April 24, 2014

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TalentDecisions is a monthly podcast that features leading practitioners in human resources and talent acquisition within Fortune 500 companies. Interviews focus on the final four; the final four candidates you are considering to fill a critical position within your organization. TalentDecisions is a co-production of Checkster and TotalPicture Radio.


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TalentDecisions Interviews

Quality of Hire - How to Make Better Talent Decisions


A conversation with Yves Lermusi, CEO and Founder of Checkster

Published on November 26 2012
Yves LermusiYves Lermusi

"About 50% of the hires that are made are not great."

How do you define quality when it comes to recruiting and hiring? That was the topic of discussion at the Recruting Trends Conference in Las Vegas, featuring panelists Jason Buss, VP, Global Talent Management at Akraya; Kay Creighton, Cox Communications Director of HR; and Jason Pistulka, Director Technology Recruiting and Corporate College Relations at Asurion; moderated by our guest, Yves Lermusi CEO and founder of Checkster.

How to uncover quality in the hiring process is the focus of this podcast.

Welcome to Talent Decisions, a monthly podcast featuring leading practitioners within talent acquisition. The focus of this program is that final four - the final four candidates you are considering to fill a critical position within your organization. If you are a hiring manager struggling to ensure you make the right call or a talent acquisition department leader who wants to be more strategic, this program is for you.

Yves Lermusi TotalPicture Radio Interview Transcript

Welcome to Talent Decisions, a monthly podcast featuring leading practitioners within talent acquisition. The focus of this program is that final four - the final four candidates you are considering to fill a critical position within your organization. If you are a hiring manager struggling to ensure you make the right call or a talent acquisition department leader who wants to be more strategic, this program is for you.

Talent Decisions is brought to you by Checkster, the leading talent decision platform leveraging collective intelligence to upgrade talent processes including interviewing, reference checking and 360 quality feedback. Checkster believes everyone deserves a productive and fulfilling career and that starts with the right talent decision. To learn more about Checkster, visit Checkster on the web at checkster.com.

Hi. This is Peter Clayton reporting from Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. We are at the Recruiting Trends Conference delighted to have back on the show Yves Lermusi; it's been a long time since you've actually been on TotalPicture Radio. Yves is the founder and CEO of Checkster and this is a Talent Decisions Channel interview. Yves actually moderated a session called Quality of Hire: How to Make Better Talent Decisions.

Yves, welcome back to TotalPicture Radio.

Yves: Thank you Peter, a pleasure to be here.

Peter: How do you define quality when it comes to recruiting and hiring?

Yves: Great and loaded question to start with.

Peter: Yes it is. Right off of one of your slides, by the way!

Yves: Quality is definitely one of the most strategic metric that recruiting departments and talent acquisition departments are trying to achieve. The problem has been in the last couple of years, it remains kind of an obscure metric. Everyone speaks about it but nobody really measures it.

So when you ask people, and that's what we asked during the panel, how do you define quality, most organizations are looking at retention, performance review ranking after 12 months. Those are what I would say probably most of the organizations are looking at.

However what we see is that organizations that are performing the best need to have feedback sooner. So obviously retention is after a long period of time. The performance review is after a year. One of the quote I often mention is in the great research from Good to Great from Jim Collins about 10 years ago, what he saw is that great companies are different from good companies not by the number of mis-hire they're doing, but by the way to quickly respond to the bad hire that they made.

So having a measure of quality that can be faster than something that you will have literally a year after is the key things to make sure that organizations can be great.

So in order to achieve that and to continue to answer your question about what is quality is that you have to have metrics that can be monitored sooner after the hire.

What we typically recommend to our customers at Checkster in general we just say you know what, perform a kind of 360 post hire that can be 30, 60, 90, 180 days but depending on the type of positions, where you can have feedback not only from the hiring managers because they're often biased, but from people that are either one level up or directly working with those individuals. That will give you a way to assess their quality. It could help them not only to onboard better because it's not a performance-link review, but it's a way to measure quality.

So that's one way and obviously we have more detailed metrics on what to keep to have one single number, etc., but that's in a nutshell, the way to measure quality more than just by the traditional retention and performance metrics.

Peter: You had three very interesting people on your panel today. One is Kay Creighton who is the Director of Human Resources with Cox Communications which obviously is a very large and well-known company and well-known brand. You also had Jason Pistulka who has been on TotalPicture Radio in the Talent Decisions Channel and a very interesting guy, works for a company called Asurion which is one of those big companies that you've never heard of because a lot of what they're doing is in the background for other organizations. You also had Jason Buss who is in a new role who is the VP of Talent Management for Akraya Staffing Firm.

Here are three quite different approaches to recruiting. All of these - obviously they're trying to make quality hires. So what differentiates what they're doing at Cox Communications from say what they're doing at Asurion as far as recruiting?

Yves: I would even push the question further because it's a great distinction to make. I would say even within these own organizations there are differences about what quality is. We have four pillars of quality that we've been looking at and typically most individual when they think about quality they will think about knowledge, skills, abilities. They just say that is what a quality individual. That's what typically the assessments are after. That's what most of the résumé reviews are after, as well as experience which is another dimension.

However, for instance, for Cox Communications call center the quality may be something else like retention, meaning fit within the organization because obviously it takes some effort to train those people and even if they churn every year or more than that it starts to be very expensive. So it will depend from one type of position to another. One additional elements you see where you have the experience, the knowledge, abilities and skills, you do have also the motivation. That could be very important because you can have people that are very skilled, that have the right experience, that will fit into the culture but if they don't want to perform or they don't have the fire in the belly like you're trying to seek you won't have the four quality.

So to answer your questions more directly, if you have that framework with those four dimensions it helps you to make the differences of what is important from one organization versus the other. I would say even more specifically, what type of positions within each organization. So that's often a framework that we help organizations to build in order to define and essentially to screen according to that framework to increase the quality.

Peter: I'd like to step back just a little bit and have you describe to our audience what's really changed in recruiting over the last 15 years.

Yves: Great question, and I actually started the panel with that in saying 'look, what we've seen - when I started in this industry the big trend was online job boards.' It was the fact that the industry overall was moving online, and it was at that time where I actually started a company. It was more of a consulting and research organization that was called iLogos and we were monitoring Fortune 500's corporate websites who had career website on their Fortune 500.

In 1997-98, which was the first time we monitored that, it was like less than 30%. In like three years it has just shifted to most of the Fortune 500 had a career website. The big shift at that time was essentially that the implications instead of becoming on paper, traditionally on paper, became online. So consequently the volume just exploded. And that's at the time where I actually joined Taleo. I was part of the first executive team there, which was a great solutions for those type of problems, essentially applying supply chain principles to streamline this huge volume and this new process through a software as a service solution.

Peter: Taleo was one of the very first of the applicant tracking systems that was integrated out there.

Yves: That's correct and now they're part of Oracle, etc. But that was essentially the first big response to the fact that application was done online versus to be done with traditional snail mail.

The big things that happened more recently is I would say the social network impact is that instead of having to be a farmer where you post your requirements, you can start to be more of a hunter and start to find people.

You see hundreds of millions of people online in profiles over a billion with Facebook right now. So the ability to find everyone and anyone is there. So consequently what we see and strategically for organization, is that the ability to find people will become and will be more and more commoditized.

So if you are a strategic leader right now in talent management or talent acquisitions, the big differentiations that you will be able to reach is not on the sourcing site. It is still very important and we don't diminish that. But now that you can reach everyone and anyone what you need to be able to do is to convince those people that you find that your organization is a viable choice. So all your value propositions, your marketing, your branding is critically important.

I have an article that we may be linking in the resource for this interview where I have a 2x2 metrics just saying you need to be good at sourcing people but more from a branding perspective to create a great pool of talent. That's number one.

However, if you are good at having a great shortlist of talent but you cannot essentially get to the one that is the best, make the best talent decisions, you will fail in the long term. And that's the second dimension of this 2x2 where you need to be great at selection as well. So organizations looking forward are less about sourcing; it will be way more about branding and about selection. Those are the two dimensions that you need to be extremely good at. Checkster as an organization we just say let's tackle the selection side and that's where we spend most of our time.

Peter: So your recent article in recruiting trends is entitled 'Why LinkedIn is Changing Everything' and does that really have to do with this whole sourcing idea that now you can go on to LinkedIn and virtually every professional has a profile on LinkedIn. So sourcing has really become a lot easier.

Yves: That's correct. I often give the example, we are based in the San Francisco Bay Area and just imagine we need a lawyer that is specialized in patents in the telecommunications industry. I will find, let's say, the 20 lawyers that are qualified for my job. The next thing and relatively easily you see -is something and it'll become easier and easier - the next thing that you have is can I convince those 20 to be interested in my company.

Let's assume that you can interest 10 of them. The next thing you will say among those 10 who do I really want? And that's the core thing.

So yes, it's changing definitely the way companies are sourcing, but more importantly, is that if you're good at sourcing that won't be good enough. You will have something that you will need to be able to interest those people and after that making sure that you are taking the person that is the most appropriate for your job.

Peter: One of the insights that came out of your session today which I found really interesting and I haven't quite heard this from this perspective before and all of your panelists said the same thing is everyone thinks they're a great interviewer, whether they're a recruiter, whether they're a hiring manager - they all think that they can pick up on nuances and stuff in a candidate and really figure out whether they're a good hire or not. I thought that was pretty fascinating and the fact of the matter is not everybody is a good interviewer.

Yves: Well exactly and the stats speak for themselves. We know that about 50% of the hires that are made are not great. So you have a strike rate that you see is not as good as you think it would be. So when you look at the results it's a little bit humbling. So the questions we really ask at Checkster is how and what can we do to improve the quality, to improve your batting average essentially. So of course all organizations - and that's what came out of the panel are interviewing - you need to be better at this.

The other thing that we see as well as an easier than you think approach is asking people with who they worked, how do they perform. Because at the end of the day it's the real work experience that is the best predictor. You see we often say past behaviors are the best predictor of future behaviors. The difficulty for someone that you try to hire is how can I access this past behavior and typically historically it has been done trying to ask people around, etc.

Now with the web, you can scale that and you see that's one of the solutions that we have been pushing at Checkster because we say you know what, there is gold there. If you can access essentially the people with who they worked before, ask them how they performed it's a low hanging fruit that you can get the feedback that you want. How do you call that is kind of the reference check 2.0. It's not the traditional one because it doesn't work anymore and people have often a hard time to just say "Well, I don't think it will work." Until they try it. And that's what is really interesting.

So in terms of advising organizations right now to improve their quality is for sure go above the impressions that you are a great interviewer and making sure that you are really diligent at it but also doing the low hanging fruit like you see checking peers with who they work and you can automate that online and that gives you in the start give you a pretty good picture of the individual.

If you have more appetite you can go with assessments. You can do a number of other things. It's the first step in order to be more diligent and more scientific about being better at increasing the quality.

Peter: It seems like a lot of people in the audience and you asked the question of the audience how many of you are still using the telephone to do reference checking and there were a few hands that went up and so there are some recruiters out there who think that there is absolutely no value in reference checking and have just abandoned doing it at all because all they're getting is the candidates friends basically and the cost and time involved in doing telephone reference checking.

Yves: That's correct, and I think maybe the name should be different. It is not the traditional reference checking that you used to do over the phone. What it is really is asking in like a Trip Advisor way what was your experience with this individual. So it's an online interaction where people can be more candid and where you get way more insights.

The key thing is for, especially for a leader that have strong and long experience where they just say 'You know what, that's one of the practice that I don't believe will reap fruit.' You can try it very easily. It's something that is there. If I was today a leader of a talent acquisition organizations today, I would say what are the quick hits that I could make in order to essentially make sure that my quality improved and that I can measure quality. There are a couple of them.

Like the interview, one of the recommendations that came from the panel was have two interviewers instead of one. Simple to implement. Yes, it takes a little bit more resources but if you have two interviewers interviewing one candidate, you will kill biases, you will be more diligent because it's difficult to take note at the same time and thinking of the next questions and listening to the individual, that's one easy to implement.

The other easy one is to implement a kind of a peer rating online that we do and actually we receive lots of very positive feedback from our customers and a couple of them are in this channel and you can listen to them.

Peter: Yeah, and it really is... since I've started doing the talent decisions interviews with your clients, I'm really fascinated with the number of responses they get from this reference checking tool and not just the number of responses, but the number of people that their candidates put into the reference checking tool for them to go out and do a reference check. Also, they're amazed at the speed that these online submissions get returned to them.

Yves: Let me give you one anecdote because that's probably speaks more for itself that was shared during the panel here is that one of the individuals shared the fact that they were hiring for a senior position. The individual entered 25 of their peers on Sunday evening. Forty-eight hours after the 25 respondents and they had a vetted candidate with 25 people who had worked with them before.

When was the last time you took the time to speak to 25 people, get their objective confidential feedback in order to vet a candidate. You never do it. Am I saying that everyone is putting 25 easy references or people with who they worked? No. But on average we get six. These customers specifically get closer to 10. You see they are more demanding. It's because a lot of customers are still shy.

People online now have many friends, many connections. They can invite way more people. It is easy and when you do that it's not only your best friends that you can train to only say good things. You start to have a pretty good view of who they are. So I would advise organizations when they look at what can we do to increase quality to just take one or two initiatives; these being one of them, and they can try it very easily and to see the results that they get.

So the limit is counterintuitive. For a leader that has been there for 20 years in the agency "You know what, I've done that for 20 years. I've decided to stop speaking to references." That's why we shouldn't even call it references. It's something else. It's maybe a social rating type of approach and it doesn't work you may say or she may say until they try and when they try and Jason shared that during the panel they just say they were a little forced to do it because of the hiring managers and now they just say it's one of there best practice in order to do this and they would never -

You shared with another person outside of the panel that if they had to decide between their applicant tracking system and Checkster, they will get rid of the applicant tracking system first, which was the first time I heard that. That's very surprising, but that's the level of insight that you would get.

Peter: Of course they're insisting that those references that the candidate put in there are former employers and direct reports and managers and peers. So it's not just their friends that they're throwing into this thing, right?

Yves: That's correct, and there is a number of level of controls that you may have, etc. So it is a simple approach to do that on the pre-hire side. What we have seen as well that works well is to use the same methodology for interview debrief. So you have a number of interviewers that typically will sit at the table and they will just say 'we interview Peter Clayton and what do you think of him?' And what we have seen often in the interview debrief either it's not done or when it's done there is someone that is overpowering and is called a social influence. We have a white paper about that and there are academic research showing that those decisions are essentially biased towards one directions and people feel more comfortable even though it's actually less accurate.

So the simple approach that I often recommend is just to say do the like a sticky notes, the yellow sticky notes and ask people to give the feedback, as simple as that, before starting a debrief. If you don't have debrief or if people are distributed, then you can do it. We offer a product that does that as well but you can do it online where it's confidential. You can do that more specifically on the dimensions that are critical for the job. So it's to give another level of consistency in a debriefing process to increase not the interview per se but the debriefing of the interview which is actually very important. Otherwise you send lots of people doing lots of interview and don't capitalize on it.

So that approach of essentially leveraging collective intelligence which mean the collectivity of people that have been interacting with the individual that could be in the job, in the interview, or in the new company to measure quality of hire, 360 for performance promotion, or for reference, or for interview debrief, can be applied at multiple level with the same focus. Make sure that we get the right person and we can direct them accordingly because when you have those feedback hiring managers are actually asking for those.

They may still decide to go with the individual. Nobody's perfect. At least they know what to address and that's what we see with many of our customers. They take the report and they just say "You know what, that's interesting." We know that we need to coach Peter on those 3 things when he or she start the new job. And that's changed a little bit the relationship where the recruiting department start to be really a talent adviser. And that's really what we're after, too; help really those organizations, those talent organizations to be more than résumé pusher because if you're just there to provide résumé your quality, you're probably likely to go through an RPO and to be outsourced because you're not providing the quality required.

Peter: There's an assumption out there, Yves, that reference checking really doesn't work very well because of all the legal restrictions especially with large companies when you go to get a reference check on someone, all you're going to really get back is a verification of dates of employment and perhaps that individual's title, but you know, in the interviews I've done for talent decisions, people are really getting in-depth information on people.

Yves: That's correct. And there is one simple reason why it is is that the traditional approach is that the employer will reach to the references. In the process that Checkster provide it's the candidate that reach out to those references.

Peter: That's a huge difference.

Yves: It's a huge difference. And so consequently, people are more willing to participate, there is no fear of, you see, you cannot participate to those types of things and I would say the feedback we have typically all customers and across the board invite 8 references and 6 participate, and the 2 that typically don't is typically not because they cannot. It's because they were traveling, they were not there, it was closed before, or they had the opportunity to do it, and those type of things.

So it's really something that we don't see but obviously that's the easy objections. You see people say, "Well, my mind is set. I don't want to try something new. Don't bother that." And so it's really what we ask organizations typically is it's pretty easy. You see, in 30 days, you will see if it works for you or not and I ensure you it will. And that's what we have seen again and again.

Peter: One of the questions that came up from the audience in your session today and this is something we hear a lot at recruiting conferences, they asked the panelist, "do you go out and do you use social networks? Do you check a candidate's Facebook? Do you Google them? What is your assessment currently about how social media such as Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn is being used in the recruiting process and are recruiters Googling the name and seeing what comes up?

Yves: The answer is yes. And if the recruiters are not doing it, your hiring managers do. So a number of research have been done out there and shows that more than 80% of organizations are doing it. We wrote actually a white paper on that just to say you need to have a guideline to at least direct what's happening within your organization.

The questions that is more interesting is that, is it useful? People do it for sure. They want to see if there is any surprises that will come out. Some organizations obviously that have maybe in political campaign or in law enforcements, they have to do it to make sure that there is no embarrassing fact that could come out but for day-to-day things, we ask ourselves at Checkster is there any meaning there that we should essentially include in our process.

What we've seen interestingly is that there is a study that I referred on my blog that show that browsing for about 10 minutes the Facebook profile of individual is more accurate than the personality test that are given out there. So it gives you a good feel of what's the personality of someone by seeing their interest, what they're linking through, what they're saying, etc. So there is some value to do it.

Is it done that way? Maybe not. Is there some potential land mine from a legal perspective and discriminations, etc? Definitely. So that's why you have to be careful and typically HR prefer to ignore it instead of being proactive. But it is done today. It can have some value, and I think as an organization you have to be proactive to have a guideline.

Peter: The reality is, as one of the audience members said that work for a consulting firm, they definitely go on Facebook and see what candidates are putting on their Facebook because it's important to them to know that that candidate uses good judgment because they're going to be out representing that organization. So I think a lot of companies are doing this.

Yves: Exactly. The number I heard is more than 80% are doing it. What is interesting though that came from another mention is was that younger individual start being aware of that, start to have two or several profiles; one that is, you see, for essentially the employers and if they ask because you may have a number of similar names, they ask your profile and you will give that one and then there is the one for your personal use that don't want to disclose and you put high privacy on it.

So it starts to be a practice that may lose its validity because of that approach where people will essentially don't want to disclose their true self out there. So it's a moving target. I think there is a lot of buzz right now. Is it completely validated? No. But people are doing it so you have to be proactive in terms of addressing it.

Peter: I want to return for a minute to how your clients and how companies are using the results they're getting back from these reference checks because it goes far beyond just you have these candidates checks out or it's validated and looks like they would be a good hire. Hiring managers are really fascinated by all of these data.

Yves: That's correct and often there is the question about cultural fit for instance. Cultural fit is - it's hard. It's something that you need to feel, you see how people are going to be. Are they going to be a fit with the organization?

So what we have seen with our customer is that you can first make sure that what are the key dimensions that are critical for your organizations in terms of future success. What you can do is you can then tailor the responses that you're trying to get from peers with who they worked, past bosses or the interviewers or depending on at what stage you're doing it if you do it on peers, then you will ask those questions to individual and then you get more than just "Yes, he's a good programmer," or "He's good at this." You start to have more details.

One example we had a customer they had two candidates that were very strong from a knowledge, skills, abilities point of view and they couldn't decide. So they flew those two people twice to their headquarters, had successive round of interviews. They couldn't decide. Then they were on the Checkster on their past peers and colleagues and one was of an obvious misfit from a cultural standpoint. That's when you get more from it than just the impressions that when you do the interviews and that are some ways where you can get more than just - they know what they're talking about. They're technically a good fit. You will get more. And that's something which is obviously very hard to scale and to reach to all of those people but if you do your homework to put your competency or your values within the framework they can be very, very useful to avoid bad hires.

Peter: I think that also fits right into this whole how do you measure quality, because you get into then to the area of retention and referrals and that kind of thing which don't come up on a traditional reference check at all.

Yves: That's correct and the overall approach that we see - it's a 360 approach that you would do having a tool that - and that's why I'm moving away from references per se and I just say, the ability to ask peers how well you perform can be useful at several levels. It has been used for years and years for development of leaders and that and typically now, what's happening is that you can do it more cheaply because its online, more broadly and you can try to get more feedback for performance improvements post hire but you can do it as well to make better talent decisions pre-hire or you can do it with your current team to know who you're going to promote.

One example was an organization that just said we'll do them now internally. And they had and it was a one HR organization that was very interesting they had to promote someone internally and so they started to do those kind of peer reviews because when you want to promote someone and you're the manager of those people you don't always know how they're perceived by their peers and some people are very good to manage up but not too good to manage down and manage literally and they avoided a couple of bad hires because some of those people are pretty good to manage up and you have the good impressions then when you ask the people they will manage tomorrow, it will be a disaster. And then they've been avoiding some of those mistakes thanks to that simple very little step. But they have to go beyond their comfort zone because they have the impression they know the individual, they've been working for them, and it's only one point of view. It's only one point of view. You need the rest, especially if you will put that person in leadership positions and specifically over those people.

Peter: I think you're bringing up a really important point here given that an awful lot of recruiters really don't get involve in internal hires or promotions at all and they really need to.

Yves: That's correct. What we try to do and really our mission at Checkster is that we want to help organizations make better talent decisions. I think recruitment has been seen for a long time as very transactional. You provide me a number of résumés, you source people, etc. The key thing is as a talent adviser that should be probably a better name than the recruiter, I will sit down with the hiring managers and we'll discuss together in order to say what do you need, what is a performing individual for you?

And the best one, when the hiring manager will them what they need, they will sometime push back and just say, "No, that's not what you need." Actually, ABC is not important but CD is very important and that's how you earn respect because you know the business, you know what's working, etc. But the only way to know how it's working is to make sure you have a follow up in terms of you now who have been performing before. That's the feedback loop of quality of high monitoring. That's the kind of a 360 post hired that you need to do or follow up with those individual.

So that's really the connection there and after that, you come and that's what one of our customers in the financial industry came back. He just say, "We want our recruiters to be really talent adviser but in order to do that we need tools that they can rely on and then they can have meaningful discussions with the hiring managers and that's one of the Checkster report was the tool for them in order to just say "It's not only my impressions or my gut feeling about-" This is based on the feedback of 7-10 people and that's how they see it.

I know you like this candidate but candidate B is actually way superior and so you start to have those discussions. That's how you earn respect because when you think about it, if you are a leader of an organization, a leader of a department, the talent that you will put in the seal panel that was just before us, they all agree: talent decisions is the most important thing for their business.

So you need to make sure you make the right talent decisions. When you think about your own career, the decisions of where you go this is the most important decision of your life. It will define who you are, it will define your salary, it will define your happiness in the day if you like your work or not, etc. Very important decisions. The key thing that we need to make sure is that there is a fit that goes both ends. And that's really the mission of Checkster is just to make sure that we enable and empower organization with the tool to make the fit the best possible not only from a skills point of view but also from a cultural point of view, from a motivation point of view that this is possible because that will drive not only the performance of the organizations but also the satisfaction of the individual.

Peter: One of the overarching themes of the last couple of days here at this conference talking about the proverbial seat at the table, if you want to have that role as a leader in your organization you've got to have metrics. You just can't talk about feelings.

Yves: Exactly. Exactly. And that's why - but at the same time it's not easy when we speak of quality of hire, it's not an easy metric because it's not like-

Peter: Because you have to define and for different roles, there are different ways to define it, right?

Yves: Exactly. And so that's why you need to have an agreement with who they are if they have what I often advise a business leader or a head of talent acquisitions or a talent management, if you have existing business metrics that you have in sales, that you have in call centers, etc., use those ones. You don't need to 360 post hire. It can help if there is a long ramp of time, etc. to get at least a feeling before those come out but that's what you should look for. Just to say, "Okay, in the last five years we hire, let's say hundred sales people, those 20 are at the top performers. What are the differences?"

That's what all the assessments are typically designed and that's what they do but that's what all organizations should do and then just to say, "Okay, repeat that exercise for all the other jobs as well or starting with what is typically called the pivotal jobs which are the most important." But yes you need to do that in order to earn respect and then you will be seen as the strategic players because like, I mean, Jack Welch has probably been one of the most vocal person about that. If you look at sports, you don't speak to accountants about the team. You speak about the scouts and who is managing the team, the talent and the team. That's what will win essentially the tournaments - that's the team.

Unfortunately in the business world, we speak to the accountant, the CFO, they're important they keep the machine running and the things but at the end of the day, who will win is the team and essentially the head of HR, the chief people officer, the CHRO, however you want to call it, is the key person and should have the metrics to be able to report and that's what we are helping organizations to do.

Peter: One last question for you. Can you share with us maybe one or two key takeaways from your session today?

Yves: Yeah, and that's at the end of the session I asked each of the individual to just say if you had a couple of one-key practical thing that you could give the audience here, what would it be? So I will give those that were shared.

The first one was one of the approach about making sure that your interview process is well done. That's something that is very often overseen because there are these wrong perceptions that you're great at it and so revisit that interview process. It's very critical. So I completely agree with that.

The other end of the spectrum is the on boarding. That was the second approach is just to say on boarding is really critical because that's when you made a decision that is individually is key but that's when you have the ramp up happening and the acculturations and all of those things. So on-boarding is also a key step that needs to be- where you need to pay attention. That's where you also differentiate yourself as a department not only to be a résumé pusher where you just send résumé but you actually really help really the departments to be productive sooner from an ROI standpoint is also very, very important.

The third one and I will add two more. The third one from the third panel member was about SLA (Service Level Agreement). Typically, a talent acquisition department has some metrics that they measured because quality is so hard to measure; typically it's cost and time. And his recommendations was put out through the window. You shouldn't use it because that will impact the quality of what you're after. So SLAs are a good guideline. You should have obviously not look at them at all. But if you ask any business leader and you just say would you rather pay 10% more and or wait one week more but have a top talent rather than to have it on-time but you not completely sure about the quality? They will all say "We are after quality." And so one week or 10% more for the cost we're okay because again when you make the ROI, it's a multiple of that. It's hundred times more, even more and there are a number of studies showing that.

And finally, my advice for a talent acquisition leader today or talent management leader is they are so busy today, there are so many things going on. Focus on low hanging fruits in terms of what can you do today that will impact the quality very quickly? And there are a couple of things that you can do. We share the ability to gain digitally the feedback from their peers, etc., that's one way that you can easily test. You can just say let's put 3 recruiters for a couple of weeks and it will know. That's one way to do it.

Same thing for interviewing; let' make sure that we interview better. That's a low hanging fruit. You can fix that. It may be harder if you want to scale that to the whole organization but in the essence. So I would say make sure you focus on low hanging fruit to have a huge impact because that's something that will create a huge difference for your organization.

Yves Lermusi is the founder and CEO of Checkster and you'll find this interview in the Talent Decision Channel on TotalPicture Radio. That's totalpicture.com. This is Peter Clayton. Thanks for listening today.

Finding and Retaining High Peforming IT Employees


An interview with Eric French, President of IDR

Published on November 09 2012
Eric FrenchEric French

Hi, this is Peter Clayton, producer/host of TotalPicture Radio. Welcome to a Talent Decisions channel podcast recorded in Las Vegas, Nevada at the Recruiting Trends Conference at the amazing Caesar's Palace Hotel. I'm joined today by Eric French, president of IDR, a staffing and recruiting agency. Eric is based in Atlanta, Georgia. The company has offices in Atlanta, Nashville, Dallas, and Washington, DC.

Talent Decisions is brought to you by Checkster, the leading talent decision platform leveraging collective intelligence to upgrade talent processes including interviewing, reference checking and 360-quality feedback.  Checkster believes everyone deserves a productive and fulfilling career and that starts with the right talent decision. 

TotalPicture Radio Talent Decisions Interview - Eric French Transcript

Welcome to Talent Decisions, a monthly podcast featuring leading practitioners within talent acquisition. The focus of this program is the final four. The final four candidates you are considering to fill a critical position within your organization. If you are a hiring manager struggling to ensure you make the right call or a talent acquisition department leader who wants to be more strategic, this program is for you.

Talent Decisions is brought to you by Checkster, the leading talent decision platform leveraging collective intelligence to upgrade talent processes including interviewing, reference checking and 360-quality feedback. Checkster believes everyone deserves a productive and fulfilling career and that starts with the right talent decision. To learn more about Checkster visit Checkster on the web at checkster.com.

Peter: Hi, this is Peter Clayton welcome to a Talent Decisions channel podcast here on TotalPicture Radio recorded in Las Vegas, Nevada at the Recruiting Trends Conference at the amazing Caesar's Palace Hotel and I am joined today by Eric French, who is the president of IDR, which is a staffing and recruiting agency, and Eric is based in Atlanta, Georgia.

Eric, thanks for joining us today.

Eric: Thank you Peter, I appreciate it.

Peter: Tell us a little bit about IDR. I know you've got offices in Atlanta, Nashville, DC and Dallas. What does your organization do and who do you staff for?

Eric: We help our clients win the talent war and we do that by helping them source, select and retain the very best IT talent that's available to them. We've been around since 1998, we're growing rapidly. We just recently opened up our fifth office with plans for many more offices to open up soon and interesting times right now. Our customers are all looking for ways and creative ways to win the talent war thus this great convention will allow these great speakers and great ideas. But it boils down to, for any company to be effective and be competitive, it must learn or figure out quickly how to secure the very best people.

It all kind of boils down to that; and so our company, we help our clients. Like I said, we're an IT staffing company but beyond that, just staffing Peter, we've broken it down. We have a sourcing process. We have a selection process and what I don't hear much of here today is that we have a retention process too, which allows us to really attract, select and deploy and continue to deploy the very best IT talent that's available in our markets.

Peter: Let's get a little more in depth here Eric so you can explain to our audience exactly how this works. The people that you recruit are they employees of IDR and then they go and work on site or even virtually for your clients, is that how this works?

Eric: Sure, it can. That's more of our consulting arm or it could be we function like a talent acquisition team. We become...

Peter: A recruiter.

Eric: A recruiter for our customers that maybe have plans in the works or have grown to the point where they cannot keep up with demand and are looking for us to come in and augment their talent acquisition team. Sometimes it's just a certain vertical, maybe our client's talent acquisition team really have a stronghold in certain industries but that IT sector it continues to befuddle them so they bring us in to help out there.

Peter: Do you have like retail where you have certain times of the year where you have to ramp up talent for certain organizations?

Eric: It could, depending on the industry. We have clients in every single industry but all in all the demand for IT talent is remaining pretty consistent. Actually, it's increasing in a lot of our markets. A lot of the markets we serve, the unemployment for IT is 2%. For some of the more harder to find skills that our customers ask us to find solutions for, it could be half a percent. That's not going away, if anything the pressure and the demand is going to continue to increase.

Peter: IT is certainly one area that there is a lot more openings than there are qualified people especially in areas like Ruby on Rails for instance or iPhone developers or Android developers. There's far more demand for those folks than there are out there so how do you go about finding people who are willing to move careers or go into a new business.

Eric: No, that's a great question. What we do, we go beyond just staffing. We're more what I call a staffing consulting company. We help our clients design a compelling story behind their project. You're right, just throwing those job orders out there on the market with everybody else is - you really are not going to get anything done there. We really have to meet with our customers and get to know these projects. The purpose behind these projects, their overall mission, what they're trying to accomplish, whatever their story is and craft for them sometimes their own story. It's amazing when we ask our hiring managers, just curious, what's so compelling about your opportunity because when they meet us, the assumption - what they feel is their pain. Everybody's back pain is more important to them than anybody else. But a lot of people have back pain so when we talk to managers and we say, "Hey what's so compelling about your mobile app strategy?"

Nine times out of the ten they can't really give us a good answer. That means that we can tell they're going to have a hard time selling. Even if we sourced the best candidate, they have not thought about that compelling story yet to be able to give a reason for that candidate to join that prospect, to join their team. We literally have to meet with managers in the front end and help them craft their story. What's unique about their culture? What's unique about their company? What's unique about this initiative and so that becomes a win-win like here's the impact you'll have on us and here's how this story could have an impact on you the candidate. You really got to start there, without that it's just - you just got another we call it, you got another line in the pond and hoping that the fish grabs your shiny bait versus someone else's and that's not effective.

Peter: So what is your source of hire, where do you find these folks?

Eric: Well, we have a very aggressive social media sourcing strategy but actually nothing will replace the good old-fashioned referrals. Again, like I talked about earlier, many people here in the convention are talking about candidate experience making sure the candidate experience is a positive one, a fulfilling one that they walk away as better people and we continue to get solid references. There are small communities. I don't care what city, if it's an alpha market or not, it's small and they talk and so if you do a good job, if you practice just the basic common courtesies like several people said, you will always have a steady stream of candidates coming your way. It doesn't matter if the specific opportunity you have is a fit or not. They're willing to talk to you about it and that's what's been so key to our success.

Peter: How do you go about qualifying a candidate?

Eric: Now we're getting into selection and that is as unique as the customers themselves. We have a 12-step program that we can bring candidates through but that's a scalable process. That's a flexible process depending on what the customers need. We can test our candidates but some customers prefer their own test. They may look at our test and say 50% of it is valid the other 50% is not. We don't want to accidentally rule out somebody so hey, either give them this test or we will test them ourselves. Reference checks, we've heard a tremendous amount of talk about reference checks. Once again, nine of our ten customers don't do it.

Peter: What is that?

Eric: I think they are afraid that it will get in the way of hiring somebody they want.

Peter: They got a hot job opening they got to get those developers in there.

Eric: They got to get somebody and they don't realize that making a poor decision will in the long run cost them more money in time but that's easier said than done to maintain that discipline. So reference checks is another wonderful example that we have our own systems but sometimes they'll have there's. A few customers will actually check them themselves and we encourage that too. For us to be successful in the long term it's got to be a good match. Agencies have got to go beyond making a placement and to what I call making an impact. The people that we are placing had better make sure those initiatives are actually successful or we're exacerbating the conditions and that's not what makes for good agency work.

Peter: What kind of tools or techniques do you use in doing reference checks?

Eric: Well, a lot of the same tactics that any good talent acquisition team would do so. That's what's unique about us is we're here today in this conference with some of the best talent acquisition teams in the country. Well, our process should be as good, if not better than theirs. We're here learning what they're doing. A lot of it we're doing ourselves and looking to get better. If deploying IDR doesn't raise the bar, doesn't allow you to acquire better talent than you would yourself, we really had no value and sooner or later we'll be replaced. I was talking to Alex yesterday from Ladders, good agencies he said will always be around because they adapt. They find out where the bar is and they play above it. That's why we're here today. Reference checks, we have a combination of the good old-fashioned talk to people in formal networks but we also deploy Checkster, which is one of the automated tools that are here today. We have found great success with it. We're a huge fan of theirs.

Peter: Why is that? What have you found about the Checkster tool that's unique from other sources that are out there?

Eric: Well, there's dozens of things that make it unique. What we find useful is that the candidates themselves ask for the references from these individuals, not the company. It kind of frees us up from any kind of regulations or any kind of compliance issues that we could get into. It's beautiful. It's coming from the individual themselves. We're just getting a report. Again, the people that have said maybe they have checked hundreds and hundreds of references but if they've ruled out one person, I mirror what Jason Pistulka said, we rule out anywhere from 10% to 20% of our candidates based on those references. Not so much the yes/no answers but Checkster's done a wonderful job of subjectively, hey what are the strengths and what are the weaknesses? Like Jason said, the people writing the references don't know our culture. They're just giving their perception of this individual's strengths and weaknesses. It's up to us to match.

Are those strengths going to be effective here or effective with our customer or ineffective because remember part of solid agency recruiting is understanding not just the technical description but the culture of our - I know Jason's culture as well as he does. Probably not as well but right there, I know what that company is all about and I know the type of individual they look for regardless of skill set. I can do a reference check and tell if an individual would do well at this company versus another one. Then we can get into actual technical abilities and assess there whether the person is a fit. We got to start with that cultural fit and Checkster allows you to do that from the subjective piece where they say strengths and weaknesses.

Peter: Jason is actually the talent acquisition head at a company called Asurion and you can find an interview that we do with Jason a couple of months ago on a Talent Decisions channel of TotalPicture Radio which is totalpicture.com. You know Jason has a lot of the same kinds of issues that you're dealing with. He's looking for very specific highly skilled IT professionals for his organization. That's who he is recruiting.

Eric: Jason's one of the best architects of the talent acquisition strategy that I've ever seen in our 100 and so odd customers. I have never met someone with his keen understanding of what it takes to be successful in this industry and has designed and architected a department to deliver as he has. If every company was as good as him then we would have issues here in the agency side.

Peter: One of the themes of this conference over the last couple of days is most recruiters who are here and again, we're kind of self-selecting are we not Eric in an event like this. These are practitioners who are really at the head of their game and they are more than just order takers. They're not just out there trying to fill racks.

Eric: Absolutely.

Peter: But at the same time in an industry such as IT you've got a client that, man they've got to get this iPhone app developed by Christmas or heads will roll. There's tremendous pressure to fill that rack so how do you balance the quality of the hire with the demand that the hiring manager is making is I've got to get a body in here. We can do this.

Eric: Well, that the life of a recruiter. I think John said it this morning when he said, I can't remember the conundrum that he kind of presented to us, but it was an either/or type situation he said. I'm sorry in recruiting it's and, so have a solid strategy and you better fill the reqs, too. That's the life of a recruiter. Obviously, we're going to, as Jason said, position ourselves to throw out SLAs and work within the confines of what we can deliver. That's a conversation we have with our customer base just like any solid talent acquisition leader will do within their company. To say here's what we can and cannot do within this timeframe.

When it comes to talent acquisition and human capital I have found it is better to upfront say what you can and can't do because to promise something it's like yeah, you're right. You may have people in here by December to have your app out the door on January 1st but something's going to give. Either you allowed an open checkbook to be able to pay whatever or you had to lower your standards to get it done and something is going to suffer on that backend. Something has got to give and I guess it's just the reality of business. If you want to reach Mars by January 1st, be willing to pay a lot of money or reach Mars by January 1st on this budget. Well, expect some disasters. It's just something has got to give in that paradigm.

But what we're hearing is that the great companies don't sacrifice in the quality and that is absolutely what we find and those are the companies that we want to work with. The companies that demand resumes quickly, often we walk away from that, not that speed is not an issue, it's just when you start to sacrifice quality for speed or cost I know where this is going. I know that's a company that's not truly interested in winning the talent war. That is not a good fit for IDR. Sooner or later, we talk about the sins of our fathers, we pay for those. Same goes the sins of past poor hiring will show up in a lack of competitive advantage, a lack of initiative, a lack of new innovation within your organization. I've seen it happen over and over.

Peter: If you don't use a service level agreement, how do you define the roles and responsibilities with your clients?

Eric: You could have service level agreements as long as we're being realistic about them. Again, to be able to sit down - I love how everybody said here. I can't remember John's last name. The keynote speaker this morning was phenomenal and in fact we're going to bring him in to train our sales reps because our sales reps at IDR are basically talent acquisition managers. They sit down with the hiring managers who are often in IT. They're feeling the heat. Their projects are behind. They maybe even over budget and that would be disastrous to say sure we can do that when we can't.

They respect and appreciate - I can't remember who called it the push back. It's like they appreciate when you say, I'm sorry, I can't help you there. You've dug yourself into a hole. Now, here's what I can do short-term but more importantly long-term, let's create a strategy so you never find yourself in this hole again. That's what they appreciate and that's what they want from their talent acquisition and partners like IDR. They want a short-term yes but they want to help them long-term. How do I stay out of this bind? That's really where we come in.

Peter: How many interview cycles do you go through before you make a hire. You bring a Java developer in and do an interview. How many people conduct that interview and where does it go from there?

Eric: Our selection process before we present to our customers is different per customer. Again, we sit down with them on the front end. Some will say hey, just source. We just want you to help us source. Some will say present your top two and please make it as difficult a decision as possible because both we want to be so good, fine. That process it could be hundreds of people before we present the two whereas other clients will say, hey just help us source names and we'll take them from there. It may be 25% of the people we talk to we submit. It just depends.

Peter: How do you get down to those top two?

Eric: Oh, so that selection process there will be many layers that they go through. If they want those people to be tested or assessed technically, then obviously there will be an assessment test. Obviously, there will be an initial phone interview from one of our recruiters. We may get the account managers involved. There will be reference checks. However wide or full they want that pool to be to get down to the select few that they want to hire. There could be as many as 12 steps and they could talk to as many as three to four different sets of people. Some customers ask that I talk to candidates before they're presented depending on how high level or how much the impact of the candidate.

Peter: Then once that candidate is placed Eric, how do you define and track that quality of the hire and the success of that hire?

Eric: That's a great question Peter. We use to do that on our own but now there's no reason not to do it because again Checkster has got a wonderful tool in their enterprise module that allows us to go back 3, 6, 9, 12 months from now and say, hey this is what we found in the interview process and this is what we presented. Is this accurate? Have you addressed the weaknesses? Have you put the person in a position to maximize their strengths, yes or no?

Again, in the agency world, especially when you do permanent placement, it's all about they all want to know their guarantees. When I start hearing that our customer wants a six-month guarantee I know we have a problem because that means they make either poor hiring decisions or they don't know how to manage the back end.

Peter: That's really interesting to know.

Eric: Yeah.

Peter: When you think about it and you're absolutely right, if they're demanding a six-month guarantee, what's going on?

Eric: What's going on? Sure and we'll interview people that leave an organization. That's business intelligence so when I hear there's turnover my recruiters go on the horn and say, hey, what happened? Why did you leave? We need to know what's going on and present that to the management team and say, hey, I could staff this all day but unless you deal with your issues, you're going to have incredibly low retention and you're going to have incredibly high turnover and you could have a thousand IDRs out there helping you out you're not going to make it. That's why I say that third piece is retention.

When it comes to permanent placement it's a little tricky because you have to tread lightly because often it's something I don't want to say dysfunctional going on. But there's something, a local dysfunction that's going on that's causing that turnover because if we all agree on the frontend what the requirements are. Everybody hiring was involved and gave it their stamp of approval and then we have a missed expectation. What happened? Were the expectations that were communicated upfront truly the expectations? Were there some that were missed? Were there some that were not communicated or were there some that were changed? We'll figure that out because quite frankly I don't want to have to work on backfills. When it comes to our consulting or our contracting, that's where being an ESOP has been huge. It takes one year.

We're an employee owned organization, one of 12,000 in the nation. You have to wait a year but you're fully vested after three years so our contractors get company stock. They get the same benefits I get. We have incredible retention when it comes to our contracting base. Our customers comment on the loyalty and the engagement that our contractors have with IDR. It's often stronger than their own employees have with themselves. That's where we help on that backend retain the very best people so that they will stay through the initiative and actually stay with us and be redeployed.

Peter: I would imagine that there's a different kind of cultural fit that is involved with your employees who go out and work on a per project or a per contract basis. Their lifestyle preferences versus someone you may place permanently in a role with one of your clients.

Eric: Yes and no, we got some great customers so they've got great stories too. We just feel when it comes to those who are going to be professional contractors. We have the best story in town. We want the very best. That's a very powerful tool out there or talent pool is what I'm trying to say. As the market heats up, like you heard in here, you can't have a strategy and ignore the contracting base because some of the best people, some of the niche players, that's exactly where they're going because they can because there's such a demand for what they do. It makes sense for us at IDR to deploy a strategy to attract and retain them and keep them with us. I want them to stay with us. I want there to be a win in it for them to stay with us and stay engaged with us just like that we help our customers define what the match is for them. What's compelling about their situation? We have a compelling story too?

Peter: Do you have a large virtual work force?

Eric: Yes and no, in terms of our contractors or internal?

Peter: Your contractors, yes.

Eric: Yes, more and more of our customers are going to that so it's important that we keep them engaged with the mother ship as many as people talk about. We do that through newsletters. They have a point of contact in our operation team they can always go to that we check in with them to make sure that everything is going as smoothly as possible.

Peter: That seems to be a real trend especially in IT world a lot of people who prefer working virtually and work in their own hours as long as they get the job done.

Eric: Right, yeah. It's the old sales adage, it's a lot harder to get a customer than to keep a current one. So when we get a great contractor, someone with a niche skill set, it's a lot easier to keep that person than to go find them all over again. We work hard to do that.

Peter: What advice could you give someone who perhaps wants to work within IDR about the recruiting process?

Eric: Well, in terms of the industry itself.

Peter: Yes.

Eric: There's so much information out there. It's such a great industry. Workshops like this, Recruiting Trends does a phenomenal job. We look for people who are innovative that are going to help our customers win the talent war and if you don't know about the talent war, read up about it.

Peter: It's real.

Eric: It is very real.

Peter: Especially in your field.

Eric: Yes. We look for people who are smart, who are bright, who are not order takers but that are going to help consult with our customers in how they can win that war. In the end, that's where our value is. Not just helping them source, not just helping them select. Helping them retain, really addressing the entire spectrum how they can get and keep that talent as best possible way so it can win that talent war.

Peter: What has changed profoundly in your industry over the last let's say three to five years that perhaps is a surprise to you that you weren't expecting that that has changed the way that you need to do your business.

Eric: You know nothing has really changed. That's what's weird Peter. I think someone said yesterday that we're going back to - in the last 20 years staffing became more of a commodity but I knew that wouldn't work because I don't know if any individual wants to be treated like a commodity. I saw this talent war brewing a decade ago and I wondered to myself that the great companies first of all wouldn't do that just because of their value system but two were they going to be wise enough and proactive enough to say, wait a second, one day I may need these people again. So it behooves me to manage, continue to manage that relationship because there's nowhere else we can go.

It's the same talent pool in these cities and are we going to be able to tap into it, yes or no or have we made short-term decisions that now have put us in a position where we can't tap into that talent base. That's it and that's really been a principle that's been there for - I can't remember her name, the speaker that said, up until the last 20 years for all the previous years of business, hundreds of years, that's the principle that's been there. It's just do unto others as you would want to have done unto you. It's very simple. It's like common courtesy someone called it. It's been around for a long time, practice it.

Peter: Eric, what's been one real takeaway for you from this conference?

Eric: The real takeaway is that the great companies are doing things to put themselves in position to win the talent war but not enough of them. Agencies like ourselves are in a great position as long as we continue to stay ahead of the curve, be innovative, watch the trends, look for ways that we can help our customers who maybe couldn't be here today win the talent war because their competitors are here and their looking to win it and they know the only differentiator is the quality of their people.

I know like you said that talent war is out there and so it increased my passion, increased my desire and my drive to make IDR that much better to help our beloved customers. We have some wonderful customers that I have a strong personal sense of duty to, to help them win because I know they're in a battle. They tell me about it and I can see it in their faces and I feel the pressure they have to staff these positions. I really want to help them do that to make that impact.

Peter: Eric French is the president and CEO of IDR. His website is idr-inc.com and he's based in Atlanta, Georgia. Eric, thank you very much for joining us today on Talent Decisions on TotalPicture Radio.

Eric: Thank you, Peter. I appreciate it.

Peter: Thank you.

Thank you for tuning in to Talent Decisions, a co-production of TotalPicture Radio and Checkster. Through our best in class talent decision platform, Checkster empowers organizations and individuals to make better talent decisions for a more engaged organizations and a better world. Visit checkster.com to learn more and perform a talent check-up today. ###

Talent Decisions at the Medical College of Wisconsin


A conversation with Recruiting Consultant for MCW, Nate Filzen

Published on August 22 2012
Nate FilzenNate Filzen

"Our mission is to be a national leader in the education and development of the next generation of physicians and scientists"

Welcome to Talent Decisions, a monthly podcast featuring leading practitioners within talent acquisition. The focus of this program is the final four - the final four candidates you are considering to fill a critical position within your organization. If you are a hiring manager struggling to ensure you're making the right call, or a talent acquisition department leader who wants to be more strategic, this program is for you.

Today, producer/host Peter Clayton gets in-depth with Recruiting Consultant for The Medical College of Wisconsin, Nate Filzen. Based in Milwaukee, Nate is tasked with recruiting highly skilled medial practioners and educators, as well as all the support staff needed to run a modern medical school. Approximately 1,350 Medical College of Wisconsin physicians and more than 470 nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and other health care practitioners provide adult patient care as the Medical College Physicians and pediatric patient care through Children's Specialty Group, a joint venture with Children's Hospital and Health System. The Medical College of Wisconsin physician practice includes doctors in every specialty and subspecialty of medicine.

Talent Decisions is brought to you by Checkster - the leading talent decision platform leveraging collective intelligence to upgrade talent processes including interviewing, reference checking, and 360-quality feedback. Checkster believes everyone deserves a productive and fulfilling career, and that starts with the right talent decision. To learn more about Checkster, visit Checkster on the web at Checkster.com.

Recruiting in the Red-Hot Mobile Technology Sector


Interview with Talent Acquisition Ace, Jason Pistulka, Asurion

Published on June 27 2012
Jason Pistulka, senior manager IT recruiting and
corporate college recruiting AsurionJason Pistulka

"I had a senior leader that we hired, that gave us 25 references. He had 25 people respond within 48 hours. We see lots of people put in a large number of references. We do that before they come onsite for an interview. In fact, we launch it and start it before they even have a hiring manager screening." Jason Pistulka

Welcome to a new Talent Decisions channel podcast on TotalPicture Radio. Joining host Peter Clayton is Jason Pistulka, senior manager IT recruiting and corporate college recruiting at Asurion, the global leader in technology protection services. From lost, stolen and damaged smartphones to malfunctioning computers or HDTVs, Asurion provides more than 100 million customers worldwide with best in class, next day device replacement. Asurion also offers protection of user content and software.

TalentDecisions is a monthly podcast featuring leading practitioners within Talent Acquisition. The focus of this program is the Final Four, the final 4 candidates you are considering to fill a critical position within your organization. If you are a hiring manager struggling to ensure you make the right call or a talent acquisition department leader who wants to be more strategic, this program is for you. Talent Decisions is brought to you by Checkster, the leading talent decision platform leveraging collective intelligence to upgrade talent processes, including interviewing, reference checking and 360-quality feedback. Checkster believes everyone deserves a productive and fulfilling career and that starts with the right talent decision. To learn more about Checkster, visit Checkster on the web at checkster.com

Interview Transcript; Jason Pistulka, Asurion

Welcome to TalentDecisions, a monthly podcast featuring leading practitioners within Talent Acquisition. The focus of this program is the Final Four, the final 4 candidates you are considering to fill a critical position within your organization. If you are a hiring manager struggling to ensure you make the right call or a talent acquisition department leader who wants to be more strategic, this program is for you. Talent Decisions is brought to you by Checkster, the leading talent decision platform leveraging collective intelligence to upgrade talent processes, including interviewing, reference checking and 360-quality feedback. Checkster believes everyone deserves a productive and fulfilling career and that starts with the right talent decision. To learn more about Checkster, visit Checkster on the web at checkster.com.

Welcome to a new Talent Decisions channel podcast on TotalPicture Radio. Joining me today is Jason Pistulka, senior manager IT recruiting and corporate college recruiting at Asurion, the global leader in technology protection services. From lost, stolen and damaged smartphones to malfunctioning computers or HDTVs, Asurion provides more than 100 million customers worldwide with best in class, next day device replacement. Asurion also offers protection of user content and software.

Jason, thanks for joining us today on TotalPicture Radio's Talent Decisions.

Jason: Thank you.

Peter: So tell us about Asurion. You have a really unique company.

Jason: Asurion is in the consumer products protection business and that really is a couple of things. The biggest part of our business is handset protection or mobile phone protection. Then we have a sister company as well that does extended service contracts across the United States. So we play in that whole market space.

Peter: From what I understand, if I drop my iPhone in the lake, if I have your protection you'll send me a new one.

Jason: Our goal is to replace people's phone with a like model and in most cases, we get that phone to you the next business day. As well, we do a fair amount of development in consumer apps on your end to do protection of the data itself.

Peter: Let's talk a little bit about your role as senior manager IT recruiting and corporate college recruiting. How do you go about sourcing candidates?

Jason: One of the difficulties of being in a company like Asurion, is we're a company that operates in the background of many other companies, all the major cell phone carriers, retailers and things of that nature. So our first challenge is that we don't have a brand name amongst most markets, unlike big branded companies who can post jobs and get a fair amount of attraction.

Most of our job postings are not very effective except on lower level roles and add to it the complexity right now of the demand that exists within the IT market, really requires us to do more traditional headhunting type of sourcing. We're very lucky to have a passionate employee population and a spectacular growth story of the company.

So 35-40% of my hires that I get in IT actually come through referral, which is huge. We also have a fairly large college recruiting program. Over the last year, about 15% of our population growth came through college. Then the rest of it is really some use of agency but a lot of basic headhunting type of recruiting done by my recruiters.

Peter: You come from a search background and have a really unique method for sourcing great candidates. Is that correct?

Jason: I've played in search years back when I was in consulting and I've been a closet recruiter in my HR jobs as I go along the way because I've always just loved the search process. For us, the biggest thing is finding those key triggers or hot buttons for a candidate that makes them a good candidate for Asurion. So we push really hard looking for people who seem to have an appetite for going after the latest and greatest technologies and at the same time, people who have an extremely - they're passionate business people in the IT space. One of the things that makes Asurion a great sell is being able to see how you impact the business with the work that you do.

We do everything from the typical LinkedIn kind of work to just deep diving into a company and getting into their directory and start calling individuals who are for referrals. We also use a reference checking tool here that helps generate a candidate database for us as well.

Peter: How many applications do you typically get for any job req?

Jason: It varies so much. In our last college class that we hired of 25, we had over 300 applicants but yet I can post a mobile developer and many times get zero or a job of server developer. So it's really all over the board and depending on the level and skill needed, the more entry-level jobs are definitely much easier to hire applicants as well as the more, non-technical jobs. But when it gets into the technical space, many times we just count on zero applicants. Then the ones that we do get applicants on are usually not qualified. Those are the jobs that you really have to go out to a headhunter sourcing strategy and really just go out and find people and peel them out of businesses.

Peter: Let's go back to the 300 candidates that you had for entry-level positions. Once you've identified a group of potential candidates, what's your screening process? How do you get down to those 25 that you hire?

Jason: When you're doing college, you have to focus a lot more on potential than on experience. On the upfront, when we're hiring most of our college hire roles we want technical people. But we say that in a pretty broad sense. So we're looking for people who have degrees in Comp. Sci., engineering, MIS but also any other flavor of engineering, mathematics, people who have had to do serious problem solving in their academic background. That's a primary upfront filter, but we're pretty good at even in our postings of putting that filter upfront. So most of all of those 300 applicants already had that coming into the door.

In the college space, we have just a really aggressive interviewing process, behavioral-based interviewing, scoring where they're being interviewed by a whole cross panel of people, and really trying to get out from them people who are motivated, willing to work hard, bright, want to learn. That's how we really scroll down with that.

In other high volume positions, a lot of what we're doing is some of the basic things as - have they had a solid job history? Is it a reputable enterprise-sized company versus are they very small shops or companies who have a pace? When you get high volume apps, usually it's something local to you here. So we know most of the local companies and we know their culture, growth pace, things of that nature. A lot of the companies, there's just not a fit to Asurion because they're not used to the velocity of change and growth that we experienced here.

But once you get it narrowed down to people who are worthy having a conversation with, the recruiter does an upfront phone screen and again, finding out their hot buttons. Is it career advancement? Is it pay? Is it the company, different things they want? Finding out that we think they're a fit, it's worthy of a hiring manager discussion, then we run them through something called a Checkster, which is a 360-degree reference checking tool. We typically are getting probably 9 or 10 references on the typical candidate.

Peter: That's a lot.

Jason: It is. My best still is I had a senior leader that we hired, that gave us 25 references. He had 25 people respond within 48 hours. We see lots of people put in a large number of references. We do that before they come onsite for an interview. In fact, we launch it and start it before they even have a hiring manager screening.

Peter: Just to interrupt you for a second, Jason. That's pretty unusual because normally, the process is kind of reversed, isn't it not with most companies? You do the reference checking after you do the interview to make sure that you have an interest, but you do it upfront.

Jason: Yeah, you know the thing I always say is, it can be pretty arrogant of an interviewer to think that I can learn more in one hour from this candidate and the questions that they ask than I can from their peers, colleagues, supervisors, etc., in previous roles. By using this kind of a reference checking tool, we get a very robust report that comes from a cross-section of individuals and having that before the interview. It truly helps us focus our interview on the right areas.

We find out really what their greatest strengths are, weaknesses, accomplishments. We begin to hone our interview down to the areas, the unknowns or the concerned areas and really trying to vet those things from a candidate. Many recruiters, when we bring in new recruiters or when I've talked to external recruiters, you're telling this and they kind of crumple their forehead going, "I don't see how I'm going to get a candidate to do that." We actually have very little issue with it.

As you know, I think right now the average job holder has a 4-year tenure. So people are switching jobs on a fairly regular basis in this day and age. So we're sensitive to a candidate. We have people who come in, who've worked 15 or 20 years at their current company. We don't ask them to do this upfront. We don't want to put somebody at risk at their current job in their job search.

But that's pretty rare in this day and age. So we find our typical candidate has worked at a number of different companies. As we're talking to the candidate and we're pulling out all these key skills and things they've experienced, collaborating with others and team building, relationships and everything else, we then turn around and when we're doing the reference check, we say, "Based on your experience, the companies you worked at and everything else and all the deep relationships you told me you built, you should have no problem coming up with a nice list of references."

We ask them to give us a diversity of client, peer, subordinate, customers, supervisors, etc. When we're said and done, our average person is probably putting in 14 to 16 people in the tool. Like I said, we probably get around 10 on average before we pull a report.

Peter: That's fantastic. That really gives you a good indication right up front, if this is somebody that's going to fit into the culture of the organization.

Jason: Absolutely. Just an actual reference itself, I would estimate it's somewhere between 15 and 20% of the people get knocked out on the front end before they ever even get into an interview. Then once we get into the interview, having that depth of knowledge, there's a whole other set of people and I can't really attach a percentage to it, that I believe we're vetting out of the process through better interviewing because we have these identified areas of weakness that have come from their references. We're able to vet those better in the interview process.

Peter: That's got to be a huge cost saving as well.

Jason: I've never even tried to put a dollar amount to it, but keeping out one or two bad hires by all means pays for the cost of the tool.

Peter: Now let's try to understand how you get down to that one candidate. Let's say for a position you vetted all of these candidates, now you're down to maybe 3 or 4 that are all absolutely qualified for the job. How do you get to that1 candidate that you're going to make the job offer to?

Jason: A few things. We use some other assessments as well. We use technical assessments, quoting assessments, things of that nature. We use, in case of certain level jobs, cognitive ability, testaments, some personality fit assessments, things of that nature, that give us a more full profile of the individual.

Then when it comes to the actual interview itself, we use a behavioral based interviewing style. We really attempt - and I say attempt because this is always evolving - to really get a diversity of questions asked by the interviewers, by assigning out the right competency areas and things of that nature to the various interview groups. Then have good debriefs on the back end where we can really vet out all of the information that we've gathered.

So people aren't making their hiring decisions based off of just the information they get from within their own interview, but also by being able to cross-reference and gather information across the different groups. That's the best-case scenario. It's something that we're building automated tools and things in our organization to make sure we do that in a more robust way as we continue forward. That's our final vetting process that we really have for a candidate. Of course in the back end, we have the standard background check work that we do.

Peter: To the debriefing that you do, who leads this process and how do you go about scoring candidates?

Jason: We have some areas that are more mature in this process. So they use a very rigorous scoring process in their interviewing and that's generally driven more by the business. There's other areas where the scoring process isn't as robust and it's more of a hire and no hire. We use that along with information that we have from all of these other tools that we've gathered to assess the weaknesses and strengths of various areas, with a bigger focus on the concerned areas that we have with a candidate. Generally as we brought a candidate forward, if they've gotten to this point, they have the relevant skills, technical skills and experience to do the job. At that point, you're really focused on fitting behaviors. That's where the focus of our interview debriefs, discussions and things generally lie.

Peter: You had mentioned that you get a huge volume of your hires through a referral process. Do you have a formalized referral program within your organizations?

Jason: We do have a formalized program and we pay referrals and things of that nature. But the reality of it is although those programs are popular, to have payment systems and things in place, our best referrals come from people who don't even realize there's a program in place. These are people they know, they've worked with, they trust, they want on their team and they also are huge proponents of Asurion so they're really out there actively selling this to other people.

You see some people in some organizations, referrals come in kind of as friends ask them about the organization and the friends are looking for something different. That's how you get a referral. I would say the large portion of our referrals here are really our employees going out and selling it to their own friends and colleagues from previous roles because they're very passionate about the organization.

Peter: How do you track your success? How do you know they turn out well? How do you validate the quality of hire?

Jason: We do have a survey that we do with the hiring managers, which is an interesting data point. But I think the more important thing is when we're tracking really what the performance history looks like over the next 12 months versus the general population. Are we hiring in people who are better than the overall distribution curve as we go forward or poorer than the distribution curve? Not every hire is going to be perfect, obviously.

So we look at it in a more holistic way in that regard. Then when we have one that goes bad, we have somebody who, maybe we've hat to let go early or left early, the first thing that we go back to is the Checkster. We say, "What are the reasons? What do we find out in the exit interview? What do we find out from the manager? Did we have those red flags upfront and we missed them?"

That's a very important part of the process. Usually we did. Usually, the red flags - unless it was something out of control, got a sick parent and they have to move back, those kinds of things. Usually the flags are there and we use that to constantly hone back to our managers, to why we should pay attention to this tool and why should we vet all the concerns in this very well in the interview process. What stops us from making those same kind of mistakes in the future.

Peter: What are some of the biggest mistakes that you've seen talent acquisition leaders or hiring managers do in the selection process?

Jason: I think the biggest mistake is actually behavioral in nature is they get desperate, whether it'd be a recruiter is trying to make their numbers, whether it'd be a hiring manager who's just so desperate to have a position filled.

We constantly, as we bring in recruiters, when we train them and the mindset that we put in the recruiters' is that we have to keep bad out. So instead of always trying to find the good in candidates, which is easy to do if you want to, you have to constantly be looking for the red flag, vetting the red flag and trying to find fault in the candidate. That's our job as a recruiter to be in that mindset all the time because we do know hiring managers who desperately want to fill the role. Many times they will overlook red flags or they'll diminish the importance of that red flag as we go forward.

I think the strong partnership between the recruiter and the hiring manager or the recruiter is constantly telling the hiring manager, don't feel you have to hire this person. I'll find you somebody better if that's what it requires. Helping the hiring manager truly look at all of these various red flags and take them seriously. I think we've done a very good job of that. It's something we continue to work on.

Peter: You bring up something that's really interesting and the relationship between the recruiter and the hiring manager, it sounds like you're really evolving to more of a consultative role than just an order filler where they're giving you a job req and here's the qualifications. You go out and find this person. It sounds like you're really consulting with these people.

Jason: We absolutely are. The CIO that we have here is maniacal about hiring quality people, to the point that he has empowered my recruiters to be able to say no to any candidate, even if a hiring manager wants to hire them. If we have a serious concern about quality, he has told us to say no and move them out of the process.

So in most cases, our hiring managers are on board with us. They have the same concerns and they follow the same flags and the signs, but there are times and the hiring manager wants to move forward with a candidate that just has too many red flags and we tell them we can't do it.

Peter: Interesting. You're saving a disaster from happening in the future with most of this, right?

Jason: Yes, a saving grace for the recruiter is, as a hiring manager looks at it, many would say it's in the recruiter's best interest to fill the role, make the SLA, make the req go away. Our thing is always that we can do that, but as we do the problem that we're going to run into is that work is going to come back onto our plate. It's a short term relief that really just turns into a long term pain that comes back again.

Peter: Right. By the way, it's the recruiter who's going to get blamed if it's a bad hire, right?

Jason: Right, absolutely.

Peter: Not that desperate hiring manager.

Jason: Yes.

Peter: Just a couple more questions, Jason. This has been great. What advice would you give to someone who wants to work within your organization about your recruiting process?

Jason: I would say the #1 thing is don't try to oversell yourself. I'll say that for a couple of reasons. Number one, because we move fast, because we're an organization that really is more nimble, growing faster than most other companies, our typical person doing the interview does not have time for people who are long-winded, for people who oversell and for people who can't quickly articulate what the value is it they bring to the organization and ask the questions in a very concise manner. That's one of the number one things I tell candidates after I screen them. I say, "Okay, I'll give you some slack because I'm the recruiter and I know you want the job but here's what you need to do before you go to the hiring manager. You need to focus this down." That's one of the biggest things.

The second thing on the oversell part, this is not a place for everybody. That goes for every company. You can sell yourself into a culture you don't fit. Everybody should be very careful about not trying to get people to hire them into a job that ultimately is not going to be long term fit.

Peter: You have, what, about 10,000 employees now?

Jason: Twelve (thousand) or something like that across our whole organization, yes.

Peter: Do you have any hot jobs you'd like to tell us about, that you're trying to currently fill?

Jason: Our mobile space is really hot right now. As I guess, whose isn't? So we have mobile development offices out in San Mateo and San Francisco, as well as here in Nashville. We're hiring lots of mobile developers. We're hiring a lot of server people, job of server as well as job of front-end web developers and things in those spaces.

On the corporate-wide basis, everything ops and infrastructure is hot as well. So if we have people who have infrastructure background, we have tons of opportunities in those spaces. We'll hire 400 or so people in IT this year in Asurion. Almost any flavor of technology, we have a position for you.

Peter: Great. Thank you so much, Jason, for joining us today on TotalPicture Radio's Talent Decisions.

Jason: Thank you very much. I enjoyed it.

Peter: We've been speaking with Jason Pistulka, senior manager IT recruiting and corporate college recruiting at Asurion. Visit Jason's feature page in the Talent Decisions channel of TotalPicture Radio, for resource links and more information.

Thank you for tuning in to Talent Decisions, a co-production of TotalPicture Radio and Checkster. Through our best in class talent decision platform, Checkster empowers organizations and individuals to make better talent decisions for more engaged organizations and a better world. Visit checkster.com to learn more and perform a talent check-up today.


Building A Social Media Recruiting Strategy From Scratch


A TalentDecisions podcast with Ken Lane, director of talent acquisition at Cliffs Natural Resources.

Published on April 27 2012
Ken Lane, director of talent acquisition at Cliffs Natural ResourcesKen Lane

"Cliffs what? Do you make health bars? Study guides?" What we have here is a 164 year old company that is not a brand name, operates using fly in, fly out in remote locations."

Welcome to Talent Decisions, a monthly podcast featuring leading practitioners within talent acquisition. The focus of this program is the final four, the final four candidates you are considering to fill a critical position within your organization. If you are a hiring manager struggling to ensure you make the right call or a talent acquisition department leader who wants to be more strategic, this program is for you.

Joining us to today on TalentDecisions is Ken Lane, director of talent acquisition at Cliffs Natural Resources. No, we're not talking about health bars or Cliff Notes. We're talking about mining; iron ore, coal and other natural resources. If you bought their stock a few years ago, you would be very, very happy. The only company that's had a greater appreciation to their stock price is Apple.


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