Is your recruiting failing because of you?

March 14, 2016

Many technology companies fail to meet their growth potential because they  struggle to hire in a timely manner. As a management consultant specializing in professional services and software industries, it is common to be asked by my clients to help with their recruiting strategy. As a result, I think I have developed some unique perspectives into why companies are failing to win in the talent war.

Last September, Kim Benedict and I wrote a post entitled “Would you run your sales process like you run recruiting?” In that post, argued that recruiting fails in many companies because of a lack of process,  inadequate recruiting technology,  weak value messaging and management inattention. Extending the analogy from sales to professional services: "Would you let your customers run a project the way you do?"

As many technology company executives know, it is difficult, if not impossible, to successfully implement their products in their customers’ businesses if the customer’s executives, project teams and users are not engaged and do not fulfill their commitments during the implementation project. Yet when it comes to hiring, these same tech companies who engage an external recruiter, fail to achieve the results they want for many of the same reasons that a technology implementation project fails to complete on-time and on-budget.

In implementation projects, often the reasons for failure have nothing to do with the quality, fit or work effort of your product or your team. Professional service projects often fail because of things that are under the control of the customer:

  • The client’s project leader has other responsibilities at the company (their day job) that get prioritized ahead of the project tasks.
  • The client's executives are not involved in project decision-making so decisions are delayed, made and then reversed or your team’s unbudgeted time is spent chasing the client for answers.
  • The project’s scope creeps because the client wants to expand the project.
  • The client changes their mind on project requirements and wastes work that has already been completed.
  • The client is unrealistic in their expectation of project costs or workload.
  • The client doesn't get their project work done on time.
  • The client has departments or people in their organization that act as a project gatekeeper and imped your team from talking to end users or executives to get the answers and actions that they need.

With the above list in mind, here are examples of behaviours that I see get in the way of the successful recruiting:

  • Executives delegate recruiting to HR without understanding workload involved. The HR leader then hires an external recruiting firm and becomes the internal project manager for the recruiting project. Unfortunately, the HR leader doesn't have time (or necessarily the skill and training) to lead a project, doesn’t do a good job of communicating updates and requests because they are too busy and often end up as a gatekeeper. As a result, the recruiting firm becomes frustrated that the company can’t move as fast as the recruiter can to fill the roles and the company’s executives become frustrated that they are not quickly seeing candidates and don’t know what is going on in the process. In one case, the executive thought the recruiter had been working on their roles for over three weeks. In reality, the recruiter had only been given the assignment a few days before.
  • A company has many open job requisitions. Some are urgent, some are medium priority and some won’t kill the company if they aren’t filled immediately. The recruiting firm has been given all roles to fill. Your executives are not involved in the recruiting process so their priorities have not been clearly defined or communicated. The recruiting firm has the capacity to treat all roles as the highest priority but your HR team doesn’t have the capacity to recruit all position concurrently. Six weeks into the project, the executive with the priority jobs finds out that their roles are not the ones that the recruiting firm is focusing on with most urgency.
  • The company hired a part-time contract recruiter to work for them. This recruiter has the capacity to work on two concurrent roles at a time, which is what the company planned for. Suddenly, because there is new recruiting capacity, managers who have been doing their own recruiting off the side of their desk, see an opportunity to pass this work to the contract recruiter. The contract recruiter now has nine positions to fill and is viewed as a failure because they are not successful even though their scope of work was two roles at a time.
  • The company reviewed their hiring metrics at the end of the year. Of the total searches launched, the company did not finish 40% of their searches because they either changed their minds on the job description or experience level required, cancelled the position or deferred it for a period of time (and then started the search over from the beginning). In other words, up to 40% of their total recruiting resources were wasted because they changed their requirements after the project started.
  • The company uses psychometric testing to vet candidates as part of the screening process. A candidate is identified and interviewed by a recruiter. If the recruiter likes the candidate, the company’s HR team enrolls them with the psychometric testing company to do the test. Once done, based on the score, the candidate is scheduled for an interview with the hiring manager. Unfortunately, because the company is so busy, it can take a week to set up testing for the candidate and then another week to set up the hiring manager interviews. Beyond just introducing delays in hiring, candidates are lost because they take another job offer before the company has concluded their interviews.
  • A company posts a job. Their salary range is not competitive. After eight weeks of searching and three unsuccessful job offers, they conclude that what the recruiter told them at the outset was true and then either adjust their salary range higher or lower their expectations and startd the search over.

The examples above are simply some of the things your customers do to you to interfere with their own project success… not resourcing a project properly… not having executive involvement in the project… letting the scope creep… changing their requirements once the project has started… not getting their work done on-time… being unrealistic about the cost…

When we are the vendor, we can clearly see how our customers shoot themselves in the foot. It is too bad we can’t use a mirror to see it when we are the customer.


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