Give recruiting the priority it deserves

Mar 29, 2010

You may think that I am crazy to write an article about recruiting when some estimates place unemployment among certain sectors of the design industry at more than three times the national average. But the truth is that good people— “difference makers”— can have an enormous impact on your company— and they are still in short supply. It has become a cliché to say “people are our most important asset.” When I hear that I almost want to throw up. That’s not to say it may not be true. A company has many important assets— its brand name, its reputation, its culture, and its people, to name a few. I won’t debate the relative importance of any of these assets here. I am confident I could probably build a case as to why any of these was the MOST important asset. Here, and now, I want to talk about RECRUITING. If you are serious about having great people, you need to spend a lot of time on recruiting. I was reading an interesting article about the founder of Doubleclick and other high-growth companies in a recent copy of Inc. magazine. He talked about how he devotes 20% of his time to recruiting. I thought to myself, “I don’t know of a single CEO of an A/E/P or environmental firm who could honestly say he or she spends half that much time on recruiting, yet imagine what good could come from it if one did.” So, what would you do if you did want to make recruiting more of a priority in your firm? Here are my thoughts: Put someone in charge of it firm-wide— someone who is good at it and at a level high enough in the firm to make something happen. I am not talking about assigning recruiting to a low-level admin person. I am talking about making it a one-year assignment for a really strong engineer or architect who can sell. Or, how about hiring a real recruiter, i.e., someone who has made his living recruiting, and paying what you pay your top marketing person? Having one person responsible for firm-wide recruiting is critical if you want to make real headway with it. Keep the list of job openings on your agenda for every single management meeting— even BOD meetings in some cases. This practice alone will make a difference. It simply says to the whole firm, “Recruiting is a real priority here. Help us fill these critical jobs with the best people possible!” Allocate time for recruiting to all managers so they feel it is something that is important. People need to have the time to spend on recruiting or they won’t do it. Even if you allocate time for recruiting, my guess is you will have to force them into using it. If recruiting is really important, you will allow your people the time to do it! Set goals for recruiting, and measure and report on their status of achievement. The goals can be numbers such as how long it takes to fill a job, on average; or how many job openings the firm has at any given time; or the percentage of job offers you extend that are accepted. All of these statistics and more are critical to making recruiting a higher priority in your firm. Always be looking. Even if all your jobs are filled, keep looking. People will leave unexpectedly and weak people need to be traded out so the firm improves its staff. Never say “all of our jobs are filled— no interest” to anyone! Do these five things for a year and tell me if your firm isn’t in a better place than it started out beforehand. I am confident you won’t regret your investment in recruiting! Originally published 3/29/2010

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