I can find admin staff easily enough. However, hiring a person for xyz skilled trade takes forever! I need to find a talent pool to tap into, but so far nothing!!!!!! Rebecca
The comment above was a piece of a recent conversation with a friend and reader up in Canada. We chat back and forth occasionally about recruiting topics, and I told her I would discuss the concept of finding/developing/building a talent pool for a skilled individual. I don’t know it all, but here’s how I have been able to develop a talent pool in an area that most would say is pretty tough to break into.
First, find one
It’s a much easier proposition if you have one to start from. Preferably a current employee or friend, because you’re going to be asking them a lot of (seemingly simple) questions. Occasionally we need to find a “provisioner” for our technical publications team. I’m still not 100% sure what these people do, but I know enough generally to understand if someone has what it takes or not. When I started my first search for one of these openings, I realized how little I knew. So I decided to remedy that situation.
I grabbed one of our current guys with a solid provisioning background and asked him a list of questions:
What do provisioners do?
What background makes someone good at provisioning?
What sort of companies hire provisioners?
What are some keywords I could use to find a provisioner’s resume?
Do any schools have provisioning-like degree or certification programs?
What sort of questions would you ask a provisioner to determine if they are proficient?
Those are a few, but they hit the highlights. I’m building a profile for what a provisioner looks like. Just like the police build a profile for someone in a criminal case based on what they know about the crime combined with statistical data, I do the same thing (minus handcuffs).
Expand that network
As long as you’re asking questions of your existing person, you might as well ask one more: who is the best you’ve ever seen at this job? That’s your #1 target. They won’t always be accessible, but it’s a good place to start. If it doesn’t pan out, leverage that connection into the person’s network. Here’s an example:
Hey, Bob! Glad to hear you’re enjoying your current work. Brian said you were great at what you do, and I’m always glad to see people excelling at what they love. If you ever change your mind or want to talk more, feel free to reach out to me and I’d be happy to discuss a position with you. In the meantime, is there anyone else you know who might be qualified/interested in a position like this?
That serves two purposes. First, it leaves the door open to future opportunities. People hate to shut doors, and I always leave it open, even if just barely, so they always feel comfortable reaching out. It swings both ways, too. If I ever have another opening in their field of expertise, you better believe I’ll be reaching out to find out if they are still happy at work. There have been plenty of times where that conversation turned into a job offer itself.
Always be looking
If you wrap up a hiring action and make an offer to a candidate, hang onto the next few if they are still qualified. You never know when the next batch of candidates might not be as strong as your second best pick this time around. And for everyone who turns you down, they are a potential “in” with a new networking chain.
Get a few champions
I have a few “champions” that I turn to fairly often. These people have great networks and are phenomenal about helping to find new staff, even when there isn’t a bonus or other incentive on the line. Recently I had a guy contact me, and I looked back through the email chain. There were seven connections between our “champion” and this guy. If any one of those people had stopped the chain, the guy would have never found the job. However, because of the credibility of the first guy in the chain, it kept rolling until the right guy saw the email.
As I said earlier, this isn’t the end, it’s just a beginning. Every position, company, and market is different. However, with the right attention to detail and persistence, you can create your own talent pool and rev up your recruiting for months to come.
Several months ago I was looking for some recruiting training opportunities, and I ran across a few promising offerings. I ended up not pursuing those for a variety of reasons, but I recently had an experience that gave me a different perspective on the subject.
I recruit often for helicopter pilots. It’s fun, interesting, but also tough (these guys usually aren’t hanging out at the employment office). I’ve always thought it would be fun to take a ride in a Black Hawk, but it’s not easy to do since the majority of them are government/military aircraft. However, a few months back a friend was able to secure a ride for me on a UH-60M, which is the model I most often recruit pilots to fly.
The ride, in short, was amazing. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to paricipate.
A more familiar example
My friend Michelle previously worked for a manufacturing company. A few days a month, the accounting and HR staff had to jump onto the line and help the workers get all of the work accomplished to meet their production quotas.
As the HR manager there, she learned just how important it is to ensure proper rest breaks, adequate safety measures, etc. The insights gleaned from those experiences made her a better recruiter and HR professional.
The question I have for you is how deep is your knowledge or understanding of the positions you recruit for? Can you at least carry on a conversation about the key concepts, or are you lost without another person as a translator?
My initial learning curve
It’s more embarrassing to not ask a question and look like an idiot than to ask the question and get an answer. At least that’s my philosophy, anyway. So when I started getting open requisitions for positions like “provisioners” and “UH-60M instructor pilots,” I started asking questions.
What does a _____ do?
What are a few keywords that I should look for in a resume?
What sort of background prepares someone to be good at this job?
How do you tell if someone is qualified or not?
Based on those answers, I can at least do a good preliminary review and find some qualified people. I’m still not qualified to do a full technical review of the person’s skills and abilities, but that’s why we allow technical people to participate in interviews! I think what helps me to do well as a recruiter is not necessarily my technical knowledge, but just being excited about the company, the work, and the people.
I’d encourage you to dig in and learn what you can about your employees’ jobs. You never know when that information will help you relate to them in a meaningful way or enhance your recruiting abilities.
This year I’ve had to don my recruiting hat more and more often, and I am astounded by the number of people who apply with absolutely no experience in the specific job, despite a specific set of required skills. However, I think it’s even worse when I receive a resume that lists those skills and abilities, yet when I’m interviewing I quickly determine that they have stretched the truth considerably or outright lied just to get an interview.
For the candidates
It might seem like common sense, but be able to do the job if you apply for it. Don’t tell me “I just need a little training to get up to speed” or “I have a friend who says it’s not that difficult” or “I’m a fast learner.”
We aren’t a charity and we need to find the best person we can afford with our hiring budget. If you’re lying and I waste the time to bring you in to interview only to determine your resume is overblown and false, I will remember that for a long, long time.
Be truthful. Apply for jobs that you’re qualified for, and don’t assume that the employer owes you training or another benefit unless you have something very unique to offer.
For the recruiters
This was spurred by a combination of current interviews and a friend sending me an article about using a quick (and simple) coding test for software engineering jobs.
I love that, and that’s why I always have a technical expert in interviews with me. I don’t know enough about this stuff to always dig deep and determine a candidate’s claims of proficiency.
As simple as it seems, we should be trying harder to disqualify people for a lack of substantial job-related skills. We need to be doing sharing realistic job preview scenarios to ensure a proper candidate fit. Don’t feel bad for rejecting someone who isn’t qualified to do the job. Just because they are likable doesn’t mean they are the right person!
One interview I participated in several years ago fits into this discussion very well. We had an opening for an electrical engineer. We brought in a candidate who was very personable and had what seemed like a good bit of experience to fit our needs. However, when one of our guys gave him a simple electrical schematic to explain, he was unable to fulfill the request.
And I don’t mean he stumbled around, guessed, or made an incorrect assertion. He just sat there and said he had no idea. This was one of the key skills we needed out of the person taking the position. Whoever had the job would be creating, reviewing, and proofing these types of documents from day one. And this guy failed miserably.
Sometimes we like to pitch softball questions. We like to talk more about ourselves and the company than the candidate. We like to prompt responses instead of allowing the person to respond without help.
Let’s step back from that and try to incorporate job-related assessments (as in the electrical engineering example above) into the hiring process. It will make for better hires, fewer headaches, and a stronger workforce overall.
Me: So I have this great position that you are perfect for. The pay is solid, benefits are outstanding, and we think you’re the right guy for the job.
Anonymous candidate: Sounds great! Where is the job located? I’d definitely be interested.
Me: It’s actually in [remote location near a small Army base].
Candidate: Oh, well, I don’t know that I want to move out that far. There’s really nothing to do out there, and it doesn’t appeal to me.
Me: Oh, okay. Well, you know how to reach me if you change your mind. [hangs up wondering when this train of rejections is going to end]
In case you can’t tell from the above exchange, I thought today would be an opportune time to look at rural recruiting. It’s something I’ve had a bit of experience with (and will have more of in the near future), and it’s an area of recruiting that can be incredibly frustrating.
I spoke with a SHRM chapter earlier this year in a rural area, and the local companies basically share the same talent pool. Bob the employee might work for Company A for a few years, move to Company B for the variety, and end up at Company A again after that. With a small pool of candidates, filling each job is a monumental task.
Here’s a short list of common problems with rural recruiting, just to get you thinking:
Limited size of talent pool
Stronger than normal “that’s how we’ve always done it” syndrome
Difficult to sell for relocating new staff
More often blue collar-type work
More employee relations issues due to the fact that employees know it’s hard to replace them
What’s the answer to the rural recruiting challenge?
Here are a handful of actions to consider. Not all will work, but as difficult as it is there is no reason not to try some or all of them! And please, by all means, add some of your own suggestions and comments below.
Seek out candidates who are more interested in small town life vs. that of a big city. Plenty of us prefer that, but you need to ensure you’re targeting that by asking good interview questions.
Develop retention tools that encourage your workforce to remain with your company, whether it’s professional development opportunities, family outreach, etc.
If your organization is large enough with multiple locations, develop a good job rotation program where key players get to experience all areas and locations of the business, thus providing a built in pipeline of future talent.
Take number 3 above even further by connecting with a local daycare to subsidize employee childcare costs, offering sabbaticals or other unusual benefits, or helping employees to reach lifelong goals. I once worked with a company with a lady who wanted to ride a hot air balloon before she died. After a particularly good year, the company rented a hot air balloon and operator and let the woman have a paid day off to enjoy the experience. The more care you put into these custom benefits/perks, the more successful they will be!
This one is long term. Seriously. But if future growth and success is the plan, then it makes sense to explore this option fully. Work to team with the local chamber of commerce or business-centric organization. Find out what your small town lacks (according to the candidates who reject the job due to the location) and see if you can fix those. Here’s a great local example. Huntsville is not a huge city by any means, but we have people wanting to relocate here from other places. Companies kept hearing that we didn’t have a good enough downtown area for family, recreation, etc., so now the local Chamber has started helping to develop the area to suit those needs. It’s already impacted the area, and there’s no telling how many people will now consider the city based on its new facets.
In many instances, I hear a variation of this from my recruiting brethren facing these challenges:
Forget social recruiting or talent communities. I just want someone to come to work sober.
I’d love to hear from someone with rural recruiting experience. What has worked for you when recruiting in rural areas? What are your tips?
(Just a quick FYI. I’ll be moving to my “summer hours” on the blog starting next week. Instead of the regular Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule, I’ll be posting on Monday/Thursday. I’m trying to spend more time with family this summer, and I hope you are doing the same. It’s going to be a busy summer at work for me, including some new and exciting experiences, so look for some fantastic content, just a little less of it. Thanks!) :-)
Tell me if you’ve done this before.
You’re talking with a candidate that you genuinely like. They seem likable and qualified for the position, and you have a natural rapport.
They ask what’s next in the process, and you give them a quick rundown on the process as well as some tips and hints for dealing with the hiring manager during the interview.
Should you have done that? Should you have coached the candidate?
One of my friends is very open about this and absolutely believes you should offer as much help as possible. She even goes as far as sharing links to blog posts with candidates on how to craft a cover letter and resume, how to prepare for the interview, etc. Her thought is that a great candidate for the job might perform terribly in the interview, so she tries to level the playing field.
Another friend believes that coaching someone provides an unfair advantage when they might not even be the best candidate for the job. What happens if you help them have an edge, only to find out that they really weren’t the best candidate for the role in the first place?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you approach this. It’s a minor detail in some ways, but if you end up hiring the wrong person, that can turn into a major problem!
Okay, so I had to eat my words last week. It actually wasn’t bad, and I am hoping the result was worth the effort. One session I attended during the 2013 Alabama SHRM Conference was focused on using keywords in job ads to find more applicants. I was interested in learning 2-3 new tips, because I assumed that I already had a good handle on search engine optimization, utilizing keyword searches, etc.
Let’s be more high tech than this in our recruiting practices, okay?
Then I realized how much I knew but wasn’t putting into action. And that’s a humbling sensation.
I can’t remember the speaker’s name, but he was fantastic. If someone remembers please drop a comment below and I’ll edit the post later.
Six key points
As a blogger, I have a good handle on keywords, search engines, optimizing content for search, etc. But I’ve been lazy with my job postings online. Confession over, now let’s move to the good stuff.
Studies show that the first search result in Google gets over 50% of clicks. That’s major. The same theory could be extended in part to job boards. The top results in a search will get the majority of the traffic. That, of course, brings us to the question–where do your job postings show up in job board keyword searches?
Go to the job board where you posted your job and do a few searches for related terms, words in your posting, etc. For example, if you posted an “accounting intern” job, search for “accounting intern” or “accounting internship” or “entry level accountant” and see how many times, if any, your job posting shows up.
Those other terms I used are related terms, and you should have them in your job postings to ensure you cast the widest net. Some people will never search for your exact job title, so try to broaden your title to be generic while still being narrow enough to reach your target candidates.
Don’t use job titles as position titles in a job board posting. Nobody goes to Indeed.com looking for “accountant II.” They do go looking for “junior accountant” or “accounting specialist” or “staff accountant.” So try to incorporate some of those words into your position title when you post it online. I’m restating myself here, but it’s critical.
Location is key. If you are in a small town next to a big city, be sure to use words for the city in your job ad to get traffic from those sources as well. Nobody is looking for software engineers in Nowheresville, IL, but if Chicago is 20 minutes away, then use Chicago as your job posting address.
If you get nothing else from this post, think of it from this perspective: write job postings like job seekers think/search, not like you categorize them. Write about what the person does, not what the job is. A great example given was “accountant jobs” and “accounting jobs.” People search 20 times more often for “accounting jobs” than they do for “accountant jobs” in Google.
Use metrics and measurement or risk failure
I think one of the key areas recruiting via job postings falls short is in the measurement/metrics. Which sources work best? Why? #alshrm
As I said early on, I didn’t really learn anything that I didn’t already know, but taking the time to apply what I know to recruiting is the key takeaway for me. I’d love to hear some thoughts from others who have done this successfully!
I firmly believe in the power of using the locus of control theory to have a richer, more fulfilling career. Read on for how you can use the locus of control theory to evaluate job candidates.
Last week I had a discussion with another local HR pro, and we were talking about interview questions that help to discern what candidates lack the requisite people skills to get the job done. We’ve all run across candidates who may interview very well, but then they turn out to be a nightmare once they are on board.
One of the questions that she likes to use is this:
What were people like at your last job?
In her opinion (and mine), that can tell you a lot about someone. Let’s look at my theory for why that is, then we’ll get into how it applies.
Locus of control is a theory in personality psychology referring to the extent to which individuals believe that they can control events that affect them… A person’s “locus” (Latin for “place” or “location”) is conceptualized as either internal (the person believes they can control their life) or external (meaning they believe that their decisions and life are controlled by environmental factors which they cannot influence).
In terms that apply to the workplace, I see it as this: you either see life as a series of things happening to you, or you see life as a series of actions you take to make things happen.
It’s an oversimplification, but it works for the purposes of this discussion. Now let’s dig into how it plays into the question referenced above.
Locus of control theory at work
Let’s say you have two candidates in front of you. They’re fairly evenly matched with regard to skills and experience. Then you ask them both the question, “What were people like at your last job?”
Candidate A-I worked with a great group of people. We got along well and it was a great experience for me.
Candidate B-I worked with a terrible group of people. There was constant fighting and I could never get any work done. It was a terrible experience.
Here’s the kicker–those people could have both come from the same company. Now I know and agree that there are some organizations where Candidate B’s comments would be legitimate, but it’s important to dig deeper into those comments to understand the full depth and breadth of the issues if possible.
I’ve heard it put another (more direct) way.
If you’re walking down the street and meet someone who is a jerk, you had a bad day. If you’re walking down the street and meet several jerks, you are causing others to have a bad day.
Look for people who identify with the inner locus of control theory. They believe that they have control over things to some degree, and they won’t sit there helpless waiting for someone to solve their problems. It’s not necessarily fool proof, but it is a good idea to keep in mind.
Ever considered the locus of control theory with regard to yourself? Do you think it’s internal or external?