The Novo Blog

Recruiting for “Mission Impossible”

Posted by: Monica Schmidt on August 4, 2010

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In my two years with the Novo group, I have had the pleasure of working with hiring teams within a wide variety of settings throughout my tenure as a Recruiter.  I’ve recruited Technical Sales Engineers within obscure industries, Operations professionals in Juarez, Mexico (the “murder capital” of the world), Social Workers and Special Education Teachers for At Risk Youth, University Professors and Administrative roles (for smaller faith-based institutions), and Executive Assistants (“Work Wives” are particularly difficult to find in our century).

As a Recruiter, I will admit, I get fired up when I get to dig into a difficult search.  I get a certain level of satisfaction from being able to fill a role that no one else has been able to fill.  I have been fortunate to work within a business model that allows me to remain persistent on a wide gambit of searches that most third party agencies would step away from.  So my proclivity for “digging in”, coupled with Novo’s business model allows me to revel in the searches that are often termed “mission impossible”.

As much as I enjoy “mission impossible” projects, I do feel obligated to let you in on a little secret.  Sometimes the impossible can be made manageable if the hiring authorities address just a few common recruiting obstacles.

Lack of alignment between multiple decision-makers in the hiring process.  This can happen in small privately held companies and in large matrixed organizations.  Misalignment can often occur between the Hiring Manager and the Human Resources team.  It can just as easily happen in the space between the Front Line Management Group and the Executive Team.  Alignment can be out of whack between different departments within the organization.  Think about it, when was the last time you heard “our hiring team has talked over the details of this role and we all agree on what we’re looking to find in a top candidate”.

Unrealistic expectations within your hiring team.  Hiring teams have the perception that Recruiter’s will be able to find a candidate that has had “apples to apples” experience in every aspect of this new role.  Better yet, in this economy, hiring managers often think they can get “more candidate” for their buck and they create a job description that comprises duties that would customarily have been separated across multiple positions.  This pursuit of the “perfect” candidate is a recipe for a perpetually unfilled position.

“Out of Pocket” or non-responsive hiring teams.  This one is fairly self explanatory.  If your decision makers cannot carve time out of their schedules to define the search, review and interview candidates, than you are not going to fill your position.

Indecisive or inexperienced hiring teams.  Another basic premise to filling a position, the hiring team has to feel comfortable assessing candidates and making decisions.  Often times, hiring team members are selected due to their proximity to the job.  Preparation for inexperienced hiring team members on the art of interview and selection will help to bring the team to a hiring decision in a more realistic timeline.

Unpleasant candidate interview experiences.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to a candidate’s perception of the interview process and cringed at the lack of respect and courtesy they’ve been given.   Believe it or not, candidates that have endured bad interview experiences will talk to their friends, family, colleagues, and internet blogs.  When that “word on the street” accumulates, your ability to attract top talent will be significantly impacted making all positions within your organization difficult to fill.

Queue the music… dun, dun, dun, dun.  These obstacles are fairly common, but are not insurmountable.  I have found that Novo’s business model and recruitment tools to be very effective on more difficult searches.  Each search has its own nuances, so the first order of business is to design a recruitment strategy that will engage the hiring team in working towards a hiring decision.  I have found the following Novo tools to be crucial in facilitating alignment within even the toughest of searches.

Position Scoping.  Novo’s process begins with an in depth Position Scoping conversation held with as many decision makers as possible.  This allows us to understand the “must have” and “nice-to-have” requirements for the role.  It also helps us to learn more about the dynamics of the hiring team, the culture of the company, and fine tune the interview process with multiple decision makers.  This Position Scoping session is a crucial tool used to set expectations, establish process, and define timelines for our search.

Job Description.  All searches begin with a Job Description, which will define the position requirements for external audiences.  With information gathered during our Position Scoping session, we also include highlights of “What makes this a great opportunity” in the final Job Description we share with prospective candidates.  This step is a crucial aspect of attracting top candidates within searches where we may need to establish and/or repair a client reputation within the marketplace.

Litmus Test.  A Litmus Test is an internal document Novo produces to ensure alignment within the hiring team.  Produced in tandem with the Job Description, the Litmus Test serves as a foundational candidate screening document to assess candidates on the “must have” and “nice-to-have” requirements of the role.  This document also establishes the tone for the assessment of core competencies and/or soft skills of prospective candidates, by providing a list of behavioral-based Interview questions.  This tool functions to solidify alignment within our hiring team, as we require all decision makers to provide input  and sign off on it before we can begin recruitment.  This approval process often serves as a point of calibration within hiring teams that may not have been on the same page going into a search.

Dashboards.  Novo’s business model hinges on transparency, which is often the key to facilitating a hiring team through the sometimes tricky process of finding and attracting top talent.  Our dashboards provide data; it’s as simple as that.  This data captures names, titles and companies of candidates we’re pursuing, candidates perceptions of our Client Company and their position, salary data, and overall industry market intelligence gathered throughout the search.  Our dashboards provide transparency to facilitate working together to alter position requirements, change the salary structure, and adjust our recruitment strategy in response to market trends.

Weekly Updates.  One of the key aspects to Novo’s process is a weekly follow up call, which carves out time for decision makers to come together to discuss the search.  This time spent together allows me to proactively assess the progress of our search, continue to set expectations, overcome obstacles in the search, adjust recruitment strategy and drive the process to facilitate a hiring decision.  Even more important in a “mission impossible” search, I personally have used this time with hiring teams to breach gaps between departments, train and mentor inexperienced hiring teams on the art of assessment, further calibrate a team’s alignment, and provide candidate feedback on the interview experience.

With a high level of perseverance and the right process, mission impossible searches become filled searches.  So, why do I gravitate to those hard-to-fill searches?  The answer is simple; I enjoy the challenge of working with a team to facilitate alignment and decision making.  There is a huge sense of accomplishment when you finally find a candidate that fits the unique needs of your client, work with that person through intensive hiring processes, extend them an offer, and finally hear a “Yes” from that one-of-a-kind candidate.  Not to mention, the resounding “cheer of joy” within hiring team is often a much louder when they fill a role that, in many cases, had been open for months (sometimes years) before they got engaged with Novo.  Maybe I’m just a sucker for a good celebration!