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Deming, around 1980, in Japan

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.

Good news for all the “Larry the Cable Guy” types: You’ll never get a Ph.D., but you will get the job.

Start by applying to be a professor at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. The dean there, Roger Martin, says in a blog post on the Harvard Business Review site that he’s more or less inclined not to hire the smartest person he can find.

Resurrecting a 21-year-old article “Teaching Smart People How To Learn,” Martin says it “convinced me of the exact opposite of what I had believed before I’d read it.” And that was that the smarter the people he hired, the better.

If Tom had a smartness rating of 10 and Sally was a 12, then she was just plain better. And if Jorge was a 15, he was better still.

Nowadays, he’d be hiring Tom.

Trick or Treat Boss

Count off by tens. Every multiple of three, step forward (see what happens when you don’t hire 15s?). You guys go tell the boss you want him or her to dress up in a costume for Halloween.

C’mon now. Glassdoor says three out of 10 of you want the boss to come in costume on Wednesday, even if only one out of 10 will do that themselves. Party poopers. But then, only 40 percent of companies will celebrate Halloween.

Hey boss, here’s a hint if you’re still trying to figure out what to do for the troops: 70 percent want a free breakfast or lunch, or failing that, they’ll take candy. Six percent want to go bobbing for apples. We suggest you put them on medical leave.

For Your Next Meeting

The next time you need a conference room and HR tells you they’re all booked, here’s a suggestion: Staples has a lot of empty chairs.


I almost didn’t do it. I vacillated. Argued with myself. Yet here it is: the mention of a site whose name tells you all you need to know. But since some you reading this may have gotten hired because you were a 10 and not a 15 (you will eventually read that first item, I swear), let me explain. WerkJerks is a site for ranting about stuff that happened at work. If you figure out why it exists,  let us know. Ties will be decided by answering this question: What is this item doing here?

Oh, duh, I know, I know. It’s because you could win $5,000 for a 30-second video. Here’s the sample WerkJerks pointed me to.

Ask Barb

Dear Barb:

I want to hire, but I know my experienced recruiters will throw a fit if I throw a rookie into the mix. I thought about hiring an experienced recruiter who would bring a book of business with them, but then I worry about being sued of they have a non-compete.

How do I get my experienced people to give a new person a chance to succeed? My people know how to sell but they are all about themselves, not about helping someone else succeed. Every time I mention hiring I just get complaint after complaint. They are all convinced that a new person costs them money.

Do you hire experienced recruiters?

Bob P., Memphis, TN

Dear Bob:

I do not hire experienced recruiters. I hire successful sales people and then teach them our profession. If someone is willing to leave another owner and bring their clients and candidates, you have basically hired a thief. In the future, when they leave your firm they will do the same to you.

The easiest way to integrate Sr. and Jr. Recruiters is to have your rookies start on the recruiting side of the placement process, not client development. If they begin to attract top talent for your senior recruiters, they will see the value in these new hires.

You can’t rely on a Big Biller to coach, mentor, or train. They are too selfish and successful to be bothered helping someone else. It is often an average producer who makes the best mentor. If you don’t have time to train, go to www.staffingandrecruiting.com/TPTDemoRecording which can show you how to take training off your desk.

Stress the “What’s In It For Them” when you hire a new person and if possible involve them in the hiring process so you obtain their buy-in early.

Barbara J. Bruno, CPC, CTS

Would you like to Ask Barb a question? Email her at support@staffingandrecruiting.com. Each month in The Fordyce Letter print edition, Barbara Bruno answers questions from individuals in the Recruiting Profession. We will bring you some of these Q&A responses from Barb each week on FordyceLetter.com.

About the author: Barb Bruno, CPC, CTS, is one of the most trusted experts, speakers, and trainers in the Staffing and Recruiting Professions. If you want to receive FREE training articles from Barb, sign up for her NO BS Newsletter! Barb has spent the last twenty years focused on helping Owners, Managers, and Recruiters increase their sales, profits, and income. Her Top Producer Tutor web-based training program jumps-starts new hires and takes experienced recruiters to their next level of production. Barb’s cutting-edge program, Happy Candidates, provides you with a Customized Career Portal in less than 10 minutes. Happy Candidates allows you to help the 95% of candidates you don’t place and eliminates the greatest time waster in your business. If you’d like to contact Barb, call 219.663.9609 or email support@staffingandrecruiting.com.

Here are some basic truths about people regarding hiring and getting hired:

  1. There are very few people who have an economic need to look for another job, are willing to take a lateral transfer, and are high achievers. Yet most companies spend most of their time and resources looking for these kinds of people. For proof, look at any 20 job postings on Dice, Simplyhired.com, LinkedIn, or Indeed.com and see who they’re trying to attract.
  2. The military has a tough screening process for selecting officers. But once selected — and with no experience — they are given some serious training and responsibilities far in excess of their current ability and asked to deliver extraordinary results. Most of them succeed. Yet these same people when they leave the military aren’t given a fair chance because they don’t have the “right” experience.
  3. There has been more research done on why people perform at peak levels, why they underperform, and why they leave jobs, but much of this is ignored when it comes to assessing competency and fit. Google’s Project Oxygen and Gallup’s Q12 are the most notable. None of this has to do their level of experience. Most of it relates to doing work they find satisfying and important, and working for a supportive manager. Here’s how to capture this during the first meeting with the hiring manager.
  4. Candidates who are too eager turn off people, and those who aren’t eager enough turn off people. Companies who are too eager when they find a hot prospect, either turn them off or pay too much to hire them. Asking insightful questions is a better way to demonstrate interest whatever side of the desk you’re on.
  5. Cultural fit is critically important — but few companies actually define it, and even fewer know how to measure it. For proof, ask the next 10 people you meet at your company to define its culture and how they would determine it during an interview. This is a good way to determine if your company’s culture is real or imaginary. If you’re a candidate, ask every interviewer the same question.
  6. Most managers would hire a top achiever who is a little light on skills and experience and modify the job accordingly, but their hiring systems prevent them from ever seeing these people. That’s why I recommend using performance profiles for any important job and banishing job description.
  7. In the first 5-10 years of a person’s career, people who get promoted more rapidly or assigned to the toughest projects, and tend to have less experience than those who don’t. Yet when we hire someone from the outside we want more experience. Why don’t we want more achievement?
  8. First impressions and interview presentation skills do not predict on-the-job performance — even for sales positions — yet most people think they do. Past performance, discipline, and commitment are the best predictors of future performance, yet somehow we overlook the top-performing and committed (sales) person because they look, act, or sound somewhat different than we imagine they need to be.

With these basic truths in mind, here’s my quick list of corrective actions for recruiters, hiring managers, candidates, and everyone else on the interviewing team.

  1. If you don’t know what it takes to be successful on the job in your company, don’t interview any candidates until you do. How else are you going to determine competency, motivation, and fit? Here’s a article that will show you how to figure this out.
  2. If you’re a candidate being interviewed, and the person interviewing you doesn’t know the job, ask this question: “what does the person taking this job need to accomplish in the first 6-12 months in order to be considered successful?” Then ask, “why is this important and what resources are available to pull this off?” If the person interviewing you is the hiring manager, and doesn’t know the answer, or stumbles about, I would be concerned about taking the job if offered.
  3. If you’re a recruiter, don’t present an opportunity to anyone unless the hiring manager tells you what it takes to be successful on the job. If you do, you’ll waste your time screening people on the wrong criteria.
  4. If you’re a passive candidate, talk to every recruiter who calls and see if they understand the real job, it’s importance to the company strategy, and how well the company is doing overall. Make sure you ask these questions before you ask about the money or the location. If you filter jobs out too soon because of the money, you’ll never get a chance to hear about true career opportunities.
  5. From a career growth standpoint it’s better to be underpaid than overpaid. Compensation increases always follow performance, not lead it. So if and whenever you get the chance when changing jobs, don’t fight for a big short-term compensation bump; instead, figure out some way to get a big bump based on your performance. (Recruiter Tip: send the linked article to your candidates if you want to minimize compensation challenges.)
  6. If you instantly like a candidate, force yourself to ask the person tougher questions. If you don’t like the candidate right away, force yourself to assume the person is extremely qualified, treat the person as you would a consultant, be respectful, and listen carefully to everything said. If you do this for just 30 minutes you’ll be shocked. For one, you’ll discover many of those you thought were initially tops, are more personality than performance. Even better: they’ll be a few who initially turned you off who are great. These are the people that everyone else overlooked.

From what I’ve seen over the past 30-plus years, most hiring problems can attributed to the problems described here. While the solutions offered are pretty simple, they do require some discipline. First, make sure you understand the performance expectations of the job in the real environment and culture before you interview any candidates. Second, don’t make any instant judgments: wait at least 30 minutes before you make a no decision. It takes a least a few more hours to make a yes. Third, don’t be too surprised when you start making fewer mistakes and start hiring more top performers who are excited about the work you’re offering. Commonsense sometimes makes sense.

Having worked in executive search for more than 10 years, I have had great success in finding candidates but have encountered many obstacles in trying to place those candidates because often many hiring managers mismanage the hiring process. Below are five issues hiring managers must consider when trying to fill their open positions with superstar candidates.

  1. There’s no silver bullet — Some hiring managers will consider only the most perfect candidate. The candidate must have the correct degree, must live within a commutable distance, must have the right niche of skills, must have international experience, must be willing to work for “x” amount of dollars, must love ping pong, and must be able to juggle three cats while riding up a ramp backwards on a unicycle. Those last two I made up but they emphasize how particular some managers can be. Your dream engineering candidate who knows how to work with polymers for medical devices containing lasers believe it or not might not live within 20 miles from your headquarters. Train and be flexible on relocation if you want your silver bullet. Additionally, if the candidate doesn’t have the degree you want but beaucoup experience in the field then defer to the experience and take advantage of their real-world skills.
  2. Hiring managers want all-star candidates at second-string salaries — Of course hiring managers want to hire the best of the best for as little as possible, especially if the candidate currently works for their bigger more successful competitor.  But if they want that quota-busting salesperson with 15 years experience who sells their specific type of software into multi-million dollar companies that specialize in bio-medical supplies, then they’d better not be cheap. To put it in understandable terms, why would Tom Brady leave the New England Patriots and play for the perennially bad Cleveland Browns for half the money? If you want an all-star, don’t waste time offering a minor league salary.
  3. Don’t procrastinate — Hiring managers are hot to fill their open positions, yet they may take four days to review the resumes passed their way, another week to schedule the interview, and another two weeks after meeting with the candidate to decide if they want to bring the candidate in for another interview. What hiring managers don’t realize is that the superstar candidate is also entertaining offers from other companies and their procrastination might lose them their top draft pick.
  4. Free your mind – Less than 20% of recruiters and executive search people use behavioral assessments, and we’re still in the early adopter phase of video interviewing tools, both designed to save the hiring manager’s time and to help them make the best hire. Hiring managers who aren’t onboard should consider using these proven tools designed to help them attract and retain top performers.
  5. Why the candidate should work for you – Hiring managers often approach recruiting as though they are speaking to a candidate with seven children in college all of whom need braces and brain surgery. In other words they think most candidates certainly want, if not need, to work for them and thus approach the candidate with a “what can you do for me” attitude rather than “here’s-why-you-should-want-to-work-for-us” attitude. (Maybe this explains why they are so carefree with the candidate’s time as mentioned in point number three.) Hiring managers often provide a job description with a laundry list of mundane requirements and qualifications that is only going to attract the desperate candidates who need a job, not the ones who want and can do the job passionately. Tell the candidate why they should want to work for your company, and most importantly why they should want to work for you. Don’t assume your job is the Holy Grail for which candidates have long been searching.
  6. And the sign says ‘long haired freaky people need not apply — Similar to these songs lyrics and point one, hiring managers, much to the frustration of recruiters and executive search people, don’t give people a chance no matter how much experience they have. “If you don’t walk like me or talk like me then odds are you won’t be successful in this organization.”  This often-misguided attitude delays the hiring process and the hiring manager’s odds of finding that superstar candidate. The engineer who designed the Mars Rover landing wears two earrings. I worked with a software company that behaviorally tested their incoming candidates because they wanted candidates who matched the behavioral profiles of the CEO and VP of sales, both of which were similar. The theory was if the CEO and Sales VP were successful, then employees with the same behavioral attributes should be as well. Unfortunately the CEO managed his subordinates in a manner he himself would not want to be managed even though he shared similar behavioral attributes. As a result he experienced high employee turnover.

Politely respect the candidate’s time and talent. If you left Tom Brady hanging for three weeks do you think he’d want to play for your organization?

A common mistake of managers is hiring based solely on the candidate’s résumé and skills. This is probably why you’ve crossed paths with so many highly skilled jerks during your career.

Determining a cultural fit isn’t as simple as describing your work environment and then asking the candidate for a thumbs up. In fact, you don’t want to offer details about your culture until near the end of your interview process. Don’t tip your hand by giving information that will coach them on how to answer your initial questions.

Here are my top five techniques to determine if a candidate fits your culture:

  1. Ask “What was the worst company culture you worked in?” I love hiring people who had a genuinely awful work experience. I know that might sound odd, but it gives the candidate the appropriate perspective of a truly difficult work environment. For example, Josh told me during an interview that the five brothers who owned the company he worked for frequently squabbled. I’m not sure if punches were ever thrown, but they swore and yelled at each other before storming out of meetings. One brother would give Josh direction, then another brother would stop by Josh’s desk and say, “Forget him. Do this instead.” How would you like to deal with that every day? Josh has been a strong employee of ours for 11 years now. His job isn’t easy, but he appreciates that our culture encourages cooperation. Candidates who haven’t experienced a poor work environment may feel the grass is greener at another employer when your job gets hard.
  2. Be skeptical of the candidate’s answer. Determine if the candidate’s past work culture was problematic or if the candidate is overreacting. One sales candidate I talked with said he was miserable at his current company, but when I pressed for details his main complaint was that his manager required him to complete monthly reports. An operations candidate was angry at her employer because she was required to make deadlines. My company requires sales reps to turn in paperwork weekly and hinges operations employees’ bonuses on deadlines. These candidates were clearly not a fit for our company, but I didn’t learn that until holding out for details of their “terrible” work environment.
  3. Ask “How did you cope in that culture?” This question will provide insight into several character traits of the candidate. Did they persevere through the tough times or quickly bail? Did they stay enthusiastic or did their attitude sour and harm their co-workers? When describing the experience, do they exhibit kindness? Are they overly bitter or are they mature enough to realize they learned something from the experience?
  4. Near the end of your interview process, detail your company culture. Put it in writing. Prior to the final interview (where we discuss our aversions of the candidate and they detail their aversions of my organization), we give candidates documents that detail our company’s culture plus an introductory letter from the company president. Here’s a passage from that letter: “If you ever feel we are not adhering to the concepts outlined here with you or anyone else, we would truly appreciate you making us aware of it. If you don’t understand the reason behind an action or policy, or you don’t believe appropriate changes are being made — and your supervisor is not able to adequately make changes that align with our principles or help you to understand why we are doing what we do — please let me know. We are striving to make this a fair and safe work environment where high-character, self-governing, independent-thinking people thrive — both at work and in life.” 
  5. Set them up for future reference on your company culture. The communication technique of Set Them Up For Future Reference — I convert it to the fun acronym STUFFR — consists of identifying and understanding a potential problem and discussing it with the candidate in advance. You also need to note the candidate’s (and your own) exact words and commitment to not failing. My company doesn’t care if someone generates a zillion dollars in new revenue. If that person doesn’t treat co-workers right, we don’t want that person on our team. Here’s what I say to candidates: “You can take what I’m about to say to you two ways. You can take it as me wagging my finger in your face saying, ‘We have a bunch of good, honest, kind, hard-working people here. Don’t screw it up. I’ll throw you out of here because I don’t want one person ruining it for us.’ Or you can take what I’m saying as our company making a commitment to you that you don’t have to tolerate anyone screaming, yelling, swearing, or belittling you. If someone breaks the Golden Rule, let me know and we’ll put a stop to it. Are you OK with that?”

Finding candidates who fit your company doesn’t have to be a mystery or guessing game. If you execute the above questions and conversations during your interview process, you’ll hire employees who will enhance your organization’s culture.

Happy hiring!

Non-farm payrolls rose more than most economists expected in July, adding 163,000 new jobs with most industry sectors in plus territory, including a strong showing in manufacturers where some of the 25,000 increase was due to fewer layoffs in the auto industry.

The unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 8.3 percent.

This morning’s report from the U.S. Department of Labor surprised economists who were expecting a more modest increase in the range of 95,000 to 110.000. Nearly all the surveys found economists expecting no change in the 8.2 percent unemployment rate.

The government also revised up its new job numbers for May from 77,000 to 87,000 and reduced June’s numbers by 16,000 to 64,000.

July’s surprise, which a Barron’s blogger called a “rare non-disappointment,” was more encouraging than it might seem. The fact that most sectors added jobs signals employers mirrored consumer confidence, as shown by The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index. It was up three points in July to 65.9, the first rise in five months.

So far, the employment picture seems a replay of the last two years. Strong start to the year; slowdown in the spring and summer; then a pickup as fall approaches. Last year, after May through August saw fewer than 100,000 new jobs created each month, in September, the number jumped to 202,000. This year, July is an up month, but it’s anyone’s guess whether this is a blip or if it means the pickup may come sooner.

One sign suggesting a blip is that the Labor Department found no change in the average length of the workweek or in factory overtime or other other hours. Increases here are typically an early signal of increased orders and business that may prompt additional hiring in the months to come.

“It’s certainly been consistent with past years, where we had a slowdown in the spring and summer, and in all three years, it’s been Europe,” Barclays economist Dean Maki told Forbes. “And then as we moved on, growth would pick-up in the summer, as would GDP growth.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which compiles the data and analyzes the results, found the biggest gain came in typical summer time hospitality and leisure services, with restaurants and bars adding 29,400 workers during July. Amusement parks, museums, performing arts centers and other attractions, however, shed jobs.

Other sectors with big gains were healthcare and temporary workers. Doctor’s offices, outpatient facilities, and hospitals all added workers, creating 12,000 new jobs in the sector. Staffing services continued to grow, creating 14,100 new positions. Non-government education added 18,200.

The jump in manufacturing jobs was due, the BLS noted in its report, from “the motor vehicles and parts industry (which) had fewer seasonal layoffs than is typical for July, contributing to a seasonally adjusted employment increase of 13,000.”

The biggest cuts came from reductions by government, and in the utility sector, which was down 8,100 positions, largely due to a labor strike. State governments cut 6,000 jobs, while the Post Office lost 3,200. Minor increases in federal hiring left the sector with a net loss of 9,000 jobs.

Meanwhile, despite the increase in the unemployment rate, the numbers of people out of work or underemployed changed little in July. Between those out of work and those working part-time because they can’t find full-time jobs, they totaled 21 million. Another 2.5 million are out of work, but not officially counted among the unemployed, because they didn’t look for a job during the government’s survey period.

Labor economists are expecting what passes for good job news these days when the U.S. government reports its July employment numbers tomorrow.

A MarketWatch survey puts the average of what economists estimate at 100,000 new jobs added in July. Bloomberg puts the number at 110,000. Dow Jones is at 95,000. All the surveys agree that the unemployment rate will remain at 8.2 percent.

There are also expectations that the U.S. Department of Labor will up its count of June’s new jobs, which it initially put at 80,000. Economists drew encouragement from Wednesday’s National Employment Report from ADP  and its partner, Macroeconomic Advisers. The report estimated that 163,000 seasonally adjusted, non-farm, private sector jobs were added in July. June’s original count of 176,000 new jobs was adjusted down to 172,000.

Although the ADP report almost never syncs with the monthly report from the Department of Labor, it does point the direction and is used by economists — and Wall Street — as a sort of early indicator of what’s to come. As Reuters points out, ADP has been averaging about 50,000 jobs more than the government. If that holds true for July, then the 100,000 estimate may prove accurate.

(Some analysts suspect the ADP report may be more accurate than the government’s, because the company uses numbers from the hundreds of thousands of payrolls it processes. The Labor Department surveys employers to develop its numbers.)

In the last few days, economic reports, consumer confidence, job listings, and other data offer no reason to think Friday’s jobs report will be a surprise. This morning, Monster’s chairman and CEO, Sal Iannuzzi, said the company has seen a general slowdown in new deals in the U.S. and a decline elsewhere in the world. Though some of that is loss of share to competitors (LinkedIn reported record revenues and profits this afternoon), another part is due to lackluster hiring.

The Conference Board this week reported a 153,600 drop in the number of jobs advertised online in July, after a big rise in June. Job posting increases now average 67,000 monthly since the beginning of the year.

”Over the last three years labor demand continued to move forward, albeit slowly, making this a very slow-growth recovery and an indication of the lingering economic uncertainty of employers,” said June Shelp, vice president at The Conference Board.

Factory orders, meanwhile, slowed in June, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. The 0.5 percent decline was the third in four months.

A more positive indicator is that initial claims for unemployment last week didn’t rise as much as forecast. Because of planned, annual shutdowns for retooling by automotive manufacturers, July typically sees a big rise in unemployment claims. While claims did rise, they weren’t as large as usual; that’s partially because the auto industry as a whole is smaller and also because there were fewer plants furloughed.

“It is still a difficult job market,” senior economist Ryan Sweet at Moody’s Analytics told Bloomberg News. “Companies are not panicking by cutting workers. They are going to wait out the uncertainty related to Europe and the U.S. fiscal cliff.”

Sometimes I’m asked about the graphic of sheep on my website. Sheep will follow other sheep — regardless of the danger — and the flash analogizes the importance of breaking the herd mentality. A great example of herd mentality is an event at many rodeos called Mutton Bustin. There is a sheep held in the middle of the arena whose sole purpose is to get the other sheep to run to it. This is one of the best examples of herd behavior I know.

When it comes to recruiting and hiring processes many recruiting leaders look at the hiring practices of successful companies and assume the same will work for them. We often hear about successful companies like Google that are able to attract great talent. Many of us hear this and immediately want to emulate their hiring process. Is this an effective strategy?

Will Deep Pockets Get You the Best Recruiters?

Jessica Stillman wrote an article for Inc.com in March 2012. She interviewed Michael Junge, a recruiter who had been with Google for about 13 months at the time of the printing.

She suggested that because Google’s founders have deep pockets that they are able to hire the best recruiters. Having deep pockets certainly helps when it comes to attracting and hiring top talent; however, having deep pockets is neither indicative of nor directly related to your ability to hire the finest recruiters.

Many companies have challenges hiring great recruiters. My experience shows me this is because great third-party recruiters (and even some not so great ones) are making too much money. Companies tend not to pay their recruiters at this level; therefore, they are not able to attract the best recruiters.

Before everyone bites my head off, let me say that I know there are some wonderful recruiters in the corporate world. Some of these recruiters are getting a raw deal. I also know that the failure of some recruiters in corporate America has a lot to do a multitude of factors, which include workload, support, and their current hiring processes. I will admit that I wonder about recruiters in the corporate world who originally came from the third-party world; I wonder about their past success in the agency world.

Real-life Example

At one time I considered making a move into corporate recruiting. I was getting a bit bored and restless and thought I might try something different — a new challenge. I interviewed with a company whose headquarters are in the Denver metro area not far from my home. They told me they were looking for a highly experienced “rainmaker” to do all their VP and above recruiting: to attract and hire very high-end, high-earning employees. They had been using one of the well-known retained firms and were tired of paying exorbitant fees. The execs I met with (especially one of the sales VPs) were selling the job pretty hard.

When we got to the point of talking money I told the chief talent officer that I needed a base of $100,000 and an on target earnings of $220,000 plus accelerators or bonuses on top of that. Bottom line was I didn’t want to be capped. As soon as I closed my mouth he looked at me like a deer in headlights. He couldn’t believe I wanted that much money. They were paying all the employees this position was going to hire for that much or more, so why wouldn’t they pay the “rainmaker” the same? I suppose they figured they could hire rainmakers and pay them bubkis?

Will Google’s Methods Work for You 

Junge gave five tips tailored to small companies looking to hire the best and brightest. He did this to help level the playing field for young companies without a lot of money in their search for top talent. All five of these suggestions are great advice, but they don’t consider the recruiters, recruiting leaders, hiring managers, current talent strategy, and most importantly if talent strategy is aligned to business strategy.

  1. Recognize the inherent strengths of the amateurJunge says that “resumes are an imperfect reflection of the people they represent.” He couldn’t be more correct. The problem is that if a company is not totally aligned in its talent strategy and the managers aren’t in line with the fact that there are candidates whose resumes may not “look” exactly like they think they should, they won’t get past the recruiter. Recognize an applicant’s strengths, but if your people aren’t aligned with this the point is moot
  2. Be a language detective. Carefully pay attention to a candidates’ use of language; for example, first vs. third person and active vs. passive language. This is also great advice, but there are many exceptional interviewers who can fake this successfully. I’ll never forget a candidate I knew of (I never represented him) who got a job with a great company while still working at his other company. He double dipped for at least three months before he got caught.
  3. Make being small work for you. This is the only one of his suggestions that I don’t like. It assumes candidates don’t want to work for small companies. I recruited for some wonderful startups and rarely had trouble putting in the best talent. They had a compelling story, a real product, great leadership, great comp, etc. If a company tried to engage me that couldn’t make a compelling case to me, I just didn’t take on the search. Junge is absolutely correct in his assessment of needing a clear picture of the talent you need, but there is far more to that process than is suggested.
  4. Don’t believe the social media hype. Junge doesn’t believe in social media as a serious tool for recruiting, aside from LinkedIn. Agreed, and for anyone who believes that social media is the future of recruiting I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn. LinkedIn is the most valuable tool and is quite effective when used properly, but it is not going to solve all your recruiting issues. The concern that arises around social media and its effectiveness in recruiting is number of recruiters using/relying on social media as their primary method of recruiting. If this is the case, recruiters will need to be trained on methods that “old timers” like me use.
  5. Swap key words for attributes. Look for attributes, not key words on resumes. I love this! The problem you can encounter is what I wrote about alignment above.

The final point in the article suggests you look at how much fun the candidate is having in the hiring process. Yes, the candidate should be enjoying the experience, but many companies have recruiting and hiring processes that leave candidates feeling lousy about the company and make it next to impossible for a candidate to fake it.

Hiring is Not Simple — Recruiting is Complex — There is NO Panacea

All the strategies Junge lists are effective, but not alone. Hiring is not simple. Hiring takes commitment, alignment, partnership, quality recruiters, etc. You need to know what skills and abilities you need, what it takes to be successful in your culture, what psychometric drivers candidates possess, and have an interview process that works. The entire organization needs to be aligned and bought in to the recruiting and hiring process.

There are no shortcuts when it comes to effective recruiting. You need to have a clear picture of where you want to go and what you need to do to get there. Recruiting processes can be complex and appear daunting, but the time and effort you put into it will pay you back handsomely.

In the world of sales, there is a high correlation between presentation skills and sales success. Great salespeople work to hone their communication skills and are able to communicate with confidence and impact. In addition, they are often remembered and acknowledged as key business partners — not simply as “someone trying to sell us something.”

Less successful salespeople, on the other hand, spend very little time consciously building their competency in this area.

But what are the elements of a great presentation? Is there a way to make a compelling presentation over the phone? And more importantly, what can recruiters do to build their phone presentation skills? In this article, I provide a simple 5-point checklist for recruiters who make presentations to candidates and hiring managers during phone conversations.

Right Time, Right Target

Whether engaging with prospects, candidates, or hiring managers, there comes a time when a recruiter will need to “present the product.” In a good sales process, this presentation should come after the salesperson has developed some level of rapport and trust — and after the salesperson has uncovered, clarified, and developed the needs of the buyer.

Presenting product information too soon is a sure sign of a poor salesperson. It’s not “ready, fire, aim.” It’s “ready, aim, fire.” Be sure you know the target (think: needs/problems) before you waste time presenting information that is not important to the other person.

For recruiters, the same principles apply. After developing a relationship with the candidate or prospect and getting a clear picture of what’s important, it’s time to present the specific opportunity. And the same applies to your hiring managers. Know what they are looking for before you make your “candidate presentation.”

5 Steps to a Successful Presentation

You can find a lot of good information about “best practices” for presentations. For this article, though, I’ve put together a simple 5-point “tuneup” checklist that may help as you set the goal to develop your (phone) presentation skills.

#1: Start with the pain

Begin your presentation by summarizing what you know about your candidate or prospect’s pain points. Can you concisely and accurately play back what’s important to them in a company and in a position? Perhaps it’s growth opportunities, work-life balance, or job stability. For a hiring manager it might be a proven track record in a similar position.

Nothing is more of a turnoff than a presentation that is not relevant. Remember, people just don’t buy products. They buy products because of what they can do for them. They buy “solutions.” And the same principle applies to your hiring managers or to those seeking career opportunities. So be sure you clearly set the target before you begin presenting anything.

Keep lasering in on the benefits the candidate or prospect can expect to gain (aligned with the pain points) — as opposed to the “generic features” of your company or job opportunity. With your hiring managers, be careful to point out the qualities/competencies this candidate brings to the table that are aligned with what the hiring manager is looking for.

Here’s a tip. You can even use their questions as great opportunities to further target your presentation. For example, if a candidate or prospect asks, “Does this position include health insurance benefits?” resist the temptation to immediately go into a presentation about all the wonderful features of the health insurance plan.

Instead, begin your presentation with, “I’d be happy to share information about the health/benefit plan with you. But before I do, is there something in particular you are looking for?” Remember — customers buy for their reasons, not yours.

#2: Anticipate objections

It’s not uncommon for customers, prospects, or hiring managers to have at least one objection. So be prepared for objections before your presentation. Can you anticipate some common objections that might arise? What do you know about your prospect, hiring manager, or candidate that might help you prepare? How about putting yourself in their shoes and asking yourself what you might be concerned about? Then, plan your response and be ready to address it if it comes up your presentation.

And be sure you don’t get caught off guard by a quick “show me the money” objection from a prospect. Your presentation will be spoiled if you get tipped over in the first minute by this common objection. So know how to handle this objection and keep your presentation on target.

#3: Involve the other person in the presentation

Try to keep the other person engaged and active during the presentation. Do not make them simply a bystander. You don’t want to turn into a talking version of your latest marketing materials. Boring! Keep in mind that we talk at approximately 110-150 words per minute. However, research suggests that we are capable of listening and processing up to 600-1,000 words per minute! So be careful not to spend too much time talking — giving your listener an opportunity to tune out or become agitated.

Since you can’t see them (as in a face-to-face presentation) to be able to “read” their level of engagement, try to ask quick, confirming questions throughout your presentation.

How does that sound?”

Does that address your question?”

What other concerns do you have at this point?”

Does that tuition reimbursement program match what you are looking for?”

What have I left out that’s going to be important as you make this decision?”

What other information do you need from me at this point?

#4: Be comfortable with silence

Great presenters know that a well-timed pause can be powerful. Resist the temptation to turn your presentation into “total transmit” of information. You don’t have to fill the air with your voice to ensure the message is being heard and received.

As you hone your skill of becoming more comfortable with silence over the phone, try to build some intentional silences into your presentations. A good place to begin is to try a moment of silence before answering a question. Put in a pause, or a moment of silence, before simply “spewing out” a response. Many sales have been lost — or a concession made — by someone talking without thinking first.  

#5: Show enthusiasm!

When you present your opportunity, remember to sound excited! If you are not excited, why should anyone else be? If you don’t believe in your “product,” your candidate or prospect won’t either. Your enthusiasm (think: confidence) is noticeable to others.

OK, this is sort of corny, but you’ve probably seen some of those commercials on TV. You know — the ones that pitch a product and end with something like, “But wait! There’s more. If you act RIGHT NOW, we’ll DOUBLE your offer. All you pay is shipping and handling … ”

Regardless of how you feel about these approaches or products, one thing is clear. Without exception, the people you are watching are enthusiastic about their product! Perhaps a bit over the top, for sure. But clearly enthusiastic. Evidently, enthusiasm (even over-the-top enthusiasm about the Shamwow) does grab attention and peak curiosity.

A final word:  Practice does not make perfect …

And finally, keep in mind the importance of practicing. The old saying, “practice makes perfect” is not entirely true. Practice only makes “permanent.” To develop “perfect presentations” be sure to practice the right things.

Practice using pain points to develop your presentation. Practice managing objections before they happen. Find a co-worker or friend and try some role-playing  Have some fun!

Practice confirming and checking — as well as silence. Start by pausing before answering questions.

Don’t forget to bring all of your passion and enthusiasm to the call!