12 Skills Every Recruiter Must Master

2015 promises to be a challenging year for any company that wants to hire top talent to fill critical roles.

The problem: the rapid growth in new jobs is likely to outstrip the available talent.

The only way companies will be able to rectify this talent shortage is to recruit people from their competition. While this condition has always existed, the hiring boom promises to make 2015 one of the toughest years on record.

The solution: you need to build the strongest recruiting team possible, made up of highly skilled recruiters who are comfortable with winning over passive talent.

Here are the 12 recruiter competencies that we have established as most important, based on ourperformance-based hiring certification workshops:

  1. Motivated to excel. Persistent, doesn’t take no for an answer.
  2. Industry and company expert. Someone worth knowing. Trusted advisor.
  3. Influences hiring manager and hiring team on all hiring related decisions. Every candidate recommended is interviewed. Minimizes interviews per hire.
  4. Understands real job needs at technical and results level. Not a box checker.
  5. Prepares robust, insightful sourcing and branding plans to attract all potential candidates.
  6. Uses advanced social media and marketing tools to find best active candidates.
  7. Boolean and email marketing expert to find and attract top passive candidates.
  8. Has mastered the art of networking to identify and recruit outstanding passive candidates.
  9. Great organizer. On top of all issues, always. Doesn’t waste time presenting weak candidates.
  10. Leverages technology (LinkedIn, ATS, CRM) to maximize candidate quality and personal productivity.
  11. Accurate and insightful interviewer. Focuses on performance, fit and motivation. Predicted performance turns out to be extremely accurate.
  12. With passive candidates: a great recruiter, negotiator and exceptional closer.

Here’s a sample form of this competency model.

While the listed competencies are essential, how each is scored is important for both improving recruiter skills and determining who should be hired or assigned to handle the most difficult search assignments. To help with that, I have listed a scoring ranking below. Note that the ranking is non-linear. Levels 3, 4 and 5 represent the top 25% of an effective recruiting team handling the full range of positions from entry-level to senior executives.

The Performance-Based Hiring Ranking System

Level 0: Needs basic training for the factor.

Level 1: Has entry-level skills, but needs some coaching and training.

Level 2: Reasonably competent. Effectively uses the skill/factor to meet performance objectives. A 2.5 represents the overall midpoint of the peer group.

Level 3: Far exceeds basic requirements. In the top quartile. Coaches others in skill.

Level 4: Formally recognized within the department or company as a subject matter expert in the skill/factor. Top 10-15% of team.

Level 5: Outstanding. Top 5%. A role model. Formally recognized outside the company as an expert in the area.

We’ve created an online survey you can take to rank yourself or your recruiting team members to see how well they stack to the challenge of recruiting passive candidates.

As you take the assessment, recognize the importance of using evidence to justify any ranking. For example, to be ranked a Level 3, 4 or 5 on recruiting passive candidates (factor 12), the recruiter would have to had demonstrated a track record of finding truly passive candidates and worked closely with hiring managers to get them hired. For Boolean search and emailing (factor 7) the person would not only need to know and use advanced Boolean techniques to find the person, but also have a very high percent (60-70%) of these people responding to the emails. The point: ability is not what’s being measuring on this competency model, the results of using this skill, ability or competency are what’s important.

Once talent professionals like you fill out the survey and the survey results are available, I’ll use this blog to summarize the findings. Until then, keep recruiting and keep getting better.

Big Idea 2015: The One Trend That Will Impact Your Job

In this series of posts, Influencers and members predict the ideas and trends that will shape 2015. Read all the stories here and write your own (please include the hashtag #BigIdeas2015 in the body of your post).

You might have read about the huge growth in jobs being filled in the U.S. this year. Year-to-date it’s now about 2.6 million net new jobs – the largest job growth since 1999. But, according to this chart, things might get even better in 2015.

The graph is a summary of the U.S. Department of Labor’s JOLTs report (Job Openings and Labor Turnover). Simply stated, it shows the total number of unique job openings with all companies in the U.S. As of October the number was over 4.8 million open jobs. The big decline in open jobs came in 2009 followed by modest increases through 2013. In early 2014, job growth took off with almost 1 million new jobs opened. Since new job openings lead to people being hired for these jobs within 2-3 months, it’s a great leading indicator of the future of the job market. Other than the hiccup in September 2014, things look very bright as we head into 2015.

With the job market accelerating in the U.S., here are some things companies and job seekers can do to get ready.

5 Things Companies Can Do to Minimize the Impact of Accelerating Job Growth

  1. Minimize the effect of voluntary turnover. I’m hearing from talent leaders around the world that their best employees are being sought out in increasing numbers by aggressive recruiters and their former co-workers. Companies need to intervene now to prevent this from becoming a bigger problem later. As a minimum, include an increase in attrition into your 2015 hiring plans.
  2. Build a proactive employee referral program. Make sure all of your employees reach out and connect on LinkedIn with their former co-workers. Company recruiters can now search on these connections as new jobs open up.
  3. Raise the bridge, lower the water or widen the river. As hiring needs accelerate there will be far fewer people who meet the stringent (and quite frankly, narrow-minded) requirements listed on most job descriptions. While paying a modest salary premium for the most talented and skilled people is appropriate, it might be better to hire more high-potential and non-traditional candidates who need a bit of coaching to get up to speed.
  4. Implement a results-based hiring process. Everyone wants to hire people who are results-oriented. However, it’s far better to define the results you needand then find people who are competent and motivated to achieve these results. This concept is the foundation of Performance-based Hiring.
  5. Make hiring managers responsible for hiring for the long term. Managers emphasize their short-term needs when selecting candidates while the best candidates select those jobs that offer the most stretch and future growth. Holding hiring managers responsible for bridging this gap requires them to better balance potential with skills and experience.

5 Things Everyone Can Do to Take Advantage of an Expanding Job Market

  1. Be open-minded, even if you’re not looking for a job. Take the call from the recruiter, but quickly ask the person to describe the real job challenges. If the recruiter knows what they are, continue the conversation.
  2. If you are looking for a job, do not apply directly to any job posting. On average, companies get 100 to 200 resumes for every job opening. So to increase your odds of getting noticed, don’t apply directly unless you’re a perfect fit. Instead, implement a 20/20/60 job-hunting plan to cover all channels.
  3. Build an ever-expanding business network. Networking is not about meeting as many people as possible. It’s about meeting a few people you know who can vouch for your performance. Then ask them to refer you to people you don’t know. Then once you get to know these people, ask them to refer you to others they know.
  4. Do not use your resume as your primary marketing material. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is short, robust and impactful with a compelling tagline under your name. Combine this with a slideshow, a short introductory video, a1-Page job proposal, some type of mini-project and a series of compelling emails to round out your marketing kit. You’ll use this to get through the back door.
  5. Use the job posting as a lead into the back door. When I was a full-time recruiter, I used job postings to find out which companies were hiring and then contacted the department heads to get the search assignment. Job seekers can do the same thing. Use your personal marketing material as a means to obtain an exploratory meeting. Take the lead during the meeting by conducting a needs analysis to understand real job requirements. Then describe something you’ve accomplished that addresses each of the major challenges.

Of course, there are more things companies, recruiters, hiring managers and job seekers can do to hire the best people and find the best jobs, but this is a good start. It starts by being different, not by being more efficient doing all of the things you’re now doing.

How to Get a Job in the Hidden Job Market in 2015

I just received a nice email from a woman who had just read The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired. She mentioned on Amazon that my point that most interviewers don’t ask relevant questions was correct. As a result, they are not able to determine if a job seeker is both competent and motivated to do the actual work required. Not knowing what the actual work is the fundamental problem. As a result they tend to hire the person who's the best interviewer, not the best person for the job.

Unfortunately for this woman, she didn’t get the job. But she’ll do better on her next interview by following some of the advice described in the book and in the training series mentioned in the video below. However, the following is one major principle every job seeker must follow to make sure they’re evaluated properly. It starts by finding out what the actual work is before answering any questions.

The Big Principle for Getting Interviewers to Ask Job Seekers the Right Questions

First, ask the interviewer to describe the top two or three objectives required for job success. Then describe an accomplishment you’ve had that is most comparable using the SAFW methodology described in the video series and in this post.

This is called a forced-choice question. The technique will help improve your odds for getting the job by answering questions that address your ability to do the actual work. I know this sounds obvious, but if you’re now being interviewed for a job I suspect you’ve discovered that most interviewers ask a bunch of irrelevant questions. This technique will quickly turn the tables to your favor.

Of course, the other big principle covered in the book and training series is the idea that most jobs are filled in the hidden job market before they’re ever advertised. That’s why I suggest implementing a 20-20-60 job hunting program.

2015 promises to be a strong year for hiring, but if you follow the traditional job-hunting approaches the best you’ll do is get a decent job. However by being different, using the hidden market to get more interviews and making sure you’re asked the right questions you might just wind up with a much better job. It might even be the first step in a great career.

The One Hiring Mistake Everyone Makes and How to Avoid It

Before I make some claim that I’ve discovered something new in the world of hiring, some background is in order. First, I’m an engineer, financial person and manufacturing type who got into recruiting 30+ years ago because I didn’t like my boss. Seriously.

Since that time, I must have debriefed over 2,000 managers after they interviewed one of my candidates. I personally knew many of these people. What surprised me most of all was that 75% of the managers could confidently predict the performance of all of these people after a 45-60 minute interview. For the people I knew, they were dead wrong more than 50-60% of the time. So I suspected they were equally wrong on those candidates I didn’t know.

This made no sense to me, so I decided to sit in on some first round interviews to determine what was happening. The problem became apparent very quickly: people who made a good first impression were interviewed differently than those who made a weak or neutral first impression.

Those who made a good first impression were instantly assumed to be competent and the interviewer used the balance of the interview to seek out evidence to support the initial reaction. If the candidate made a weak first impression, the interviewer would assume the person was incompetent and proactively went out to prove it. Questions that could quickly prove them wrong were unconsciously avoided.

This is not news. But last night, I was reading an enlightening book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, by Jonathan Haidt. I thought the book was about the politics of the left and right, but it’s more about how we make any type of important life decisions. From a hiring perspective, the big “aha” moment for me was that people are programmed to make instantaneous intuitive judgments for just about everything and then look for evidence to justify them. According to Haidt and his years of research, it’s at the core of our evolutionary human nature. Given the fact that intuition drives reasoning, I offer the following techniques for preventing bad hiring decisions due to the impact of first impressions.

(Note: what's fascinating is that the "Haidt Bias" is clearly evident in every comment below: intuition driving reasoning.)

9 Simple Ideas for Minimizing the Impact of First Impressions

  1. Wait 30 minutes. It takes about 30 minutes for the impact of first impressions to dissipate. During this time, interviewers need to conduct a comprehensivework-history review and ask the most important interview question of all time.
  2. Conduct a preliminary phone screen before meeting any candidate in person. You’ll save a lot of time by using a phone screen to determine if the candidate is a reasonable fit, possesses the achiever pattern and has a track record of strong past performance. Even better, the onsite interview will start off as an objective evaluation, not an exercise in emotional control.
  3. Treat candidates as consultants. People always treat those who are assumed to be subject matter experts with respect. When candidates are assumed to be competent and treated the same way at the beginning of the interview, the assessment is naturally more objective.
  4. Use reverse logic to reprogram your brain. When first meeting a candidate, note whether you like the person or not. Then, do the opposite of what you’d normally do. For those you like, force them to prove their competency. Give the benefit of the doubt to everyone else. You’ll discover this mental trick results in asking everyone the same questions.
  5. Act as a juror, not a judge. Stop making assessments during the interview. Instead collect all of the evidence before making a verdict. The Performance-based Interview has been designed to ask all candidates similar objective questions that don’t seem rehearsed or artificial.
  6. Conduct more panel interviews. The one-on-one effect of first impressions is minimized in a well-organized panel interview. A disorganized panel interview is a waste of time for other reasons.
  7. Measure first impressions at the end of the interview. Whether good first impressions are important for job success is debatable. What’s not debatable are their seductive power to influence the interviewer’s hiring decision. At the end of the interview, objectively determine if the person’s first impression will help or hinder their job performance.
  8. Eliminate gladiator-style voting. Yes versus no or up/down voting is a waste of time. In this case, the biggest thumb wins.
  9. Add a simple process control technique to the evaluation. On our talent scorecard we use a 1-5 ranking system. Whenever the variance among all of the interviewers on any factor is more than plus or minus half a point, we know the assessment process is emotionally biased. When the variance is tight, we know the assessment is accurate.

Overriding the evolutionary imprint of the friend versus foe response is no simple task. It starts by recognizing – as Haidt points out – that people go out of their way to collect confirming, false or cherry-picked information to justify their intuitive and instantaneous decisions. These nine ideas help overcome human nature by bringing the problem to the conscious level and then controlling it using a business-like process.

4 Things the World's Best Managers Do to Hire the World's Best People

For the past 30 years--the dawn of the modern management era--the best managers have done a few things consistently well to hire great people. All managers should adopt these best practices as their own.

In 1997, I wrote a book based on what I observed the best managers did to attract, assess, recruit, manage and develop the people they hired. This collective process eventually became known as Performance-based Hiring. Not surprisingly, the process mapped closely to Gallup's 1999 Q12 list of factors that maximized employee satisfaction and performance. Somewhat surprising, in 2012, Google announced with much fanfare the results of their Project Oxygen which pretty much "rediscovered" what the world's best managers already knew.

I'm continually surprised that more companies and hiring managers don't follow the proven findings. So, for those who might have missed the big points, here's a recap.

1. Clarify job expectations up front.

A list of required skills, experiences, academic needs and industry background is not a job description; it's a person description. In combination with their employer branding program, companies still use these job descriptions as their primary recruitment advertising effort. Not surprising, the best people with these skills are not interested unless they have an economic need to apply. Worse, high performers, the best diverse candidates, returning military veterans and non-traditional candidates have a different mix of skills and experiences and as a result are excluded long before they're ever considered. A results-based job description that details on-the-job success eliminates this serious problem. Since we promote people based on their performance, it seems logical that we should hire them the same way.

2. Hire people based on their ability and motivation to do the work described.

Motivation to do the actual work required is based on a number of factors; ability is just one of them. More important is hiring people who actually find the work intrinsically motivating. This relates to Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi's concept of flow. Equally important are the circumstances or environment in which the work is done. This relates to the quality of the manager, the pace and culture of the company, and the resources available. Collectively, these factors determine on-the-job motivation. In our interview training programs, we emphasize the importance of avoiding hiring people who have not demonstrated a high degree of motivation and initiative to do the actual work required. This ensures hiring people who are motivated to do the work for long-term career reasons, not short-term economic ones.

3. Clarify and prioritize the performance objectives for the job during the onboarding period.

Why wait until the person is hired before job expectations are clarified? Creating aperformance-based job description when the requisition is opened doesn't take any extra work, it's just done sooner than in the typical performance management process. During onboarding, the six to eight performance objectives need to be clarified and prioritized to ensure the new hire is on the right path from the start. None of the objectives should come as a surprise to the new hire since they were described during the interview process as part of the most significant accomplishment question. If any big performance objectives are a surprise, it indicates a fundamental flaw in the company's hiring process. As a result, it's problematic whether the person will be successful.

4. Hiring managers need to take responsibility for ensuring their new hire's success.

Since hiring great people is the most important task of managers, it seems logical that they should be evaluated, rewarded and promoted based on how well they do it. As part of this, managers should be charged with the task of training and developing their people and assigning them tasks that bring out their best qualities. This is especially important if the people they're hiring are high on potential but light on a few skills.

Long before I got into the business of recruiting and hiring great people, there were always great managers. It's surprising we still need constant reminders of what it takes to become one. The companies that have created a results-oriented culturehave embedded these four principles, the Gallup Q12, Hersey and Blanchard's Situational Leadership model and Google's Project Oxygen into their day-to-day activities. It's apparent that creating this type of culture is what the world's best leaders actually do. The result is great managers.