Friday, January 30, 2009

Lessons from the Recruiting Archives - Part One

I've been having great fun over the last couple years following the hottest recruiting oriented blogs and more recently connecting with recruiters in the Twitterverse. (You can follow me on Twitter: here.) It's been excited watching all the changes in methodologies since my recruiting days back in the 80s and 90s.

To payback the young superstars for allowing me to live vicariously through them (as recruiting will always be my first love), I thought I'd make a few notes on some of things that worked for us back in the (g)olden days.

First a little background. The company that I worked for was a Boston based firm called Search, Inc. It was started by Paul George, an incredible recruiter, salesperson, manager, trainer and motivator. Paul's background was in recruiting IBM 36 programmers. He used to tell us that he knew every IBM 36 programmer in the Boston area. So much so that if a prospective client said they had already selected someone for a position, Paul would ask who they were hiring and then proceed to tell them the pros and cons about that person. (That was under the lesson -- find a niche.)

Search, Inc. had some terrific processes in place and I had an amazing manager in Doris Greenberg, a veritable whirlwind of energy and enthusiasm.

Here are five things that made the recruiters at Search so so successful.

1) Daily Schedule. Because it's so easy to get distracted or spend time on non-productive work, we had a very strict schedule. It went like this:

8:30am - 9:30am Morning Meeting (more on this later)
9:30am - 11:00am Drilling. Drilling was the name for calling companies and trying to get Job Orders
11:00 - 12:00 Miscellaneous Interviewing/Matching/Presentations for Send-Outs/Follow-Ups
12:00 - 1:00 Lunch
1:00 - 2:00 Sourcing
2:00 - 4:00 Recruiting Calls - Cold calls to potential applicants to get in-person interviews
4:00 - 5:00 Miscellaneous Interviewing/Matching/Presentations for Send-Outs/Follow-Ups
5:00 - 5:30 Create Daily Plan for the next day
5:30 Go home or more likely conduct late interviews with applicants

That is what we did. Every day Monday - Friday. It was a good system and it created a huge amount of productivity. Did we goof off? Sure, that 11:00 - 2:00 period was filled with a lot of chit-chat. But we knew what we should be doing at any time of the day and that kept us focused and productive.

2) The Chip Board. The chip board was a big key to motivational success in our office. It was a magnetic white board with rectangle colored magnets located in a prominent location in the office. Each colored magnet represented a desired result.
Light Blue: Job Order
Yellow: An Interview with an Applicant
Orange: A Send-Out
Search Logo: PLACEMENT

The recruiters' names were written at the top of the board. Whenever a recruiter got a job order, conducted an interview, made a send-out or got a placement, they placed the appropriate magnet under their name. On good days, a good recruiter would have a long column of magnets under their name. On bad days just one or two. If you had no chips for too many days you weren't going to make it in the business.

There was no resting on your laurels with the chip board; the chips were removed each day after the morning meeting and you had to do it all over again.

3) Morning Meetings. Morning Meetings were also critical to our success. Every morning we got together and reviewed the chip board from the previous day. Placements were congratulated and any recruiter who made a placement shared how it all came together from the job order to the acceptance of the offer. The rest of the meeting was devoted to a particular topic either sales training, recruiter training or motivational training. By the end of the meeting, we were pumped up and ready to jump on the phone and work our daily planner.

4) Everyone Sits Together. All the recruiters sat together one desk behind another. Although we lacked privacy, we gained in being able to hear what was going on with our colleagues. Did the person in front of you just get the perfect job order for an applicant you interviewed last night? It was also great for ongoing training.You were constantly hearing the sales presentations of those around you.

5) Ask for the Offer. I'll never forget hearing the phone conversation from my colleague Carol. It went something like this:

Carol: Hi ____, How did the interview go?
Client: It went OK. I think she could do the job. I should probably interview other people. I'm not sure what I want to do. I did like her. Maybe you could send over other people? I'm not sure what to do.
Carol: (ignoring the wishy washy feedback and putting on her best enthusiastic voice) Would you like to go ahead and make ___ an offer?
Client: Ok.

We were all astonished. But we always asked for the offer after that. As the old sales books used to say, "close early and often."

I'll also add one bonus item to this list that REALLY worked to motivate us:

6) Contests That Everyone Can Win. We had the best contests at Search, Inc.. Every recruiter that reached a certain billing goal over a two month period won. All the winners went together along with their spouse/guest for a 4 day all expense paid trip. We went to Aruba, Bermuda, St. Maarten, Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe. Since we all wanted all our friends to join us on the trip, we worked extra hard as a team to make sure that everyone in our office reached the billing goal. They were the most team oriented contests I've ever seen.

In future Lessons from the Recruiting Archives I'll provide some specifics in terms of sales presentations for job orders, presenting candidates, sourcing and closing offers.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Onboarding the President of the United States

Isn't it great the way we onboard the President of the United States? After the President was "hired" on November 4, 2008 we provided a transition period for him to prepare for the new job. He was able to spend time with his predecessor and plan his strategy. On his start date, today, January 20th, 2009, we celebrated his hire, introduced him to ... err ... everyone, heard his shared vision of the future and acknowledged the work that he and his "colleagues" (us) must do to achieve it.

Imagine if President Obama was onboarded the way most employees are onboarded.

The job offer is extended and accepted on November 4th, 2008. The start date is set for January 20 2009. Relocation information is provided and the new hire and his family begin their move into corporate housing. On January 20th, he reports to the oval office for his first day of work.

New Hire President Obama sits down at his large desk. He wipes away some pretzel crumbs from the previous occupant. His secretary pokes her head in the door and says she is sorry that she didn't have a chance to clean out the files. "No problem, " he smiles, "I'll take care of it." He spends the morning emptying out his new desk thinking about the problems he will tackle and planning how he will meet his new staff and wondering where the bathroom is and if there is anyone with whom he can go to lunch. A few people murmur hello when he walks through the halls of the Whitehouse. Most chit-chat among themselves and wonder who this new guy is and what he is going to be like. By the end of the day, he realizes he is on his own.

Maybe we should start welcoming our new hires in inaugural style. How about a little fanfare and celebration and introduction and vision sharing with all of our employees as if they were as important to us as the President of the United States?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Penelope Trunk's Misguided Career Advice For Women

Another interesting, controversial and not exactly correct bit of advice from the self described brazen careerist "Penelope Trunk." While I love "Penelope's" writing style and her generally acerbic wit, I get concerned that people might actually take her seriously.

In a recent post, she lambastes five career tips often given to women in the workplace. Along with ignoring the Best Companies for Women lists, she also suggests that women should avoid women-only networking groups. She states two reasons: women don't have as many connections as men and women are not supportive of other women.

When I was young and naive I probably would have agreed with her. I was one of those cocky youngsters who scoffed at seminars for "women managers" and would never demean myself by joining a women's only group. I assumed that only weak and stupid women ran into obstacles. "We are all the same" and "work hard and you will succeed" were my mantras. But that was faulty thinking on my part just as it is on Penelope Trunk's.

The truth is that women face multiple obstacles that have nothing to do with their own weakness. A new apt metaphor (which replaces the Glass Ceiling that implies everything moves along smoothly until the woman reaches the top of the career ladder) is The Labyrinth. A labyrinth is a maze or intricate combination of paths and passages. This is a great description for what women in corporate America face throughout their career. For those interested in this topic I highly recommend Through The Labyrinth by Alice Eagly and Linda Carli, the originators of this concept.

"Penelope Trunk's" advice, though fun to read, is misguided when it comes to women's networking groups. Women's networking groups provide a tremendous opportunity to connect with others who have travelled through the labyrinth and succeeded.

For example, at Xerox Corporation there is an outstanding women's networking group called The Women's Alliance. The hundreds of women that are members of this organization are very supportive of each others' career and social development. One great resource that The Women's Alliance offers its members is their mentoring program where senior level women mentor their junior colleagues. You can read more about their mentoring program in The Great Mentor Match an article I wrote that was published in T&D magazine.

If you still doubt the value of women's networking groups, read this quote from a mentee in a women's mentoring program:

nIt has been a life-changing experience. I gained perspective that I simply didn't have on my own. One mentoring session gave me enough material for a lifetime of work! My mentor is brilliant! :)"

Would that woman have been better off had she taken "Penelope Trunk's" advice?