As discussed in our earlier post, Decision Makers Make Lousy Screeners, the odds of success in any search project is positively correlated with the time and effort committed to the project in a rather compact time frame.

Developing the short list must be intense.

The first phase of a successful recruiting project is the development of a short list of credible candidates who can all be considered in the same time frame. Unless this process occurs within a relatively concentrated time period, good candidates that have been identified at the beginning of the process will begin to find other employment before the candidates who have been identified later in the process, can be evaluated. Not surprisingly, the best candidates have the best alternative career prospects and are most likely to disappear first from your “potentials” list. Allowing approximately 30 – 45 days from the start of the project to the development of a short list with 3-4 qualified candidates should be the objective.

Serial vs. Parallel
Many employers don’t feel that they have the time to focus intensely on a particular recruiting project, regardless of its importance to the business in the long term. The day to day deadlines and emergencies have a way of defeating long term plans. Under such circumstances, the development of a short list of candidates often takes the form of serial sourcing and consideration of individual candidates over an extended period of time. The candidates may mainly come from job advertisements and personal referrals from other employees, executives or board members. By evaluating them individually, with such evaluations spread over time, it is often difficult to compare candidates objectively when memories of earlier candidates have faded. The best approach is to develop the short list quickly and then evaluate all short list candidates in parallel in a tight time frame.

Are You Saying that Developing the Short List Must be Done in a Hurried Manner?
Not at all. But it does require focus. This is one reason why our clients depend on us to lead a recruiting project, because we will focus intensively on tapping a wide range of candidate sources simultaneously.

Aren’t Good Candidates Readily Available?
This depends on many things about the required criteria for the particular position (education, experience, certifications, and special skills). It also depends on the attractiveness of the position which includes the organization itself, the particular assignment, the location, and future career progression as well as compensation issues. At any point in time, a given number of candidates may be ready to consider a career change. At another point in time, a different set of individuals will be available. Once the process is started, the objective must be to work with those individuals who are currently in the market and open to a change, and to move quickly to both narrow in on those few who best meet your criteria while simultaneously attracting them to the position in question before a competing offer from another organization removes them from your potentials list. Lesser qualified candidates will be available longer, but only by moving quickly and intensively will you have the pick of the best.

So, What Do You Recommend?
Hit the ground running. Finalize a 1-2 page Job Posting for advertising purposes, decide on advertising media (will the posting be confidential?) and get it out there. You can’t just rely on candidates to respond to your ads though, as some surveys indicate that only 15-20% of potential candidates are actively looking for a career change at any given time. Therefore, ensure that your team has drawn up lists of potential employers from whom a pool of candidates may be drawn (including competitors) as well as sources (schools, associations, online networks) that may not produce candidates but whose networks can be tapped for potential candidates. Reaching out to this wider group of contacts for their suggestions as to who might be worthwhile candidates should be the bulk of your recruiting activity. It needs to be done as an intensive full-time activity, with the objective of bringing the best 3-4 candidates in the marketplace forward in 4-6 weeks.

A single senior level hiring event which fails will, on average, cost a year of progress, recruitment and severance costs and have a negative impact on the organization’s goodwill as perceived by other employees, customers, shareholders and outside agencies. In financial terms, a fair estimate of the cost of replacing mis-hires is approximately two and a half times the person’s annual salary.

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