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.

Lou's Top 10 List for Becoming a Better Recruiter in 2013

As The Adler Group gets ready for 2013, Lou prepared his Top 10 list for 2013. He doesn't always publish this, but it reflects what he thinks recruiters should focus on in the upcoming year. This year we're fortunate since he's decided to let everyone have a glimpse at what he thinks is in store for 2013. We thought you might find it useful as a framework for establishing a self-improvement program for the new year. He bases his advice on something he learned from Jim Rohn about 25 years ago: "If you want things to be better for you, you first need to become better." We think you'll find Lou's list a helpful place to begin this journey.

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,

The Adler Group Team

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.

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.

A Tale of Two Cities: The Merging of Sourcing and Recruiting

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way — in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only." – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Of course, Dickens was referring to sourcing and recruiting circa 2012. What Dickens was really saying is that with the emergence of LinkedIn and related networking tools, sourcing should not be split apart from the full-cycle recruiting process. The work involved in both now overlaps to such a degree that you can’t logically separate the two without compromising performance. Reading between the lines of his epic novel, here’s why Dickens believes this way.

Since developing a list of potential target candidates is now relatively simple, the real hard work involves contacting and recruiting them. Since these people are all networked with others of similar ability, you need to get referrals from them if the person turns out to be inappropriate for the job at hand. If sourcers only present candidates who have passed the filter of qualified and interested to their recruiters, they miss the opportunity to recruit and network with these people. Then if recruiters focus only on assessing the person as to whether they’re worthy of presenting to their hiring managers, they miss the chance to connect and network with them. To prevent this significant double-double calamity, Dickens is saying sourcers should become recruiters and recruiters should become sourcers. I’m saying everyone should become a full-cycle recruiter.

While there are gaps in skills that need to be learned, becoming a strictly name-generating sourcer nowadays is far simpler than becoming a great networking-driven sourcer and a great recruiter. With this bias in mind, following are the minimal core skills this combo sourcer-recruiter needs to have to play in the big leagues of full-cycle recruiting.

  1. Understand the basics of Boolean. Realistically, from a Boolean standpoint, all you need to know is how to use the OR, NOT, parentheses, and quote functions as part of your keyword searches. LinkedIn’s Recruiter version provides 20+ filters to find profiles, so you don’t need to be too skilled in Boolean to find suitable people down the block or with a specific degree from a target competitor. In the keyword box, you’ll use the OR (embedded OR firmware) if one or the other terms is essential and the AND (Ruby AND scrum) if both are. The parentheses are needed to separate the phrase from the rest of the stuff in the search box. Use the quotes if you use a search term that has multiple words, e.g., “It was the best of times.” You can use this in Google searches, too. Use NOT in front of anything if you don’t want it in your results. For example, if you’re looking for directors for a job, but don’t want someone who has been a vice president, you can narrow your search results by including NOT (vice OR VP) to your keyword search.
  2. Be clever at selecting keywords. Being a Boolean guru is becoming less important in a networked world, but you do need to become more clever. Given the lack of time and increasing search workloads, you need to become more productive and more efficient. One way to do this is to shrink your focus and deal only with “worthy” people. I define a worthy person as someone who is either an ideal prospect for your job opening, or is directly connected to someone who is. As part of starting the sourcing process, prepare a list of keywords or terms that indicate your prospect possesses the Achiever Pattern. These are recognition terms the person would include on their resume or LinkedIn profile. For technical people it might be obtaining patents, being a speaker at a specific trade conference, or preparing a whitepaper. Just using the term awards or honors in a keyword search helps narrow the search. Recognition could also include being awarded a work-study fellowship, earning a scholarship, winning a prize, or given an honorarium. Also search on specific honor society names like Beta Gamma Sigma or Tau Beta Pi. During the intake meeting, ask the hiring manager what type of industry or academic recognition a top person in the field would likely obtain. Then add these terms in your keyword searches using the basic Boolean search functions.
  3. Find worthy nodes. In a networked world, think in two dimensions when starting a new search project: direct and connected. The direct dimension of course is developing a list of names for people who are possible candidates for the job. I find this less effective than getting warm pre-qualified referrals by finding people who are connected to these people. I call these people nodes. For example, a headmaster in Ireland can lead you directly to great instructors in advanced high school math, a scrum leader can you tell you about the great Ruby developers who were on her last team, and a buyer at Home Depot can tell you about the best national account managers they know in the DIY tool market. To try this out on your next search, prepare a 360° work chart with the hiring manager during the intake meeting. On this work chart list the titles of the people your ideal candidate most likely interacts with on a day-to-day basis. The nodes will stand out. Then use the simple Boolean techniques noted above to find the names of some of these people. Then contact and connect with these nodes. On the phone, never ask, “Who do you know?” Instead search on their connections and ask about the best people listed. This “cherry-picking” networking technique is how you can find some great passive prospects within a day or two of taking the assignment. In my mind this is the real value of LinkedIn Recruiter, the ability to search directly through your first degree connections’ connections.

Think Inside-Out, Not Outside-In

In this merged sourcing/recruiting model, you need to forget about preparing a long list of target people to call. Instead develop a short list of 10-15 worthy people (nodes and target prospects) and start contacting them. The goal is to not just qualify them, but also network with them in parallel. Once connected and using LinkedIn Recruiter, you can then search on their first-degree connections using the clever and basic Boolean techniques noted above. This way if the initial contact is not a worthy prospect, just ask about specific people (i.e., name names!) in their connections who are. This is how you can quickly get at least two warm, pre-qualified referrals on each call.

This is a much better technique than running down an endless list of names hoping to find a perfect match. I refer to this technique as the Golden Rule of Recruiting. You can short-circuit the first round of cold calls by finding some of your current company employees who are connected to these worthy prospects using the same inside-out technique.

The Inside-Out approach is based on the idea that calling a referred person is more efficient than calling people at random. For one thing there’s a higher chance they’ll call you back, and if they’re already pre-qualified, you’ll save even more time.

Of course, you’re not done yet, since very quickly during the course of this sourcing and networking, you’ll find some top people who could be great, but need some pushing to Bridge the Gap from a person being qualified, but not interested, to becoming interested. This is why great full-cycle recruiting skills are so important for a sourcer to possess. You can’t bridge the gap unless you know the job and hiring managers, and can uncover the person’s career pain points. These skills are required on every inside-out call, especially when dealing with passive candidates.

When the sourcer-recruiter determines the person is not worth recruiting, you need to instantly shift to networking by searching on their connections. The problem is that if you only have a sourcing mindset, you’ll ignore the need to recruit everyone contacted. If you only have a recruiting mindset, you won’t recognize the golden opportunity and importance of sourcing and networking with everyone. When the roles are split, all of the great people who could have been recruited or mined for referrals fall in the wasteland of lost opportunity. That’s what Dickens meant when he said, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...”

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