Make Hiring a Priority
volume 4 number 2
In the eighteen years since Management Team Consultants, Inc. was founded, recruitment and hiring practices have changed enormously. Unfortunately, one thing that hasn't changed is senior management's lack of commitment to hiring people the right way. I realize now how lucky I was to find that kind of commitment when I volunteered to run the MBA recruiting process at our division of General Foods some years ago.
At that time my ambitious plan to run a professional, buttoned-up operation was enthusiastically backed by Bill Dordelman, the division marketing manager. Dordelman used to say that "during recruiting season, no single activity is more important than the task of selecting and hiring the right people. It's how we build our future."
With that level of support there was never a canceled interview or sloppy post-interview assessment of a candidate. And because of this, we were extremely successful in hiring candidates who also had offers from major competitors such as P&G or General Mills.
I often do see something of Dordelman's attitude among HR, training, and staffing professionals. But for many line managers, who are usually overwhelmed with other projects, hiring is seldom a priority. This lack of interest manifests in many ways, from a reluctance to get further training in useful techniques to missed interviews and token assessments of candidates.
The result is that interview schedules are all too often haphazard, constructed around whoever happens to be in the office on a particular day. Last minute replacements on the interview team, unprepared and sometimes resentful, spend the first few minutes of the interview familiarizing themselves with the resume, something that sends a negative and unprofessional message to candidates. And at the end of the day, interviewers drift in and out of assessment discussions, often with little interest or investment in the outcome.
Compare this scenario with Dick Vague's operating style. Vague, CEO of First USA, says he "has been personally involved in hiring everyone in the top management group, and many three or four levels below that." Or AlliedSignal's Larry Bossidy's belief that "at the end of the day, we bet on people, not strategies."
Jim Collins, a former professor at the Stanford Business School and author of Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, says the three most common mistakes made by mediocre companies all relate to talent management. One particularly fatal error is putting an organization's best people to work on its problems, not its opportunities. Indeed. And in companies that don't see building tomorrow's organization as an opportunity, hiring and selection will always take a back seat to today's problems.
Given all this, one thing is clear. We won't be ready to deal with the challenges discussed in this newsletter until an outspoken leadership transforms current selection and recruiting practices.