Moving Talent Acquisition Toward Greatness
Two thought leaders -- Dr. John Sullivan and Tim Sackett -- shared their ideas for improving the recruitment process at this year's Recruiting Trends & Talent Tech Conference.
By Michael J. O'Brien and David Shadovitz
Greatness is a trait that may be simple to define on paper but is often difficult to spot on the street.
That's according to Tim Sackett, who delivered the opening keynote last Wednesday to a full ballroom at the Recruiting Trends and Talent Tech conference at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Fla.
In a presentation titled "The DNA of Great Recruiting Pros: Transforming Yourself and your TA Shop to World-Class Levels," Sackett began by projecting well-known action shots of Muhammed Ali and Michael Jordan on the ballroom's screens, followed by a photo of a seemingly unremarkable man crouching over some menial task in a parking lot. The latter photo's subject? Art world darling and street artist Banksy, whose graffiti-style pieces often sell for millions.
"He's considered great," said Sackett, "but how many of us consider graffiti artists to be great?"
From there, Sackett, a popular speaker, blogger and president of HRU Technical Services, laid out the traits that are attributable to great recruiting professionals, including strong presentation and marketing skills, the ability to speak truth to power when necessary, and possessing personal political savviness.
"Are you a purist, a team player, a street fighter or a maneuverer?" he asked rhetorically. "If you work for a super-conservative organization and you're a street fighter, there's some misalignment there, and that is not going to work, because you're going to pound your head against the wall and they're going to hate your guts."
Sackett also advised the audience to "constantly try new stuff" at work and to "do things that make us uncomfortable," such as defending a work colleague when necessary. He acknowledged that it's a difficult to do because of concerns for one's own career, but "to be able to go out and stand up for someone else gives you so much courage, and people will look up to you for that."
It's also important to view "recruiting as sales," Sackett said, sharing an anecdote he picked up while working with Quicken Loans' Jim Livingston.
Once the head of mortgage banking sales for 16 years, Livingston recently changed titles to become the company's talent-acquisition leader, a role he used to help "transform the organization" by incorporating some of the very same sales techniques he used in his prior role. Among the changes at Quicken Loans -- which is looking to double its headcount to 30,000 -- was the installation of large flat-screen monitors that show the activity and performance on a minute-by-minute basis of the company's approximately 100 recruiters.
Sackett said he now considers Livingston to be one of the top-five TA leaders in the country.
"[Livingston] didn't know anything about talent acquisition when he started," Sackett said. "All he knew was sales and how to drive them."
Finally, a deep knowledge of a company's talent pool is critical for greatness, he said.
"Always keep that larger organizational picture in mind. But don't let anyone else be the expert at talent at your organization. Nobody should know the talent in your organization better than you do."
If you're a recruiter who feels as though you don't have the respect of hiring managers, you're probably not alone.
During a "mega-session" held on the opening day of the conference titled "Getting Hiring Managers to Focus on Great Recruiting," San Francisco State University Professor John Sullivan said that only one out of three hiring managers think recruiters have a positive impact on their businesses. But he also told those attending that recruiters have a number of options at their disposal for changing that dynamic.
The best way to get the attention of hiring managers, he said, is to approach them with data that matters to them.
Recruiters, said Sullivan, shouldn't waste their time trying to change what hiring managers care about, because they won't change. Instead, he said, they should focus on what they do care about: money.
"Managers live in a world that's data driven, but mostly it's about money," Sullivan said.
If recruiters want to get through to hiring managers, Sullivan said, they need to be able to explain how what they do impacts each of these four areas: business goals, bonuses, getting promoted and time.
"Don't bother coming in to talk to hiring managers about diversity or time to hire, because it just glazes them over," he said. "But if you come in and tell them you can increase their sales by 20 percent, then they will listen to you, instantly."
Sullivan noted that recruiters have a compelling story to tell. "If you do great recruiting, you can increase revenue by 3.5 times," he said, adding that leadership development has roughly half that impact.
"Every other manager on the planet measures process effectiveness," Sullivan said. "But only 33 percent of firms actually measure quality of hire?"
At the same time, Sullivan said, everyone else in the organization measures failure rates, but not recruiters. (New hires, he said, fail nearly half the time, with a 46 percent churn over an 18-month period.)
Not good, he said.
Sullivan advised those attending to show hiring managers what a weak hire costs their organization. "How much damage can one employee do?" he asked. "A lot. They can cost you 10 times their salary."