How to Improve Your Recruiting Batting Average 25 Points

I’ve been missing from these pages for awhile, but I asked if I could return and request the help of some real recruiters. I heard some of the best hang out here at ERE.

Here's the idea. I'm working with a  bunch of people and companies putting together a comprehensive batting average for recruiters that combines all the critical factors, metrics, and competencies into one useful statistic. This will become known as the RBA — the Recruiter’s Batting Average.

Please look this first list over, suggest other factors that should be included, why some shouldn’t be considered, and which ones you think should be weighted more heavily than others.

I’ll be demonstrating how recruiters can better use LinkedIn Recruiter to improve their RBA at a LinkedIn workshop in NYC on June 17 for staffing firms. You’re invited to the streaming event.

All of the factors will be converted to a 1-5 scale and adjusted for importance based on a weighting factor. The sum of all of the factors will represent the recruiter’s RBA. An RBA of 100 will be considered the standard norm. A score of more than 150 is first ballot all-star material, and an RBA of 75 or less justifies a lengthy stay in the minor leagues.   

Most Heavily Weighted Factors

  • Productivity. This is a measure of delivering results. It’s a raw score combining sendouts (interviews with hiring managers arranged) per month adjusted for the number of assignments being worked concurrently. Tracking this will drive all time-to-fill related metrics.
  • Number of candidates needed to be seen to get one hired, aka sendouts per hire. This indicates that the recruiter is efficient, knows the job, knows how to recruit and close, is a strong interviewer, and is in sync with the hiring manager’s needs. Target a maximum of four for most positions, and no more than two for repeatable high-volume positions like software developers or sales reps.
  • High-quality referrals per recruiting call. The best recruiters always get the best referrals and they spend most of their time getting them. This not only leads to the most placements per month and the highest billings, but it also increases productivity 2-3X, since referrals call you back and they’re already pre-qualified. Track referrals per call (or total per week) to drive the RBA higher, since it also gets the most weighting. Better: it instantly increases quality of hire.
  • In-depth job knowledge. When a top-tier passive candidate asks you to describe the job, the challenges involved, the available resources, and how success will be measured, you need to be able to answer with more than generic hyperbole and BS. Getting this information from the hiring manager is the first step in being able to convert a job into a career move. This is what I call a performance-based job description.
  • Quality of candidates presented. If a company just fills positions based on how they’ve always filled positions, they’ll continue to hire the same kinds of people they’ve always hired. To raise the talent bar, programs need to be put in place that define candidate quality and recruiters need to deliver to this standard. We use a talent scorecard as part of our Performance-based Interview to measure this.
  • Converting passive prospects into new hires. Being faster dialing for dollars (i.e., cold calling more people per hour found on some Boolean search) and filtering out people on factors that don’t predict performance is a waste of time. Tracking callback and conversion rates from first contact to the final close isn’t.

Less Weighted, but Still Important Factors

  • Accurately interviewing and passive assessing candidates. A recruiter needs to be able to accurately interview someone who’s not looking, while they’re overcoming objections and convincing the person the opening represents a career move.
  • Sourcing channel effectiveness. Knowing where and how to look ensures that candidates from all possible sources are seen and hired.
  • Creating compelling marketing messages. Posting skills-infested generic job descriptions, sending boring emails and tweets, and leaving dull voice mail messages is a recipe for attracting the desperate. Tracking message response rates is part of this, but these rates will surge when the messages tap into the ideal candidate’s intrinsic motivators.
  • Name generation. While cyber-sleuthing and having Boolean expertise are important skills, they represent only one channel for reaching people who won’t see or respond to your job postings.
  • Pipeline development and management. A pipeline of followers is short-lived, as the best active people find new jobs. Managing this turnover with fresh candidates and keeping those in the pipeline warm and interested is a great way to improve time to fill.

Not surprisingly, when asked, most recruiters rank themselves well-above average on all of these factors. However ability to do something is not the same as actually doing it. The RBA is intended to track what’s actually being done. It starts by making sure the right metrics are being tracked. Add your comments and thoughts to the whole idea. You never know: we actually might make it so that the best people are actually hired, not just the ones who manage to apply and make it through the artificial barriers and roadblocks, companies, hiring managers, HR, and recruiters put in their way.

The Cost of Quality of Hire Is Free

I was training a group of hiring managers in New York City a few weeks ago on the fine points of Performance-based Hiring. The conversation quickly focused to quality of hire: how to both measure and maximize it. One of the sales directors in the room was quite frustrated with his recruiting team, and suggested the way he controlled quality of hire was by rejecting 9 of 10 candidates their recruiters presented. The rest of the hiring managers then chimed by saying how disappointed they were with the quality of the candidates sent by their recruiters.

They attributed the primary cause to their recruiters’ lack of understanding of real job requirements. I suggested the problem was more likely a quality-control issue: using inspection at the end of the process to control quality of hire, rather than defining and controlling it at the beginning.

If you’re old enough to remember, back in the 1980s the Total Quality Management initiative became a global groundswell. This is turn spurred the growth of lean manufacturing, six sigma process control, and the Baldridge Award.  The simple idea was that if you controlled quality at every step in the process, rather than reject the results at the end, overall costs would decline and quality would be maximized. The was the promise and essence of TQM and what its acknowledged leader, W. Edwards Deming, proposed. It worked, and led to a huge world-wide quality and productivity boom.

If you look around your business today you’ll see evidence of this concept in every function and business process, except for recruiting and hiring. Folks in HR and recruiting tried to implement these programs, but didn’t get too far. The underlying problem had to do with the lack of a meaningful and repeatable process for maximizing quality of hire. Without this, applying TQM-like controls is comparable to pushing on a cloud.

The problem for hiring has not yet been solved. Most companies still use a hiring process based on high-volume attraction and a quasi-scientific process for weeding out the weak, with the hope that a few good people remain at the end. A process based on how top people find and select opportunities might be a better place to start. With this in mind, here are some Deming-like TQM principles for building quality of hire into the system at the beginning rather than inspecting it out at the end.

  1. You need to have the strategy right before you create the right process. According to current #1 business-guru Michael Porter, strategy drives process, not the other way around. If you’re in a talent scarcity situation where the demand for talent is greater than the supply, you can’t use a talent surplus process. Here’s a recent post I did for LinkedIn describing this and offering a reasonable solution. If your company is still using traditional skills-infested job descriptions for advertising and using this flawed information to filter out people, you are assuming there is an excess supply of top people. If this assumption is incorrect, you need to rethink your strategy and bring your downstream processes into alignment.
  2. Define quality of hire before you start looking. The recruiter and hiring manager need to define and agree to quality of hire when the requisition is opened. This is not a job description listing skills and experiences. It’s not even adding more technical skills to the job description, or narrowing the criteria to top-tier schools and top-tier companies, or adding more IQ. Instead, it’s defining the actual work the new person needs to do in terms of exceptional performance. I refer to these as performance profiles. You can then use this criteria to filter and interview people based on their ability and motivation to do this type of work at the level of performance defined. Done properly, everyone seen by the hiring manager is then a potential hire. (Note: this is a huge TQM control point. See Point 5 below.)
  3. Build your sourcing and recruiting process around how top people look for new jobs and compare offers. Top people are not looking for lateral transfers; most find their next jobs through networking; few will formally apply before talking with the hiring manager; and they’re very concerned with the career opportunity, the challenge of the job, the impact they can make, and who they’ll be working for and with. Few companies build their core processes around the needs of these top people and then wonder why they can’t find them.
  4. Brand the job, not the company. After a few years in the workforce, top people are less concerned with the employer brand and more concerned with the actual career opportunity. Recruitment advertising should be written to instantly appeal to the intrinsic motivators of the ideal candidate. Very little of it does. Too many companies overspend on employer branding and not enough on creating custom and compelling job-specific career messaging. One size doesn’t fit all, especially as people mature and become more discerning career-wise.
  5. Use meaningful metrics like the “4 in 2” to control the process. Four hire-able candidates in two weeks is a pretty audacious goal for the recruiting department, but not an unreasonable one, especially with tools like LinkedIn and CareerBuilder’s Talent Network now available. If the first two candidates are off the mark, it’s an indicator something is wrong. If a hiring manager can’t decide whom to hire after seeing four candidates, rejecting them all, something is terribly wrong. Usually the job is poorly defined, sourcing is inadequate, or the interview and assessment process is flawed. Regardless, step back and figure out the problem before presenting more candidates.

Of course there’s more to maximizing quality of hire than described here, but if you don’t build quality in at the beginning of the process, you’ll never get it at the end. Desperation or normal business pressures will then force the hiring manager to hire the best person who applied, not the best person available. I address more of this in my new eBook The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (January 2013). For now, consider that it took 30+ years for the U.S. to accept Deming and realize that building quality in at the beginning is a far better process than inspecting it out at the end. Let’s not waste another 30+ years to realize that the cost of quality of hire is free.