In this post, I’ve taken a detour from our path in Guerilla Interviewing. This week I had the great opportunity to conduct an exciting interview! Not that all of my other interviews weren’t exciting – this one was unique because I wasn’t interviewing a candidate for a position here at Sage. Instead, I was learning about an exciting new author – Dan Erling – a Sage customer who is also a fellow HR professional and author of a new book that explores a different take on recruiting and hiring – one that I am excited to learn more about.
Dan is President of Accountants One, a 40 year-old accounting/finance recruiting firm with headquarters in Atlanta and partner of a staffing firm, The Water Organization. What I found to be almost as compelling as his new book was his Search for the Funniest Accountant stereotype debunker which has grown into a successful annual fundraiser for Junior Achievement. Additionally, he is a member of Financial Executives International (FEI); Georgia Association of Personnel Services (GAPS); and the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA). Okay, let’s wrap up the intro and dive right into our interview!
Dan just published his first book, MATCH: A Systematic, Sane Process for Hiring the Right Person Every Time.
Jennifer Millman: What is the biggest obstacle that organizations face when implementing a structured recruiting process for the first time?
Dan Erling: The biggest obstacle comes down to execution, actually putting in the time that it takes to create, implement, and run a structured process. As a result of the changing nature of business, HR leaders are pulled a number of different ways throughout the day, week, month, etc. and finding the time to plan and execute is difficult. Unfortunately, what ends up happening most of the time is that recruiters and HR managers try and save time by circumventing the process but it is dangerous. Sometimes it can work and you’ll luck into a great hire, but you can’t win the lottery every time.
JM: How can organizations overcome that obstacle (time and execution)?
DE: There is only one way to truly succeed and it’s not exciting, it just comes down to prioritization. Organizations need to move hiring the right people, creating and filling the team with talented individuals, to the top of their priority lists. The key to being successful in business is being competitive and people are your competitive advantage. Focus on hiring to increase your advantage.
JM: In many businesses, HR as a function is still looked upon as an administrative job function rather than a strategic function in which HR is respected as a true business partner who is integrated with and involved in the business. What can HR professionals do to help change the mindset of organizations toward the latter through their hiring practices?
DE: In most functional businesses, the proper respect is given to HR. It is only in non-functional businesses where what you are saying is true. Part of the disrespect comes from the actions that the groups display. As an example, sometimes HR professionals base hiring decisions solely on compensation and fees. This isn’t the proper motivation or reason to take action and practices like this surface in the long run.
When human resource’s number one dictate is to save money for their company, this can’t truly be achieved by cutting benefits or incentives, but by making the right hire. The cost incurred from the hiring the right people far outweighs other savings – that new hire can greatly impact their hiring ROI.
Organizations who only focus on the bottom line in HR, instead of focusing on the value their function can bring will find difficulty becoming a strategic partner.
JM: ROI is a recurring theme throughout your book. In a few words, can you explain how we can calculate ROI and start using this metric right now?
DE: There are a number of metrics and calculations that can be used to calculate ROI and it really depends on how your business measures certain things. A simple and great way to calculate hiring ROI is measure “revenue per employee.” If you divide the revenue of your company by the number of employees you’ll get the revenue per employee metric. If you can increase that ratio after you bring in another employee, that hire has brought true value to the organization.
JM: What do you feel is the best way to kick off a Hire Right interview?
DE: I am a big advocate in the customized approach to hiring, scripted questions that are behavioral in nature. This is important because after an interview, when comparing candidates, you’re comparing apples to apples. I have a go-to opening question that allows me to open a conversation, it informs me if a candidate is value driven and if they can follow directions. I always ask, “Please take 5 minutes to walk me through your career from the time you left college, until now.”
JM: When you are lucky enough to have a strong candidate pool, and you’ve narrowed it down to two strong candidates that would be great for the slot, how do you decide between them?
DE: I love this question, and it’s the very core of MATCH. When you go through a systematic approach, you proceed through it step by step, and with each consecutive step you increase your odds of hiring the right person. If at the end, you have two that match, as long as you’ve gone through a process based approach to hiring, you can let your heart decide the right person. Typically, a hiring manager or recruiter has their emotion influence their decisions too early in the process not focusing on an objective based evaluation. If you strive to focus on objectivity throughout the process, at the end, when you have two candidates that match, you can then make an emotional decision.
JM: Any dealbreakers for you as an interviewer? What does a candidate have to do or say to fall out of your consideration?
DE: There are a number of actions that are red flags, if someone consistently brings up the topic of compensation or money it is a turnoff. With the MATCH process, dealbreakers are oftentimes behaviors that fall out of the scope of what we’re looking for in an ideal candidate. For example, we’re currently working with a call center, so we created a profile that listed ideal behaviors. With the question, “how much personal time do you spend on the telephone everyday?” we were able to assess if someone fit our profile. If the candidate spent less than 15 minutes on the phone each day, it was a dealbreaker.
JM: How have advances in human resources technology and recruiting software affected HR functions today?
DE: Human resources software has really allowed hiring managers and recruiters to have easier access to a candidate pool. Since I started in the business over 13 years ago, hiring a recruiting firm really came down to which firm could provide you with the most valuable pool of candidates. Now, with the advances in HR software, you can create that database and pool yourself – also, software really allows you to search using a logical process.
JM: From one recruiter to another, thank you for your time and enthusiasm Dan! I hope MATCH is just the beginning of your publishing career.