The Good News and Bad News About Relying on Technology to Recruit

The good news about recruiting technologies: they allow recruiters to be more efficient hiring the people your company has always hired.

The bad news: you’ll never be able to hire stronger people than your current average, since technology eliminates the outliers.

The solution: to raise the talent level at your company, you need to short-circuit the technology and go high-touch.

Let me set the stage and make my case. Then you be the judge. Record your verdict here.

10 Reasons Why Technology Can Only Clone a Company’s Workforce, Not Improve It

1. Skills and experience matching eliminates high-potential and diversity candidates who by definition have achieved more with a different mix of everything.

2. It’s difficult for hiring managers to attract and hire people stronger than themselves unless the hiring manager’s boss intervenes. This is a high-touch process.

3. Assessment tests are designed to filter out people who don’t meet the company’s current standards for personality style, cultural fit, EQ and IQ. This eliminates the opportunity to improve the current standards.

4. The best people will only take assessments tests after they understand the career opportunity the job represents. This is a high-touch process.

5. Filtering people on compensation eliminates those who are making more but might be willing to compromise if the job offers more stretch and growth potential.

6. Title filtering eliminates those who might have done comparable work elsewhere with a different title and those who are ready for a promotion.

7. Industry filtering eliminates those from industries that do similar work better.

8. A transactional process will not work when the supply of active candidates is less than the demand. Weeding out the weak is high-tech. Attracting the best is high-touch.

9. A focus on efficiency, minimizing mistakes and cost reduction – hiring at scale – ensures those outside of the norm on the high side are eliminated from consideration since they require more time and information to evaluate their alternatives.

10. Generic employer branding and recruiting messages are designed to attract people who are just starting out or who see being part of a like-minded group as important. The best people need to be attracted via custom messaging that appeals to their more discriminating needs.

8 Reasons Why High-Touch is Essential for Raising the Talent Level

1. As a percent of the total workforce, the bulk of the best people for any job are passive. Finding and recruiting these people for high-demand and critical positions takes a personal approach and extra effort.

2. Passive candidate recruiting is, by definition, a high-touch, consultative selling process. It’s comparable to selling any complex product to a savvy and discriminating buyer who doesn’t need your product and has multiple options.

3. The best people, whether active or passive, want to understand the actual job requirements and the impact on the company before they’ll even engage in a conversation. Providing this is a high-touch process.

4. The best people, whether they’re active or passive, require more time to understand the long- and short-term potential of a career move. This is a high-touch process.

5. Persistence is the essence of passive candidate recruiting. Recruiters need to narrow the field of potential prospects and maximize the yield. This is a high-touch process on steroids.

6. The role of the hiring manager is expanded since the candidate’s decision hinges on the leadership and potential of this person as much as on the content of the job and the quality of the organization. This is a high-touch process.

7. Just like any complex selling process, recruiters and hiring managers need to be able to fully articulate real job needs in order to conduct needs analysis. This can’t be mass produced.

8. Raising the talent bar requires more in-depth interviews that involve more time, more training and more effort. The Performance-based Interview makes this almost painless, but it does take extra time to gather the evidence to make a valid assessment.

While efficiency and cost control are worthy objectives, when it comes to hiring extraordinary people, it is counterproductive. High-tech is a transactional process. High-touch is transformational. And any company that wants to hire stronger people needs to be transformational.

5 Crazy Advertising Ideas for Attracting Great Candidates

“We’re looking for lazy, good-for-nothing people who need lots of direction building a bunch of dull products nobody is buying.”


I’m dumbfounded.

I just Googled “(Python OR C# OR Ruby OR Java) jobs Silicon Valley” and found 684,000 listings! Many of them weren’t jobs, but 100% of those that were, were uninspiring.

It’s hard to believe anyone with any talent would respond to any of them unless they were desperate. When important jobs are advertised cafeteria-style like this, with the garnish being the only differentiator, even the semi-desperate make the decision to apply based on location, job title and the company’s brand name. When they accept these jobs the size of the compensation package then becomes the prime negotiating factor. This is always the case with commodity products in a buyer’s market.

Below the surface many of these jobs would fit the description of a good career move, but most started with generic boilerplate like:

We are looking for passionate, hard-working, and talented Software Engineers who have experience building innovative, mission critical, high volume applications.

Then they compounded the problem with a laundry list of must-haves like:

  • Must have 6-7 years of C, C++ or Objective C programming skills
  • Must have experience with Unix and/or Linux
  • Must have experience with scripting languages such as Python, Perl, Ruby, shell scripts, etc.
  • Excellent debugging skills: ability to quickly recognize patterns in failures
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills

At best this type of advertising is designed to weed out the weak. It certainly isn’t designed to attract the best. I suspect they’d get better candidates if they said something like, “We’re looking for lazy, good-for-nothing people who need lots of direction building a bunch of dull products nobody is buying.” But only ducks and geckos are open to this kind of messaging.

Most likely, the people who write these postings never took a marketing 101 course. I took such a course 45 years ago (when I was an engineering undergrad) and learned that consumer advertising needs to have the following qualities:

  • Explain the product by emphasizing the benefits, not the technical specifications. (This was for all of the engineers in the class.)
  • Know your target customer.
  • Put your advertising in places where your target customer will find it. A great ad not found is a waste of money.
  • Have a compelling title and copy that’s of interest to your target customer.
  • You only have 10 seconds to convince the buyer to read more. Use pictures, stories and high impact statements to create interest.
  • Highlight a critical customer need in that 10 seconds.
  • Make it easy to learn more.

With this old-fashioned advice in mind here are some ideas on how to convert your job postings into compelling career-focused advertisements:

  1. Differentiate your title. We used “Oscar Winning Controller” for an accounting position with a small entertainment company in LA. A partner at PwC found it and sent me two referrals. “This Sales Job in Dallas is Shagadelic” worked to attract 50 awesome JC students for an entry-sales job for the Yellow Pages when the first Austin Powers movie came out.
  2. Use the first line to emphasize the candidate’s intrinsic motivator. TheMcFrank and Williams recruitment ad agency used “You Give a Whole New Meaning to the Word Meticulous” to attract job cost analysts in the construction industry.
  3. Emphasize what the person will learn, do and become. Highlight the 2-3 most important performance objectives for the job and tie these to a major company initiative. This sample also shows how to convert skills and experiences into deliverables.
  4. Tell stories rather than list requirements. We sent this email to a group of HR leaders from the division CEO describing his need to hire an HR VP to build the company. It received accolades from the HR community. Did you notice the complete lack of any mention of skills or experience?
  5. Short circuit the apply button. We suggest that interested candidates prepare a short summary of a major accomplishment that relates directly to real job needs. This is followed up by a 15-minute exploratory chat. Thislegally validated approach is called the two-step.
  6. Listen to good lawyers. As part of The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired I asked one of the top labor attorneys in the country to validate the above ideas. Here’s why he agreed it’s not only legally sound advice, but the right advice for attracting stronger people.

Recruitment advertising should be designed to attract the best, not weed out the unqualified. I’m still dumbfounded why this simple idea is so hard to understand by those who continue to post these same boring job descriptions year after year after year.

Use a Forensic Phone Screen to Instantly Spot Achievers

While finding and accurately assessing candidates has always been important, doing it quickly will take on extra urgency as the economy recovers. Interestingly, if your candidates are high achievers, most managers will meet them even if they’re a bit off experience-wise. This is one way to ensure 100% of your candidates are seen. It will also reduce the amount of work involved in putting together a slate of candidates for any search assignment.

You can spot achievers in about 15-20 minutes by looking for clues high achievers leave in their wake. This is the forensic connection. But first, let’s define an achiever.

An achiever is a person who:

    • Is highly motivated to do the work required
    • Consistently delivers high quality results on time and on budget
    • Is personally driven to become better
    • Takes great pride in doing high quality work
    • Works well with a broad and diverse group of people
    • Will commit and deliver high-quality results despite the challenges
    • Doesn’t make excuses; just gets it done somehow
    • Volunteers for tough tasks or takes them on despite personal inconvenience

Let me start the forensic interviewing approach with a bit of reminiscing. I vaguely remember a high school physics experiment where the teacher demonstrated how to determine if a primary activity was present by looking at its secondary impact on other things. I suspect this is comparable to determining if a planet that isn’t visible is present by examining the gravitational shift it has on other planetary objects. Forensics is a form of this by looking at the clues left at the crime scene to determine what actually occurred (think CSI). From an interviewing standpoint it means looking for clues that an achiever pattern is present rather than looking directly for achiever-related behaviors or competencies.

Here’s how this works during the phone screen. A phone screen should consist of these four core sections:

    • First, the introduction and engagement
    • Second, the resume and work history review, looking for general fit and the achiever pattern
    • Third, determining if the person is a strong fit for the actual opening and if the position offers the person a career move
    • Fourth, either recruit the person for the open position, put the person in the talent pool for future positions, and/or get referrals

During the phone screen, the work history review should last at least 15-20 minutes, and longer for senior-level positions. For the uninitiated, a work history review is a comprehensive evaluation of the candidate’s resume, job by job. Done properly, the achiever patter will quickly emerge. Here’s how to conduct this type of forensic assessment:

  1. Find out the actual dates of each major job, including months and years. Many people hide non-positive information in their resumes, so it’s important to first ferret this out.
  2. Get an explanation of any gaps in employment. If there are gaps, look for areas of personal development or special training the person initiated on his or her own. Achievers are constantly improving themselves, so look for this throughout the interview.
  3. Determine why the person changed jobs and why each new job was selected. Achievers tend to carefully select jobs based on some major overriding career goal. I’m not fond of asking candidates first what their long-term goals are, since this is often fanciful. Instead, I ask them about major career goals they’ve already achieved. If they have a pattern of achieving these goals, I then ask them about their long-term goals. Make sure the jobs selected logically support the major goal.
  4. Determine if the job change achieved the desired result. Non-achievers tend to move from job to job based on circumstances out of their control, or convenience, with a focus on tactical issues like compensation, location, security, and basic job content. Achievers tend to focus more on the strategic aspects of the job, including the potential for learning, impact, and growth.
  5. Within each company ask about major projects, accomplishments, and results achieved. Achievers demonstrate a pattern of increasing impact and consistent results. Quantify this with specific details, and look for trends and improving performance over time. Also find out how the person proactively expanded his or her role and influence. This is what achievers do, so look for it.
  6. Get comparisons of performance to the person’s peers. Compare the person’s specific performance to others in the group by asking about rankings, standings, differences between the top and average, and what the person would need to have done to be at the top level. Achievers are competitive and self-motivated to improve.
  7. Ask about any type of recognition received. Achievers receive lots of recognition, so look for this and be concerned if you don’t find much. Recognition can be any number of things like raises, bonuses, awards won, promotions, patents awarded, assignments to bigger projects, presentations at industry conferences, published whitepapers, huge blog followers, commendations of any type, scholarships, honorary societies, and leadership awards. The amount of recognition received, when it when was received, and what it was for are the best confirming evidence of this achiever pattern.
  8. Prepare a graphical work chart for each major position. Rather than use personality traits and personal affability to assess team skills, just track the growth of the teams the person has been assigned to over the past 5-10 years. If this has increased significantly to include expanded functional responsibility, broader cross-functional involvement, and more exposure to senior management inside and outside the company, you can be assured the person has strong team skills.

Achievers leave lots of evidence in their wakes, and if the wake is big enough, you can rest assured there’s an achiever out in front. Of course, you then need to determine if the person is a good fit for your current job opening and if the position provides the candidate a strong career move. You need both to ensure you can recruit and close the candidate on favorable terms, and beat back the competition. In my book, Hire With Your Head, I demonstrate in detail how to do this. Once you get the person on board, don’t be surprised that those with the achiever pattern also possess all of the traits described in your company’s competency model. As an old high school teacher demonstrated many years ago, you can often find something without looking for it.

This article originally was published in the Electronic Recruiters Exchange ( Check out ERE for more great recruiting information.

Lou Adler’s Single Most Important Recruiting Technique since His One-Question Interview

After 30 years of recruiting outstanding senior staff, mid-level managers, and company executives, I can now state unequivocally that the single most important step in the passive candidate recruiting process is the 30-minute exploratory interview. Here’s why:

  1. You will engage with 5-10X more passive candidates. Asking people who aren’t looking if they’d like to chat for a few minutes about a potential career move is far more productive than selling lateral transfers. Of course, you have to ask the question the right way to get 93.6% of them to say yes. This is at the core of our Recruiter Boot Camp program.
  2. You will be able to convert a job into a career. When you start the phone screen, don’t tell the person much about the job. Instead suggest that the purpose of the call is to determine if the job represents a true career move to the person. For the next 5-10 minutes review the person’s LinkedIn profile and find 4-5 learning and opportunity gaps your job offers that their current job does not. Use these to fashion the career opportunity as you move on to the next step.
  3. You will be able to minimize the impact of compensation in the decision process. As long as your job offers a combination of less pain, some short-term stretch, and long-term growth, you’ll be able to get the person to agree to minimize the need for a big compensation increase. Use this to gain a compensation concession to move forward into a more serious career discussion.
  4. You will be able to get 2-3 warm referrals of outstanding talent. If the person isn’t qualified, you’ll be able to network with them on LinkedIn and then search on their first degree connections. This is the most powerful feature and primary reason why every recruiter should have LinkedIn Recruiter. We provide step-by-step instructions in our LinkedIn Recruiter Master Course, but you need the exploratory phone screen to set up the process.
  5. You will be able to open up the search process to more top talent. Few top people are likely to jump at a chance to take a lateral transfer. In our training we show recruiters how to get 93.6% of passive candidates to engage in a short, exploratory career discussion. You can’t do this without the exploratory call, but converting these prospects into serious candidates is what you need to do during the call.
  6. You will be able to get your hiring managers to “own” the candidate. We suggest that all hiring managers first conduct a similar 30-minute exploratory discussion with the prospect. By taking full responsibility for inviting the candidate onsite, managers will become more objective and responsible in their evaluation.
  7. You will be able to minimize the impact of first impressions and increase assessment accuracy. Knowing something about the person before you invite them onsite for an interview naturally minimizes the perverse impact of first impressions.
  8. You will be able to get more people open to consider the idea of relocation. Asking people if they’ll relocate on the first call is like asking someone to buy a house without seeing it. It takes times for a person to fully appreciate the idea of a relocation as part of a significant career move. The exploratory call allows for this repositioning first step.
  9. You will be able to get passive candidates to sell you. Recruiting passive candidates requires finesse and advanced recruiter skills. Overselling is not a part of it. The key is to make your career move so attractive the person sells you as to why they’re qualified. This is the primary purpose of the exploratory phone call – moving one step at a time – and at the heart of all of our Performance-based Hiring training programs.
  10. You will raise your company’s overall talent level. While you might hire a few strong people who are more interested in what a job pays than its career value, this is no way to implement a “raising the talent bar” program. The exploratory call is a foundational step that should be part of every company’s hiring process. If you want to hire people who are looking for career moves, you can best demonstrate this by having the exploratory interview as the first step in your hiring process, rather than submitting an application and hoping for the best.

And the list goes on. All it takes is 30 minutes. If you want more ideas on how to hire more top performing passive candidates contact us right away, or sign up for our next Recruiter Boot Camp or our LinkedIn Recruiter Master Course.


The Recruiting Funnel

Just like sales, there’s a comparable funnel for recruiting, moving potential prospects and candidates from first contact, through the assessment process, and ultimately into great hires. This is shown in the diagram.

I recently wrote an article for ERE describing my 20/20/60 sourcing plan. This plan represents the idea that a blend of sourcing programs should be used to ensure your company is hiring the best active and passive candidates possible. The recruiting funnel offers a graphical means to describe how to optimize this type of program.

Recruiting FunnelThere are two big assumptions behind this funnel concept. First, if the demand for talent is greater than the supply, you’ll need to emphasize passive candidate recruiting and sourcing. This is referred to as a talent scarcity strategy. This is represented by all of the steps, or layers, shown in the funnel graphic.

In a talent surplus situation, the assumption is that there are plenty of good people in the talent pool: the top level in the funnel. Assuming the assumption is correct, all you need to do then is force everyone who’s interested in the job to formally apply and become official candidates. This is the “Active Path” represented by the shortcut handle on the left. Once in this pool, the objective is to screen out the weak with the hope that a few good people remain to become finalists and ultimately great hires.

Recognize that for this active, or surplus, model to yield top performers, a number of conditions need to exist:

  • First, the person needs to be actively looking
  • Second, the person found your posting or job listing somehow
  • Third, the person is willing to accept a lateral transfer
  • Fourth, the person is a top performer, or at least meets your minimum hiring standards

This is a rare set of circumstances, and will only work, even in the short term, if a talent surplus actually exists. But even if the process works in the short term, a true top achiever will be unwilling to remain in a less-than-ideal job for too long. To minimize this potential problem, even in a talent surplus situation, the focus should be on offering career growth opportunities, not lateral transfers. This is why I suggest that traditional skills-infested job descriptions be replaced by performance profiles for both active and passive hiring processes. In a talent scarcity situation the active candidate shortcut will not work at all; in fact, it will be counter-productive. For one thing it will be difficult to maintain quality of hire standards, and for another, hiring managers will delay hiring anyone, hoping a star will soon emerge.

In a talent scarcity situation, recruiters and hiring managers actually need to talk with people and convince them that what you have to offer is better than what they either have now, or are considering. This is represented in the funnel by the extra two steps: getting high-quality leads and referrals, and converting these people into prospects. A prospect is someone who is fully qualified, but needs more information before agreeing to become an “official” candidate.

A number of important steps are required to work through the lead to prospect to candidate passive path properly. One, making sure the prospect pool is filled with enough highly qualified people; and two, strong recruiters who can contact these people and covert them into prospects and ultimately into candidates. A recruiter who is deeply networked in a niche specialty is one way to get great referrals. Getting referrals by proactively searching on your co-workers’ connections using LinkedIn Recruiter and getting them to vouch for the person before calling is another way. (Note: we cover exactly how to do this in Recruiter Boot Camp and the LinkedIn Recruiter Master Course.)

Since these referrals and warm leads aren’t looking (that’s the definition of a passive candidate), it’s important to slow down the process. That’s why the two extra steps are mandatory. This starts with an exploratory career discussion rather than trying to force-fit the person into a specific job opening. Then if the person is qualified and interested, it’s important that the prospect has a chance to talk with the hiring manager on an exploratory basis before becoming a candidate. The hiring manager needs to be proactively involved in this step, both qualifying the person and then getting the prospect to commit to becoming a serious candidate by demonstrating that the opening represents a true career move. You might need to modify the job a bit to pull this part off. Passive candidate recruiting requires the close partnership with the recruiter and hiring manager, and while it takes some extra effort, it’s worth it, especially if quality of hire is improved.

Of course there’s more to passive candidate recruiting than just this. In fact, much of the “how to” will be covered in my new book, The Essential Guide for Hiring and Getting Hired, which will be published in December, 2012. (Email to be added to the mailing list.) In the interim, I’d suggest reading through some of these articles to gain a better appreciation for passive candidate recruiting.

In a talent scarcity situation you don’t have a choice of which path to take down the recruiting funnel, at least if you want to maximize quality of hire. While passive candidate sourcing and recruiting might seem more challenging to begin with it, higher quality hires clearly justifies whatever extra effort is required. In fact, a case can be made that passive candidate recruiting using this recruiting funnel model results in higher quality hires at a lower cost and much shorter time to fill than taking the active candidate shortcut. The key reason: defining quality of hire up-front and using a direct recruiting process is more likely to produce great hires on a consistent basis rather than waiting for top people to find and apply to your postings. While you need to be more active finding and hiring passive candidates, the recruiting funnel offers a simple means to explain your options and show you how to get there.