December 11, 2017

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A New Standard of Recruiting Excellence

Are you ready to take on this challenge? Over the past few years, I've surveyed hundreds of managers and executives in different fields and asked them what they would consider to be world-class performance for a recruiter working on one of their assignments.

Collectively, they thought the ideal recruiter would:

  • Never send out more than three candidates for any assignment (the objective is two sendouts per hire if you only work on high-volume positions)

  • Make sure all of the candidates sent in to be interviewed are high quality (that is, they meet most if not all of the performance expectations for the job)

  • Complete every search assignment within 10 days or less (especially if the recruiter is placing high-volume candidates)

  • Do it at the lowest cost possible

These are worthy goals. How many of us now achieve them? I'm not sure they're consistently attainable. I am sure, however, that improving our hiring processes in an attempt to consistently achieve these goals is an appropriate objective for every recruiter and recruiting manager.

To do this will obviously require process improvements, management buy-in, tracking metrics, a budget, recruiter and hiring manager interview training, new just-in-time sourcing techniques, and a host of other actions.

A feasibility study or needs analysis should be the first step. This lays out gaps in performance, required improvements and alternative approaches. From this, a time-phased plan of action needs to be developed. A business case with budgets and an ROI analysis is essential to obtain executive management buy-in. Then comes the hard part: implementation.

But before we get started, let's consider everything we need to do, whether we're hiring one person or thousands. We also need to cover all positions including entry-level, call-center reps, engineers, salespeople, CEOs and everything else. In my opinion, if hiring the best is supposedly the most important thing a company can do, it needs to be a business practice, not a series of random events. Hiring is too important to leave to chance.

If achieving this standard of excellence seems like a worthy endeavor, let's collectively begin. In fact let's make it a team effort. I want you to join the "Adler Team for Recruiting Excellence." (We can change the name later, once we get rolling.) Our goal will be to make hiring a professional business process with standards like the ones above, consistent processes, appropriate metrics, effective interviewing and assessment techniques, sophisticated recruiting and networking skills, and the best and lowest sourcing methods imaginable. Now that's something to shoot for.

To begin, we'll create a discussion group on ERE. Start by sending me an email at to join. Make sure you include your basic thoughts on this topic. We'll then start a discussion group on ERE. From this, we'll set up a chat room with regularly scheduled meetings. To go along with this, we'll shift the focus of our corporate metrics monthly meetings (see below to join) to using metrics as a means to achieve this gold standard of recruiting performance. Collectively, all this will be a good first step. If there's enough interest, we will even formalize the whole group and process. Join now and become a charter member. Who knows where this could lead?

In our discussions and comments, let's start at the beginning, which is as good a place as any, with some answers to a few questions.

Is the standard of performance described above achievable or even desirable?

  • What's the impact of getting there?

  • Where do you or your company stand now with respect to this goal?

  • How long would it take to get there if you weren't resource-restrained?

What are the biggest gaps or the things you'd have to do immediately to achieve this standard of excellence?

If the objective is as worthy as I suspect, this is no idle exercise. I believe that every recruiter and every recruiting department manager should be working towards achieving performance goals like these anyway. Hiring top people is serious stuff, and overhead departments shouldn't be excluded from continuous improvement programs. In fact, I'll contend that once you start moving towards achieving the recruiting standards proposed, you'll be acting more like a line, or profit-and-loss, function. Recruiting won't even be considered overhead anymore (maybe that's the real goal).

As you ponder your responses to these questions, consider: Is the standard of excellence achievable or desirable, and if so what's the impact?

The impact tells you if it's worth committing the resources and time to do the work required and justify the ROI. In my opinion, more time is wasted doing searches over again. This is the biggest time and cost waster of them all. That's why two to three sendouts per hire is such a great target. By doing searches only once, you'll drive down your cost per hire and time to fill to the lowest levels possible. So if you know what you're doing, you should never need to send out more than three candidates for any search assignment (two if it's your specialty.) If you need to send out any more than this, it means someone has weak assessment skills, someone doesn't know the job, or your sourcing methods aren't any good.

Having a minimum standard for candidate quality is essential for process control. Every sendout should be capable of meeting a reasonably high level of job performance. When a candidate is sent out who falls below this minimum, it indicates a flaw somewhere in the process either weak assessment skills or lack of job knowledge. Both are easily solvable, but a metric and measurement system is needed to track this.

The "10 day to deliver three candidates" target is a tough challenge, but not unrealistic. If you begin designing your sourcing and selection programs with this goal in mind, you'll be forced to rethink everything you're now doing. For example, you won't stand for boring ads that don't pull, you won't accept average referrals from employees, you'll automate the resume screening process to weed out everyone but the best, and you'll do everything else to make sure you only talk with top people. Just improving your sourcing programs this way will get you down to 15 days to fill assignments. To get down to the ten day target, you'll need to anticipate your hiring needs, seriously address candidate supply/demand imbalances ahead of time, develop a pipeline of top candidates, and become a networking expert.

The least-cost target is a natural result of doing the above. Everybody has budget constraints, so this is an important consideration. Sourcing needs to be planned out in sequential fashion first starting with your lowest cost options. This could be an internal hire, an employee referral, or an ad on a job board. But to maintain the quality target, you'll need to improve the effectiveness of some of these lower cost channels. Only when a lower cost approach doesn't work should you switch to a more expensive option. In order to meet the cost, quality ,and time criteria, metrics need to be in place to measure quality by channel, and when the switch is needed. This is why metrics need to be real time; otherwise, you'll never meet the objectives.

Where do you stand now. and how would you begin to implement the program?

First, figure out where you now stand. For generalists, it's probably four to six sendouts per hire; at least 20-30 days to complete assignments; the quality is probably above average; and the cost is probably 10%-15% of total compensation. For specialists, sendouts per hire are probably around three, and time to fill is closer to 20 days.

To reduce cost to five to six percent of total compensation (a great target), start today by first getting sendouts per hire down to no more than two to three candidates ever. Make sure every candidate is fully qualified, and figure out how to get every assignment completed in ten days. Just thinking about how you're going to get there will give you three or four ideas of things you can do right away.

Achieving the objective once or infrequently is not good enough. Hiring must be a formal business process in order to consistently achieve the standard of recruiting excellence goals described above. Begin today by signing on as a charter member of the "Adler Team for Recruiting Excellence." In six months, you'll become a recruiting expert.

Collectively, let's make hiring the best more than just words.

(Note: As many of you know, I host two monthly online discussion groups where we explore topics like this in greater depth. One of the discussion groups is exclusively for those in corporate recruiting management where we focus on metrics for recruitment management. The other group is exclusively for third-party recruiting management. Here we discuss everything about managing a recruiting practice. Both groups are sponsored by POWER Hiring,, and ERE. If you're on the corporate management side you can join by sending me an email at, and for third-party recruiting management the email is I'll be presenting much of this information at ERE's ER Expo 2003 West in San Diego in March, and hopefully we'll get a chance to meet there. This is an event you won't wan to miss if you want to be on the leading edge of recruitment management. Also, if you'd like a white paper prepared by Fisher & Phillips on why using POWER Hiring's performance profiles are the best way to both minimize your legal exposure and maximize your hiring effectiveness, send an email to

-Lou Adler
Lou Adler ( is the president of The Adler Group, a training and consulting firm developing leading-edge recruiting strategies. Adler is a veteran recruiter and founder of CJA Executive Search. He's also the creator and founder of POWER Hiring. His industry career included general management positions with the Allen Group, as well as senior-level financial management positions with Rockwell International's Automotive and Consumer Electronics groups. Lou is the author of the bestselling book, Hire With Your Head - Using POWER Hiring to Build Great Companies (John Wiley & Sons, 2002), and the award-winning Nightingale Conant audio tape program, POWER Hiring: How to Find, Assess, Hire and Keep Great Talent (1999). Adler holds an MBA from UCLA and a B.S. in Engineering from Clarkson University, New York. His current book project, Level 5 Performance, to be published next year, will introduce new techniques for managers, team leaders, and employees who want to maximize their performance.

Article originally appeared on the Electronic Recruiting Exchange