Home > Exclusive Articles, Staffing > “Where Are the Princes? – Some Are Outside Eating Stupid Cake”

“Where Are the Princes? – Some Are Outside Eating Stupid Cake”


by John Wentworth
Wentworth Recruiting
See John’s bio on the HR Performance Sites website

“Well, here’s a new and different problem,” Jim thought to himself. Jim was the Director of Recruiting for Acceleration Service.

The recession was raging and there were plenty of people looking for work. One of Jim’s divisional recruiting managers, Sarah Plentic, had just hung up from a conversation with Jim in which she expressed her glee about the number of candidates she had for a job.

“I KNOW we can find enough good employees in such a big group,” she nearly sang.

“Whew. A recruiting manager who is not complaining about a shortage of candidates. That’s refreshing.”

Jim’s reverie did not last long. The next day Sarah called again. “They all flunked the test,” she groaned.

“All of them?”

“Every last one,” she said.

“What happened?”

“I told you. They all flunked the test.”

“But why?”

“How do I know? They all ate stupid cake before they walked in, maybe.”

“Well, at least we can win an EEO claim since we flunked everybody.”

“Swell. I still have 23 new jobs to fill.”

This really was a pretty high-class problem to have. Jim had been fighting his divisional recruiters, and some managers, for over a year to get an “evidence-based” selection process in place. He could have written a thick and heavy book about all the reasons he heard about why they should not employ a more accurate screening process. “It screens out good people.” “It’s voodoo. It doesn’t work.” “It’s too expensive.” “It takes too long.” “There aren’t enough candidates.” “It’s too much work.” “It’s too bureaucratic.” Just thinking about all the complaints made him tired.

But he and science had prevailed and the result was lower turnover and higher productivity. Recruiting cost a little more but that cost was more than offset by the reduction in the cost of dealing with employee relations issues and replacing employees who turned over and training the new ones to productivity. They had not put a dollar value on the additional productivity, but it had to be a lot. In the end, money was saved.

But the dark side of good screening was the number of frogs you had to kiss to get a prince. Some will turn into princes and some will not. But how do you know from a distance? And how do you know where they are?

These were now Sarah’s problems. She and Jim put their heads together and came up with a plan.

They looked at where their good employees had come from: what companies, what kind of companies, through what strategies and what sources. At first the results did not make any sense.

There were clusters of people who came from the same companies. These people accounted for about a third of their top performing employees in this job. A lot of the not-so-good employees came in clumps, too, but from other companies. Others had come one at a time from one company, another from another company.

They found that a very high percentage of their candidates for this job came from newspaper ads and postings on the Internet, but not many of those were in the high performing group. These were the recruiter’s nightmare, in fact: candidates who consumed a lot of time and effort but did not, in general, get hired or, if they did, did not perform that well.

Others came from individual referrals, some employees, some candidates.

And, most confusing of all, some of their best employees just walked in.

“What does this mean?” Sarah sighed.

“Let’s look at the clumps,” Jim said.

What they found was that employees from certain companies did well at Acceleration. They also found out that one of their recruiters was very assertive in asking new hires from those companies to go back and tell others how good it was at Acceleration.

“So our recruiter uses every new hire as a source,” Jim said. “We just need to keep targeting those companies. There is a reason that the people who have moved to us made that decision. We just need to figure out what they are saying, make that our message, and direct it toward those companies. As they fill themselves up, we take them out.”

“Cold and cruel,” Sarah commented.

“We are better businesspeople than our competitors,” Jim said. “They select well but don’t do what it takes for the new employees to develop loyalty. We do both.”

“I’m glad I’m on our side!”

Many of the high-performing Acceleration employees who were not in clumps had passed through the hands of a different recruiter. That person did not send them back to recruit their former employees.

“If we asked them to, I bet we’d get a lot of hires,” said Sarah.

“I’ll not bet against you,” agreed Jim. “In fact, I’d like to look at the walk-ins. I bet you that they are from some of the companies we are not farming.”

“And,” said Sarah, “I’d put one more bet on the table. I bet that the new high-performing employees who came from individual referrals are either tied to one of these feeder companies or are tied to one of our current high-performing employees.”

When they went back and dug a little deeper, they won all their bets.

“And last,” Jim suggested, “let’s stop advertising and posting. It’s just a waste of money.” Everyone agreed.

* * * * *

It was not all smooth sailing. While Sarah filled all her jobs with a very high proportion of strong employees, not all the companies from which they attracted new employees accepted their fates calmly. Acceleration got phone calls from a couple of HR directors. Even one CEO called Acceleration’s CEO demanding that they call off the dogs. They did, but the word had become institutionalized at these companies and the referrals continued to flow. Fortunately, Acceleration had so little turnover in this job that once they filled up they could only thank the people who inquired and keep them on file for a rainy day.

What Jim enjoyed most, however, was hearing from some of his employees that they had been approached by an employment agency to move to one of the feeder companies. First, Jim was very happy that they were not interested in leaving. He thought that Acceleration was a great place to work, so was tickled that others thought so, too.

Second, Jim chuckled when he thought about Acceleration having not spent a dime on agency fees. They had done it will their own people. When he got a little firm with the agencies counselors who called, they confessed to Jim, telling him that they had been directed toward Acceleration by a couple of the feeder companies.

“It’s all about having a good product, knowing where to sell it and how to sell it well,” Jim explained to the division’s general manager. “Sarah went the extra mile to find out where the good candidates are. She found them and attracted them. She sent them back for more. The word spread. The people who joined us were treated well and they reported that to the folks at their prior employers, so more came.”

“What did this cost us?” inquired the general manager.

“Less than you were spending before. In this round, you hired two out of three you interviewed. Sarah had some serious efficiency going. We spent nothing on agencies and stopped running ads about half way through. So far none of the new hires has turned over, so that means the managers like their work and they like working for us. And that department’s productivity is climbing.”

“I’m glad we are through the big push. I didn’t love the calls I got from the companies you were raiding.”

Jim just looked at him.

“But I’m not complaining!” the GM said.

Jim smiled.

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