Research Library Article


Ten Requirements for Quality Recruiting

David Earle

Ten characteristics of organizations that excel at staffing effectiveness

Staffing effectiveness is more difficult for most companies than staffing efficiency. Efficiency, as defined by cost-per-hire, recruiting cost ratio, and time-to-hire, is basically process analysis: figuring out how to do a task with fewer resources and less waste. Measurement and logic usually get efficiency-minded executives the results they want.

Effectiveness on the other hand, as defined by hiring quality, performance and retention, involves values, behaviors, missions, and goals: terms that are aspirational, situational, imprecise, and therefore harder to define and evaluate.

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The more we study why certain organizations excel at staffing effectiveness the more we have come to appreciate the special qualities that allow them to act as they do. Among other things we find they are not slaves to process, carefully monitor their marketplace reputation, and emphasize long term results over short term ones. Profit is consistently weighed against principles. Two words that recur often are clarity and consistency, which means there is little or no variation from department to department as to what quality represents.

Here are the characteristics identified by our research:

Clear terminology
Staffing terminology is standardized. Recruiters and hiring managers have taken the time to agree on what words like “talent,” “competence,” “experience,” and “fit” should mean. Job descriptions and competencies are constantly reviewed and updated to accurately reflect changing business realities and conditions in the talent marketplace.

Clear standards
The staffing world is imperfect. Few candidates are ideal and few employers can wait indefinitely for those special people to become available. Candidates can be talented but not skilled, skilled but not experienced, experienced but not knowledgeable, knowledgeable but not talented, competent but not a good fit, and so on.

Quality focused organizations maintain clear, consistent “not less than” standards for candidate submissions and new hires, with those standards being agreed to and supported by all levels of management as well as recruiters. Most important, the standards apply regardless of business conditions.

Advance planning
When job markets are tight, quality focused employers don’t lower standards to fill slots. Taking advantage of the fact that labor markets change slowly and can be forecasted accurately, they simply plan further in advance. Well developed workforce and succession plans are hallmarks of these companies.

Clear objectives
Quality focused organizations know where they’re going and their objectives are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.

  • Clarity is provided by careful job analyses, clear terminology, and consistent standards
  • Measurements provide an objective way to assess progress. (Intuition, or “I know quality when I see it” is not a helpful metric because of it’s subjectivity and imprecision.)
  • Achievable, realistic and timely mean that objectives conform to available resources and market conditions

Clear job descriptions
Quality focused companies write superior job descriptions that accurately describe:

  • The scope and responsibilities of each job
  • The type of skills, training, experience and knowledge required
  • The type of personality and attitude needed to be successful

A guiding measure of success, in addition to hiring manager satisfaction, is that there should be no discrepancy between any new hire’s pre-hire expectations and their on-the-job experiences. These employers also understand that while this extra, up front, work takes time, the long term effects on performance and retention more than compensate.

Ample communication
Simple recruiting efficiency does not require much discussion. The objective is clear: quicker is better and cheaper is better. Only when quicker and cheaper aren’t possible is the staffing department obliged to communicate with its clients.

Quality focused organizations emphasize, and excel at, communication.  Not only is clarity emphasized, but hierarchical or “channeled” communication is minimized. Lines of communication are open. Anyone who needs a piece of information can get it quickly and without excessive protocol. In-boxes do not overflow and create delays in execution. Overall, there is more discussion of objectives, more dialogue to clarify business requirements, more feedback about how new hires are performing, and more meetings about how to fine tune processes.

Written commitments
Commitments are written down. Committing company values and quality definitions to paper:

  • Helps organize and clarify what is meant
  • Helps newcomers understand what is required
  • Provides reference points for identifying change
  • Provides benchmarks for measuring performance

A quality-focused culture
The factors needed to create high quality staffing environments are the same ones needed to create high quality enterprise cultures. As companies individually balance growth, profits, creativity and innovation, community service, and environmental stewardship, their cultures will inevitably differ, but how successfully each company develops its unique version will ultimately determine how successfully they recruit and retain quality talent.

Continual change management
Effective cultures take time to build and time to change. Although core values may remain constant and relevant for a long time, they also must consistently reflect reality. If change accelerates, so must examination of what makes the organization and its people successful. Agility and change management become critical competencies. In our most culturally successful clients, responses to change are more or less continuous and not constrained by arbitrary timetables.

Walking the talk
In a quality focused organization, actions match words. If organizations preach quality but don’t support it; if recruiters apply it but don’t measure it; and if hiring managers pay lip service to it but then hire subjectively, then quality is merely a slogan referencing an illusion. Quality focused organizations are internally consistent.

Our Recruiting Effectiveness and Retention Report provides a more thorough examination of the requirements foe staffing effectiveness.