Hiring, Recruitment, Sourcing

The Wild West of hiring: What, why and how to measure results

The Wild West of Hiring: Best hiring practices

Who’s the best hire? Where does the best talent come from? Who will stay the longest? Who’s thinking about leaving? An entire new industry of vendors has sprung up to answer your every question about hiring the best talent. Employers are spending about $20 billion a year on these new tools for best hiring practices — most without knowing whether they work. According to Wharton’s Peter Cappelli in his May Harvard Business Review article, “Your Approach to Hiring Is All Wrong,” recruitment has moved into the Wild West.

In the midst of all this opportunity and confusion, start with this question: How do we know whether our practices lead to finding the best employees — the ones with the most talent and right culture fit who will help reach your full competitive potential? For that, you need a process that measures what’s working (or not) and tells you what to pay attention to as you move forward. Measuring is the only tool that enables you to influence outcomes, either positive or negative. Without it, you’re moving blind.

As they said in the Wild West, “It don’t take a genius to spot a goat in a flock of sheep.” It takes a process.

Below is our short guide on the questions you should ask, why you need to ask them and how to go about measuring whether your recruitment processes are working. Our guide for best hiring practices is based on 15+ years of firm experience working with companies of all industries and sizes throughout the country — and on finding our own way through this maze as we’ve grown.

A brief guide to best hiring practices

The secret to successful recruitment and hiring is to maintain a sales mindset. Our advice always begins with “treat candidates like you do customers.” You’ll be among a small minority of companies that monitor whether their hiring practices are working, which will put you way ahead in the talent war.

Typically, and unfortunately, most companies don’t think of hiring as an investment. It is, in fact, both an investment of money and time, and what you put into it (or not) is a strategic business decision. HR staff are not sufficiently trained in best hiring practices, or in how to monitor and measure employees all the way through their life cycle with you. Do you have the structure in place to find answers to these fundamental questions?

  • The marketplace. How do you stack up compared to your competitors? Are your compensation levels and perks fair and trending with market expectations? Do candidates compare you positively to competitors in relation to compensation and culture? Do you check Glassdoor, Indeed and other “feedback” social media sites frequently? Do you act on what employees and/or the market is saying about you?
  • Cost to hire. What are you investing in the hiring process, from initial outreach, interviews, background checks/pre-offer, offer, and hire, to start date? Is it enough, or are you wasting too much money on hiring practices or resources that don’t work for you?
  • Time to hire. How long does it take to fill your open positions? Are there avoidable delays? What is this costing your business in terms of missed sales, lost customers, inability to move your strategic objectives forward and employee burnout/attrition from overwork? Are you communicating frequently with your candidates throughout? (Let the turtle and the hare be your guides: fast does not always mean best!)
  • Time to productivity. How long is your onboarding and training process and is it too long or short? How effective is it in terms of reduced on-the-job errors and employee/supervisor satisfaction?
  • Candidate conversion. Where are your best candidates coming from? Are they active (looking for jobs) or passive (not looking but open to opportunities)? How many are referred by employees? What is the conversion rate of candidate to hire, and what is the quality of applicants you attract—are you creating the right pool and what percentage moves to the interview stage? Which schools provide the best performing candidates at the lowest compensation? How many candidates do you lose in the hiring process and why?
  • Culture fit. How do you assess culture fit — the number-one hiring criterion companies use — with interviews and assessments? Do current employees have an accurate and consistent view of your values and what they mean in terms of workplace behavior? Do turnover and exit interviews reveal that lack of culture fit is an issue? What would they say to potential candidates?
  • Adverse impact. Are your hiring practices valid and meaningful, ensuring that you are protected from unintended discrimination or adverse impact claims? How many claims have you had in the past? What do candidates experience? What have you done to ensure that your culture and practices are open to all strong candidates according to the law?
  • Use of recruiting tools. If you are using job boards, outsourced recruiters or other tools, what are the costs monthly and annually? Are these resources scalable as your business needs evolve? Are their reports understandable and actionable? Do they produce high-quality candidates and clear results?
  • Testing. Are you using tools that provide both quantitative and qualitative information about candidates? How successful are they in predicting good hires including skills, attitude and cultural fit? How do you control for bias?
  • Turnover. What are your turnover rates and how do they compare with others in your location or industry? Do you conduct exit interviews with every employee to understand why they are leaving? Do you check with employees regularly about what they like and don’t like about working for you and do you act on some of their suggestions? Do you ask them whether they would recommend a friend or acquaintance to work for you? Employee views are “out there,” impacting your employment brand and hiring opportunities.

Answers to all of these questions and others you wonder about help ensure that your approach to hiring is right. You’ll find answers through a combination of surveys, interviews, assessments and/or tracking software. If you’re using outside resources, their reports will provide additional data and insight. Use the information to determine where and how much to invest in your recruitment budget and what areas you need to focus on to improve and update your practices. You need to go beyond the number of candidates you attract, which can bring a false sense of pride. True success is measured in candidate quality, acquisition costs and conversions to long-term employment. Understanding how your practices impact the quality of your hires is among the most consequential aspects of business today. Remember my friends, it’s never any one thing — it’s everything!

Process is king

Although it’s true that we can’t measure some of the things we value most — like respect, fun and kindness — the adage, “we manage what we measure” is also true in business. It’s important that we pay attention to both skills and attitude, experience and culture fit, character and personality. A well-defined hiring process based on data and punctuated with personal observation helps us choose the right people.

As they said in the Wild West, “It don’t take a genius to spot a goat in a flock of sheep.” It takes a process.

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Kathleen Quinn About the Author: Kathleen Quinn Votaw

Kathleen is an engaging and authoritative speaker on culture, talent, and human capital strategy. With 30 years of professional experience, including 10+ years as a Vistage member and 15+ years as a CEO, Kathleen offers invaluable advice to …

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