Recruiting for Success: Getting Below the Surface

The best recruiters are alchemists. They seek to understand and weave a relationship between the hiring company, the hiring manager and the candidate. Most importantly, they look beyond the short-term gains and resist pressure to close the deal too quickly. Instead, they think holistically, looking beyond surface compatibility to explore long-term alignment. Finding a perfect fit may seem like magic, but successful outcomes can be predicted based on key compatibility factors.

For example, they might explore a candidate’s values. Do they align with the organization’s culture and values? Great recruiters also learn about a candidate’s expectations and the environment in which they thrive. Will a candidate seeking a high-growth business be disappointed to discover that the company they just joined is in Renewal or Decline? Does the candidate prefer to work independently, and how will this mesh with a manager that tends toward micro-management?

These factors matter. It’s tempting to stick to the surface to expedite the hiring process and meet immediate needs. But in the long run, it is costly to both the hiring company and the candidate, who soon find themselves frustrated and needing to begin the whole process anew.

Recently, a senior executive I was coaching recounted a crystal clear memory related to her own experience being recruited 8 years earlier. She recalled feeling great pressure from the recruiter to accept the offer and she didn’t take the time to do her own due diligence. Looking back, she regretted not knowing more about the political environment she was entering. Unfortunately, this story is all too common.

Similarly, I have seen candidates hop from one job to another in search of the right fit. Given the competition for top talent, it is easy for them to explain leaving due to a culture mismatch, long commute or higher salary. However, the real story is that the relationship was likely doomed from the start. By hopping from one poor fit to another, they perpetuate the cycle.

Most search engagements stay on the surface and seldom venture into the underlying compatibility factors that best predict a successful placement. This may be due to a desire for expedience or a lack of awareness. It may also be due to an inherent desire to look good — everyone wants to put their best foot forward during the courting process. Organizations may not want to admit that their values are not embodied in their leadership or culture. Candidates may fear appearing overly needy or demanding if they inquire too deeply about the company or hiring manager’s style. Regardless of the reason, without a deeper and perhaps more vulnerable dialogue, the perfect fit can be elusive.

This is where an experienced recruiter can work magic. By establishing trust, safeguarding confidentiality and being skilled at thoughtful inquiry, they can get below the surface to identify an ideal match while also maintaining a firewall that protects all parties.

It’s my belief that all parties share responsibility for better outcomes. Both the recruiter and recruited need to be prepared to slow down and engage in the deeper conversations that will reveal whether it’s best to move forward or keep searching for the right fit. With economic uncertainty in recent memory, candidates may feel they can’t afford to hold out. But I believe this dynamic has shifted and candidates hold the upper hand today, as long as they do their research, arm themselves with tough questions, and remember that the interview process cuts both ways.

As all parties share responsibility, all parties share in the benefits. Ultimately the goal is a shared one – the right fit and rewarding relationships that benefit all parties and last.

About:  Eugene Dilan, Psy.D., SPHR, SHRM-SCP is the Founder and CEO of the Dilan Consulting Group.


Eugene's Thoughts On Amazon

With the recent hubbub regarding the Amazon workplace, I’m genuinely thankful to Jeff Bezos and Amazon for inspiring a conversation about values and culture.

True or not, the alleged issues at Amazon are not surprising – and certainly not isolated. I personally see similar issues daily across all kinds of organizations, from start-ups to established enterprises and non-profits.

Companies genuinely struggle to meet competing demands. On the one hand, everyone wants increasing profits. Organizations are under pressure to do more with less and deliver short-term results. On the other hand, we are appalled to learn about companies with less-than-ideal (or worse) working conditions.

Sadly, the result of this conflict is a trend towards an “on-demand and on-call” workforce. While this issue is rife with complexity that cannot be addressed adequately in this short space, in my humble opinion, we — as a community and as leaders — need to step back and consider if it is even ethical. All too often "on-demand and on-call" leaves workers voiceless and vulnerable, working with no job security or predictable income.

The bottom line is that none of this is sustainable. So what’s the answer?  Leadership!

Leaders are the stewards of organizational values, which drive behaviors, and ultimately shape company culture. Today more than ever, companies need to develop leaders who walk the talk and are willing to buck the trends. Starting on day one, leaders need to realize that what they say or do – or fail to — has serious consequences.

Commonly these so-called soft conversations about values and organizational culture get put on the back burner – a conversation for another day when “we have more time or money.” And even if they do have the conversations, values may end up posted on the wall but not embedded in behavior.

Unfortunately, our experience at the Dilan Consulting Group is that these critical conversations often happen after a negative event — a mass exodus, lawsuit, bad PR. Only then do leaders finally stop and ask: “How did we get here? How do we make it better?” And usually these questions come with fingers pointing outward, when the reality is the leaders themselves have been shaping their organization’s culture all along whether or not they were conscious of it. Who they are and how they show up directed the personality of their organization, for better or worse.

Without mindfulness, even the best intentions can fall out of sync with values. Conversations about values and behaviors have to happen early and often because every action matters. Each decision creates lasting consequences that either build or erode gains.

Smart leaders start with culture in mind. They know that how they speak and behave, and the decisions they make, quietly create a picture that tells their employees what really matters.

It is never too late to start this conversation inside your organization. While shifting culture can be a slow process, you can reach critical mass faster if you proactively invest in developing your leaders and cultivating the values and behaviors that will lead towards sustainable, long-term success. The truth is that the competing demands highlighted above do not have to be mutually exclusive. It is possible to have great working conditions and consistently improve your bottom line. If this seems daunting, know you do not have to do it alone. We’re here to help.

About:  Eugene Dilan, Psy.D., SPHR, SHRM-SCP is the Founder and CEO of the Dilan Consulting Group.

No One Cares How Hard You Work


“No one cares how hard you work.” “When I can spend what you save me, let me know.” “How can you prove, except by your own opinion, that you add any real value?”

Pretty harsh words – evaluations actually – and all uttered by a former business leader as we discussed the HR function. Mind you, he thought I did a good job (okay, a great job), and yet had enough respect for me to challenge me with these vexing utterances. Why would such seemingly hurtful comments and/or questions be classified as respectful? Because these comments gave a very real glimpse into how the other professions might view ours. And our own actions, or inaction, might be painting that portrait.

The fact is, our peers expect that our work will be on time and good, just as we do of them. We expect accounting to account, sales to sell, IT to ensure our machines work, etc., etc. HR has long, and I believe accurately, held that our work converts strategy into results. That the true measure of our success as a function is directly tied, if not largely responsible for, the success of the entity. And yet, when we talk about our own metrics, if we even have them, we speak in terms of internal efficiency, and units of something – job recs, benefits forms, hours folks have been trained, policies promulgated – as if the amount of anything was a measure of whether or not it was any good. More of something bad isn’t a good thing. How often do we ask ourselves the harder question – what is the efficacy of these efforts to the organization as whole, to the business leaders we guide and/or support, to the employees, and to the final customer? Do we audit ourselves?

Also true is that great HR is as much art as it is science. And the nuances in between those two are difficult to measure. The same can be said of many professions. Take medicine or law. There are things that can be seen. People that are saved or cases won. Many of the greatest victories of all, thought,  are in a difficult to codify realm of prevention. Sound familiar?  And yet, these professions develop standards of practice, protocols, invite review. They police themselves, in large part. In short, they demonstrate a level of courage to look at their results. At least the good practitioners do. And we want to be great practitioners of a meaningful profession.

  •  Are we looking?

It is said that he who knows others is learned and that he who knows himself is wise. Until we have the wisdom to look at ourselves and evaluate our own profession, we will continue to have difficulty in convincing our peer professions of our value. It requires discipline and, in no small amount, courage. This is a concept beyond simple metrics – it is beyond efficiency and accuracy, which our peers consider a price of admission just as we do of them, it is about results. About effectiveness. About value. About impact.

In order to change the perspective of others, we must first change ours. Here are two things we can do:

  • Begin with the end in mind…
  • Evaluate processes, policy and metrics from the perspective of not just our internal clients, but also the end clients the organization serves.
  • An example: HR departments will often have complicated metrics regarding processing of job requisitions. Similar to an accounting aging report, we look at speed to fill, etc. Important? Yes. And perhaps too simplistic and internally focused. Consider matrixed metrics that those outside the recruiting function can support, such as speed to full productivity. This latter example invites collaboration as it approaches the process from the end, with what the organization and operational units desire – fully productive team members. Such a metric involves recruiting, training, line management mentoring and onboarding, etc. And is understandable and defensible to the non-HR wonk. Sure each of the sub elements require their own sets of analyses and metrics. Fully productive team members are a “product” HR can produce that the client understands, supports and appreciates.
  • Watch your language…

Great human resources practitioners, and leaders of any kind really, accomplish things through influence rather than direct control and power. And influence, at least of the positive kind, is based on trust. HR practitioners can unwittingly undermine trust by the very words they choose to use. Small changes can make a very big difference in establishing ourselves as integral and indispensable members of the team. Three things to police ourselves for:

  • Telling people what they can’t do…

Our peers are hired to “do” something. HR’s legitimate compliance and manager roles often result in evaluating the plans of others and the need for feedback regarding potential issues. Many times, we will say “you can’t do that.” And perhaps we can’t. However, if we continually tell people who are charged with “doing” things that they “can’t do them,” the likely result is that we will simply be left out of the conversation. Far  better results will be achieved by sharing what we can do rather than what we can’t. Make the suggestion in the positive terms of what can be done, therefore inviting discussion rather than appearing to shut down the conversation and being labeled as obstructionist.

  • No one likes to be “should” on…

A similarly detrimental set of dynamics occurs when we tell folks, usually after the fact, what they should have done. No one likes to be should on. There is no way saying to a peer “you should have done…” that does not appear judgmental. And, if this is advice after whatever action has already occurred, it is relatively useless. Instead, build rapport and trust by striking “should” from your vernacular, substituting language such as “what would have happened if,” “if this were to happen again in light of what we know now, how could we get a different result,” etc. This simple change of phrase positions HR as a coach and problem-solver rather than a judge.

  • Freeing ourselves from the infamous “they”…

A friend shared the other day that we should all be careful what we say, because we are listening. And so are our peers. Having spent more than two decades in HR and the associations that support the profession, the self-defeating, blaming language of the ubiquitous “they” holds us back. Statements such as “When are they going to include me?” “Why don’t they respect me?” “They just don’t understand.” Such an external locus of control and focus renders us incapable of changing anything. And it rightly sounds like we are whining. What instead? Insert yourself into the issue in the form of an actionable solution. “What can I do to gain acceptance,” ” What do my peers respect and how can I demonstrate that.” Sound simple? Absolutely not. It means that we are in control of our success. So much easier to live with unhappy inertia than to stand up and walk.

HR’s journey toward the respect it feels it deserves begins here. HR, heal thyself.

About: Danika Davis, SPHR, is the CEO of the Norther California Human Resources Association.