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How to Recruit the Best Employees for Your Company
When it comes to the subject of recruiting candidates, employers have three main concerns:
1. Hiring the best people for the company
2. Amount of money spent on the recruiting process and ways to make it more cost-effective
3. Retaining the employees who are hired (thus decreasing the company’s turnover ratio,
another money saver)
In this report, you will read about what other companies—who share these same concerns—
have done to successfully improve their recruiting processes. You will learn about ways to:
Identify the best prospects
Attract the best college hires
Effectively utilize Internet/on-line recruiting
Encourage referrals of candidates from your employees
Devise an intern program that encourages pursuit of full-time employment
Select people who are most likely to succeed in your company
Create applicant screening/interviewing processes that cut down paperwork and time
Hire Best College Graduates
With Right Image, Innovations
Most college recruiting programs were developed in the 1950s, long before the age of technology. “Universities, faculty, and students have changed dramatically in the last few years, but most
college recruiting still focuses on going to career centers and career fairs,” says Dr. John Sullivan,
professor and head of human resources management at the School of Business, San Francisco
State University, as well as a business consultant to major corporations such as Hewlett Packard,
Nike, and Microsoft.
Known among colleagues as the “Michael Jordan of Recruiting,” Sullivan says that to get out
of the Dark Ages, consider making some of the following improvements to your employer’s oncampus recruitment campaigns:
Calculate the return on investment of college hires. If you are going to make great college
hires, you must have proof that these hires are more valuable than “experienced” hires. See if
your most productive ideas come from recent college hires, or if departments with a large percentage of college hires outperform those with a lower proportion of them. Track the performance of college hires. Do they give a competitive advantage over your competitors?
If you want to get the best from colleges, you must realize it’s all about image. Students want
to work at the “talked-about” places. Get mentioned in the press and especially on “Best Places
to Work” lists. A great way to get the best college hires is through referrals from other students
or popular professors. Survey students and faculty to gauge your image, then use your marketing
staff to improve it.
Technology is a key factor in winning the recruiting battle. “Wow” them with Internet video
interviews, great Web pages, and E-mail newsletters to targeted students. Sponsor listservs and
chat rooms and give free software and screensavers to the very best bets. Have your employees
post answers in chat rooms and on listservs that the best students frequent, so they will want to
know more about you. Share real business/technology problems and opportunities with students
through the Internet and class projects or cases. Offer exciting simulations on your Web page to
allow students to test their real-world skills.
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How to Recruit the Best Employees for Your Company
Establishing relationships with faculty who teach the best (honor) students is crucial. Professors
are relatively easy to involve. Pay for their trip to visit your headquarters or plant or give them a
summer faculty internship or a research project. Let them attend department meetings or go
through your corporate technical training so they can learn more about the company. The more
they know about an employer, the more likely they will use the company in a class example or
assign students to study your organization as a best practice.
Consider funding teaching assistants for the best professors, giving faculty feedback on curriculum
(what students need more of and less of), guaranteeing interviews to faculty members’ top students,
mentoring junior faculty at your company, and donating money to help sponsor academic meetings.
Hire faculty—during breaks, or those on sabbatical or retired—to help your company build
on-campus relationships. Involve them in the design the company’s recruiting program and in
the selection of “target” faculty and universities.
Identify the best prospects by encouraging professors to refer students. Track the referrals over
time to make sure they work out at the company. Keep in mind, however, that the best “academic” professors might not always refer the best talent.
Some ways to creatively search for talented students are:
• Learn not to rely solely on the candidates’ coming to you; develop systems to find potential
candidates’ names without their active help.
• Hire on-campus representatives—students in HR or the key major—to help you gather
information and stimulate students’ interest in your company.
• Go to second-tier and “foreign” universities to “cherry pick” the top talent where there is little competition. The talent is thinner, but the top 1 percent is likely to be as good as all but
the very top schools.
• Use contests, the Internet, and faculty referrals to avoid on campus visits. Place computers
with interactive video at schools and libraries.
• Show that alumni (from the target university) succeed at your firm and develop an alumni
mentor/E-mail friends network between company alums and targeted candidates.
Smart Internet Search Practices
Facilitate On-Line Recruitment
When you are working for a rapid-g rowth company, the Internet is bound to be on your list
of recruiting sources. Yet how effective is the Internet for filling positions with qualified people?
At 1,900-employee C.H. Robinson Company, on-line recruiting has become a mainstay for
Heather Cooper, its national recruiter, for several reasons: it’s reasonably priced (about $150 per
job posting); the company is looking to fill jobs all over the world; and it is real time—netting
resumes 24 hours a day.
The majority of jobs Cooper is looking to fill are new-hire positions. In 1998, for example,
the company hired 360 people, and 90 percent of those were new hires. Cooper projects 450
hires for 1999. Cooper has discovered that the Internet is a great vehicle to reach her new-hire
target audience. Currently, 16 percent of new hires come from on-line recruiting—12 percent
of those come from the job posting site, JobDirect.com, run by the Wall Street Journal.
Most of the open positions are sales-consulting roles in the countries where the company operates (the United States, Europe, Latin America, and Africa), explains Cooper. These employees buy
freight, act as business consultants to customers, and manage third-party distributors. Hiring top
talent is extremely important because “we promote completely from within,” Cooper emphasizes.
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How to Recruit the Best Employees for Your Company
Cooper has some words of wisdom for employers considering to recruit via the Internet. “Before
you recruit on the Internet, you better have a good corporate Web site,” she explains. “That is your
bulletin board, the first way to reach out to candidates.” Here are some other tips Cooper offers:
• Start with the free sites.
Research and use those sites to discern what type of information
you get back and to become familiar with the on-line recruiting process. Then, start to look
at niche sites. For example, the JobDirect.com site Cooper uses is composed entirely of college and graduate students’ resumes, which makes it ideal for entry-level position recruiting.
• Tak e adv antag e of setting search cr iteria. For Cooper, this feature is perhaps the most
valuable. “Many of our nearly 120 locations worldwide are not in major cities where there are
larger pools of talent from which we recruit,” Cooper says. “By inserting specific search criteria
for a smaller city where we have a location, we can identify potential candidates that have either
worked part time or may even have family there. Then we can contact them directly wherever
they are currently in the country and pitch them on all of the benefits of working in that particular location. Since we already know they have a ‘history’ with the location, this entrepreneurial
approach to recruiting can be highly effective and suits our organization well. JobDirect has also
been particularly valuable in searches for our international locations, where we target foreign
nationals studying in the United States, Americans living abroad, or those with special language
skills,” says Cooper. “The ability to customize our on-line searches based on location and need
have had tremendous value.”
Getting the Best Value for the Buck
Lois Melbourne was getting tired of working only with recruiters to find the right marketing and
technical employees for her 20-employee software company. As the president of TimeVision, Inc., a
producer of software that generates organizational charts, her past experience with recruiters was
that they required a lot of hand-holding for the money being spent on their services.
With the growth of Internet recruiting, Melbourne began to research on-line options. “Being
in HR, I’ve watched a lot of these on-line providers grow up. We checked them all out because
I was searching for the most easily accessible on-line service provider that could categorize jobs
and allow people to search by city, for public or private employers, etc.”
Though TimeVision still uses traditional recruiting methods, Resumail Network—a provider of
on-line job postings and office management software to organize electronic resumes into a paperless
database (searched by keywords)—has become one of the company’s prime recruiting vehicles.
“Resumail has been the source of maybe 70 applicants in the last eight months,” Melbourne
says. “I’ve saved almost $10,000 on two hires. The bottom line is that it saves us money in
recruiters’ fees and almost 10 times the cost of advertising space. That’s a pretty good return on
the investment (less than $400),” Melbourne says.
Before on-line software, Melbourne was spending too much time interviewing people face-toface who looked good on paper, but could not communicate. Now she has control over the
screening process because she has direct access to the résumés. “I spend 10 minutes on the
phone and know right away whether or not I want to interview a particular job candidate in
person. Recruiting firms never gave me that flexibility,” she maintains.
On the flip side, on-line recruiting typically gives candidates a clearer picture about the employers
with job openings. “You can put a lot more information about your company in an on-line posting
compared to a newspaper ad,” Melbourne says,“which gives people a better feel for a company before
they even submit their résumés. One of the things we tout in our on-line postings is that we are not
Corporate America,” she explains. “We are a team environment. We don’t want people who need
the comfort of corporate structure. The Web is a great vehicle to communicate that.”
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How to Recruit the Best Employees for Your Company
Another key benefit of using on-line recruiting is speed. “I can update job postings right on
the Web. I don’t have to wait for someone else to do it and hope they get it right,” says
Melbourne. “If we add an employee benefit, for example, I can add that information instantly to
an on-line job posting, and it will be out on the Web within two hours of making the change.”
As a seasoned on-line user, Melbourne offers the following insights and advice:
• Hiring via the Internet acts as a good prequalifier for technical positions. “We think anyone
we hire should be comfortable with the Internet.”
• Don’t take for granted that your job opening gets posted on the Internet. Once it is submitted to the on-line service provider, log on and review it. Also, ask a colleague to look for it
to test how accessible the job posting really is.
• Melbourne pays $50 a month for each job posted on-line. For large organizations that post
many openings on the Internet, discount rates are generally offered by service providers.
• Make sure that the provider you choose offers strong and responsive technical support, advises Melbourne. “Anytime I have a question, there are technicians available right away, and
that’s important.”
Lessons Learned from On-line Hiring at Unisys
Recovering from surgery in 1994, Jim Gleason, of Unisys Corp.’s business systems and operations, whiled away many hours on the World Wide Web—and discovered how it could enhance
his worldwide recruitment and staffing efforts in a big way.
Back at the office, Gleason has worked to bring Unysis’ 55 U.S.-based recruiters onboard with
the advantages of on-line recruitment and a centralized, automated résumé database. In his
standing room–only presentation,“Recruiting via the Internet,” at the recent Employment
Management Association Conference in Dallas, he shared some of the major challenges he has
encountered. Here are steps that he suggests for on-line recruiting efforts:
• Ensure that all job openings are posted internally on the company’s Web site . “We
used to have 50 percent of the job openings posted so internal candidates knew about
opportunities; we’ve upped that to 95 percent,” says Gleason.
• Suppor t a shar ed-services résumé database. The trick to starting
a centralized effort
is making sure recruiters share all the résumés they receive, rather than hoarding them,
Gleason explains. “Right now, 170,000 résumés are in the database, and it’s growing by
10,000 a month.”
• Promote the use of on-line recruiting even when more traditional print advertis ing is also used.
Gleason makes sure he talks up the benefits of Internet recruiting “if I
discover that a recruiter is using print ads and not utilizing the company Web site.”
• Hold weekly one-hour Internet Recruiting Council meetings. This small group of Unisys
managers is currently evaluating outside recruiters who offer on-line services, so for the first 20
minutes of each meeting, Council members connect via conference call and computer with each
vendor to hear a presentation about features and costs. Once the vendor has finished and disconnected,members then discuss the pros and cons. If the provider could be a worthwhile partner,
Gleason puts a service summary and link on the Unisys Web site so that company recruiters can
make use of the partnership. A related current task is identifying other Web sites—such as those of
trade associations to which Unisys belongs—that may offer reciprocal links or additional opportunities for job postings.
• Measure the impact of on-line recruitment. A major goal for this year is discovering
the source of each résumé in the Unisys database, Gleason reports. For instance, did an individual who submitted paperwork log onto the company Web site? Or, did he or she first see
a Unisys job posting elsewhere, such as at the Wall Street Journal site or CareerPath.com?
Gleason presents each potential vendor recruiting partner with this deal: “If you can’t show
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How to Recruit the Best Employees for Your Company
me that you’re sending me candidates, then I can’t use you.” Because on-line recruitment is
still in its infancy, he observes, many vendors can’t “tag” candidates who link from their site.
But to prove their effectiveness,“they have to move in this direction,” he says.
An employer can have the best Web site around, but if people don’t know about it, it won’t
have an impact, stresses Gleason. “It’s all about driving traffic—bringing the people to what you
have done.”
Initially, employers tried to measure the success of their Web sites by counting the number of
“hits,” or separate visits to the site. But for recruiting, hits are an inaccurate measure. You want
to be able to count people rather than visits, explains Gleason. Other, more accurate measures to
judge the impact of on-line recruitment are:
• Number of pages viewed, because it allows you to judge how valuable the site is to people.
• Number of job search queries—that is, how many positions visitors look at and how long
they stay in each area.
Tim Dixon, director of information services and technology for Career Development Services
in Rochester, N.Y., provides these tips on making your site user-friendly and accessible:
• Reg ister your corporate Web site.
There is no cost to register with Yahoo! and other
search engines.
• Create a “life at work”section. Use employee stories to illustrate what the overall environment and particular jobs are like at your company. Or, describe the benefits, culture, and
philosophy that prevail in your workplace. “People want to find more information about the
company,” said Dixon, especially if they plan to apply for jobs listed on the site.
• Organize job postings to make them manageable. If you hav
e 25 or more job postings listed on your Web site, separate them into functional categories. If you have 100 jobs
listed, provide a search guide, for example by department or level or geographic locale.
• Go beyond your Web site.
Take advantage of the ability to link to other sites, such as professional associations, that can broaden your reach. Go to what Dixon calls “the watering holes”—
the newsgroups and listservs where people qualified for the your job openings tend to congregate.
• Inte g rate E-mail. When candidates respond to a job a posting, make sure that the company sends an acknowledgment message immediately to each one through E-mail.
• Check out other corporate sites.
Visit other firms’ Web sites to study techniques they may
use to draw people to their job postings. Some sites that Dixon recommends studying are
Advanced Micro Devices (www.amd.com), Booz Allen & Hamilton (www.bah.com),
NationsBank (nationsbank.com), Compaq Computers (www.compaq.com), Ernst & Young
(www.ey.com/ult.htm), Eastman Kodak (www.kodak.com), and Specialized Bicycles
MasterCard International Revamps
Employee Referrals for Significant Savings
By revamping its employee referral program, MasterCard’s Global Technology and Operations
division in St. Louis saved $405,500 in recruiting costs last year and filled 40 percent of open
positions using this method.
“Total fills run about 340 a year, and we run 100 to 110 position openings at a time,” explains
Carolyn Koenig, director, staffing and employee relations. When these positions are filled by
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How to Recruit the Best Employees for Your Company
people referred by employees, the referring individual now receives $1,000 for a nonexempt
position and $2,000 to $3,000 for an exempt position.
“One reason they (employees) did not use the program in the past is that there was no follow
through,” says Koenig. “Now there’s a five-day turnaround.”
To refer candidates, employees must fill out a referral card completely and attach the candidate’s
résumé. Once this information is submitted to Koenig’s department, the employee will receive a
status report within five days. “We tell the employee if the candidate has been interviewed or
what the status of the referral is,” she explains.
In past efforts, managers and supervisors were not eligible to participate. The revised employee
referral program allows managers and supervisors to participate, as long as the referrals are not in
their department. Vice presidents and the HR staff are the only employees who cannot participate for awards.
A group of employees, instead of the human resources staff , created the new program. One or
two employees from each department designed the employee referral components after investigating and analyzing what other companies were doing successfully.
MasterCard used the “employee cascade technique” to effectively kick off the new referral program, explains Koenig. Instead of executives or the HR staff presenting the program features,
employees gave the presentations, helping to create buy-in from other employees.
“We really work the new hires,” says Koenig. “You really need to encourage the new hires
because they are the ones that know more people.”
When the official offer letters are sent to new employees, the employee referral information is
included. Then, at the new employee orientation, an expectation level for making referrals is set,
explains Koenig. “We tell them that a number one priority is employee referrals.”
After one month on the job, four or five new employees attend a luncheon with recruiters to discuss how work is going, discuss what jobs are open, and identify potential candidates. “This works
beautifully,” Koenig says,“because the conversation can naturally move into the new employees’
suggesting leads. It’s also a way to get a feel for who may not be enjoying their new job.”
Since June of this year, 30 percent of new hires came from employee referrals, says Koenig. In
past years, 50 percent of hires came from outside agencies, which dramatically elevates recruiting
costs. Recruiting agencies that MasterCard contracts with receive 25 percent of the first-year
salary, which for these information technology jobs averages $50,000. By rejuvenating its
employee referral program, MasterCard’s bottom-line savings is substantial.
Following is an analysis of how Koenig quantifies the cost reductions. Though 98 hires came
via employee referrals in 1997, in her equation, she uses half that number—49—to show how
much hiring through agencies would have cost. This conservative analysis (using only half the
number of referred hires) gives Koenig’s colleagues a snapshot of just how effective and worthwhile referral efforts can be:
• Total referral program costs in 1997: $206,000 (98 referral hires x $2,000 bonus amount =
$196,000 + $10,000 to administer program)
• If a recruiting agency had been used for even half of these referred employees earning
$50,000, the costs would have been: $612,500 ($50,000 (hire’s first-year salary) x 25 percent
(agency fee) = $12,500 per employee x 49)
• Bottom-line savings ($612,500 – $206,000) would be: $406,500
© 1999 Business & Legal Reports, Inc. (30602700)
How to Recruit the Best Employees for Your Company
PriceWaterhouseCoopers Enlists Employees in Hiring Effort
To boost the number of candidates referred by employees and to encourage internal candidates
to apply for openings, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the global professional services firm, created a
job opportunity database called CareerLink and standardized its employee referral program.
In the past, employees had learned only of openings in their own job functions—such service
lines as accounting or consulting—and geographic areas. With CareerLink, employees have access
to all the firm’s open positions. Candidates can nominate themselves for a position, refer an existing
colleague, or suggest someone outside PriceWaterhouseCoopers for the job. The referral program,
designed as a tool to recruit experienced professionals, is open to all PriceWaterhouseCoopers
employees except partners and those with direct recruiting responsibilities.
“We were interested in generating referrals because it is a tough market,” says Margaret
Bigelow, who heads up national recruitment for PriceWaterhouseCoopers. “And, we are interested in attracting and retaining all the qualified talent that we can.”
The firm’s HR leadership team—professionals responsible for each service line plus Bigelow,
who manages overall strategy and recruitment efforts in the United States—first defined the
kinds of candidates they were willing to pay for. Only someone hired from outside the firm into
a full- or part-time salaried position who completes a 90-day initiation period with
PriceWaterhouseCoopers earns bonus credit for the employee who made the referral. Former
employees who have been gone from Price Waterhouse for less than a year can be referred.
Following the three-month initiation, the referring associate receives the appropriate bonus, less
applicable taxes, by check.
Bonus awards paid to employees who find successful candidates were standardized across the
company. PriceWaterhouseCoopers has established these bonuses for various job categories:
• $4,000 for contract positions, those at manager level or above.
• $3,000 for noncontract positions, such as professional and some supervisory-level slots.
• $2,000 for nonexempt, which covers administrative and some professional jobs.
When a referred worker takes a part-time position, the employee receives a prorated bonus
based on the percentage of full time established for the new hire.
Since September 1997, the number of employee referrals has increased 29 percent.
“We find that the success rate is quite good, because our people know who will fit in well at our
firm,” says Bigelow. “We’d rather put money in employees’pockets than give it to a recruiting firm.”
Employees learn about job openings by logging onto the CareerLink database program, accessible by computer terminal to everyone in the firm. If they encounter a position they think is a
good match for a friend or colleague, they complete a software-generated referral form, of which
the candidate’s “pasted in” résumé is a key component. The employee must ensure that HR
learns of the candidate through this referral first, before being contacted about the same person
by another source, such as a response to an ad or through a recruitment firm.
To motivate employees still further to get onboard with the referral program, the HR team
devises special prizes each quarter that are awarded along with bonuses to participants who win
drawings. Typically, the special incentives take on special themes, such as the recent Gold Rush
initiative. Past prizes have included an Alaskan Adventure Cruise for two, valued at $6,000; a
California Wine Country Tour for two, valued at $3,000; and a Cartier watch, valued at $1,500.
Grand prize for the year is a 1998 Eddie Bauer edition Ford Explorer, valued at $30,000. Each
successful referral earns an employee a separate entry in the grand-prize drawing.
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How to Recruit the Best Employees for Your Company
Extra prizes are funded through the recruitment budgets of hiring service lines, except for the
Ford Explorer, which came out of the national recruiting budget. While Bigelow admits that
PriceWaterhouseCoopers has made a major investment to generate employee referrals, she says
the program more than pays for itself.
“The money that we’ve saved in referral fees to recruiters pays for this,” she says.“It’s a winwin situation. It builds up a lot of goodwill among the employees. Our people are proud of the
work they do and the firm they represent.”
Promoting the referral program, then generously rewarding and recognizing employees for
their participation are the components that make employee referral programs successful, says
Bigelow. Organizations with tighter budgets might consider less expensive prizes, such as a dinner for two or a night at the theatre. The most important technique is to make employees aware
of the program and generate excitement about it, explains Bigelow.
“Smaller companies can still come up with mechanisms to let everyone know what opportunities exist in the company,” she says. “They can let all employees know what kinds of positions
are available and that they can make a contribution by referring qualified candidates.”
Employee referral programs require careful planning and groundwork before implementation.
Factors that Bigelow says deserve consideration are:
• Focus and define what you want to get out of the prog ram.
PriceWaterhouseCoopers created its program specifically to attract experienced professionals.
The bonus structure was designed to reward employees who bring in those types of people.
• Constantly comm unicate. PriceWaterhouseCoopers’ program has t wo purposes: to get
quality referrals and to encourage employees to apply for internal positions. Materials that publicize the program, including flyers, posters, and Lotus Note messages, continually lead employees to CareerLink.
• Take advantage of technology. The CareerLink pro
gram manages the entire referral and
posting service for PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Think about ways to use technology to automate and customize a program that fits your organization’s needs.
Tap into Intern Programs to Discover Hidden Talent
When Glen Coleman, HR manager at Comsat, based in Bethesda, Maryland, investigated how to
expand the pool of minority job candidates, he ran across Inroads, a nonprofit organization dedicated to placing minority interns. A long-term strategy of the communications and entertainment
company is to ensure diversity among management talent. By using Inroads, Coleman was able to
get college students onboard as interns and develop a pipeline of potential high-performing talent.
Many of these interns would be offered full-time jobs with the company upon graduation.
Companies that sign on with Inroads do so for three main reasons, says Vicki Pendleton
Brandon, a former IBM recruiter and now managing director of Inroads in Washington, D.C.:
(1) To improve the quality of diversity recruitment efforts; (2) to obtain resources for specific
efforts; and (3) to get more value per recruiting dollar.
Employers pay approximately $3,500 per intern plus the wages earned during the summers in
which the intern works. What employers get for that money is not only a prescreened, highpotential intern, but a student that is committed to holding up their end of the deal. For example, the students not only work for the participating employer during the summer, they attend
Saturday classes geared toward making them “corporate ready.” The teachers are professional
trainers or HR practitioners who volunteer their time to Inroads.
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How to Recruit the Best Employees for Your Company
Students are also required to check in monthly with their designated Inroads staff counselor.
Students submit transcripts to their coaches (grade point average must be 3.0 or better) and talk
to them about what’s happening in their lives, particularly school activities. The counselors act as
a bridge to help students get through college and into the corporate world.
Comsat employee Jamila White was the company’s first Inroads student to accept a full-time
position as a public relations specialist three years ago. Even with the extensive training provided
by Comsat and Inroads,White says the transition from college to the corporate world was an
enormous jump.
A graduate of Howard University in Washington, D.C.,White assumed her biggest challenge
would be facing race and perhaps gender issues. “Everyone in my department and on the floor
was white,” she says. “There was one incident [in the office kitchen], when I was dressed in my
best navy blue suit and I was mistaken for the maid.”
But even after experiencing such an uncomfortable situation,White says that race was not the
biggest challenge—the age barrier was. “Basically, I went through an adjustment period because
I had not related to adults as my peers,” says White. “They had always been in authoritative positions. But, the caliber of my work broke that barrier.”
As an Inroads alumnus,White says the program made a tremendous difference in her personal
life and career. “Intern work was challenging and exciting. I worked as the editor of the
employee newsletter, which exposed me to a lot of things that I would not have done.”
White and Coleman offer two key tips for managers considering internship programs:
• Sign on at least one new intern per year. This is important to create a continuous
pipeline of talent. If you have just one intern within the entire company, the intern may feel
alone. By establishing a pipeline or feeder group, the interns have the seasoned interns for
support; the older students become mentors to the younger ones.
• Make a commitment to proper planning and organization.
Intern programs take a
substantial amount of time and effort to coordinate, but the payoff is worth it. Some interns
had less positive experiences because the companies they worked for did not take the investment seriously. The employers did not have the dedication to provide quality work and
exposure to all aspects of the company.
SCT Picks the Best Team, Then Develops Its Own Bench Strength
With business booming, instead of scrambling to hire the scarce number of available information technology (IT) graduates, Systems & Computer Technology Corp. (SCT) focuses its efforts
on finding and hiring the right people to fit the culture of the company, then training them inhouse to handle highly technical jobs.
With revenues increasing each of the last several years by 20-plus percent, many staff positions
are being added—recently more than 100 monthly. In order to experience such growth,“the
management team knew we had to develop programs internally; we had to development our
own bench strength,” says Michelle Healy, director of the internal SCT Academy. “We look for
people who are interested in learning, have a strong academic record of success and are interested
in technology,” she says. Most of the recruiting is done from local schools where SCT operates
in Malvern, Pennsylvania (outside of Philadelphia), Lexington, Kentucky, and San Diego.
Candidates selected for interviews typically talk with five to seven SCT employees before a hiring decision is made. “We train our employees to interview candidates. They are well aware of
the traits and characteristics that are important to succeed here,” says Healy. Managers are trained
in behavioral interviewing, and refresher courses on interviewing are offered periodically.
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Group interviews are used and practiced during the company’s hiring conferences, where 50
job candidates come to headquarters to be interviewed. About 25 SCT employees are involved
in the conferences, spending two to three hours each interviewing candidates.
When candidates become employees,they immediately begin the nine-week training course taught
by SCT employees and outside instructors. Not all employees attend the same training. For example,
government,manufacturing and distribution,utilities, and higher education are the company’s main
markets, so training is designed specifically for each one. New employees are divided into groups for
each of the four markets so their training experience is concentrated in one particular area.
Healy said new employees are not asked to sign training agreements. “No. We don’t want
people to feel they had to stay. Our environment is such that people want to stay because of the
way our business is growing. They see a lot of opportunity, and the work environment is positive
and nurturing,” Healy stresses. “Our philosophy about training is different from many companies’. We are not a huge organization (about 3,400 employees), where after a year-and-a-half, we
expect employees to leave. We hire from the start the number of employees that satisfies our
business needs. We don’t fail people either.”
When asked what lessons she’s learned from directing SCT’s internal training program, Healy
provided the following tips:
• First, identify the types of individuals that really succeed within your organization.
“We look for well-rounded people,” says Healy, “and people who thrive on learning, thrive on
challenge, and were leaders during their school years. Our employees interact professionally
with customers, so we need employees who understand the value of the customer and can
empower customers.”
• Tr y using the Internet for sourcing good job candidates.
Because recent college
graduates are SCT’s target audience, the company does quite a bit of on-line recruiting
through JobDirect.com, a job-posting Web site for new graduates. Healy says they’ve hired a
good number of candidates through this service, which helps keep recruiting costs low—
“below $1,000.” “I can’t say enough good things about this; it’s a great sourcing tool for us.”
• Get in volved with your local colleges and uni
versities. These are the institutions that
Healy focuses on. She and the recruiting staff develop good relations with the faculty and
the career service staff. “You want to make sure that the students have a strong base and are
learning what they need to know,” Healy explains.
• Word-of-mouth is priceless.
SCT gets many interested candidates through employee
referrals. The company has worked hard to have a very positive and nurturing culture, which
certainly helps recruitment efforts, Healy maintains.
• When marketing your organization, consider the mind-set of the“twentysomethings. ” The message they want to hear is “we want you to work hard, but have some serious fun while doing it.”
• Take alumni employees to on-campus recruiting events. The employees like to do it,
says Healy, and the effort sends a strong message to potentially new employees.
Hire for Attitude, Train for Skill:
That’s What Makes Southwest Airlines Fly
How do you find perfect job candidates—people with all the required skills plus personal
attributes that complement your work environment?
Libby Sartain, vice president of people for Southwest Airlines, gives a simple yet tricky answer:
“Hire for attitude, train for skill.” In other words, you can teach people what they don’t know,
but you can’t change their behavior.
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At Southwest, for example, humor, team spirit, kindness, and self-confidence are personal
attributes that candidates must possess. Where most employers fail in the hiring process, says
Sartain, is they don’t look past the basic job requirements. “We don’t grant interviews unless the
candidates have the basic skills,” Sartain explains. “The purpose of the interviews, then, is to find
out more about candidates and determine if there’s a ‘job fit.’ In other words, we see if candidates have the personal attributes necessary to succeed within the company.”
Southwest Airlines, ranked number one on Fortune’s “100 Best Companies To Work For” list, is
almost religious about hiring. And the recruiting work pays off, explains Sartain. She attributes
the company’s less than 7 percent turnover rate among its 25,000 employees to the highly selective hiring process.
To find the right employees, Southwest uses a targeted selection interview process. This interview technique is the brainchild of Bill Byham, president of Development Dimensions (DDI),
Inc., an assessment and testing firm based in Pittsburgh.
The premise of targeted selection is straightforward: Identify the personal characteristics of the
employees who currently thrive in your workplace and hire people just like them. To do that,
employers need to take two steps:
1. Work to understand their star performers by identifying their behaviors and attitudes.
2. Develop interview questions to find those personal attributes.
About seven years ago, Southwest worked with DDI to create a targeted selection process for
pilots. The recruiting technique was so successful, Sartain says, that almost every job has been
analyzed, and interviews for the positions are based on taking these two steps.
DDI is not the only assessment firm that believes skills are just half of the job-fit equation. A
senior vice president of Minneapolis-based Personnel Decision says: “If organizations are hiring
people based only on their current skill sets, they’re engaging in planned obsolescence. They
need to be assessing broader capabilities such as judgment, leadership, and communication skills.
Employees who possess these fundamental characteristics are able to grow with and contribute to
the organization.”
The idea behind the concept is to “hire hard,” then “manage easy.” There’s a long list of
rewards for employers who hire right the first time—the most quantifable being turnover, the less
tangible being building a workforce that will make your company profitable.
Perhaps recruiting by targeted selection sounds time-consuming and expensive. The expense of
replacing people is actually a big reason why more employers are looking beyond the basic skill
requirements of the job, explains Sartain.
For example, DDI estimates that it costs companies $76,000 to fill a $48,000 position, when
taking into account factors such as advertising, training, administrative time, and severance pay.
Costs add up quickly if a bad fit occurs between employer and employee. In fact, Sartain estimates that Southwest’s recruiting costs are a lot cheaper (when compared with employers of similar size) because its recruiting process is so effective and streamlined. Southwest does not
employ a lot of outside recruiters—a big savings when fees run approximately 30 percent of the
hire’s first-year salary.
Applicant Screening Technology
Dramatically Cuts Time and Costs
By using interactive voice technology and the Internet, Innovex is able to screen out unqualified candidates quickly and cost-effectively.
You receive a huge pile of résumés for an open engineering position. Next comes a stack
of résumés for the marketing assistant position. You think, “When will I ever get through all
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these?” And, “I bet there’s only a handful of résumés representing qualified applicants.”
As the former director of recruiting services for Innovex,Andre Goodlett used to watch his
staff weed through the paper piles—until he automated the applicant tracking process, as well as
many portions of the screening process. Now director of IT Systems for the pharmaceutical services company, Goodlett says accepting résumés electronically is becoming a standard procedure
for many employers.
A key time-saver, according to Goodlett, is building in a screening function to weed out
unqualified applicants. Just 11 months ago, he did just that using interactive voice technology
and the Internet, and now 50 percent of applicants are screened out automatically, without
the need for an employee to make the decision. “We handle 2,000 to 2,500 calls a week,”
says Goodlett. “Right now, each response is costing about $3. By investing $5,000 into the
development of the technology (designed by Teleserve), we’ve probably realized a $10 perresponse savings.”
The bulk of Innovex’s job openings are for salespeople, explains Goodlett. When applicants
apply for positions advertised—typically through newspaper ads—they respond via a toll-free
telephone number or the company’s Web site (www.innovexglobal.com). When applicants
phone in, they are “walked through” a set of questions that they answer by using numbers on the
telephone keypad. The same step-by-step screening process is used on the Web site in the form
of written questions.
Based on how applicants answer the questions, they are told either that they do not qualify for
the positions available or they are prompted to fax in their résumés, which are then electronically
transferred into the Innovex résumé database.
Let’s say an applicant goes on-line to Innovex’s Web site, navigates to “employment opportunities,” then clicks on “sales representative.” The sales representative job qualifications will appear
so the individual can better identify if he or she has similar skills and experience. Then, to expedite the résumé submission process, the individual is directed to the Innovex Career Hotline,
where the following message appears:
Welcome to the Innovex Career Opportunity Hotline. This interactive system is provided for
your convenience and is available 24 hours a day. To prequalify yourself for employment consideration, you will be asked to provide important information about yourself as it relates to these
professional sales opportunities. If you are prepared to prequalify yourself for employment consideration, click here.
Once the applicant takes the “click here” step, there’s more information about what is required
to be a sales representative. For example, Innovex says: To prequalify for employment consideration, at least one of the following conditions must be met: You must have a bachelor’s degree
and actual outside professional sales experience, OR you must have a bachelor’s degree and have
graduated within the last three years. In lieu of a bachelor’s degree, you must be a registered
nurse or have industry-related sales experience in either pharmaceutical sales, hospital sales, or
medical sales.
Applicants are then asked to provide contact information, Social Security number, job reference
number, or the employee’s name who referred the applicant to the company. Next, the screening
begins with short, basic questions, as well as “checkpoint” questions built into the prequalification, so if a particular answer disqualifies the applicant, a message would appear. For example,
because salespeople travel a lot by car, a question deals with individuals’ driving records. If appli-
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How to Recruit the Best Employees for Your Company
cants have a “driving while under the influence” violation, they would be told they do not qualify for the position.
Up-front planning is critical to the prescreening process, notes Goodlett. “The accuracy rate is
based on how specific questions are asked,” he explains, offering the following tips:
• Make sure the questions follow a lo
g ical pr ogr ession. “There’s a flow, and there needs
to be an organized way that information branches off,” Goodlett says.
• Add some checks and balances to the system. Do spot checking to ensure that the
database is working and providing appropriate and accurate information.
• Don’t use vague questions.
Straightforward questions that don’t require interpretation by
applicants work best.
• Attach the prequalification information the applicant answered to the résumé
submitted by the applicant.
That way, hiring managers have all the information available
on each candidate.
Panel Interviews Sew a Better
Fit for Levi Strauss’s New Hires
Levi Strauss & Co. is bringing in new hires who fit in and contribute better than ever before.
Their secret: team or panel interviews.
David Samson, Levi’s vice president, global communications, has been on both sides of the
process since the company started using panel interviews two years ago. Samson says panel interviews are a good predictor of on-the-job success: “A highly skilled person who’s not good interpersonally won’t succeed here, and this will come out more strongly in a panel interview than in
a traditional one-on-one interview,” he says.
Samson credits the process for many of the successes he experiences as a hiring manager. Since
using panel interviews, he says the individuals he hires make better team members. Why? There
are several reasons, he says:
• Accountability for making the right hiring decision is pushed to the team level. So instead of
one person being responsible for evaluating candidates, a group of people are conscientiously
doing so because it’s in their self-interest to hire individuals who are qualified, capable, and
easy to work with.
• A more complete picture of how candidates interact with various people is drawn.
• The hiring manager gets a wide range of viewpoints; typically bias is reduced.
Other key advantages of panel interviews are:
• An efficiency factor exists. Panelists can interview several people in one day, meet at end of
day, make the decision, and have the interviewing process behind them. Interviewing
becomes more consistent over time, as managers learn from each other and begin to apply
the most successful interviewing techniques.
• From the candidate’s standpoint, panel interviews save time, which is often an issue if the person is already employed elsewhere and must apply for leave.
• The process reduces redundant questions candidates are asked when interviewing separately
with individual interviewers.
Samson went through the process himself as an internal candidate at Levi Strauss, when interviewing for his present job. He says the interviewers learn things they never knew before. “It
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gives them a better idea of the person, even if they worked with him or her before, even if they
shared the adjacent cubicle. It’s a good opportunity to get a sense of a person’s full range of
capabilities,” Samson explains.
Panel interviews typically involve a prescreened job candidate meeting with a panel of two to
six people from the hiring company. At Levi Strauss, HR screens to select a few highly qualified
individuals. Then, before the panel meets, the hiring manager must decide what he or she wants
the panel to accomplish. Some hiring managers want a consensus from the group, while others
just want opinions.
Samson sees more success when the hiring manager makes the final decision alone, but with the
input of the panel members. He stresses that their insights are important: “If the other members all
dislike the person and the hiring manager does like the person, this will cause the hiring manager to
think twice, to realize that it’s quite possible this person won’t get along with anyone else.”
At Levi Strauss, the hiring manager selects panelists based on the nature of the job and the
position’s internal customers. Samson himself would choose to have among his panel members a
person from his own group, someone from operations, and an administrative assistant. This latter
person is especially important because he wants people who can work with their colleagues at all
levels. For example, Samson won’t hire someone who doesn’t respect or work well with people
in lower-level jobs.
Georgia McDaniels, an HR consultant in Grants Pass, Oregon notes that it can be hard to persuade a bottom-line-focused CEO that there are cost savings to panel interviews. However, the
savings in reduced turnover and shortened recruiting cycles make the point. If the panel can
give the candidates a better perspective on what the company is like to work for, it can help
improve retention by encouraging those who know they won’t fit in to take themselves out of
the picture and avoid becoming unhappy, short-term employees.
Gleaned from the experiences of Samson and McDaniels, here are some great tips on how to
host the most productive panel interviews:
• Choose your panel members carefully. Most panels have two to six members, with
three to five apparently the norm. Make sure there are no scheduling problems by doublechecking. And get a firm commitment from your panelists—make sure they read the résumé
or other documents about the candidate before the meeting.
• Be clear with panel members about what is expected of them. Some companies
have team meetings before the interview so that all the panelists know what’s expected of
them. Talk about what questions to ask.
• Designate a timekeeper for the actual intervie w. Most panel interviews last between
45 and 75 minutes. If you want to use role plays, situational questions, or presentations, get
these worked out in advance.
• Gi ve candidates some detail beforehand about how the intervie w will work.
Samson and others stress the need to forewarn the candidate that the traditional one-on-one
interview will not be taking place.
• Develop tools to help prepare candidates for panel interviews.
Levi Strauss makes
sample interview questions available, so that potential employees know what to expect.
• After the intervie w, meet that same day to get ever yone’s feedback.
• Be flexible when conducting the intervie w. Keep it conversational, try to avoid just
taking turns asking questions.
• Keep the panel size small enough to be manageable, yet large enough to get
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di verse opinions. Panels with five to six members is about average.
• Be sure that your panel members are good communicators. They should be able to
listen well, and to articulate their ideas clearly.
• Ha ve experienced panel interviewers share what they know with teammates so
they can g row as well.
Georgia McDaniels has been a recruiting manager, HR manager, and consultant. During her
career, she’s instituted panel interviews, trained supervisors to conduct them, and developed a lot
of enthusiasm for the process.
Occasionally, as her career progressed, McDaniels experienced panel interviews as a candidate—a situation she liked. “It gives me an opportunity to get acquainted with a larger group of
people than I would in a series of one-on-one interviews,” she notes. What she found a few
times, however, were interviewers who were poorly trained, or who had such a long list of standard questions that there was no time for her questions. “I regard that as unacceptable,” she
explains. “The interviewee needs to have some time to ask questions about the company, as well.
No interview should be a one-way communication.”
More recently, as the HR manager for a small technology company in Portland, Oregon,
McDaniels moved the company towards panel interviews. First, though, she used a hybrid type
of interview. Careful prescreening of all the candidates was done by trained interviewers, including her and the hiring manager. They then culled the field to three top candidates, and invited
them all to come in on one day. Each candidate was asked to g ive the selection team a 30minute presentation about themselves, after which they met with various members of the selection team individually.
At the end of the day, the entire selection team met with the hiring manager to review their
perceptions in a group meeting. This approach significantly improved the breadth of the data
gathered, and gave the hiring manager a good sense of how the candidates might fit into the
company. This was not a formal panel interview, however, since all the actual interviews were
individual ones. But during McDaniels’s tenure with the company, they hired 20 or so manager s
using this hybrid approach. Only one turned out to be a mistake, and most are still there after
more than two years.
About this same time, however, front-line employees were receiving team-building training. It
seemed natural that these employees could use panel interviewing to hire their teammates. The
team developed interview questions, which were reviewed in advance by the hiring manager.
Candidates met with a team of four to eight panelists. Candidates had time to ask questions, and
got an informal tour of the work area. After the interviews, the team joined the hiring manager
and the recruiter to discuss their impressions. The breadth of information gathered with this
approach helped improve the quality of the hiring decision, says McDaniels. The hiring manager
was usually quite impressed with what the team had learned—points that he had completely
missed. The company hired about 50 employees using this method, and many of these employee
are with the high-tech company today.
© 1999 Business & Legal Reports, Inc. (30602700)