SI Review: October 2012


True Employee

Techniques to Boost Your Hiring Success

By Tom Kosnik

The staffing industry has been and is in a growth mode. Almost every staffing firm from small to large is hiring. Meanwhile, direct hire firms that support the industry are turning away work because they have too many job orders in the queue. Everyone is hiring. Quality candidates know this, and know they are in a commanding position, which means one false step and your company can inadvertently turn off the top staffing professionals out there. Here, I discuss some tried and true techniques to attract and hold onto those candidates.

First contact. Never ever let the first point of contact be the HR department of your firm. The first contact for someone responding to a posting needs to be the recruiting manager or sales manager. A good prospective recruiter or sales rep will tear up an HR admin in seconds and move on to your competition. You will lose too many prospects if your managers are not the first point of contact. How do you make this happen? Put your manager’s mobile number in the posting.

Keep phone screens short. What most of us don’t quite get is that in the initial stages of the relationship the candidate is evaluating us harder than we are rating them. Why do we want to give a candidate a 45-minute phone interview to screen us out? We don’t. Get them in the office for a faceto-face interview. All the dynamics change once a candidate gets to meet people face-to-face. And the change is a good one. When candidates call in responding to a posting, the conversation should last only three minutes. The recruiting manager or sales manager is checking to see (a) if they have a good phone voice, (b) if they can carry on a conversation quickly (shows quick thinking on their feet), and (c) if they can follow directions. After the initial intro, the manager can cut the call short by saying he or she is rushing into a meeting and wants to meet them face-to-face the following afternoon. This approach should put prospects on their heels; you want to see how they respond.

Team interviewing. Don’t include a candidate’s peers in the team interview process. Candidates who are really good recruiters and sales reps for the staffing industry are a bit edgy — have strong egos. They set goals and go after them. This personality type will rub peers the wrong way in an interview process. If you allow peer team interviewing I can guarantee your existing employees will weed out your potentially strongest candidates.

Behavioral-based interviewing. Do this. Use this. It is an excellent technique. Non-behavioral based questions like “Are you good at building relationships?” or “Have you done cold calling before?” are limited and closed ended. A better approach is behavioral-based questions like “Give me three examples of where you built a trusting relationship with a client?” and “Tell me how you have resolved a conflict with a co-worker or manager?” Such questions are open-ended and are asking for examples. Once the candidate has responded, ask him or her to elaborate more. Ask for more details. For example, “What were the outcomes?”

Don’t forget attribution. You can take this concept to the bank. It has been proven several times over by industrial psychologists in various industries. If candidates attribute their success to “good luck” or being in the “right spot at the right time,” etc., then they are attributing their success to something external to themselves. If candidates attribute their success to “my organizational skills” or “my networking skills,” or “my work ethic,” etc., then they are attributing their success to something internal. Who would you rather hire — the guy who is lucky or the guy who makes his own success?

Lose the stupid comp plans. Shockingly, I still get calls from owners or managers within staffing firms asking if I can refer them candidates and the comp plan is a 100 percent commission. Or I get requests like, “we are an IT staffing firm in major market places and we want to hire experienced sales reps and are offering a $35K base.” You’ve got to be kidding! If you want to attract good, long-term employees, you need to offer a great comp plan. I am not saying you should overpay candidates. But do the market research, find out what the base salary range is and have a comp plan that offers a percentage of gross profit on a sliding scale plus an activity bonus, spiffs for accomplishing certain key initiatives and contests. Make it interesting and engaging. Utilize the sales levers. Cheap comp plans will only result in a high turnover rate.

Use personality surveys. This concept again is self-evident. Hundreds of companies around the world utilize personality surveys in the hiring process. Some of the best staffing firms in the industry have hired industrial psychologists to create their own surveys. This is no secret. Really good recruiters and sales reps have certain personality characteristic traits. You want to find out what those characteristics are and test for them. Personality surveys are not the end all and be all. They simply give you additional information in which to make an educated and informed decision.

Outline an internal hiring process. Whether it’s a five- or 12-step process, get one down. And then follow it. If you have no process then your hiring is all over the place and your success will be hit and miss. Think back over your last several hires. What did you do? What worked? What did not work? Write it down. This will be the start to your firm’s hiring process. Once you have a hiring process, one person has to be responsible for driving it. Having too many cooks in the kitchen will produce poor results. Having one person driving the hiring process and making sure all the right steps are being taken will increase success.

Job description. Most staffing firms, surprisingly, do not have job descriptions. Such documents are important so that candidates know exactly what they are getting into and so that you as the prospective employer know exactly what questions to ask in an interview. The biggest mistake we make in a hiring process is that we hire people we like, not people who are the best fit for the job. Starting with a good job description will help avoid this error.

Learn how to post a job. There is a method to the madness here. Recruiters and sales reps who are typically a good fit for a staffing company are not detail orientated. Elaborate postings trying to sell prospective candidates on applying to your staffing firm do not work. Fastpaced tactical sales reps will shy away from lengthy postings. Shorten it up, get to the point.

Don’t oversell. Many times I have walked into a staffing firm, conducted a focus group, and heard employees say, “I was told that in a year and a half I could make more than $100,000. I am not even close. And on top of it, the management sucks around here.” Good people are attracted to companies that have solid leadership and their act together. A candidate is going to take a job at your company because they believe or sense that they can advance themselves and their skills while working for your firm. The comp plan is only part of the overall decision-making process for the candidate. Don’t oversell them on the comp plan.

Execute. Amazingly, many staffing firms just cannot execute. They wait and wait and don’t offer candidates feedback and don’t stay in touch and then bring them back for a third and fourth and fifth interview. This is terrible! Good sales reps and recruiters are antsy. They think fast and move quickly. They are not going to sit around and wait for a staffing firm to take a week to respond. If they don’t hear from you, they’ll take a job with your competitor. This comes back to the process. If no one person drives the process, you’ll have inefficiencies that derail your hiring.

Tom Kosnik assists staffing companies improve employee performance, corporate revenue and net income profits. He can be reached at 312-527-2950 or


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IT Staffing Services

Than Nguyen10/16/2012 02:28 pm

All excellent tips. I've also learned that recruiters shouldn't automatically disqualify candidates without degrees, some of the best IT people I have had the pleasure of working with didn’t have a degree or had a degree in an unrelated field. For example, I know a guy who has a doctorate in physics who has always been a talented programmer.

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