Growing Great Companies


Ten Recruiting Commandments

Recruiting the quality candidate that an insurer or other company requires often is complicated needlessly because the company ignores some fundamental rules. By following them, the time, effort and expense of the recruiting process can be greatly reduced, and the success of the end product – the person hired – can be greatly improved. These rules can be described as the 10 commandments of the hiring process.

1. Define the job. Too often the job to be done is either never defined or is finalized as the last step in the recruiting process. The reason for this is simple: Positions are not viewed in the abstract, but in conjunction with the person filling them. So we think in terms of replacing Harry, or hiring another Mary, rather than specifying exactly what needs to be done, and what it would be nice to have done in addition. Harry or Mary, the hiring manager either is frustrated because “Mr./Ms. Perfect” never appears, or dissatisfied because the person finally hired is a compromise.

The job definition needs too consist of (1) what activities must take place (the job description), (2) what the results must be (standard of performance) and (3) desirable, but not necessary, auxiliary functions (to chose between two or more candidates who meet all the basic requirements).

2. Define the candidate attributes. What characteristics are essential for the person to have in order to perform the functions of the job? This seems rather obvious, but managers tend to focus on characteristics they would like a candidate to have as a person (brave, honest, just, courteous, etc.) rather than the characteristics a candidate must have to do the job (ability to program in Cobol, to sell integrated circuits to consumer products companies, and to audit financial reports).

Is it, for example, imperative for the candidate to have an advanced degree? Why? Is it necessary that a candidate have X years of experience performing an activity or is it important only to have the ability to perform the activity? The more confusion that exists on necessary attributes, the fewer candidates will qualify and the more difficult it will be to identify the best person qualified to do the job in question.

3. Be realistic about compensation. Notwithstanding the salary ranges of the personnel department and the budget requirements of the accounting department, the real world functions on a competitive, open market basis. If the salary range established for the position is inadequate to attract the caliber of person required, the result will be bungled interviews, rejected job offers and either the hiring of a candidate without the necessary qualifications or an increase in the starting salary and a new round of interviews.

Unrealistic salary offers can be the result of several situations:

  • A departing employee was paid a below market salary and the new salary is predicated on the old.
  • The personnel department supplies survey information based on “averages” and the person required is not an “average” position.
  • The accounting or finance department establishes the range with the objective of holding down costs.
  • A range is hypothecated based upon newspaper ads.
  • An attempt is made to maintain parity between this position and another in the company which is underpaid because the incumbent has occupied it for a lengthy period.

This problem can be solved by letting the marketplace determine salaries. If this indicates that a company’s entire compensation program is in need of an overhaul, then that problem must be resolved before the one of recruiting can be addressed.

4. Use the right recruiting sources. Getting the best person is possible only if a manager uses the right recruiting tool. A good day laborer can be obtained from the state unemployment office; a Fortune 500 chief executive officer probably cannot. Conversely, the use of a retained executive search firm to recruit a day laborer makes no sense, but it is the way most top management positions are filled.

Newspapers, employment agencies, employee referrals, recruiting firms, personnel departments and executive search firms can all be the best solution, depending on the specific objective. Each can also be the least costly and most timely depending, again, on the exact requirements.

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