Culture of Experts

Module #13

Recruiting Experts

Take responsibility for talent
The ability to add exceptional talent to an organization is one of the most important qualities of leadership. Another important quality of leadership is delegation. However, if leadership delegates responsibilities and tasks associated with talent acquisition, at what point are they overly removed from the process?

There is no perfect formula to determine the best way to delegate resources towards talent acquisition, however, the chart below should help. It provides the division of labor necessary to secure top talent as well as the time and energy put forth.

Talent Acquisition Delegation

      On average, who is doing the work to fill an open position and how many hours a week are they spending?

      [   ] Hiring Manager – hours spent per week …………………….. (active search) _________ (passive search) _________
      [   ] HR – hours spent per week …………………………………… (active search) _________ (passive search) _________
      [   ] Internal Recruiter- hours spent per week ……………………. (active search) _________ (passive search) _________
      [   ] External Recruiting Agency – hours spent per week ……….. (active search) _________ (passive search) _________

       Active -VS- Passive candidate search

In the world of recruiting, there are two types of candidates, active and passive.

Active candidates are those who are unemployed, underemployed, or unhappy with their current work situation. Simply put, they are actively job hunting. Searching for active candidates is usually done through online job search sites like LinkedIn, and On these sites, job are posted, active candidates apply, and resumes are reviewed.

For large companies and recruitment firms, the recruitment of active candidates can include the use of a large database. Using technology that is built into the database, candidates can be organized, classified, and matched with specific positions.

Unfortunately, active candidates do not represent the entire work force and a database consisting of active candidates may not represent a pool of top candidates. Why? Top candidates will be more quickly connected with new employment and remove themselves from the active candidate market. As the active candidate database ages, its best content will be the first to lose relevancy within the database.

Although the talent acquisition process for active candidates is fairly simple on the front end, a lot of time can be spent sifting through resumes to find a fit. It is not uncommon for candidates to apply for positions that are vastly different than their experience, which adds to the amount of resumes submitted. Active candidate searches often produce candidates that are “serial applicants”. This means that they constantly apply for a large quantity of jobs and repeatedly show up in searches.

Passive candidates are successful at what they do and happy with their current employment situation. They are not actively job hunting, however, open minded to new opportunities. Because passive candidates are not applying for jobs, recruiters must proactively find them. To do this, they will use intense internet research methodologies to hone in on specific skills and experiences. Once passive candidates are found, recruiters will reach out and sell the opportunity at hand.
When a recruiter communicates with a passive candidate, they “unlock” them, turning them into an active candidate. This means the candidate will not only considers the opportunity presented to them by the recruiter, but all opportunities out there. This is driven by natural curiosity and the need to find a point of comparison. When your cousin calls you about a great deal on a used car, the first thing you do is check market pricing on the same model of used cars. Because of this curiosity, it is important for employers to process all candidates as quickly as possible.

A few notes regarding passive candidates:

  • An interview with a passive candidate might be a little different than an interview with an active candidate. In a passive candidate interview,  the hiring manager and candidate might interview each other. This can frustrate a hiring manager who is accustomed to speaking with people who are more anxious to get the job.
  • Passive candidates are sometimes perceived as being higher quality than active candidates. This is because the research used to find passive candidates can encompass the entire employment market, using methods that can find a very close match. Active candidate searches will be limited to those who respond to online ads. At the end of the day, everyone is an active candidates at some point in their career and performance in an interview will determine quality.

             The subtractive job interview

Once you have a stellar resume in your hand, it’s time to start thinking about a job interview. Some hiring managers look at the job interview differently than most. They look at it from the perspective of subtraction. Rather than collecting the enormous amount of information needed to determine an excellent candidate, they will focus on information that might weed out a poor candidate. Although, weeding out candidates may sound a bit barbaric, it can force a company to hire above a certain standard without being seduced by specific skills and experience.

The subtractive process is best performed at the beginning of the interview, as there is less of an emotional attachment to the candidate and less room for bias. Certainly, as the interview transpires, the direction can head into positive territory. Here, candidates can promote their skills and experience and sell themselves.

What are some of the negative attributes a hiring manager should look for in a subtractive interview?

               Does the candidate think that they are bigger than the job?
               Is this position the next logical step in their career or is it their dream to open a coffee shop?

               Does the candidate lack respect for the position, company, industry, product and/or service?
               Did they do their research and will they develop a passion for the position?

               Does the candidate have personal issues that might show up within the workplace?
               Will a bad attitude show up to bog down the corporate culture?

               Does the candidate have unrealistic expectations?
               Will there be any surprises when faced with the following?
                         •  Intense work ethic requirements
                         •  Long hours, exceeding the 40 hours work week
                         •  Travel requirements
                         •  Unique corporate culture requirements
                         •  Challenges specific to the position that had caused issues or turnover in the past

To develop candidate questions, many interviewers use the STAR method:

                      S – Situation

                      T – Task

                      A – Action

                      R – Result

STAR is a method that can help interviewers collect candidate information as it tells a whole story within their work history, rather than a one-dimensional answer. With STAR, the candidate is asked to provide information on a past situation, tasks assigned to the candidate within this past situation, the actions that the candidate actually took to complete the task assigned to them, and the results of those actions. What is the desired outcome? If the candidate successfully completed the task in a way that markedly improved the situation, they get bonus points in the interview.

STAR is simplified in the above paragraph, however, it can be very difficult for a candidate to produce this information, within this format, on-the-fly. The best interviews are conversational, as they allow the candidate to share information in a more spontaneous fashion. If the STAR method is use, it will probably glean better results as a point of reference for the interviewer’s conversational interview rather than a task assigned to the candidate.

There are three important skills that a hiring manager needs to have

1) The hiring manager needs to know when to commit time and/or money necessary to conduct a passive search and that all participants are doing their part in the search.
2) The hiring manager needs to know when to move search efforts from an internal resource (HR or internal recruiters) to an external resource (recruiting agency or executive search firm).
3) The hiring manager needs to make sure adequate time is spent on the search, as the search process requires a lot of time.

Note: Timing is (still) everything. If an organization experiences a long term gap in its talent, it will eventually lose market share.

A Word About Agency Recruiters
Agency recruiting is a misunderstood profession. There is no specific college course nor college degree for it. Seven out of ten who pursue the profession will fail.

For the most part, the recruiting industry is an all-or-nothing proposition. A candidate who falls through the cracks will bring an agency $0 in fees. A successful placement can generate between $10,000 and $30,000 in fees.

The commission percentage that a recruiter earns depends on the agency. This information is not typically shared with the client, however, this number can greatly influence the search. If a recruiter is commissioned on a very small percentage of the fee, there is little incentive for them to spend a lot of time working on the search.

Recruiters who fill high-level positions are often called executive search consultants, however, the positions they fill aren’t necessarily executive-level roles. These recruiters are typically well compensated through high commissions and free to spend a lot of time on each search, possibly hundreds of hours.

Some recruiters will work within an industry and/or position niche. A recruiter who only recruits mechanical engineers within the aviation and aerospace industry would be an example of a niche recruiter. By specializing in a specific type of recruitment, they can identify all available candidates within a geographic area and present them to all companies that are willing to look at them. At this level, the task at hand is less research driven and more of a match game, connecting the right candidates with the right companies.

Although the trading floor is behind closed doors, the battle for top talent is as fierce as the trading of any valuable commodity. Every day, there are winners and losers. With every hire, there will be a contribution to goods or services that will allow one company to better compete with another.

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Recruiting itself is an unconventional position
Whether using an internal recruiter or an agency, the actual person who is recruiting for a particular position is in an unconventional position. If the recruiter is an Unconventional Expert, they will fill the role well.

In module #1, we defined unstructured positions as those that require an individual work-process, to fill gaps in operational company-process. Within recruiting, there is a strong process that needs to be followed to find and develop candidates, however, it is a very unstructured process. Like trying to solve a murder mystery, the recruiter goes through twists and turns to discover the best candidates. Each recruiter has their own methodologies, which cover:

• The wording of job posts.
• Outreach to potential candidates.
• Candidate conversations.
• Boolean search strategies to find candidates on the internet.
• The interpretation and understanding of the position being filled.

Recruiting becomes as complex as the roles being filled. Recruiters need to know the requirements, as they pertain the the requisition. Job titles change meaning, from industry to industry, and sometimes, company to company. Recruiters must understand the details.

Recruiters need to be very creative. They have to develop an idea in their head of what a perfect candidate will look like and try to match it with the realities of the candidate market. They will need to create each step of the way.

Each search is different and one strategy will not cover multiple searches. Changes are constantly made to customize each search.

Each search assignment is s separate project, with a beginning, middle and end. The recruitment process fits well within the category of an unconventional project.

Recruiters use their individual work-process to find candidates. Their ideas are often candidates; as they are what the recruiter believes is what the hiring manager wants. Like the testing of an idea, the candidate will pass or fail. With failure, the recruiter gains knowledge of what the hiring manager wants and uses the rejected candidate as a platform for new and better candidates.

The development of a Culture of Experts is an ongoing mission for Human Castle Executive Search. It grew out of a necessity to recruit expert-level candidates who do not perfectly fit into the requirements of Traditional Establishment Expert-level positions. Today, Human Castle recruits all types of experts and can help you find the perfect candidate.

Culture of Experts is a free talent program by Human Castle Executive Search. For expert recruitment visit us at or call (716)222-3535.

Please proceed to module #14: AI: What Jobs will it replace?

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