Hire Like Google: Or Should You?

Hire Like Google: Or Should You?

Sometimes I’m asked about the video with the sheep on my website.  Sheep will follow other sheep -regardless of the danger- and the video analogizes the importance of breaking the herd mentality.  A great example of this herd mentality is an event called Mutton Bustin run at rodeos throughout the country. It’s an event where children get to “ride” a sheep and see how far they get before falling off.  It’s always fun to watch and every child is a winner.  Prior to the event beginning one sheep is held in the middle of the arena.  The purpose of this is so that the sheep being ridden will run toward that sheep.  They do this because sheep feel safer in a herd and it is one of the best examples of herd behavior I know.

When it comes to successful 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 someone else’s ideas work for your company? 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. He ended up working for Google for only 21 months.

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, I would assert that 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. Why not? Because the only reasons I know of that people go right into corporate or do so after some period of time in an agency is because:

  1. Agency recruiting is incredibly hard to do well. You may be just as busy or busier in a company, but you don’t need to know the same things as the best agency recruiters.
  2. It’s easier to be in a company paying you a salary.
  3. You have mouths to feed at home and need a salary and benefits.

How do I know this? I know many people who were in agency work and moved to corporate or to RPOs. I’ve also discussed this with corporate recruiters, and those who’ve either never been in an agency or who worked very briefly in an agency, couldn’t answer most of the questions I asked them. The questions that every great recruiter can answer.

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. To be a great agency recruiter takes a tremendous amount of work, which is not for the faint of heart.

A real-life example of my point

At one time long, long ago, 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 executives 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 100K and on target earnings of 220k plus accelerators or bonuses on top of that.  The 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 amateur. Junge states, “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.  It’s great to realize you need to 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, e.g.: 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 new company while still working at his other company.  He double dipped for at least 3 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’ve recruited for more startups than I can remember (I was around during the tech boom) and rarely had trouble attracting the best talent. They have a compelling story, a real product (not vaporware), 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 some swampland to sell you in Florida.  LinkedIn is a valuable tool and is quite effective when used properly; it is not going to solve all your recruiting issues though, regardless of what LinkedIn tells you.  The concern that arises around social media and its effectiveness in recruiting is the 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 keywords for attributes. Look for attributes, not keywords 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 drivers candidates possess, and have an interview process that works.  The entire organization needs to be aligned and bought into 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.

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