Are You Enabling Bad Behavior From Hiring Managers?

Posted by Eric Putkonen on 11/23/2016 in Recruiting articles |

I have had a lot of success “training” hiring managers into using proper processes and procedures.  That is what we have to do as recruiters…we need to train hiring managers to a certain degree.

I don’t mean giving them training sessions on the illegal questions to ask during interviews. I don’t mean giving them training sessions of any kind.

I mean getting hiring managers to give timely feedback on candidates submitted for their review.

I mean getting the hiring manager to ask contractors if they are interested in converting and roughly for what salary before wanting the job posted or immediately going to an offer (thereby not getting rejections because the contractor is not interested or we can not afford the demanded salary).

I mean getting the hiring manager to know and understand that they can not consider applicants who do not meet the minimum qualifications (if you are a highly audited company with government contractors and such)…and if someone does come to light that we have to change the requirements of the position (for all, not just that one applicant they want to consider).

How is this done?  By sticking to the rules and not making exceptions because of one of the following typical reasons:

  • it is a high profile job
  • we need to move quickly
  • this is what the VP wants done

unhappyI see many recruiters making exceptions and bending the rules and just “getting things done” for the sake of time and urgency…but then those and other managers expect the same and more.  If you are willing to allow a candidate through that does not meet the requirements once…why can’t you do it all of the time?  I have seen managers do this again and again.

I even have managers telling me things like, “well this other recruiter let me do this,” when it was something against policy and potentially a major problem if audited by the EEOC or OFCCP.  The manager pushed very hard for me to allow them to get away with it again.

That is why we all (as recruiters) must stick to our guns and not flex on processes, procedures, and rules to suit a situation or manager’s demands.  I know it is hard to refuse and appear like you are slowing the process, but you need to explain the legal and compliance ramifications.  That is why there are policies and procedures…and as recruiters we are held to keeping what we are doing compliant.

How else do we enable bad behavior from hiring managers?

By having service level agreements (SLAs) really only apply to what the recruiters deliver and little to nothing about what hiring managers have to do.  I have seen SLAs go into detail how recruiters will review candidates in so many days and will do this, that, and the other thing in X number days.  And then see little to nothing listed for what the hiring manager is expected to do.  SLAs should be an agreement between both sides regarding what is expected and required of each.

Hiring managers should see in the SLA that they must get back to the recruiter with feedback in X number of days.  Their performance reviews (tied to merit increases and bonuses) should have elements about how they are meeting the SLA as a hiring manager.  If managers routinely don’t give the recruiters timely feedback, they should get a poor rating in this area and this should affect their pay increases and bonuses.  I know my pay increases and bonuses are tied to metrics based on the SLA…but much of it is really under the control of the hiring managers (for example time to fill, when managers are slow to get back to you with feedback and next steps).

Another way we enable hiring managers is also not having a hard cut off date for when a requisition will close if not filled.  I know SLAs that say recruiters will have a 60 days average time to fill and yet have requisitions open over a year (my longest was 423 days).  I have had managers tell me during discovery calls, “I know this is hard to fill and it may take the whole year to fill it (from February).”

Thank you Nichole Burrow (CC BY 2.0)

Thank you Nichole Burrow (CC BY 2.0)

The question becomes, who is doing the work for the year when it is not filled?  Is this hiring manager really serious about filling the position (is it a real need) if it can remain open a year?

I think the SLA should include an item that says any requisition that has been open for 6 months and is not in offer status (offer imminent)…will be immediately cancelled as not a real need or due to inactivity (or however you want to phrase it).

Our plates are very full as recruiters and we should be spending our time on jobs that can be filled and not have a desktop of jobs that will be open for a year or more.

Also, if there is a hard stop and the hiring manager will have to get a new requisition approved every six months if it is not filled, then the hiring managers will take filling the job in a timely fashion more seriously.  They may even flex on those requirements of the position and move more to preferences.  Keeping the process moving with timely feedback will become more critical.

Many hiring managers feel no sense of urgency to fill a job or change the requirements to make them more reasonable, if they are allowed to keep the jobs open a year or more.  Things may change if their management, finance, and other approvers see the same managers bringing in the same requisitions every six months because the job is not filled yet.  I might even say the limit should be four months, so it has to be done 3 times a year.  Four months maximum is reasonable if the expected and average time to fill is 60 days.  Four months is twice the 60 day average.

Basically, the point of this article is that we need to start being self aware of what we are doing that is enabling hiring managers to behave badly.

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Job Posting Optimization and Best Practices

Posted by Eric Putkonen on 11/08/2016 in Recruiting articles |
Job Posts

Thank you to Neetal Parekh for this Creative Commons image (CC BY 2.0)

The first thing potential job seekers see is the job title.  It is the job titles that come up when searches are done on company job boards and more importantly on career sites (like Monster, Careerbuilder, etc.).  So to stand out and get the best from those pools of talent, it is vitally important to have great job titles.  Copywriters know that the most important part of an advertisement is the headline.  Know then that the job title is the headline for the advertisement of your open job on job boards.


Job Title Best Practices:

  1. Keep you job title searchable – using common, industry standard terms
  2. Be specific – include the key required skill (for example: “Senior Java Developer” instead of just “Senior Developer”)
  3. Avoid CAPS, gimmicky terms (i.e. Rock Star), company specific terms/titles/job numbers (i.e. “Senior Java Developer” instead of “Java Developer II – 789665”), special characters (except hyphens), abbreviations (i.e. use Senior instead of Sr), or punctuation
  4. Job title length not to exceed 60 characters (including spaces)…and ideally 40 characters or more
  5. Use correct spelling
  6. Add a hook that attracts your targeted talent and maybe even repels the wrong talent.  For example, if you have a dog friendly office, you could use “Senior Java Developer for dog friendly office”
Thank you to Colin Kinner (CC BY 2.0)

Thank you to Colin Kinner
(CC BY 2.0)

As soon as a potential applicant clicks on the job title to learn more, the full text of your job posting will pop up.  The first paragraph and/or bullet points is what is read first.  This is where you make your case to get the person to apply.  It is very important to affect a potential candidate’s desire to apply.  The job market is tightening and competition is increasing.  The following are best practices for the job posting’s text.



Job Posting Content Best Practices:

  1. Do not start off with your company name and/or description of your company and what you do
  2. Start off with strong, attention grabbing WIIFM (what’s in it for me) paragraph – sell the job to the potential applicant, but avoid things that everyone else can say just as easily as you can (i.e. we reward performance, work with great people, etc.) because that does not grab attention
  3. Focus on the job seeker throughout the job post…it is not about you, what you need, etc. – it’s about what the job seeker wants and what the job seeker is looking for
  4. Job posting copy length should be about 700 to 750 words…too short and less people apply and too long and less people apply.  This seems to be the sweet spot by several studies
  5. Make sure the requirements and preferences are clearly distinguishable…ideally make them totally separated – the “must haves” vs the “desired”
  6. Talk about the day-to-day activities and responsibilities – and using accurate percentiles helps – i.e. 80% of time spent on social media or 15% travel
  7. Add several hooks to attract your targeted talent and maybe even repel the wrong talent – again these would be fairly specific to you or to very few companies and not something most companies can offer, like “medical and dental”
  8. Show how this job helps others and say who is helped by the work done because people want to know the value of the job being done
  9. Indicate how the job functions within the organization or who the job reports to because people want to know how their role fits in within the company
  10. Give job seekers a sense of your organization’s style and culture
  11. List the location or locations that the position could work from within the job post
  12. Include a strong equal opportunity statement
  13. Use bullet points (30-50% of content) and avoid big blocks of text
  14. Don’t use cliche phrases like high-growth position, fact-paced environment, outside the box, synergistic, etc.
  15. Mention the job title multiple times within the job posting, but don’t overdo it
  16. Use lots of verbs – more specifically action verbs (no more than 10% passive verbs for the entire posting)
  17. Use short sentences and short paragraphs
  18. Use transition words liberally
  19. Do not use formal phrases like “the candidate” or “the applicant” or “qualified applicants” or “the ideal applicant”
  20. Use second person voice and balance the use of “we” and “you” statements and make sure there are more “you” than “we” statements (at least an equal number and up to 50% more “you” statements)
  21. Do not use directive language like “applicants need to” or “ought to” or “must”
  22. Do not repeat phrases over and over again
  23. Keep the reading ease high and grade level of words low (using less difficult words to improve readability)
  24. Keep your job postings gender neutral (use Gender Decoder for Job Ads)
  25. Include key words and alternative terms (i.e. AS/400, i-Series, System i, IBM i, etc.) because you never know what terms will be searched
  26. Avoid CAPS, gimmicky terms (i.e. Rock Star), company specific terms/titles, industry buzzwords, or over-representing the opportunity
  27. Use correct spelling (if you hold it against job seekers with spelling errors in resumes, why would you think it is OK to have misspelled words here?)
  28. Ask job seekers to apply only if they meet all of the requirements listed and specifically state that applications that do not meet the requirements will not be considered
  29. Add a call to action (i.e. apply) and say how to apply, what the next step might be, and how long the process takes and how long before they might hear about the next step
  30. Include salary and compensation information – somewhat controversial topic, but it ranks very high in what candidates want to see before applying and it saves time by candidates self-selecting out if you can not afford them
  31. Include whether the position offers relocation assistance or visa transfer/sponsorship, because these applicants don’t want to waste their time applying to everything when it is not listed in your jobs
  32. Add graphics and videos, if possible – this always increases engagement and conversion rates (real photos or video is better – not a commercial or stock images)


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When I Am Asked, How To Get Into Social Media Recruiting

Posted by Eric Putkonen on 10/21/2016 in Recruiting articles |

In conversations I have had over the last few months, I have been asked by a couple HR VPs and Directors that they wanted to launch into social media recruiting and wanted to know how I would do it.

Going forward, I think my first question I ask is “why do you want to go on social media?”  It seems everyone wants to be on social media…it’s cool…it’s what Google or Amazon is doing so I do too…etc.  These are the wrong answers!  You do not go into social media recruiting unless you want to start up a dialog with applicants and potential candidates.

Thank you to GotCredit (CC BY 2.0)

Thank you to GotCredit
(CC BY 2.0)

You can not start using social media for recruiting with the intention of just posting your jobs on the feeds.  If this is the plan, it would be better just not to go on social media.  Few are going to follow a jobs feed on Facebook or Twitter…job feeds are what email notification and RSS feeds are for.

Social media done poorly is worse than not being on social media at all.

OK, so you want to start a communicate with your potential applicants and current applicants.  But wait!  I said you want to start up a dialog.  This means you want them to reply and answer back.  You want potential candidates to come and ask questions.  You want to engage with them in both directions (2 way communication).

You will need to post things that ask for feedback and ask for questions.  If the feedback is poor…what will you do?  You really need to think all this through before you jump down this rabbit hole.

Also, who will be doing the work of being on social media?  If you think that a recruiter or two will spend a couple hours a week on this, just forget about being on social media for recruiting.  It takes a lot of time to come up with all the content, responding to everyone who does comment, and coming up with engaging posts.

Per The Social Media Frequency Guide, the frequency they share to social networks at Buffer are as follows:

  • Twitter – 14 times per day, from midnight to 10:00 p.m. Central Time, never more than once per hour; seven times per day on weekends, from 3:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., roughly every three hours
  • Facebook – 2 times per day, seven days a week, 10:08 a.m. and 3:04 p.m.
  • LinkedIn – 1 time per day, 8:14 a.m., no weekends
  • Google+ – 2 times per day, 9:03 a.m. and 7:04 p.m., no weekends

The article also offers the following suggestion for frequency:

  • Twitter – 5 times per day
  • Facebook – 1 – 2 times per day
  • LinkedIn – 1 time per day
  • Google+ – 1 – 2 times per day

Many companies have a dedicated person, if not dedicated department, to social media marketing and social media recruiting.

QuestionSo my second question (going forward) will be “who do you think will be the one doing the work?”  Often, the companies I am speaking with about social media recruiting seriously underestimate the time it takes to do it well.  Again, social media done poorly is worse than not doing it at all.  So if you are not going to do it well…don’t do it.  To do it well takes time…far more than most HR leaders and company leaders think.

Too many times I hear that this will be done by the recruiter or recruiting team, but if you have been pushing your recruiters with full desks of 30 – 50+ open positions…where is the time going to come from in order to do the social media part well?  The recruiters can take part (it is recommended).  Ideally, the hiring managers and employees will also get involved.  But a word of warning, you don’t want all the posts and comments coming from the company…you want people from the outside talking and engaging…not making an online water cooler.  So who is going to do the work…ideally a dedicated person whose job is the social media aspect.

Is there enough to do – some may ask.  Absolutely!  Because just posting on social media and responding/engaging with people (including searching for people’s comments about your company and replying to their comments) is only the tip of the iceberg.  Pictures and video are a big part of social media.

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

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

Your company could have a Flickr account to host need photos around the office.  Obviously don’t photograph proprietary things or company secrets (designs on desks or whatever).  But there is plenty of opportunity to take candid photos all over the place.  Or create events to photograph, like a Halloween or Christmas cubical decorating contest.  Potential candidates what to see the offices, people, and environment.  Pictures are worth a thousand words.

Video is even better.  With a smart phone, a tripod, and a microphone – you can make high quality video with high quality audio.  If you want to learn more about this, check out my article from last year, “Recruiting Videos – a Peek into Culture & Brand.”

Reputation management and responding to criticism and comments on other sites like Glassdoor.com would be part of the job.  Glassdoor has company reviews and you can acknowledge and reply to reviews.  This too would be social media recruiting, because you are managing the employer brand online.

So before you start wondering how you too can get into this social media recruiting action, please think it though and commit to doing it well.  Answer these three questions:

  • Why do you want to go on social media?
  • Who do you think will be the one doing the work?
  • Are these two answers in line to help our company do social media well?

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Why you should know how much your coworkers get paid – David Burkus

Posted by Eric Putkonen on 10/12/2016 in Personal / About Me |

David Burkus makes a case for salary transparency to ensure fairness and help remedy the gender wage gap.  Also, if everyone knows what everyone makes there are other benefits.  Interesting TED Talk.


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Reviewing Careerbuilder’s Annual Surveys of Job Seekers

Posted by Eric Putkonen on 10/06/2016 in Recruiting articles |

I was reading Careerbuilder’s report, “How to Rethink the Candidate Experience and Make Better Hires,” this week and saw some interesting things.  In today’s post I will go over a few of the things…

dollarsign1. More candidates (74%) want to see salary than any other feature in a job posting.
Not a big surprise, but we continue to ignore this as recruiters.  I think we should disclose this information and may be interested in my earlier post called “Salary Transparency: The Key to Better Applicants?
2. 81% of applicants want to know the contact information of the person that posted the job; and before applying, 72% want to talk to a recruiter or hiring manager.
We all know this is just not possible due to not being practical.  With the number of applicants and the volume of requisitions we handle…we just could not talk to 72% of the people thinking about applying.
QuestionWhat this does show is a severe lack of the right information being given.  76% said they wonder what would my day-to-day job be?  Obviously, our job descriptions are not truly giving a very good picture of what the day-to-day job would be…or this would not be one of the top ranked question for job seekers. 57% want to know which skill sets are employers are willing and not willing to negotiate on.  Again, the job descriptions we are all posting are not cutting it.  This information is not clear.
We need to get more information into the potential applicants’ hands.  We need not only better job descriptions and requirements…but also additional information like videos, pictures, and employee testimonials available.  Careerbuilder has a study that shows 31% want to see videos and photos of the company environment (only slightly less than 35% who said they wanted details on how the company provides work-life balance).  46% said they wanted to see employee ratings (which are probably coming from Glassdoor.com)…but you could do a lot by providing your own employee testimonial video and text on your website.
This is important, because 37% of all candidates said that if they can’t find the info they need on the company that they will just move on to the next company or job listing.
4. Job seekers say 4 out of 10 (38%) of their applications never receive a response or any type of communication.  Also, Job seekers’ biggest frustration: Employers don’t respond to them (45%).
Really…how is this still a thing?  I wrote last year a post call, “Why Does Black Holes Still Exist in Candidate Experience?” With modern ATS, all you have to do is check the box next to the names and send a mass-email.  There is no excuse for this.  Job seekers, I humbly apologize for my profession.
5. Referring to Careerbuilder’s study, one in five candidates said they are not willing to complete an application that takes them 20 minutes or more, and 76 percent want to know how long it will take them to finish an application before it starts.
hurdlesCandidates are not willing to do as much as last year and the market is now very much a job-seekers market.  We can not longer have employer-market and recession-market mindsets.  Don’t expect people to be grateful to just have a job and if looking for a job, to be desperate enough to put up with the crap anymore.  Last year I wrote about this in “Why We Must Simply the Job Application Process.”
However, only 31 percent of employers claim to have tried applying to one of their company’s open jobs to see what the process is like.
Everyone needs to do this today.  Apply to one of your own jobs and see how bad (or good) it is.  Did the system time out and you have to start over?  Did it take an hour to apply?  How good was the resume parsing or did you have to fill it all in manually?
You should know what your applicants have to go through just to express interest.  Then if this is combined with never getting a response, what a slap in the face and a show of total disrespect.
From what I read and remember from last year, the concerns are much the same as last year…but job seekers are willing to put up with less and are demanding better.   We have almost an entire year to try to improve the situation.  I would love to see some improvement in next year’s reports.

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Raising the Bar the Moneyball Way

Posted by Eric Putkonen on 09/21/2016 in Recruiting articles |

I was recently rewatching the movie “Moneyball” and this movie often makes me think and rethink about the way we recruit.

If you need a quick refresher, it comes down to the Oakland A’s had their best players hired away for more money than they could afford.  So big teams with big budgets would hire the best players.  Small teams with small budgets would have their best hired away.


CC BY 2.0

The problem was that everyone was looking for the same thing – A players and Stars – often using the same (industry accepted) subjective wisdom and outdated (sometimes flawed) metrics of comparison.  They all had to fit certain molds.  Instead of playing this game (and losing), because the A’s couldn’t afford to compete, they pursued the misfits and the players that were undervalued because of industry biases and preconceptions.

Most companies I have recruited for are in a similar situation.  They want the A players and Stars…and often can not compete with the salaries being offered by other teams.

Then you combine this “raising the bar.”  I keep hearing about hiring managers trying to raise the bar on their teams.  They don’t want to just bring in people as good as they ones they have…they want people who are better than what they have (or are trying to replace) to raise the bar on their talent.

Often this comes with the same salary figure as the others or the one being replaced.  So they want bigger players and bigger stars but not pay any more than currently paying.  Does this make any sense at all?

As recruiters, we are tasked with finding the solution.  The budgets are not going to be increased.  They may not be open to telecommuting or relocation so the pool can be expanded.  So what are our options?

After watching “Moneyball” again, I am thinking we might have to work with hiring managers to redefine what they are looking for in order to raise the bar.  Firstly, raising the bar must be defined and what is trying to be accomplished.

Peter Brand said in the movie,

There is an epidemic failure within the game to understand what is really happening. And this leads people who run Major League Baseball teams to misjudge their players and mismanage their teams…Okay. People who run ball clubs, they think in terms of buying players. Your goal shouldn’t be to buy players, your goal should be to buy wins. And in order to buy wins, you need to buy runs.

I see the same thing happen in recruiting.  Hiring managers think in terms of hiring employees.  The goal shouldn’t be to hire employees, the goal should be to buy the skills necessary to fulfill the goals in mind.  Don’t hire stronger employees in order to raise the bar, but stronger skills (to get more runs) necessary to accomplish goals and win the game at the next level.

Raising the bar

Thank you to Gary Paulson (CC BY-ND 2.0)

So to buy wins…you need to buy runs.  What are the runs we are trying to buy in the talent we are seeking for our positions?  And if we are trying to raise the bar, this question becomes even more important.  If you are trying to improve your performance (game) as a team, then to get to that next level of play as a team…what skills (to get runs) would be needed?

Perhaps, getting someone with more experience or broader experience is not what is needed.  Maybe it is a bit of specialized skills and experience that the rest of the department lacks.

I often see hiring managers say they want to raise the bar only to then demand candidates with more experience or broader experience…but this does not necessarily equate with “buying wins and buying runs.”   It tends to show the focus is on buying a bigger player. This could be an instance of asking the wrong questions.  The question is not how do I get a stronger, more experience all-around player…but what do I specifically need to get more “runs.”

Let’s go back to misfits and undervalued players because of misconceptions and preconceptions.  I believe there is a gold mine here.  Potential employees that are having a difficult time getting hired or paid well because they are lacking something or are a misfit because they do not fit the mold of typical.

Thank you to Neal Wellons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Thank you to Neal Wellons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Perhaps, a potential goldmine of customer service talent would be to hire very good waiters and waitresses from restaurants.  I have had a few spectacular servers wait on me at very typical restaurants.  I would think they might do very well in any position requiring attention to detail and focus on customers (and their needs).  Sure, they never have worked in customer service like you may be hiring…but they know how to take care of people.

We need to think outside the box here.  Who does not fit the mold of typical people in the field, but may excel in it because they have the skills needed where it is important (for runs)?

I once worked for a company where all our buyers/clothing designers came from the same couple colleges, with the same degree, and basically the same skills.  I hired a college graduate (Art History major) that loved clothes and worked in retail sales in a clothing store.  I got her in initially as a “gofer” to the buyers.  She soon was promoted to junior buyer and then buyer.  Managers told me she was one of the best people they have ever hired.  She did not have the background everyone else had and yet she excelled.  Under “normal” circumstances, she would not have been considered.

We need to rethink who we are hiring and why…especially if we want to raise the bar.


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What I Learned at the Military and Veteran Job Fair

Posted by Eric Putkonen on 09/08/2016 in Recruiting articles |

Last Thursday I went to the Military and Veteran Job Fair at Target Field (downtown Minneapolis, MN).  It was put together as a pre-event by the Medal of Honor Convention Twin Cities.  The morning started with an Employer Town Hall.  Two veterans who had successfully transitioned into the corporate world spoke to us about recruiting and retaining military and veterans.

Surprisingly, their focus was initially more on retaining than recruiting.  They said it is not uncommon to see military and veteran hires leave after 9 months, a year, and so forth.  They said much more focus is needed on retaining them.

They said you have to remember they are used to being given defined paths in the military.  You study this and do that and then you can get promoted or are assigned to this other task.  Also, during duty they are given missions to complete.  Everything has goals in mind and outcomes that come afterward.

Thank you to Tim Green (CC BY 2.0)

Thank you to Tim Green (CC BY 2.0)

They mentioned that often moving into corporate is difficult if there is no defined career paths and vague goals to be accomplished.  They want goals that challenge them and they can accomplish.  So if they get bored…or they see no way to progress in the career (no defined next step)…or are not really sure what they are trying to accomplish…they quickly become unhappy and leave.

They need to feel needed and have a purpose…and be challenged (the challenge was mentioned repeatedly).

To help with this transition, they said it was very necessary to pair a new hire from the military with someone who used to be with the military that successfully transitioned.  The more senior is familiar with the challenges in transitioning and the differences between military and corporate thinking.

One of them told a story about how after he transitioned he had an incident in a meeting.  It was a long meeting about financials and such and he was listening but bored.  So after finishing his bottle of water, he took a bit of chew and started spitting into the bottle.  Later he was told that is something you can’t do.  But he did not know…in the military, meetings had this kind of thing happen and no one batted an eye about it.  He was still running under a different set of ideas and it just didn’t occur to him that this was not allowed.

The other one agreed and said due to the different circumstances of military life, sometimes one’s manner and speech might be a bit rough…but that is what they are used to.  Once someone mentors or coaches them on the expectations and rules, there is no problem.

They cautioned us (roomful of recruiters) that we may hear or see some interesting things during the fair.  They said to just speak with them and get their stories.  They assured us we would meet many great potential employees with great leadership skills…although they may not have the perfect resume or polish.

They said that we had to be willing to take a chance on someone, because they will not have the perfect resume or appear as polished as other candidates.  They often have gained a whole lot of skills (leadership, getting this done, etc.) but don’t always know how to convey it well within the resume.

militaryThey said it was important to earn their trust, but once you have it they are the most loyal people around.  You need to give them a little extra help.  Give them an email or phone number to call when they have questions or issues…speaking with another military or veteran who transitioned into your company.  Listen to them.  Ask questions.  Don’t assume.

One of the recruiters shared a great story about how when their security guard (who was in the military) was called up to be deployed, she asked him for his mailing address.  While he was gone, she and others at the company sent him letters.  So many in the military are deployed and receive little or no contact while abroad.  She said it probably meant a lot to him…and the two vets speaking agreed and said that was spectacular.  They said that kind of support is what will keep a military or veteran with the company.

Anyway, that is how the morning started.  I spoke with several great people during the day.  It was a good day.




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It’s Time to Test Your Application Process

Posted by Eric Putkonen on 08/24/2016 in Recruiting articles |

I won’t be talking about usability, time needed to complete the application, or many other very important topics.  Today I want to focus on a specific test.  A test I think that should be done routinely and regularly.

Either a recruiter from a different area, the Recruiting Manager, or even someone in HR should ask for the resumes of some of top performers that work in the area that is hiring and apply on their behalf.  Use a pseudonym and a different phone number and email address.  You don’t want to make it too obvious.  I would also include resumes of the average (but solid) performers you want to keep.  If this is a replacement position, I may include the resume of the person being replaced.

QuestionBasically, the test would be to see if the people the hiring manager already has on staff (that he or she really wants to keep) would make it to the interview.  Because if the people the hiring manager already has on staff (and thinks they are great) can’t make it to an interview…what is the likelihood of increasing the staff with more great people?  Obviously these people should be called for an interview.

If they don’t make it to the interview stage, this would show a failure in the requirements, pre-screening questions, or other element of the application process.

Also, this would show (if passed with flying colors) that there is a correlation between what is being asked for in the application process and the top performers and/or solid employees on staff.

I see this as something that will become more important in the future…scientific-like repeatability and being able to show a correlation between what we do in recruiting and how it does in fact bring in top performers and solid employees.

The way to move towards this is to test and audit what we do in recruiting more frequently (or start, if you don’t test currently).

We can start with simply the application process, but we could test and audit the entire hiring process.  Do the interview questions we ask really select better talent and therefore screen out low-performers?

If we have employment tests for potential hires, the government wants to know if they are valid tests (accurately gauging better talent) that are not accidentally screening out or pushing away women, minorities, older workers, etc.  I have read many, many articles over the years of how many employment tests are not valid and open companies up to discrimination law suits or government audit of employment practices.

By extension, the questions we ask interviewees should be valid and not discriminate.  There are even questions the government specifically says are not legal to ask.  And yet, we still do not do much to test for validity of those questions to screen out all but the best talent.

Thank you to frankieleon (CC BY 2.0)

Thank you to frankieleon (CC BY 2.0)

We hear in articles that hiring practices and typical interview questions are no better than a coin-toss.  Why?  Because we do not test it.

One way to test your interview questions is to ask top performers and solid employees in that function the questions.  How do the answers compare with applicants for the job?  Maybe do a blind test and have the employee do the phone screen with the recruiter and then debrief the recruiter on what they thought and why.

I am trying to take my original point through all the hiring steps.  If the currently employed top performers can’t make it through the process, how valid is the process?  How could you hire other top performers if the current top performers would be screened out?

I think more testing and auditing needs to happen in recruiting (on ourselves and by ourselves), because we really don’t know what works and why it works.  We don’t bother to test it and determine the factors.  We have very little in terms of feedback loops to tell us what is working (and how well it is working) and what is not working.

Is it any wonder why research keeps saying what we are doing is a shot in the dark, no better than a coin toss, or other analogy?  To make recruiting systematic requires not only processes, but processes with feedback loops (for quality) and processes that should be tested (for validity, for improvement, etc.).  Otherwise, it is just a shot in the dark…a coin toss.

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The Systemic Problem in Recruiting Top Performers

Posted by Eric Putkonen on 08/12/2016 in Recruiting articles |

How many times have you heard one of the following statements from hiring managers?

  • “I want top performers.”
  • “I want to hire a star.”
  • “I am looking for an A-player.”

And then very shortly later hearing something along the lines of the following:

  • “I am looking for someone who has been there and done that.”
  • “I need someone who can hit the ground running.”
  • “this candidate hasn’t been in this kind of position before.”

QuestionIt seems few are willing to point out that these are two mutually exclusive statements.  Allowing hiring managers to continue thinking these are not conflicting statements is the cause of problems in recruiting that which they seek.

In the off-chance that you think these statements are not in conflict, let us analyze what the statements are saying.

Wanting someone who has been there and done that, someone who can hit the ground running, and basically been in that kind of position before doing exactly what the hiring manager is looking to have done…is looking for someone willing and happy to continue to do what they have been doing (and already mastered).

On the other hand, the top performer/star/A-player is probably looking for a promotion or basically get into a position to learn new skills.  They are looking for job stretch and job growth.  They are probably looking because they are bored in their current roles because they have mastered the position already and the related skills.  They are looking for new challenges and to do things they have not done before.

In fact, if hiring managers can not understand this, they are probably not a top performer/star/A-player themselves…and therefore there is another obstacle to hiring top performers/stars/A-players.  Because top performers/stars/A-players want to work for other top performers/stars/A-players.

The mind set of a top performer/star/A-player is different that those who are not.  Their needs must be met – usually the challenge and learning – or they are not happy and become disengaged.  They don’t want to do exactly what they have been doing.

Thank you to Yoel Ben-Avraham (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Thank you to Yoel Ben-Avraham (CC BY-ND 2.0)

But I see repeatedly…in many different kinds of companies…the same mistake of treating top performers/stars/A-players the same as everyone else and not really bothering to care about their needs.  Instead, hiring managers continue to look for the peg that fits perfectly into their hole on their team…with little thought that if it is too good a fit for the candidate’s past experience, a top performer/star/A-player would not be interested because he or she would be bored.

If you want to hire top performers/stars/A-players, then you need room for this person to grow (i.e. they won’t have all the experience already) and therefore you must be willing to take chances on people.

I have been seeing hiring managers take less and less risks.  This is fueling the trend for asking for people who have “been there and done that.”  It is causing hiring managers to not want to consider someone without all the skills upfront.  They don’t want to trust that the candidate can learn it quickly on their own or might be able to handle it without having done it before.

Don’t you see how this closes the door to top performers/stars/A-players who are looking for new challenges rather than continuing in a job they have mastered already?

If your company declares that they want the best talent…that they want top performers/stars/A-players…then fundamentally that means we need to take chances on our hires and we need to consider hiring people who don’t have it all already.  Maybe they haven’t exactly done the job before or had some of those responsibilities, but that is why they are interested.

All through my careers as a recruiter, I have continued to hear people say they want the top talent…but we are moving further and further away from the practices and hiring philosophy that would allow us to attract and hire the top talent.

If we really want to hire top performers/stars/A-players, then we have to see how top performers/stars/A-players are different than most other applicants.  They are looking to do something different, not get another position doing what they have been doing.  We have to accept the risk associated with hiring candidates that have not been there and done that yet.

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Save Time with a Few of My Recruiting Bookmarklets

Posted by Eric Putkonen on 07/26/2016 in Recruiting articles |

You might be thinking, “what is a bookmarklet?”  Well, it is a small piece of JavaScript code that is stored as a bookmark in a web browser.  This code typically allows users to interact with the currently loaded web page or the page it will be going to in some way.

I am offering to share 6 bookmarklets that I created (and one that was found).  I created them with the help of Mr. Coles’ Bookmarklet Creator.  You can enter JavaScript and then hit “Convert to bookmarklet.”  With the help of the Creator, the following bookmarklets were created:

Thank you Britt Selvitelle (CC BY 2.0)

Thank you Britt Selvitelle
(CC BY 2.0)

X-Raying LinkedIn

As recruiters, we have all used Google or Bing to X-Ray LinkedIn.  For those who may not know, X-Raying is using a search engine to do Boolean searches on pages on a specific site.  For example, searching on LinkedIn for profiles in the Twin Cities for specific skill-sets.  I do this enough that I wrote a couple recruiting bookmarklets…using Google or Bing to X-Ray LinkedIn.

Quick Terminology and Acronym Searches

If you are new to IT recruiting (for example) there are a lot of terms and acronyms.  The same for medical recruiting as well.  For ease, I created a two bookmarklets to search for IT terms and one for medical terms.

Miscellaneous Recruiting Bookmarklets

The sixth recruiting bookmarklet I created was for searching a section of LinkedIn that will give you some information and insights.  When you click the bookmarklets and it asks for search term, you can enter “java” (for example).  Then I like checking “Where they work” and “What they’re skilled at”.  Under “What they’re skilled at”, you can select one other skill from the list and it seems to act as an AND statement (lowering the result numbers).  But if you add more than one skill by clicking, it will increase the number of results (so it acts like OR statements among the clicked skills).  You can also click on the spyglass next to “Where they live” and add locations and see how the insights change.  This may give you an idea of what companies to recruit from and perhaps related skills these people may have.  You could even search universities and see where people with a certain skill go for work and further refine the search by what years they attended college (to simulate a rough age grouping).  Kind of a neat tool I just started playing with.

Thank you to theilr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Thank you to theilr
(CC BY-SA 2.0)

I am also including a bookmarklet that I once found called “highlight.”  You know how sometimes it is really hard to find terms on a web page?  Granted, you could hit Control-F and you could do a search.  Many browsers let you highlight the occurrences.  But what if you wanted to highlight more than one term?  This bookmarklet will highlight more each time you use it.  The highlighting will stay until you reload the web page.

How to Get Them In Your Browser and Use Them

To get these on your browser, please SAVE and then IMPORT the following HTML file into your browser – Bookmarklets.html

Alternatively, click into the above file and drag each of the recruiting bookmarklets into your bookmarks toolbar.

All seven of the recruiting bookmarklets will work by highlighting a term or terms on the web page you are on and then clicking the bookmarklet.  If no terms are selected, the bookmarklet will open a box asking for the terms you want.

For the dictionaries, enter a single term like “python” or “BSN” or whatever you wanted to look up.

For the LinkedIn X-Rays, you can enter multiple keywords and full Boolean search strings.  I also created them for my area (Twin Cities) and entering “Greater Minneapolis-St. Paul Area” is a pain, so I made that the default.

For the LinkedIn research tool, I suggest entering only one keyword.

QuestionHow to Modify the Location on the X-Ray Bookmarklets

To change the default area to something you want, please open javascriptcode.txt.  Then cut and paste this code directly into Mr. Coles’ Bookmarklet Creator.  Look for “%22Greater+Minneapolis-St.+Paul+Area%22” and change this to whatever location you want.  For example, if you wanted to change it to Boston…you need to find out what LinkedIn calls the area.  In this case, Boston is called “Greater Boston Area.”  So then you would change “%22Greater+Minneapolis-St.+Paul+Area%22” to “%22Greater+Boston+Area%22”.  That is it…hit “Convert to bookmarklet” and you are done.  Just move the “this link” to your bookmarks toolbar to save it and then go in and edit the bookmark.  Change the name to something you would recognize and then it is there for you whenever you need it.


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