How to Hire the Living

No ZombiesThis is the first of a series of four posts based on my interview for the Conscious Software Development Telesummit, conducted by Michael Smith, The Zombie Apocalypse is Not an HR Product: How to Recruit, Hire, Retain, and Develop the Living.

The 21st Century workforce is a mix of employees, contingent workers, consultants, and service providers from third party firms and outsourcers. The core of this ever-changing group has to be your regular employees – the people you can rely on to provide direction and make the decisions that enable the others to prioritize and keep on schedule. But it seems that, as our technology mix becomes ever more complex, so does managing and recruiting the right people, with the right skills and experience. Even more difficult is retaining those people, and developing them to be the next batch of leaders, managers, and executives. The way to do it is to partner with the HR department in the most effective manner for both of you.

What qualifies you as an expert on this subject?

Good question. I’ve been a hiring manager, a consultant and corporate IT Director implementing and managing human capital management and recruiting solutions, a job seeker and an employee, and someone who left a good job for excellent reasons, several times. I spend a lot of my time around HR departments, working with the people responsible for recruiting, selecting, hiring, developing, retaining, and sometimes terminating members of the workforce of their organizations. And maybe most important: I spend a lot of my time working with groups of workers, developing them into high-performing teams. As a result of all of this activity over the last four decades, I’ve developed a few opinions.

What are the keys to hiring the right person?

There are a number of factors, including cultural fit, skills and experience, aptitude, and interest. Traditionally, the resume or CV has been the basis for an initial assessment, but times have changed. Many organizations now want to see a LinkedIn profile. In addition, there’s a trend toward more screening telephone interviews, followed by Skype or other forms of video or conference calls, assessing cultural fit and interest before an on-site interview with the hiring manager. Screening interviews with subject matter experts, rather than just the manager or peers, are becoming more common.

Over the last few years, many IT managers have shown more interest in professional certifications than in academic achievements. Some organizations, such as IBM, require the PMP credential for project management positions. In any case, determine what would be an acceptable substitute for listed skills and experience, and communicate it to the recruiters and interviewers. Also, ensure you have at least one interviewer who is a woman or a member of a visible minority. Communicate diversity!

There’s also a growing trend to evaluate people based on their writing, on-line persona, and personality assessments, such as Myers-Briggs. Big Data will have an increasing influence on this approach over the next few years. In the meantime, don’t hire people with poor communication skills. Even programmers have to be able to persuade people.

Why do so many positions stay open for so long?

In some cases, it’s supply and demand, but not always. Some organizations have “evergreen positions” that they are always trying to fill, because of high utilization or high turnover. In other cases, it’s too hard to get the “precise fit” and the organization is unwilling to take a “close fit.” This trend, especially, has been growing since the Great Recession. It leads to opportunity costs, as well as higher actual costs. Do not assume that the unemployment rate reflects the number of people who are qualified for the position you are recruiting, and who are actively searching for a job. Some skill sets are hard to find, especially in certain regions. I recently saw a requirement for a Workday software quality assurance analyst in Kalispell, Montana – good luck with that one.

Managing labor costs is not just an HR responsibility

Recruiting and replacement costs can run from 2 to 18 months of pay, based on the position. Suzanne Lucas, who blogs as The Evil HR Lady, notes that keeping a position open leads to unacknowledged departmental costs, such as lowered productivity and overwork by the remaining staff, that aren’t part of the HR estimate of recruiting costs. At some point, keeping a position open can impact retention of your other staff. In just about every large organization, there is one budget for recruiting and a different budget for training. A progressive, well-managed organization would consider whether to hire a “close fit,” in order to reduce the recruiting cost, and then spend some of the savings on training.

I recently heard of a company in Silicon Valley with a 10% no-show rate. They didn’t know why, and apparently hadn’t tried to find out. If you have to hire ten to get nine people to start, you have a problem!

In Part Two, How to Recruit the Living, we’ll look at common errors that managers and recruiters make in posting job requisitions.

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About Dave Gordon

Dave Gordon is a project manager with over twenty five years of experience in implementing human capital management and payroll systems, including SaaS solutions like Workday and premises-based ERP solutions like PeopleSoft and ADP Enterprise. He has an MS in IT with a concentration in project management, and a BS in Business. He also holds the project management professional (PMP) designation, as well as professional designations in human resources (GPHR and SPHR) and in benefits administration (CEBS). In addition to his articles and blog posts, he curates a weekly roundup of articles on project management, and he has authored or contributed to several books on project management.