February 1, 2004   view past issues

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Feature: The New Core Competency of Recruiting

Leadership. What’s that got to do with recruiting and recruiters? Isn’t leadership a topic reserved for … well, for the leaders of our organizations-the executives, managers, directors and supervisors who oversee the work of the enterprise? That’s the view that some take, of course, but it’s not mine.

The art and science of leadership is clearly important to those who occupy formal positions of authority. They must have a robust set of skills and the requisite personal characteristics to organize and direct others in the accomplishment of their unit’s mission, whether that mission is to maximize sales in a business unit or to maximize the “A” level talent recruited for the enterprise.

Occupying a formal position of authority, however, doesn’t necessarily make you a leader. In fact, not an insignificant number of bosses confuse management with leadership, so let’s address that issue first. The management approach to winning the War for Talent is to see people as cogs in some vast supply chain. The key to victory, therefore, is efficiency; it is to rack ’em, stack ’em and pack ’em in the door as quickly as possible. While that approach may have worked in the War for Any Talent (during the late, unlamented boom), it is a strategy that cannot compete in today’s War for the Best Talent.

Victory in that war-the war for an unfair share of those who have rare skills and are rare performers-hinges on seeing people as cognitive beings who have emotional and intellectual responses to what happens to and for them in the recruiting process. The key to victory, therefore, is relationships; it is to optimize the experience of every single player in the process: one’s colleagues, one’s candidates and one’s customers. The person who does that, in my view, is the true leader, and the actions he or she takes to do so form the essence of leadership.

Which brings me back to my original question. What does leadership-optimizing the experience of every single player in the recruiting process-have to do with those of us who are not formally designated as the leaders of our recruiting and HR organizations? The answer is a lot! You see, good as our formal leaders might be at organizing and directing the group’s work, they depend upon informal leaders to get the job done. Indeed, the informal leaders of a staffing unit are its secret weapon in the War for the Best Talent. They’re the ones who set the pace and tone of the group. They’re the ones to whom their colleagues look for innovation and insight. They’re the ones on whom they count for assistance and support. More often than not, it is a staffing unit’s informal leaders who find a way to satisfy the unreasonable customer, the off-the-wall requirement, or the top notch candidate who won’t say “yes.”

And here’s the good news: informal leaders can be anyone and everyone in the staffing unit. That’s why I believe leadership is the new core competency of good recruiters-recruiters who truly make a difference in their organizations. Indeed, victory in the War for the Best Talent will go to those employers that have the greatest number of informal staffing leaders. These folks won’t have a formal title, of course; they will simply step forward and assume the role. They will make the individual commitment to see their work limited only by their own capabilities and imagination, not by their position description.

What are the inherent skills and knowledge of a good (formal or informal) leader? That’s clearly a topic that deserves more space than we have here. However, there are two key principles that all of the best leaders seem to understand and practice consistently:

  • First, they ensure that there is a clear and universally accepted definition of victory. In the War for Talent, good leaders will begin by developing a mutually acceptable definition of victory for themselves and their customers, candidates and colleagues. Equally as important, they will ensure that those definitions can be measured with credible metrics and that the metrics are actually used to gauge unit progress so that they (the leader) can (a) contribute to continuously improving its performance and (b) prove that victory is being achieved.
  • Second, successful leaders also carefully pick their battles. They accept that they will have limited resources (time, money, expertise), so they are very careful to determine what can be done at what time in what order so as to achieve victory as all have agreed to define it. Since victory is a compounding function-that is, one victory often begets another-it’s very important to start with a goal that has a reasonably high probability of success. It must also be a meaningful accomplishment, of course, but the key is to achieve a victory (as defined and measured by the players in the process). Once that’s been accomplished, the leader can then leverage that position to enlarge his or her unit’s contribution (and its perceived value) over time.
  • Leadership is often portrayed as something reserved for those with a title or a spot on the company’s organization chart. It is not. Leadership is a state of mind. An outlook. The sense of pride that one takes in his or her work. And because that’s so, leadership is something we all can do. It is an option. A choice each of us can make as we grapple with the real and present challenge of winning the War for the Best Talent.

    Thanks for reading.


    This Issue’s Sponsor: Dice

    This issue of WEDDLE’s newsletter is brought to you through the generous support of Dice.

    Why try our FREE job posting? Dice is where you will find the best tech candidates available. But don’t just take our word for it… Try Dice for yourself-at no risk. Click here today!

    The Free Job Posting offer is available to first time customers only. Jobs must be posted by February 29, 2004.

    Section Two: Site News You Can Use projects a larger than normal loss of workers among retail employers in the months ahead. What’s driving this exodus of talent. According to the site’s survey, there are a number of causes:

  • job stress, cited by 51% of respondents,
  • dissatisfaction with pay, cited by 50% of respondents,
  • lack of career advancement, cited by 43% of the respondents,
  • workloads that are too heavy, cited by 42% of respondents, and
  • inadequate on-the-job training, cited by 42% of respondents.
  • Similar surveys among other occupational fields have found the same underlying causes of employee angst. While any effective solution to this retention problem will undoubtedly involve taking action, the first and most important step is to recognize the true nature of the problem. How do you do that? Pull together a task force of managers, employees and HR Department representatives and (1) candidly assess morale in your organization, (2) aggressively probe for “dissatisfiers” among workers (i.e., those that represent trends or currents, not individual problems) and (3) analyze the source(s) of the “dissatisfiers.” Accomplish those three steps before you begin trying to fix anything. A good foundation of understanding will help ensure that you achieve the return you want and need on your investment in a retention program.

    Community Connect, Inc. has renamed its recruitment portal for, and The Web-site formerly known as Diversity Job Market is now to be called CommunityConnectJobs.

    HEATHeCAREERS Network, a portal for over 40 healthcare associations, launched a new service called Journal Connections ™. The feature enables recruiters to purchase classified and display advertising in any of the journals and newsletters of its members from a single page. In addition, the site announced the addition of several new associations to its network; they include the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, five state chapters of The Academy of Family Physicians (CA, FL, GA, PA, CO), and the Wisconsin Medical Society.

    Society for Human Resource Management has released an update to its 1996 Workplace Violence Survey, and the results show a much more proactive role among HR professionals. According to respondents:

  • 80% now conduct criminal background checks of candidates, an increase of 29%,
  • and

  • 35% conduct credit checks, an increase of 16%.
  • Why this more aggressive stance? Two reasons:

  • First, while most workplace violence is local in nature, 35% of HR professionals say the employees at their organizations have grown more concerned about it since 9/11 and another 11% report greater employee anxiety since the start of the war in Iraq.
  • Second, 60% of all organizations look to their HR Departments to solve the workplace violence problem. Not our colleagues in the IT Department, not the CFO, not some stellar business unit manager. When it comes to ensuring employee security, they count on HR professionals. Remind the CEO of that the next time the topic of outsourcing the HR Department comes up.

  • Section Three: Site Profiles

    Site Insite … how well do you know the Web’s 40,000+ job boards?

    1. If you’re searching for a very smart scientist to conduct basic research for your company, which of the following sites would probably leave you scratching your head?

  • WeedJobs
  • ScienceCareers
  • 2. If you were looking for a safety manager for your transportation company, which of the following sites would stop you dead in your tracks?

  • 3. When recruiting a senior executive who can add energy and innovation to your business consulting and solutions company, which of the following sites would likely be a bust?

  • (answers below)

    Site Spotlite … from the pages of WEDDLE’s 2004 Guides and Directories

    A WEDDLE’s 2004 User’s Choice Award Winner

    Post full time jobs: Yes

    Post part time, contract and consulting jobs: Yes – All

    Distribution of jobs: National: USA

    Fee to post a job: $201-300/posting

    Posting period: 60 days

    Can posting be linked to your site: Yes

    Resume database: Yes

    Number of resumes: 200,000

    Source of resumes: Direct from candidates

    Top occupations among resumes: Finance & Accounting, Information Technology, Management/Senior Executives, Sales & Marketing

    Other services for employers: Banner ads, Special area for HR/recruiters, Status Reports: banners

    Answers to Site Insite

    1., a technical job board for the southeast U.S.

    2., the site of a for-profit religious corporation.

    3. All of the sites.

    This Issue’s Sponsor: Dice

    This issue of WEDDLE’s newsletter is brought to you through the generous support of Dice.

    Why try our FREE job posting? Dice is where you will find the best tech candidates available. But don’t just take our word for it… Try Dice for yourself-at no risk. Click here today!

    The Free Job Posting offer is available to first time customers only. Jobs must be posted by February 29, 2004.