Is this a real need?

Making hiring managers go back and create a new job every four months (3 times a year) will make this problem more visible.  Visibility is key for accountability.  The various approvers of new jobs will start asking questions.  Why do we keep seeing this job open up over and over again?  Is there really a need if it has been so long?  It adds a level of accountability for positions that hiring managers that may be being too unrealistic.

I have brought this idea up my managers a couple times, but it was laughed off.  It would not make the hiring manager’s happy.  Of course it wouldn’t…but it would equalize the relationship a bit.  Thereby making it more possible to become partners.  It should be noted, the loudest opponents to the idea among hiring managers are probably your worst offenders.

This is a systemic problem in talent acquisition.  We are all so busy trying to please…and in doing so we are undermining the possibility of being a partner.  I keep hearing recruiters should be partners, but partners do not bow at ever turn like this. Partnership is among equals.

Thank you dianaholga (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

A balance must be reached.  There should be an equal accountability for the candidate experience for recruiters and hiring managers.  There should be an equal review (of satisfaction) of each partner doing their job to make the recruiting process work.  Each partner should have it tied to their performance, which is tied to pay increases and any bonuses.

Until it is balanced and equal, recruiters are really not partners nor can they ever really be…because we are not equals.  Instead it is a one-sided relationship where recruiters are at the disadvantage (therefore subservient)…and hiring managers know it.

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Is There a Better Way Than Resume Review?

Posted by Eric Putkonen on 01/27/2017 in Recruiting articles |

I recently watched “Why hiring is broken” by Kate Glazebrook from TEDxGoodenoughCollege.  Yet another person saying resumes are broken (which is true), but this time with research to back it up.  They don’t really do a good job predicting performance and they allow biases to creep in.

Thank you to David Davies (CC BY-SA 2.0)

What good is a resume really?  As a recruiter, we only take 6 – 10 seconds to review the resume before deciding if we will consider them further or not.  At the same time, what biases are creeping in?  For example, research shows that non-white sounding names do get less call backs.

So if we are truly interested in diversity (and not discriminating) and hiring the best applicants, we need comparable information to judge each applicant equally on.

The resume is not very good for this.  A mediocre or poor candidate could write a great resume.  A great potential high performing employee could write a poor resume.  Or it could just start out poorly and through the halo/horn effect we will unconsciously see the rest of the resume in a poorer light.  Maybe they are applying to various positions and don’t customize for each position.  So would they really be a poorer performer because of any of this?

Per the TEDx talk, there are a few things we could do.

We could take the time to anonymize the applications.  Take out people’s names.  Take out foreign universities and colleges.  Take out the things (all identifiers) that would bias use against someone that does not correlate with performance.

We could chunk the information we are trying to compare, so that we are comparing apples to apples across applications.  Basically, ask a question and then simply judge all the applicants based upon who had the best answers to the question.

Harness the power of multiple review, but not too many people in the crowd.  Research shows the optimal size of a review team is three people.

Lastly, to get predictive information of how someone would perform, we need to give tests.  Simply test what counts.  A uniform test for all applicants, so that the answers can be compared.  Something that is relevant to the day to day job duties.  If you are a software tester, perhaps a bit of code with a several errors and basically seeing who gets the most errors found in the shortest time.

Per the TedX talk, they tested this by blind testing “Applied Sift” vs “CV Sift”.  “Applied Sift” showed a strong statistical with future performance (using their platform that used the above key points) VS “CV Shift” (typical resume review) did not show much correlation to future performance.  More surprising is that 60% of the applicants hired through “Applied Sift” would have been rejected using “CV Sift” and they would have ended up with a less diverse workforce.

From watching this, I can see potentially a way to process applicants without asking for a resume or cover letter at all.  To apply, perhaps candidates would just answer a series of short questions.  Nothing too time consuming.  Then based on those answers, you could send to the top 10% or so a more in-depth questionnaire and job related testing (i.e. write some code for programmers, source some names via LinkedIn for a recruiter, etc.).  Names and other identifiers could be removed and just an application number assigned.  Then when you want to start in-person interviewing, then you can get the name of the top candidates and contact information.

You could directly compare applicants purely by the answers they give and judging who gave the best answers to non-vague questions.  Basically, comparing apples to apples.  This process could take care of much of whether someone is experienced and technical enough – the in-person interviews could be culture fit and soft skills.

I like seeing researchers like this test recruiting processes.  Because much of what we do currently may not necessarily have a direct correlation with performance.  This is what we should be striving for.

See the Tedx Talk below…

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Screening Out the Takers from the Candidate Pool

Posted by Eric Putkonen on 01/10/2017 in Recruiting articles |

I recently saw a great TED Talk by Adam Grant that was just posted this month via the TED Talk app on my AppleTV.  Unfortunately, there isn’t a YouTube link for the TED Talk yet, but I found a link to a similar talk he gave on the same topic at ZeitgeistMinds called “Givers, Takers, and Matchers.”

Adam Grant is an organizational psychologist and he said he has seen widespread paranoia and fear within companies through his studies.  Of course, this paranoia and fear destroys the work environment for collaboration and teamwork because it is unsafe and dangerous to be generous or sometimes even fair…basically giving without being taken advantage of.  He said one group is responsible for the vast majority of this paranoia in workplaces…Takers.

Takers, Givers, and Matchers are the three categories on how we treat the majority of people the majority of the time.  We all have a mix of the three, but one category will be our dominant type.  If you are curious about your type, Adam Grant offers an online self-assessment.  For a more complete view, there is a 360 assessment where you send the questionnaire to friends (peers and below ideally…not superiors in any way).

Takers have an extremely profound influence on the environment.  Adam says Takers have two to three times the negative impact on an environment than the positive impact of Givers.  So adding a Giver to the team has less of a positive effect than the negative effect of adding a Taker to the team.

Basically, Takers are known for kissing up the ladder and kicking down the people below on the ladder.  They like to look good in front of the bosses and don’t care about anyone else.  They take high profile assignments and leave the boring or low profile ones to others.  They don’t tend to help or give back unless it helps them in some way.  Otherwise, they shirk work and do as little for others as possible.  They are poisonous to the work environment if you want collaboration and teamwork.

In the TED Talk, Adam says Takers account for about 19% of the population…but in the ZeitgeistMinds talk he says “relentless” Takers account for 8%.  In the TED Talk, Adam says Givers (they give with no strings attached) are about 25% of the population and Matchers (take and give in return or give expecting a favor later) are about 56% of the population.

The goal is not to have just a team of Givers, however.  He said Matchers supply a defensive line for Givers, because Matches like seeings things come around and be balanced (justice).  So if there is a Taker in the office, it is usually the Matchers that are trying to make life difficult for them (karma police).  They hate seeing Takers continue to take and getting away with it.  They will try to sabotage the success of Takers one way or another.

The goal is to eliminate Takers from the work environment through effective hiring and screening.  This is tricky, because often people confuse agreeableness with Givers.  It doesn’t work that way.  You can have an agreeable Taker (known as Faker) and a disagreeable Giver who has everyone’s best interests at heart and because he or she is a bit prickly…gives the critical feedback no one wants to hear but should be heard.  Adam says the disagreeable Givers are undervalued assets in most companies and our lives.

So if agreeableness and disagreeableness has no correlation with Givers and Takers, how do we screen out the Takers?

Adam Grant says he likes asking candidates the question, “could you give me the names of four people whose careers you have fundamentally improved?”  Takers will give you four names, but they will all likely be bosses or people of influence who could help the Taker someday.  Givers tend to give four names of peers or people below them.  People who really could not benefit them in any way in the future.

A word of caution when trying to screen out Takers, some Takers are previous Matchers or Givers who have been burned one too many times by Takers and decided they needed to protect themselves in the dog-eat-dog world.  The people you are trying to screen out are the narcissists who are are insecure and really only think they will succeed if someone else fails.  I think Adam’s question is clever in that his question may identify burnt-Givers because of the kind of people have helped in the past.

Also, Adam said when you ask for references…check a few of the peers or subordinates.  Takers will look good to the bosses, but peers and below often see the reality if the person is a Taker.

Asking general questions about the behavior of the population at large is another way to screen.  Adam asked his audience, what percentage of people in the USA do you think steal at least $10 from their companies in a typical month?  He said the ones with higher percentages have a greater chance of being thieves or at least less adverse to stealing (because everyone else does it…in their minds).  We tend to project our own motives on the behavior of the wider population when asked these kind of general questions.

So we could ask something like, what percentage of people in the USA do you think help their work peers routinely to shine in their jobs.  We might hear some interesting figures thrown out.  A better question might be…we hear that there are Givers, Takers, and Matchers (define the terms if need be) in the world, what percentage of the US population do you think are Takers?

That is a few ideas and potential ways of screening out Takers.  In doing so, the environment is safe and better for Givers to thrive as Givers.  As Givers give more, the Matchers give more (because they want a give and take and don’t like taking all the time.).  They seek balance in give and take.  This, of course, improves teamwork and collaboration.

There is an extra piece I want to mention from the video.  Adam also says that studies show that the workers with the lowest productivity are Givers.  The workers with the highest productivity are also Givers.  The ones with the lowest productivity often are so busy helping others that their own productivity suffers.  A difference between the lowest and highest productive Givers is the willingness to ask for help.  Adam says we need to protect Givers from burning out (giving too much) as well, but willingness to ask for help is a big element between top and low performing Givers.

I bring this up for one last idea to share.  He mentioned the idea of Reciprocity Ring and 5-minute favors…and both together would be ideal.  Basically, if Givers are unaware of what others need, sometimes they are unable to Give by not knowing.  I know this is an issue for me.  I just don’t know how I could help and wish more people would ask for help (not that I ask for help much either).  It has not been a habit of mine to ask for help and I think it is a weakness others may have as well.  To solve this, I loved the Reciprocity Ring.

So in some department/group meeting (not too big), have every participant ask for one thing they need (business or personal…perhaps, to leave it open).  Something fairly small – perhaps something that would take no more than five minutes for someone to give.  An introduction, a quick piece of advice or how to, or whatever.  Ideally, something high value to the asker, but of low demand on resources for the giver.  Then everyone else in that meeting will use their resources to fulfill the request.  This then gives the Givers (and Matchers) and opportunity to give.  This also gets everyone used to asking and know that it is alright to ask for help.

If we want to see more Givers in our workplaces, we need to cultivate more askers.  This makes the above exercise very valuable.  We need to get everyone around us to become better at asking for help.  Why?  The data shows that 75 to 90 percent of all helping begins with a request.  There really are not that many proactive givers.  Givers are normally uncomfortable being on the receiving end or asking for anything.  They do not like being a burden to others and need become comfortable asking as well.

Adam Grant says at the end of the video that perhaps we can turn this widespread paranoia around into pronoia – the belief that others are plotting your well being.

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Measuring Quality of Hire in Recruiting

Posted by Eric Putkonen on 12/21/2016 in Recruiting articles |

Per the Global Recruiting Trends 2017 by LinkedIn, in the top 3 of recruiting metrics we see “length of stay” and “hiring manager satisfaction.”  Both of these point towards quality of hire.  Another main recruiting metric is “time to fill,” but this metric is about recruiting efficiency and not quality of hire.

“Length of stay” has some logical merit to show quality of hire, but it has less and less meaning over time.  For new hires that stay for 3 years versus 5 years…is it really a matter of quality of hire?  Perhaps life circumstances changed, elements of the department changed, inability to keep up with market salary, or a number of other variables start to have more weight the more time passes.  So “length of stay” doesn’t matter as much as retention and turnover rates after 1st year of employment for new hires.

Some caution must be used with the first year of employment turnover and retention rates, because failures in onboarding, ineffective management, or poisonous environment could account for the turnover.  So exit interviews should be conducted to watch for problems in the process that really are not due to quality of hire.

Now if you keep track of your first year hires retention and turnover rates, you still don’t know if you hired someone who meets expectations by just coming in every day to do the job or someone who is a top performer who is exceeding expectations.

I would like to see retention and turnover rates to be paired with the performance reviews from year to year (or however often it is done on a company wide basis) for the first couple of years.  That way you would not only see if the person stayed with the company, but you would also see the performance ratings and get a better picture of how good of a hire was made.

Of course, the performance reviews have to be good.  They have to have specific measurable goals.  Each level of performance must be clearly defined, so that consistently and objectively you can say someone exceeded or met expectations (or whatever labels you give levels of performance).  It can not be up to opinion and hiring manager bias.  Also, the bell-curve idea or compared to others on the team idea are contrary to objective levels of measurement.  If you can’t have everyone get 5 out of 5, then it is not an objective measure.  Because a team full of stars would be ideal and everyone would get 5 out of 5 as they all exceed expectations.

LinkedIn’s report also mentioned “hiring manager satisfaction” as another common recruiting metric (in the top three).  While it is good to ask the hiring managers about their satisfaction regarding a new hire, you need well developed surveys…and that is a topic unto itself.  But I would say “new hire satisfaction” is another survey that should be given to get a bit more well-rounded view.  Also both should be asked to give a rating in the survey of how each feels the new hire is a cultural fit for the company (now that time has passed).  I have heard of 360 surveys with team members to gauge cultural fit as well.

I would ask the hiring manager to supply the date when the new employee became fully productive and the date when the manager thought the new hire would be fully productive.  The latter should be asked for upon hiring the person and the former should be received by the manager upon reaching full productivity.  Again, this should be an objective and clearly defined level of performance.

Now you can’t just ask give a standard time frame to full productivity because some positions take a long time to get up and running.  Also, sometimes hiring managers will hire someone knowing it will take a little longer or less to get them up and running.  So if you ask for both these dates, you can see the difference and that will help gauge how well the hire was from that standpoint of better or worse than expected.  This needs to be referenced and compared to new hire surveys about adequate onboarding, adequate direction from management, clear goals, etc. because a failure at the beginning will slow the ramp up time through no fault of the quality of hire.  The question also remains…is it realistic – the desired time to full productivity?

I have heard some organizations try to capture productivity levels via revenue or percentage of goals.  As I said before, these numbers could be lower or higher depending on the successes or failures of onboarding, management, organizational changes, etc. and not failures in hiring process.  But productivity levels have some merit, because if you hire a sales associate to the team who is outselling everyone…that was a fabulous hire (potentially).

Whenever productivity is being measured though, it is important to have valid measures.  I know some sales people are measured by the number of calls they make a day.  This is a poor measure, because the goal is how many people you have spoken with…not the number of calls.  If you can make fewer calls, but talk to as many people or more people…who is really the more productive?  A step further is number of sales, because you may talk to a lot of people but not get them to buy anything.  A step further is total revenue in sales, because you may get people to buy but never much or any bigger ticket items.  I have seen all of these being used as metrics, so you need to make sure you are really measuring what is important.

You may need to measure how well the rest of the team likes the new hire, because if the same sales associate is really the wrong fit culturally…and is disliked…and doing things uncharacteristic of the culture, then you may see the rest of the team’s productivity dropping due to the poisonous new hire.  Individually, the person may have high productivity…but as a whole for the team the new hire is not a good fit and messing up team.  Although a high producer individually, it would be wise to let go of this person and return the team to its former high productivity and find someone a better fit for the team.

Employee engagement might be another metric of quality of hire, but it is difficult to measure employee engagement.  Also there are periods of higher and lower engagement depending on what is going on with the job and environment.  Then there is the question of whether we hired someone who is prone to engagement (or high engagement)?  This was the question and topic I posed in an earlier post, “Recruiting for Employee Engagement.”  Lastly, I have seen too many poor questionnaires and surveys trying to measure employee engagement, so I know the survey must be well designed and well thought out…and tested for validity.

As I hope the article is pointing out, this is a very complex topic with a lot of moving parts and variables.  Whatever measures of quality of hire that are created, it would be wise to have a period of time of testing the metrics to make sure they are valid and directly correlate to quality of hire.

If we used all these measures, we could create a single score with all of them:

Calculating individual quality of hire

( hiring manager satisfaction % + new hire satisfaction % + ( productivity level % OR time to productivity differential as % ) + job performance as % + (hiring manager + new hire culture fit % / 2) + engagement level % ) / N (number of indicators used – if all of these, then  6)

quality of hireThis assumes equal weighting of all of the above indicators.  To get the overall quality of hire for recruiter and/or department, you would take the average of all quality of hires as a % X (1 – (turnover rate X (100 / whatever % deemed a total failure in quality of hire))).  So if a total failure in quality of hire would result in 20% turn over after 1 year…that is you think 1 out of 5 would leave or be fired within the first year if the system was not working at all…then 100/20 = 5 and thus the turnover rate would have a multiplier of 5.

So if you have an overage quality of hire of 85 (out of a 100) and you had a 5% turnover rate, the overall quality of hire would be 63.75  (.85 X .75 (1-(.05X5))X 100).

Of course, you could weight any of the individual indicators in the same way…by setting levels that you decided would indicate a total failure in quality of hire.  So if a job performance of 30% is a total failure…then you could give it 2 or 3 times the weighting to make changes in the value more significant.  This will give truer numbers because how often are you really going to see someone score 30% or less in performance?  In reality, a much higher number than 30% is considered a failure in quality of hire.

Yes, this will lower your quality of hire scores – but what value is it really to have any score (or survey) come back year after year with 80s or even 90s for a score?  You are not trying to have a high rating to show off to management…you are trying to get a true number to improve upon.

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VR: New Possibilities for Virtual Reality in Recruiting

Posted by Eric Putkonen on 12/06/2016 in Recruiting articles |
Thank you to Nan Palmero (CC BY 2.0)

Thank you to Nan Palmero (CC BY 2.0)

I recently gave myself an early Christmas present…a Sidardoe 3D VR goggles/headset.  I would not necessarily recommend them beyond just a really cheap viewer ($22) to try virtual reality video out.  I just put my iPhone into the headset’s case and pull up videos…many on YouTube.

What amazed me most was watching an online video series called Invisible on Jaunt.  It is kind of a sci-fi/horror series.  In the first episode there is a hospital scene and during watching the characters have an argument, you could also turn around and look at the nurses working behind the desk.  You could turn your head and look down the hall.  It was like being in the room itself (virtual reality)…360 degrees and in 3D.

Invisible on JauntThere are numerous 360 degree experiences you can tag alone with or watch on YouTube.  You don’t need a viewer/goggles, because you could always play it on your phone or tablet and use your finger to move the view around in 360 degrees.

The goggles in particular though provide such a cool virtual reality experience, because as you turn your head you see everything around you.  There are 360 degree videos (flat 2D), but it is much cooler when it is stereoscopic (3D) 360 degree video.

Later, I had a memory of giving company tours to college students while I worked at Christopher & Banks.  We kept them out of areas where they would see propriety things or things they should not see.  I gave several tours while I worked there and the students loved it.

I have interviewed at companies that gave me a tour of the place as part of their efforts to recruit me for the position.

We are now getting to the point where we could easily film such a tour with a 360 video camera (bought, rented, or bring in a vendor to record it).  Then we could post it on YouTube and our website.  Then people watching the video on devices with touch screens could pan the view and look around.  If they are watching it with VR goggles, then it would look and potentially feel like they are on the tour.

You can already take short tours of places around the world like a gondola ride in Venice on Discovery VR. Why not tours of our companies?  That is the advantage and beauty of video versus live, you only need to do it once and make the recording available.

Potential applicants and candidates always want to see what the place looks like and get a feel for the environment.  Now they could do it immersively.  I don’t know about you, but that would really impress me.

You could also just have “typical day” short videos (5 minutes or so) of video taken from the standpoint of someone in each environment.  So if you are a recruiter in a cubical, perhaps take a short 360 video (with sound, of course) from the center of a cube.  This lets you see what a typical cube has, what the environment sounds like, etc.  If you are a call center person, a short 360 video from the chair in the center of the call center could be enlightening.  If you are a warehouse worker, you could be on the line and see typical activities going on for that warehouse.  Think of the possibilities.

VR NoirThere are VR games with video footage like VR Noir that show other possibilities.  Not only is it 360 video, but interactive in that you are given choices of questions or responses and whether you gaze right or left (could do 4 corners or short lists to one side easily) you can choose between options.

Imagine having someone in a 360 degree space ask the person a question, giving them multiple options, and waiting for a response. Then depending on what is selected, you can move them to different video outcomes.  Kind of like the old choose your own adventure books.

360 video is kind of a craze right now, 360 video cameras continue to drop in price, and with how inexpensive it is now to get VR headsets that use your smart phone, I wonder which companies will be among the first to show off with this new possibility.

Check out the 360 degree video tour for Happy Horizon.

Although not made for VR goggles, it was made to watch on desktops and drag the view around with a mouse.  On my iPhone it shows the full 360 degrees as a single view with no point of view to change.  Not exactly what I had in mind, but a great first step to check out.

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