Announcer: Welcome to the strong school podcast where a growing company has to learn the right way to recruit rockstars. Each episode features one of the world's experts on recruiting the best talent to your company. Now here's your host and five time entrepreneur Jeff Hyman. Hello.
Jeff Hyman: Welcome to The Strong Suit podcast this is episode 155. And I'm your host Jeff Hyman every Tuesday and Thursday I interview a world class expert on talent and recruiting so you can build the companies filled with rock stars. Why is there such a disconnect between great companies and great people. When you think about it. Kind of weird right. I've been in this business a long time and there's some great candidates and they just can't seem to entice a really good company to take a shot with them. And then similarly there's a lot of great companies that can't attract the right talent. They've got tons of positions open.
Jeff Hyman: So this episode I really wanted to get at that disconnect and so I chased down this guy who knows it from both sides. His name is Jeff Altman. He's known as The Big Game Hunter and he's a rare person because he's been an executive recruiter for many years. A headhunter and worked with companies to fill their positions. But then he switched sides to become a career coach a leadership coach for individual executives so he's seen it for both from both perspectives and in this 20 minute interview we talk about this disconnect and really try to drill into where are the big mistakes that they make and then how do we fix it. If you're a company looking for great people how do you attract this great talent. He's been at this for 40 years in recruiting and then like I said career coaching. So you're going to get a ton of value with this interview with Jeff Altman in the next 20 minutes. Here we go. Ready. Aim Higher.
Jeff Hyman: OK Jeff has it going my friend.
Jeff Hyman: Fabulous. Thank you!
Jeff Hyman: It's a little confusing for the listener because we got two Jeff's but I think yours is low and husky mine is squeaky. I think we'll be fine. I'm really excited about this conversation for the next 15 20 minutes. I've
Jeff Hyman: been looking forward to it because I've been looking for someone who is an expert on the employer point of view in what is so broken about this recruiting process and why we have 50 percent failure rates or higher. And also is an expert on the candidates side and brings that point of view to the party.
Jeff Hyman: And you're the man, right?
Jeff Hyman: You betcha I am! I am so looking forward to beating up employers
Jeff Hyman: I would say you can beat up anyone you want on the next 15-20 minutes.
Jeff Hyman: But I'm really up I think we would both agree we were talking to pre-interview about how dysfunctional this thing is and it would be great if we can use your experience to understand why is it dysfunctional and then get into some of the big mistakes you see people make. Both candidates and companies and then we can get into how to fix it. Right. How do we have a chance what are the best practices. So I think we're going to a lot of fun. Let's start with just 60 seconds. Very high level. Give us your hypothesis or your thesis as to what is so broken and why is it so broken in finding the connection and the love match between the right job and the right person.
Jeff Hyman: I want to start by saying for the large institutional employer that's organized by systems that want to hire people that will fit into their square peg. And they themselves are square pegs a lot of the system is perfectly fine because they're looking for compliant individuals who the next time they will say will probably be the first time in the last five years.
Jeff Hyman: For our listeners who run and lead growth companies that probably where the boxes are still kind of morphing on the org chart, we need people that are leaders, are drivers, that are there are not maybe not so compliant right.
Jeff Hyman: For growth companies the system is completely wrong. And to me it starts off with the fact that you think that you can assess for fit and you're completely incapable of it. The proof of the matter is that all of you firms that hire and are so concerned about fit, as you said Jeff, the statistics are I've seen as high as 66 percent . . . but I'll take your 50 percent. Half of the hires within one year. The employer has buyer's remorse. Had they both words right and employers blame the employee but they never look in the mirror to see whether or not they have any culpability in this process. And I will tell you where it breaks down so simply. It breaks down because employers forget that everyone's on good behavior, right.
Jeff Hyman: In the interview, it is not representative of the real world.
Jeff Hyman: Forget the real world. They're on good behavior; they're trying to present themselves in a good light. They're being dishonest as an employer about what it's like to work there they want to get that person in the chair. And the candidate is as well.
Jeff Hyman: So it's like a first date where you really don't get to the 10th date before you see his or her flaws and problems and bad breath and what they look like in the morning and all that stuff. It's very analogous right.
Jeff Hyman: The entire job search process is like blind dating. Everyone's on good behavior, no one is going to present themselves honestly because they're afraid that if they do so, they'll be rejected.
Jeff Hyman: It's almost refreshing when you meet a candidate or an employer who tells you what works right. Early on. I mean you're like wow that person's being vulnerable actually you tend to believe them more.
Jeff Hyman: It's so true. And you know it's also true from the employer's side; it's true from the candidate side. The imperfections are really where the richness is and the candidate that is willing to take the risk of saying, " You know if you're willing to take a guy who is imperfect because somewhere along the line you're going to find out that I'm not the idyllic individual that you hope I am and I'm going to make mistakes. And my hope is at the end of the day you're not going to blame me or fire me. I'm going to learn from this experience. I'm going to learn and grow. Was it Thomas Watson from IBM who talked about not firing someone who made a 30 million dollar mistake in the 1950s because he said, "Hey you've learned on my money. Why am I going to send him somewhere else."
Jeff Hyman: As long as he doesn't make the same mistake over and over again. You mentioned you can't you can't find and hire for fit. Which would imply you should focus on competencies and skills which we'll get to in a second. But isn't, just to play devil's advocate isn't culture fit so important?
Jeff Altman: Define culture fit for me. Whether they work whether they can function in a workaholic environment?
Jeff Hyman: Whether they can be successful whether they value the same things that other employees value and hold dear.
Jeff Altman: And when I think in terms of fit I'm not sure whether it would means for most employers. Even in a startup environment even in the firm that has passed startup phase you know they are still evolving and so the question is can they operate at the pace? Can they deliver the goods? Can they help you grow? Knowing full well, as Reid Hoffman said during a wonderful interview on his podcast. He said, "One of my favorite questions is 'What's the next job five years from now when you leave me. Where do you want to be? These people aren't going to be around for five years. You're lucky to have them for two years!
Jeff Altman: So we're still in the marriage model of hiring. We want them to . . .
Jeff Hyman: Once an employee-employer bond was broken years ago, your thesis is that now we're basically renting talent for a short period of time a year two years three years. And therefore the culture is less important because there not going to be around.
Jeff Altman: And the truth of the matter is neither is the employer. They are going to go somewhere else.
Jeff Hyman: That's a good point, too.
Jeff Altman: The realities are very different than the model that America has raised its people to believe in. As a result you have to start evolving. And the notion that you want to hire compliant docile people who will sit in the same seat for the next 20 years of their life and interview them. "So where do you see yourself in the next five years?" "Working somewhere else obviously."
Jeff Hyman: So then let's talk about well before we get to solutions and how to improve it is your premise that the it's the interview part of the recruiting process that is the most broken or is it a whole recruiting process where where is the key issue?
Jeff Altman: So let's go to the selection process -- the selection to interview process and that involves the resume, the LinkedIn profile, rather than the referral. So often once we go past road use the old time language Rolodex
Jeff Hyman: I wonder what a Rolodexes is?
Jeff Altman: Once you get past the Rolodex, people are kind of tapped out so they all have the same database called LinkedIn. So they're in there trolling, they are all pitching a job, putting on a happy smile button face about, We've got a terrific organization and a great corporate culture. Did I mention we're kind of like family?
Jeff Hyman: We have a ping pong table
Jeff Altman: Right we've got a ping pong table and we've got donuts!
Jeff Hyman: Free donuts!
Jeff Hyman: Who doesn't like donuts, Jeff? do you.
Jeff Altman: Well, no, I go to a different kinds of sugar but that's a different conversation.
Jeff Hyman: How do you get past all that noise?
Jeff Altman: You get past the noise, from the employer's perspective, by being the first to disonnect from it.
Jeff Hyman: What does it mean?
Jeff Altman: To me what it means, number one is when you evaluate and assess, understand that you don't know what you're doing when you're hiring for fit; you are lying to yourself and you're lying to the employee. Or potential employee You're looking for skills and where you can come together cooperatively for the next few years.
Jeff Hyman: We have an opportunity. We have a chance for you to be involved with this kind of a project and we're looking for someone with particular types of skills and successes. Where we're going to be three years from now . . . we have an idea. You may want to be in a different place and I respect that and I'll open up my phone and help introduce you know people that I know who have this kind of opportunity.
Jeff Hyman: Right.
Jeff Altman: So instead of the marriage model, it's the dating model.
Jeff Hyman: is your premise that companies, while they suck at assessing fit that they're better at assessing competencies and skills or that at that as well.
Jeff Altman: They can do well but where it breaks down is often hiring managers are not clear about what it is that they're looking for and, even worse, they are terrible at communicating to the staffer or staffers who are involved with the assessment process ecause often they wait too busy to do it what you know someone wants to talk with them or they have a call scheduled that particular time and they turn around and say hey could it be with me that they have therapy to cover with me and talk with them about such and such.
Jeff Altman: And that's as far as they are heard. Right.
Speaker 11: And the result once a day you get someone who just wants the top candidates off at the knees rather than coming up with a clear assessment criteria for how someone would be able to help them so that if you can the equivalent of the pixie for interviews where you said I want you to cover these five basic wage air drill down deep so we understand exactly what they know what they don't know. We don't expect perfection. We expect real good. The more that they tell us more that there are just the more I work on because if they aren't if they're strong enough to say I don't know on an interview but I'm sure that they're vulnerable and open to learn.
Jeff Hyman: Right.
Jeff Hyman: And they're smart enough to make it rather than trying to lie to you.
Jeff Hyman: What percent of candidates you work with the shell of candidates what percent of candidates.
Speaker 12: R R R I don't know.
Jeff Hyman: I'm mostly intelligent enough to have those characteristics.
Speaker 13: The system isn't really set up for them to demonstrate to take it out of the job search process and certainly have more open more honest individuals in the candidate's job hunters you the successful individuals. If I hated dealing with this model of the job hunters are looking the passive candidate I have to correlate them with many years ago whether it is a myth. The myth is that the passive job hunter is a superior candidate the the active job.
Jeff Hyman: Everyone has a book. So why did you create Akhmed. And why is that persistent.
Jeff Hyman: Well back in the Stone Age has been restored in recruiting I didn't have the budget for amortizing the newspapers. So I had to create a methodology or a mythology that would justify the fact that I was not delivering the same volume as others were just running an ad in the New York Times so the notion became that you know I find the best person for you not just the best one who reads the Sunday Times and it becomes translated to today as being you know the passive job hunter is superior to the not in the service or seem to think so.
Speaker 13: When I interviewed someone who is out of work they look at me like I'm nuts some out of work you know sometimes in the 2008 2010 everyone was out of work. So why were they defective. You are right there with them. And firms were imploding but they blame the train wreck and punish them some more but you know these days if someone is lucky found their resume in some way shape or form suddenly they're less appropriate than if you get a job and we're all linked in a second person. But the sourcing place is different. And suddenly you have on the one hand I would want to talk to him on the. You are fruiterer's All right. Right. And two different recruiters are doing the same page. So why is this person not good at this what it is.
Jeff Hyman: So let's flip it on its head. Why. What do candidates make of this whole thing. All right you worked with many executive level candidates. They must be frustrated beyond belief which in turn you'd say as an employer who cares. You should care. Because if employers and employees and candidates are frustrated you've got a problem.
Jeff Altman: And the way it impacts employers is that they have a workforce that's resigned. And by that I mean they accept the fact that no one really wants them to excel isn't it.
Jeff Altman: And if we look at it and I'm sure you've examined different ways it's hard to get that person to be bold bold is not the quality that organizations really hire and very often unfortunate what like seeing jobs get a job these days. Larry I've listened for more than a week forgetting about whether he'd walk out the door. That's a different conversation. But clearly he is a 24 year old.
Jeff Altman: I've got the job decline and just I'm clear Jeff you're saying that he is he's a bit of an odd duck and companies are looking for what they are looking for people who continue to live in the box that the school system is in the United States and elsewhere have conditioned people to want to live.
Speaker 13: Because we get sick about it from the time we arrive in the school system in most schools there are exceptions but in most school systems the basic lesson of school is the factory model shut it up fit it in and then regurgitate a bunch of stuff. Do we tell you to do what we tell you to do it or else. We're not going to get into college.
Speaker 14: OK so in the five minutes remaining let's turn to solutions because if I'm the kind of leader that wants to attract Steve Jobs it's creative difficult sometimes. Geniuses who think out of the box and really propel my business what I have to do differently. Do you see any employers that can do it.
Jeff Altman: I don't want to identify firms partly because they can't do it every firm can do but requires a top down in college not because number one is people are going to make mistakes. And unfortunately one of the things that we have drilled into us is this accountability model that basically says if you screw up we are going to punish you're not talking about embezzling money.
Jeff Altman: Legal ethical breaches right. This decision lapse but I made a mistake.
Jeff Altman: I missed this point so I don't think it was you can do a post mortem with and said Where pray pretend. Let's go through this. Let's you know evaluate it.
Jeff Hyman: Is actually what you're saying Jeff is that's a commitment to hiring managers even at the mid level who are exceptional and focused on learning and teaching and growing people as opposed to functional experts right.
Jeff Hyman: Promoting the sales rep who had the best numbers or promoting this software developer who wrote the best code into a manager role and his managers.
Speaker 13: They suck as managers and even they can learn. The question becomes if they don't want to learn they shouldnt be managers create systems that reward them. The guy is a guy that I coach he heads up sales for medical device from somewhere. A good performer of his wound up giving notice he didn't want to lose the car suddenly he has to become a manager so get the compensation increase and he isn't really mentally capable of this for what he is is a good sales guy who can afford to lose at the time.
Jeff Hyman: So what defines then because the stench from the head down. What defines the CEO or or functional leader. You know people sales people marketing Sahra who can create that kind of environment that attracts rock stars that can do their best work. What characteristics do those leaders have that most leaders. Sounds like you would argue dont have.
Speaker 13: What are they what sets us apart. I think number one is the freedom to express themselves in this kind of way. So again institutions whether it's a bank or a start startup tend to think in terms of great things. Right. You are afraid of having things fail because of the impact of failure. Forget that on the Enterprise because then the prices can recover start up. Its a different story than you're saying.
Jeff Hyman: And Amazon a cell phone ad bombs.
Jeff Altman: Whatever. And hopefully that person isn't taken back and had a bullet put in they should be promoted if they tried something right out.
Jeff Hyman: So the question is let's deconstructed Let's learn from this experience. Where did this what could we have done differently earlier are going to make this a win rather than a round of big. Maybe it's not a committee maybe it's the skunkworks in a different building that doesn't have to report to management all the time until they have to actually prototype for whatever it is. The
Jeff Altman: idea is to train and retain people as long as you want them who can really thrive in organization because you've given them freedom. Shammi what's hard. I mean they say it's a semi autonomy. Because ultimately you have to write checks.
Jeff Hyman: Sure. Right. Yes. So. So in the in the two minutes remaining let's make this really actionable.
Speaker 14: What is the first step to making this change so let's say I work at a company I'm CEO or a VIP whatever and for whatever reason my own failings are just the way it's played out. Our company is now this way. Right. It's more risk averse. It's more the type of mentality that punishes mistakes etc..
Jeff Hyman: How do we start. What is the first step to get on that path the sudden overnight transition but how do we begin to make that change so that I attract these rock stars who want to do big things.
Speaker 15: The simplest way is to go or were hiring manager the one who has the greatest turnover and basically sit with him or her and say to them you know something's not working and what you're doing. Right. So let's try something a little bit different. What good invites you to do is take personality out of the equation instead of throwing effect the darts up against the bar a dart board to see whether or not by some miracle you hire the perfect fit. I think in terms of bringing people with qualifications carry it become clearer about what you're looking for. Not only bad job distractions because most job descriptions are such that even if they're somewhat really all made over something that someone's pulled out of there's just so much to get her to told them that they need to get her approval will they grab it from some web site or copy from some other company.
Jeff Altman: Right. And they share it with their internal external recruiting sources without communicating where their job is different how it is or not. And I'm always believer that you want people to be forthright every step along the way and tell these folks look you probably make mistakes you're making mistakes before. Let's try something a little bit different. Your first gifts are reminder to folks is one of the ways we complain about politicians about our presidents is they only have people who say yes to the young people to hire people who will disagree with us and get that kind of input instead of hiring them to the employer on getting me to tell people that you want to hire the team players is required.
Speaker 15: I want them to stop thinking around compliance and there are some jobs that require compliance or most don't.
Speaker 14: But that also means you said sit down with the worst hiring manager if if that's what he or she is looking for because they lack the confidence for employees on their team to challenge them to disagree or that manager has to go right is that's not a changeable fungible.
Jeff Altman: You can try it with them for six months see whether how they respond to this will go back to the old model do with the more honorable some of the offenders and then give them the option to go because my belief is most people if they if they're not willing to play ball with you when you're giving them this amount of freedom they don't believe that they have this freedom.
Speaker 13: Right. Right. So yeah it does give them permission to give them permission to make mistakes. One
Jeff Hyman: fisherman I'm glad to get that permission and they still don't do it then you get from you me. You need to make a change. Jack it's been phenomenal. How can people learn more about you or get tougher.
Speaker 16: You know I coach people in organizations that want to be effective and successful. Send me an e-mail. Jeff Lunden has the big game hunter got us. Tell me what it took on the subject line. Give me a story. My web site is the big game$100 US. I love that. Awesome awesome. I love it.
Jeff Hyman: Thank you for making the time we really appreciate it. You're
Jeff Altman: welcome. Have a great difference.
Announcer: That's all for this episode of the strong student podcast. The next step is to head the strong suit dot where you can join our very live Web and our your proven method for recruiting rock stars to your company. If you like what you heard today be sure to subscribe to the podcast and write us a five star review on iTunes. This is the strong super podcast where we show you how to recruit rock stars.