Anxiety creeps up as that empty office chair, the one that used to be filled by an exemplary employee who has left to seize new opportunities, swivels in the wind—or at least you thought it did. You keep hearing it creak, only to turn and see no one sitting in it. Your mind plays tricks on you because the workload of the now-gone employee has been spread to the rest of the team—mostly you, though—and the absense is taking a toll on the company. The rest of the team is dragged down, already spread a bit thin and now even more so.
Point is, the anxiety caused by an unfilled position is sinking in and you’re susceptible to making knee-jerk hiring decisions in an effort to keep things running as usual. So, you just hire someone as fast as you can.
Unfortunately, companies generally don’t take the necessary time nor thoroughness needed to really vet applicants and get someone in that empty position for the long-term. It’s not an uncommon pitfall, but it's one that could potentially cost you more in time, money and resources if a poor hire is made. And the American labor market in the coming years will require hiring managers to fight for quality hires instead of just point and hire as the demand increases and supply slips.
A solid employment brand and methodical hiring process may take more time and attention up front; however, in the long run it will help you make better and more accurate hiring decisions which will limit employee turnover, help you build an employee A-team, and allow you to focus on growing your business.
Adam Robinson is the co-founder and CEO of Hireology out of Chicago, Illinois. He has over 20 years of experience in the hiring field and selection management, and was named a “Top 25 HR Industry Game Changer Under 40” by Workforce magazine in 2015, among other recognitions. Earlier this year he published his first book, "The Best Team Wins: Building your Business Through Predictive Hiring" which provides companies with a step-by-step process of how to improve their hiring operations. In other words, he’s familiar with best hiring practices.
In our interview he talked about his hiring philosophy and illustrated the anxiety that comes from an unfilled position:
“It starts with making sure you know what you’re trying to accomplish before you put anybody in the role. I think so many entrepreneurs, and I’ve certainly been guilty of this earlier in my career, feel the pressure of having to get a lot of things done and I feel like because I have to get a lot of things done, I need some help so I’m going to hire somebody to help me. I’m going to come up with a job description. I’m going to find the first person who’s available who seems competent that I like and we’re going to put them in the job and we’ll just sort of figure it out. In the short-run, that could help but over the long-run it causes all kinds of issues because you haven’t properly thought through the actual outcomes you’re looking to generate with the role; it’s not formal enough, you don’t know what you really want to accomplish, you just know you need help.”
And with a limited workforce, those reactive hiring decisions will be all the more detrimental to a company.
While we were talking about millennial workers, Adam said that the American workforce pool between 2012 and 2024 will drop by 14% on account of people having fewer kids before they are 40 years old, which means the workforce supply will bottom out by 2022. In fact, earlier this year it was reported that the country’s birth rate dropped to 1.8 children per woman, an all-time low.
“It means there are fewer people to go to work in an expanding economy, which, anytime there’s a supply and demand imbalance like that, the supply side wins,” said Adam. “And so if supply is the talent, I’m coming into the strongest demand for labor we’ve had in decades.”
In other words, it will be harder for companies to hire quality candidates and more than ever, the hiring process will be best as a function of sales as opposed to Human Resources. This is because in order to dominate their market, companies need to be hiring from the top 25% of the employment markets. However, candidates in the upper quartile are usually already happily employed and take some convincing to leave their current situation.
In his book, Adam breaks down the hiring process into four pretty beefy steps that can be applied to any-sized business:
- Define the Role
- Source Your Applicants
- Select the Right Person
- Retain Your Best
In step two, it’s all a numbers game. Here, the idea is to skim through resumes to find a large majority who may have a chance at the position. Adam suggests of 100 resumes submitted, interview 20 and five may be hireable. This will take a lot of time, but he poses this question, "Do you want to spend one day a week doing this or five days a week managing a poor hiring decision?"
Step three is probably one of the lengthiest steps of the process. Adam encourages those doing the hiring not to rely on their gut feeling, but to create more of a methodical system before the actual interview process that will help them come to the right choice. For example, the first chapter of this section in Adam's book talks about building a candidate scorecard that will keep a consistent measurement of what the company needs instead of relying on intuition.
Adam says, “The research actually shows that the people who make gut-hiring decisions are statistically way worse off than those who follow a rigorous, process-driven approach,”
Send the applicant through a series of interviews including phone, in person and follow-ups, always digging deeper and prying to understand exactly how they would fit into the company and into the role.
Similar to the sales cycle, in the end, a hiring manager will make an offer and it needs to be just right and one they can’t refuse. If they don’t respond back within a set time frame, (Adam uses 72 hours) move along.
And all through the book and during our conversation, one major focus of Adam’s is a company’s employment brand. This is what will set the company apart from its competitors and bring in candidates who fit the company.
In 2015, The New York Times ran an exposé about the working conditions of Amazon.com (which owns the paper’s competitor Washington Post) titled “Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace." The story talked about the breakneck speed at which Amazon.com moves and how it requires its employees to keep up by working endless hours and drives them to produce. A few disgruntled employees were interviewed and talked about how horrible is is working for the company, including a woman who cried regularly under the stress of her job and another man who was unable to spend any time with his family, among other anecdotes.
It was sort of a schmear campaign published to make it look like Amazon.com is some ruthless monster endenturing its employees into working servitude so people can get products overnight. But not everybody saw it that way, including Adam:
“I remember reading that article and I’m thinking, this place sounds actually like a pretty awesome place to work. They’re really transparent about expectations, they’re super dialed in meritocracy, and they want the best possible performances out of everyone, and if you don’t like it you can leave. Just remember, one person’s workplace nightmare is someone else's nirvana. I think that article did more to attract high performers to that organization—I think it had the exact opposite effect of what the writer of The New York Times wanted. . . .my point is, a strong employment brand will attract the right kind of people and it will make your job easier.”
Stop making gut reactions or knee-jerk hiring decisions. While it may seem like a quick hire fills a void in your company, it’s only for the short-term. In the long run, you’ll be spending more time, money, and resources trying to manage bad hires and make up for business connections and sales that could have been. Instead, understand your company's hiring brand and promote it. Develop a methodical process unique to your company that is used when hiring new candidates. Always hire with intention and a deep understanding of what that position needs to accomplish within your company.