Dear Claudia,

What do you do with an untouchable hiring manager who treats candidates badly? A senior manager in our company is one of the business founders and good friends with the CEO and Board; he’s brilliant and has friends in all the right places, but he’s also a jerk to candidates. This guy has left candidates waiting in the lobby for hours, told them they’re not smart enough to work here, walked out on interviews without a word of explanation, and made at least one candidate cry. When asked, he says that an aggressive interview quickly sorts out the ones who won’t last long on the job, and a “zero tolerance” for stupidity is the best policy. One candidate was so mad after his interview that he went to the media (turned out his brother was a DJ at the local radio station). How can I get this manager to see the negative affect he is having on our ability to attract talent?

Fed Up


Dear Fed Up,

Can’t say as I blame you for being fed up – but take heart. This is a rotten situation, but not an insurmountable one. You won’t win over this manager with an emotional plea for candidate experience; you might do better with a logical presentation of some facts.

Recruiting is a project-based business function. Generally speaking every hire has a budgeted requisition attached to it, and there is a well-defined start, middle, and end to the process. Lucky for us, projects have three critical levers that calibrate nicely together for maximum use of business resources:

Time
Most recruiting organizations measure some version of Time to Hire, Time to Fill, or Time to Start. Any of these metrics can tell the right story when used consistently. What impacts time to hire? The obvious are factors such as clarity of search requirements, availability of qualified candidates, and geographic reach for talent. But there are soft factors that also impact time to hire: direct competition for talent, the company’s business reputation, its ability to assess talent correctly, and time management relative to candidate presentations, interviews, and hiring decisions. Behaviors that negatively impact any of these areas lengthen the amount of time it takes to find and hire qualified talent. Put another way, the business need driving the hire is not met until the hire is made, and revenue or productivity suffers as a result.

Cost
Another common measurement of a project is cost (no surprise there). In recruiting, cost per hire typically accounts for the total spent in terms of advertising; fees for agencies, sourcing, and employee referrals; and expenses related to internal recruiters, travel, and relocation. Budget clearly affects recruiting strategies and programs, and once again it’s important to note that behaviors that negatively impact these areas increase the cost of finding and hiring qualified talent.

Quality
The third lever of effective project management is quality. And although some elements of quality can be measured objectively (think of defect rates in manufacturing or software, for example), many elements of quality can only be measured in the context of individual perception. Quality of Hire and Candidate Experience (some refer to this as hiring process quality) are two measurements that rely on perception to calibrate correctly. And I know it sounds redundant, but it’s true: behaviors that negatively impact these areas decrease the quality of talent that is attracted to, and eventually hired by, the business.

Here’s the kicker: these three levers are interdependent. That’s right, what you do with one affects the other two. Extended time to hire puts pressure on the business need for the new hire; urgency drives up costs, and causes folks to settle for what they think they can get (i.e., reduces quality). The converse is also true.

If quality is non-negotiable for your manager, I suggest that you focus the discussion with him on specific behaviors that increase the time and cost of hire for the business. Aggressive interviewing is often a manager’s way of saying “I don’t trust you to select candidates for me;” if that’s the case here, try adding an assessment test to the pre-interview activities. In any case, it’s important to make the link for this manager between his bad behavior and the time and cost per hire that result. He may not change overnight, but he does have a vested interest in the profit and performance of the business; eventually logic and data may be your best shot at winning him over.

Of course, he might just be an arrogant idiot. In that case, hang tight until the economy shifts and really great recruiters are hard to find – your next opportunity will be waiting.

**

In my day job, I’m the Head of Products for Improved Experience, where we help employers use feedback to measure and manage competitive advantage in hiring and retention. Learn more about us here.

Do you have a question you'd like answered in this weekly forum? Drop me a line!

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How about a "chance" meeting in a dark alley from a "friend" who threatens to put a hurt on this talent thumping tsunami the next time he hears about the poor treatment of a potential ambassador of goodwill?

Does this manager want to see how their behavior impacts recruiting? Yes - good; no - next question...

Does this manager generate lots of revenue for the company? No - good; yes - next question...

Do all the people who are hired by this manager perform to the highest standards? Yes - good for the company; no - next question...

Does the company collect and analyze performance data and track it back to sources of hire?

Whether bad manager or good manager, the missing link in assessing recruiting is to track everything forward and backward to the balance sheet (ask Hilbert). If behavior harms the balance sheet, bad; if behavior helps the balance sheet, good - unless bad behavior helps the balance sheet then you have to analyze how bad behavior that generates good results is actually generating less results than could have been realized through better behavior. Not enough space here but I'm certain CF that you'll run with this thought...
No, there are times when someone is untouchable; an alternative path of decision making is whether the person asking the question wants to find another place to work...

Rayanne said:
Nobody is that untouchable. Present the metrics above to both the "bad boy" manager and his supervisor - Or ask for time in a staff meeting to explain these three interdependent variables.
I couldn't agree with you more Steve - if it can be measured, it can be improved. The trick is to pick your metrics carefully; don't measure everything, measure the important things - and I strongly recommend that you pick at least one thing under each of the three levers above. Then use them effectively to change behavior when you have to pick your battles with anyone else in the business.

Well-chosen data is what saves your butt, not empathy for candidates.

Steve Levy said:
Whether bad manager or good manager, the missing link in assessing recruiting is to track everything forward and backward to the balance sheet (ask Hilbert). If behavior harms the balance sheet, bad; if behavior helps the balance sheet, good - unless bad behavior helps the balance sheet then you have to analyze how bad behavior that generates good results is actually generating less results than could have been realized through better behavior. Not enough space here but I'm certain CF that you'll run with this thought...
Actually, "untouchable" varies a lot between smaller and larger companies, and startups are often the worst offenders (just a little past experience falling out of the closet there). In those cases, it really does come down to the person who doesn't sign the checks having to look elsewhere for their next great career opportunity...


Steve Levy said:
No, there are times when someone is untouchable; an alternative path of decision making is whether the person asking the question wants to find another place to work...

Rayanne said:
Nobody is that untouchable. Present the metrics above to both the "bad boy" manager and his supervisor - Or ask for time in a staff meeting to explain these three interdependent variables.
Ah, this I agree with although the time between presentation and impact may be longer than many can stand.

Rayanne said:
"Nobody is that untouchable" The owner is that untouchable, so is his wife or son, etc...

I meant that there isn't anybody that the right information won't alter their path.

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