One of my biggest frustrations is when recruiters present an endless stream of candidates in front of the hiring managers and none of these people end up getting hired. As far as I am concerned, when a hiring manager needs to see more than 4-5 people to hire a person it is clear the recruiting process is out of control.

As I faced this early in my career, I drew on my pre-recruiting experience in engineering, manufacturing and cost controls and outlined the most common reasons why too many people needed to be seen and how hiring errors were made. Then I set out to resolve this problem.

Interestingly, in the process of resolving it, something else remarkable happened. While time to fill and cost per hire dropped dramatically, the bigger prize was that quality of hire soared.

Here’s the 3 lessons I learned that allowed me to become a much more effective recruiter with higher quality placements:

Most hiring managers wouldn’t see and couldn’t hire the best people since they overspec’d the job and assessed the wrong skill set – so convince them that performance–based hiring works better

Long before I became a recruiter I learned that the best people were promoted based on their ability to successfully tackle tough problems irrespective of their years of experience. Based on this concept I started asking hiring managers what people in the open job needed to do or accomplish in order to be considered successful. As part of this I asked them if they would meet candidates who had a track record of comparable accomplishments even if they had a different mix of skills and experiences than initially listed. Very few disagreed.

The assessment was non-traditional, too. I asked the hiring manager to dig into the person’s comparable accomplishments to determine competency, fit and motivation. When these performance qualified people were hired, quality of hire and job satisfaction increased, interviews per hire declined and interviewing accuracy improved. As important, diversity hiring increased since the artificial skills and experience barriers-to-entry were removed.

The best people always wanted more money than the budget – so talk to them about the career opportunity

Finding A-level talent with all of the requisite skills and experience was an impossibility within the salary constraints typically offered. After a few years of trying to negotiate compensation, I changed focus and proactively sourced people who would see the job as a career move rather than a lateral transfer.

By defining the work as a series of performance objectives it was much easier for these A-level candidates to evaluate the job based more on what they would be doing, learning and becoming rather than the increase in compensation they’d be getting. The switch to a long-term career focus became a classic win-win-win for the hiring manager, the candidate and the recruiter.

The best candidates weren’t overtly or actively looking for another job – so get referrals

After a few years recruiting staff level professionals and managers, I discovered that the ideal candidate was someone who was very talented and had just started looking for another job. I refer to these people as tiptoers. By building a deep network of people in my search area specialty, I soon got regular referrals of talented people at the moment they started looking. (Note: When I started getting referrals of grandchildren of people I had placed I knew it was time to hang up my recruiter shingle.)

However, there were never enough of these tiptoers to go around. So as part of completing a search project I would contact people in my network and have them identify the best people they had worked with in the past who were not looking. I then contacted and recruited these candidates by suggesting we just talk to see if one of the open positions I was handling represented a career move. If the spot wasn’t perfect for them I’d get referrals of the best people they knew who also weren’t looking.

Using a less is more approach to improves quality of hire and time to fill

I make the contention that less sourcing and more recruiting is how you improve quality of hire, decrease time to fill and reduce cost per hire. The idea is to spend more time with fewer higher quality candidates. At first you’ll need to present 4-5 candidates to get a top person hired. This will soon drop to 3-4.

However, if the first one or two aren’t hirable, stop what you’re doing and figure out what’s wrong; don’t present more candidates in the hope someone fits. That’s how the problem got started in the first place.