I’ll staple those applications

This is a story about a time I when I had a great idea.

Sit-down-let-me-tell-you-a-story

The year was two thousand and seven. I was all of 21 years old and very ambitious. I had been working my first “grown up” job for a year now and had been exceeding all expectations. I had learned so much in that time, but I knew I needed to find ways to manage my time better and increase efficiency.

I was the youngest person working in the office at the time with three other ladies. Two of which were older than my parents, but not quite old enough to be my grandparents and one was probably close to my parents age. The two older ladies worked upstairs while me and the younger of the other three worked downstairs. Her and I saw a lot of people every day coming in to fill out these lengthy paper applications. Her and I were the first round of interviews, screening them to see if they were good enough candidates to send upstairs (as I type this, I realize that process was also ridiculous). We handled the drug screens, scheduling, applicant flow, filing, answering phones, etc. The other two ladies handled payroll, delivering checks, extra screening, meetings and one of them did sales. All of that to explain that they weren’t always up close witnesses to the dated process of the paper applications and how long it took.

Process at the time: take paper application, interview candidate, send candidate upstairs for further interview, make candidate an offer, drug screen candidate, on-board candidate, enter new hire information into our system. YEAH, we took their info from their application and entered it into the system so we could pay them. They wrote out all of their info and then someone would take that info and manually key it into the system. Manually. key. it. in.

YALL… one day I was playing around and found out that the software we used to enter applicant data in and administer payroll was in fact a fairly sophisticated ATS! IT COULD TAKE ONLINE APPLICATIONS… We had this product we were paying for that could take applications and here we were handing out all these dadgum paper applications like it was 1982. YALL… I started crunching some numbers, because even in my early days I knew data was the way to make your case. How much were we spending ordering these paper applications, shipping the paper applications to our office, and then stapling all of the separate sheets together? How much time did it take an applicant on average to fill this massive thing out, how much time did it take to file it, how much time did it take to enter it in once we hired them, etc.? How much would it cost to set up 4-6 computers in the office for applicants to use to fill out the online version of this application? THE. NUMBERS. SPOKE. FOR. THEMSELVES.

As you can tell from this typed out blog post about a story from over 10 years ago, I was EXCITED! I had everything I needed to make a case for why we needed to change our process immediately and I couldn’t wait to tell somebody. I remember telling the ladies who worked upstairs about this idea and how simple it would be for me to set it up for us. I talked about streamlining the process, saving time, $$, I hit all the key factors BUT those two ladies only heard “you’re inefficient, I can do it better, I’m replacing you.”

face
This is my “really, that’s all you heard?” face…

I didn’t know what to do with that. I was floored because that’s not what I was saying at all. I wasn’t sure where that was coming from and I didn’t know how to dispute it. I let it go. When given the chance to run another office for the same company I eventually implemented all the upgrades I wanted to do in my office. When my office became the biggest billing office in the company, other offices were instructed to do what I was doing. It wasn’t about replacing anyone, it was about improving our efficiency and service. I didn’t know how to refine my message back then or have a conversation with peers who were afraid I viewed them as a non-factor and replaceable. I could have done a much better job of pitching my idea, my mistake was not taking the time to understand that I might need to.

Learn how to talk to people of all levels. Approach issues with the other persons perspective in mind. When all else fails, shut up and listen.

Advertisements

Changing the Game

Lets just jump right in to opening day since #MarchMadness has become a huge disappointment for me…

How the Oakland A’s perfected the Applicant Tracking System…Remember the 02 season for the Oakland A’s? They finished 1st in the American League West with 103 wins and 59 losses. They were essentially a Cinderella team. Beane was able to produce an unexpected record with an unexpected team on an impossible budget. Often times you hear that necessity is the mother of all invention and that is probably the case here as well. Beane’s predecessor was forced with the task of fielding a competitive roster on a limited budget and turned to sabermetrics for help. He used sabermetrics to measure on-base percentages and target undervalued players. He eventually taught this system to Beane and he continued using it and tweaking it (and still uses it) to maximize a minimal budget and put together teams worthy of winning. The incredible thing about this is that someone had to step out and say “let’s try something different… no more recruiting the way we have just because it’s the way we have always done it…”. Other teams began utilizing this system and it began to change the recruiting of the entire league, not just one team. And hey, a good movie was born through the process somehow too 😉

The point isn’t really that the Oakland A’s decided to use evidence based metrics when assessing players, well.. yeah, that is part of the point. The other part is that someone was willing to change the way of doing things. They were willing to change the way they recruited in hopes to change their organizations output of a finished product. It’s kind of like our ATS that we turn to in HR. A one stop shop that shows us work history, education, skills and all other good to know evidence based info about candidates and employees. At one point, that wasn’t the norm (note: I am too young to know a time when that was not the norm in case you were curious). I did however work for a company that chose to utilize the paper way instead of maximizing the abilities of their ATS many years ago and it was foolish. I can only imagine the fights that sabermetrics brought in comparison to the pushback I got from charging forward on the oh so obvious one stop shop ATS that was being underutilized. What did we find when we started using all the bells and whistles on the ATS? We could suddenly work far more efficiently than we ever imagined. We could get lots of great things done, everything was in one place, everything was easy to get to, easy to measure and easy to assess…Ultimately, we could change the game. We improved our efficiency and overcame the fear of not holding a handwritten application in our hands when assessing candidates.

There will always be room for improvement, but if we aren’t open to change and improvement we will eventually get left behind. If HR professionals allow their organizations to fear change or fear it themselves I can promise you the organization will eventually be outperformed by competitors. What are some changes you are fearing in your organization? What are some changes you are heading in your organization?

"...how much you don't know..."
“…how much you don’t know…”

Secret Squirrel: The candidate guessing game…

As someone who is excited about process improvement I’m always questioning the way we do things. Not in a “that’s stupid” kind of way, more like “I want to know more and I want to understand the process” kind of way (probably a skill that could use some fine tuning). Anyway, the last few days I’ve been meeting with a team of people who are involved in some big hiring decisions for a project I’m working on. Some of these people are HR some are not, some are experienced in the interview process some are just helping us out for logistic purposes. Listening to the group give their opinions on our interviews has become extremely interesting to me. I always tell people when they are asking for advice on how to get hired, how to stand out from the crowd and so on to just be themselves because there is no one way that guarantees you will impress your recruiter, or whoever you are interviewing with. As I heard comments like “If you don’t even have at least a Sunday shirt to wear…” or “his answers sounded too rehearsed…” I thought to myself-how often do we focus on the wrong things? Why do we recruit the way we recruit? I used to always tell the recruiters that worked under me that it was NEVER a deal breaker if a machinist didn’t have an A+ resume… (staffing industry tip alert*) the machinist job is to be good at being a machinist not at writing a resume, our job as recruiters for our clients were to let our clients know why he was going to be a good hire… Now that I find myself recruiting for a company on the inside, I still believe this, I need a forklift driver to be good at driving a forklift not writing a resume. I didn’t explain to the candidates coming in for an interview what to wear specifically, so I don’t care that he wasn’t wearing a sunday shirt. [in fact when a candidate did ask what they should wear I told them to wear what they would feel comfortable in for an interview…a panel interview is intimidating enough I wouldn’t want to force them to wear clothes they weren’t comfortable in too!] I did tell the candidate to expect to meet with multiple people as this was a panel interview and to take the time to do some further research about the company before he came on site, I appreciate that he took that advice seriously and was prepared for an interview. For the record one of my biggest pet peeves is when a candidate shows up for an interview and asks “what do yall do here?”… ughhh? Why do you want to apply for a position here and not even know what we do here?

Anyway, I know I’ve said it before, did we change the way we recruit and forget to tell candidates or did candidates change the way we recruit and we are trying to catch up? Chicken? Egg? Here’s my opinion, 2 generations at once was a triumph, the more you add the more difficult decision-making becomes. Your old school opinions are the “sunday shirt” opinions… Your new school opinions are “Are you available for a Skype interview? BTW we wear jeans M-F and we are okay with the occasional telecommute” and so on. Somewhere in the midst of the generational melting pot we’ve decided we will recruit for skill and culture so we can be forward thinking companies and maximize our potential and run lean and create mentorship opportunities, etc. Ok-I’m starting to run all over the place with this, again, hang with me. Are we expecting candidates to know that’s our goal? No. So we tell them that is our goal. And we wait… and wait… to see how they respond, right? Well we know what we mean & just because we say it, doesn’t mean the candidate knows what that means. It’s easy to recruit for skill, no doubt about that, but culture brings a new element to the table. So tell your candidates what kind of culture you are looking to build, tell them what that means to each employee and the goals of the facility and what the expectations are of the candidates as far as meeting/sustaining those goals. Then wait for the reaction. Then see if they are excited. If they understand. If they are on board. Don’t keep it “secret squirrel” and then be bummed when they didn’t exceed your expectations. Create open communication with new hires on how they can contribute to the culture and the company goals and coach them when necessary. Nurture that from the beginning and eventually those people will be the ones teaching your new hires how to react to the expectations of the culture, start at the beginning! And don’t be afraid to define the organizations definition of the culture they are building. I was talking with an HR friend who said that a recent candidate she interviewed had impressed her because he repeatedly mentioned that he was looking for a second family and that meant something to her because she deals with so many people who “could give a shit less about the people they work with” and later I thought “Well, what if that’s what family means to them?” This is a great example in my mind because people say “I want to be treated like family” or things like that, but family may not be the most important thing to that person so they may define family a bit different from how you or I would.

What is the most important thing, in your opinion, that a candidate must do in the interviewing process to get hired?

recruitingmeme