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.