5 Steps to a Recruiting Culture

How many times have you heard that your existing employees are your best source of hire for new employees? Back in my days as a corporate recruiter, I was told this all the time. I had grand goals in place for my teams to hire a minimum 30% from internal referrals. We crafted elaborate programs around employee referrals and offered big cash payouts (and free lunches) for when referrals got hired. We wrote great communication pieces and hung signs around physical office spaces advertising our programs, and… wait for it…

Wait for it…

cricket image credit: maadesigns / 123RF Stock Photo

cricket image credit: maadesigns / 123RF Stock Photo

OK… Maybe not crickets. We got a few hits, and a few great hires, but after the first few weeks, our employees forgot all about us back in the recruiting office.

And we had to figure out why it wasn’t working…

Bill Boorman, a well-known-in-our-space advisor to talent technology companies and founder of the global #tru recruiting unconferences, writes and speaks often about employee and social referrals. One of my favorite of Bill’s comments is that by the very point of calling it an employee referral “PROGRAM”, it is destined to fail. Programs, by definition, have a start and an end. They’re linear. They have rules. They’re a planned series of events. On the contrary, employee referrals should be spontaneous and unrestricted. And, most importantly to the future of recruiting for your organization, they should be ongoing.

amasterpics123 / 123RF Stock Photo

amasterpics123 / 123RF Stock Photo

So, how do you create a stream of ongoing employee referrals? Here’s a five-point strategy that has worked well with many of our clients.

  1. Hire the right employees who really fit your business. This may seem obvious, but it’s a really important place to start. If you want your existing employees to refer their networks to you, it’s best to be sure that they are the people you want working for you.
  2. Be a great place for them to work. Another obvious one, but again, a very important part of the strategy. Would you refer a friend to work for someplace you couldn’t stand working?
  3. Lose the fine print. Make it easy for employees to refer candidates. The easier it is, the more referrals you will get, especially if you make it clear that a referral does not equal a recommendation. It’s not your IT guy’s job to select talent. That’s the recruiter or hiring manager’s job. Don’t tie rewards to hires; tie them to referrals. And, the rewards don’t need to be huge cash payouts, in fact, lose those, too. Reward for referrals alone.
  4. Ensure a great candidate experience. If candidates referred by employees have a horrible application / interview experience, believe me, it will set your employee referrals back significantly. Bad news travels fast. Treat all referrals like the VIPs they are. Keep your employees and their referrals informed at every step of the process, and provide timely feedback around the selection decision.
  5. Be persistent and consistent. Creating a true culture of recruiting takes time. Rome wasn’t built in a day. A contest is great, but don’t stop there. Build on the momentum. Promote your company’s culture across social networks, and let your employees do the same. Remind your employees often that you’re hiring, and give them the freedom to share that message to their networks in their own way. Highlight the employees who refer; help them feel special.

Bottom Line: Referrals generally have a lower cost per hire, a shorter time to fill, a stronger performance rating and a higher retention rate. Get started on transforming your company to a culture of recruiting today!

Success Story: With one client who needed to hire a fairly large number of people, we ran a referral contest. Every time an employee referred a unique candidate*, we entered his name into a raffle. 5 referrals meant 5 entries. At the end of the contest period, (in this case it was 3 months) we randomly chose a winner. The prize was a 2-night, three-day trip for two to Boston. (The company was located in the New York Metro area, and Boston, only 3 hours away, was a grand location!) The company paid travel, hotel, and entertainment expenses (tickets to a Duck Tour, dinner in a restaurant at Faneuil Hall, and some actual cash to spend on things of their choice!) Another hat-tip (pun intended if you know him) to Bill Boorman for the trip idea. It worked wonders. Not only did the contest get us over 150 employee referrals in 3 months with a 75% employee participation rate, the employee who won posted pics all over social media, and talked about her trip for months after she got back. Talk about generating excitement around employee referrals! This client plans to now choose a winner for this contest semi-annually!

*And, no, the irony of the “*” in the “lose the fine print” section is not lost on me. Referrals were tracked in the ATS, entered by the employee himself, so he was able to see immediately if the company already had that referral’s info in the system (unless a different email address was used.)

Let’s Happen To Things

WP_20150414_029It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” ~~Leonardo daVinci~~

2015 has been a tough year for a lot of people. Already. And, it’s not yet half over. Between the crazy weather, the crazy economy, the tragedies, the illnesses… it’s hard for me to sit here and tell you that everything happens for a reason.

Personally, I have to hold on to the notion that there’s a greater plan, and that I can’t possibly begin to understand that plan, but that’s not the practical advice that “you can use today” that I’ve become known for. So it’s time that I happen to things.

What if, instead, we look for ways to make something good happen from every situation? Yep. It’s time for us all to happen to things.

I had a job search client tell me that his recent unemployment has given him the time he has not made in a while to take care of himself and get a few things off of his to-do list. He’s been to the doctor, fixed a few things, did some preventative maintenance… and in light of the recent weather, some of this may have saved his house…

I had a friend tell me that her (more long-term) unemployment has given her the opportunity to volunteer. As she tries to stay busy and be useful (as well as keep the gaps off of her resume) she has been working hard in her town to increase the amount of food in the local food pantry and raise awareness about the hunger issues very close to home.

Leveraging social media, total strangers are reaching across the globe to help others in need. From encouragement and financial aid, to fundraising for little-known but highly valuable causes… the world is getting smaller in these times…

People are happening to things.

So, what does this have to do with talent management? Truth be told, nothing. At least not on the surface. But… just imagine for a second if every leader, every manager, every recruiter actually went out and happened to things. In a good way. In a positive way.

A little corny? Maybe. But what a difference a little “pay it forward” can make. Or, a kind word despite a mistake. Or, a voice of encouragement instead of criticism.

I challenge us all to find a way to make something good happen every day, in every situation, no matter how difficult.

Let’s all happen to things.

3 Leadership Strategies for Positive Communication


Open and positive communication is a necessary component of success in business. Of all the successful CEOs with whom I have worked, not one has said that their success was the result of operating in vacuum. Each has credited the teams they have built, developed, and led by nurturing professional relationships and fostering two-way communication.

Here are 3 basic strategies, which, when put into daily practice, will change the culture in any organization to one of positive communication.

Ask Questions and Listen To the Answers  

Even when only assumptive, too often managers tell their staff what happened, what caused it to happen, how they should feel about it, what they should learn from it, and what they should do about it. This shuts down communication. It is much more powerful when we ask what happened, what the employee thinks caused it, how they feel about it, what they learned from it, and how they think they might fix it. Asking “what”, “why” and “how” questions instead of assuming you already know the answer fosters open communication and development.  Managers who already know it all don’t grow, and neither do their employees. Learn to ask questions and to really listen to the answers. And, keep in mind that HOW we listen can either encourage or discourage further communication and interaction.

3-3-2015 12-21-12 PM

Ask; Don’t Tell

Employees often tell me that they wish their managers would give them autonomy to do their jobs their own way. Unless you’re running an assembly line, presumably, it’s the outcome, not the process, which really matters. People create productivity in different ways and have developed their own work habits that really work for them. Trusting your employees to get the job done, and to come to you when they need to, goes a long way in establishing open communication. Employees should not be afraid to try something new or even to make a mistake, as long as they are achieving the desired outcome. There’s a big difference between “Finish this project.” and “What is your plan for getting this project completed?” Allowing for creativity in the process and providing support and guidance when asked is a sign of a communicative and collaborative leader.

Follow Through

Too many managers don’t say what they mean, mean what they say, or follow through consistently, leaving their employees (and likely their customers) feeling discouraged. Set and communicate reasonable expectations, decide what you will do, and then do it. (Point of Information: Decide what YOU will do, not what you will make your staff do.) This is a natural part of setting your team up for success.  Following through means taking action and keeping your word. It is a perfect way to avoid power struggles and other barriers to positive communication. An example might be letting your team know that you will begin your training session at exactly 10:00, instead of asking them to be on time. By the way, in this example, you really need to start your session at 10:00, even if only two of ten people have arrived. That’s the “follow-through” part.

These highly effective leadership tools will help you create and retain a successful organization based on trust, cooperation and collaboration.


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7 Universal Job Search Truths

There is an awful lot of advice out there about how to write a perfect resume or give the ultimate answer (42??) to the ultimate interview question. Some of it is even pretty good. But, the truth is there is more than one way to do it right. Recruiting, interviewing and selection are subjective.

It’s very likely that if you ask 10 recruiters for feedback on your resume, you will get 10 different opinions. It’s just as likely that if you ask 10 recruiters the best way to answer an interview question (almost any interview question), you will get 10 different replies.

Don’t get me wrong; as a profession, we do everything we can to take subjectivity out of the equation whenever possible. We (try to) ignore resume format choices. We create interview questions which focus on past work experience and competencies only as they relate to the skills necessary for the jobs we’re filling. We even create job scorecards and interview evaluation forms that help us stay as objective as humanly possible. But see… that’s just it. We’re human. So recruiting remains subjective.

That being said… there are still some things that are universal truths in the job search regardless of who’s on the receiving end.

  1. Proofread and edit your marketing material. No typos, misspellings or raging grammatical errors in your cover letter, resume, thank you note, LinkedIn profile, or any other material you are using to represent yourself are acceptable. If you claim to have great attention to detail, and spell manager without the second a, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
  2. Do your research. Due diligence is critical to a successful interview. If you don’t at least know what the company does, what people are saying about it and what we say about ourselves, you are not getting to the next interview.
  3. Nobody wants to hear your life’s story. If I ask you to “tell me about yourself” (which I don’t ever do by the way, but many people do. See – recruiting is subjective.) I do not want you to regurgitate everything that’s already on your resume. I want to hear the things that are relevant to this particular role and what makes you uniquely qualified for this job.
  4. Be ready and able to prove that you can do / have done what you say you can do / have done. You can’t just tell me you’re an innovator (or an excellent motivator, or that you impact top and bottom line growth) and expect me to just take your word for it. Arm yourself with metrics, results, and stories about your work history that validate your statements.
  5. Be kind. Be polite. Be thoughtful. I know hiring managers who ask their receptionists how you behaved while you were waiting for your interview. And, I actually know someone who, while parking their car, flipped off the person who was about to interview them. Yeah – the interview didn’t even happen.
  6. Stay positive. Desperate people don’t get hired. Neither do the ones who badmouth their former employers or team members.
  7. Be honest and be yourself. Life’s too short and you spend too much of it at work to not be in an environment where you will feel comfortable and really fit in.

If you happen to be the hiring authority, keep an open mind. Your way may not be the best way, and it certainly isn’t the only way. If all we do is hire people just like us, we’ll never grow. And, stagnation will never lead to success.

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