Quality of Hire: Recognizing the Most Crucial Recruiting Metric

February 3, 2014 at 10:00 PM by Rob Stevenson

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This is the first in a two-part series covering how to recognize top recruiting metrics and refuse to sacrifice one for another, particularly in times of hypergrowth. In this first post, Sr. Tech Recruiter Andrew Parrott discusses how to define, recognize, and ensure quality of hire.

I don’t want to be “that guy” and begin with a clichéd Steve Jobs quote, so I’m going to cleverly sneak in a quick reference to what is in my opinion the seminal philosophic approach to recruiting, a book excerpt published in Businessweek in October 1998 where Jobs succinctly outlines why "Hiring the Best Is Your Most Important Task."

Most individuals, from HR Business Partners to the C-suite, can agree that hiring the best is our most important task. Things become complicated—quickly—when we attempt to quantify what is meant by “the best” and how to go about acquiring it. Is it GPA? Academic or professional pedigree? International experience? Skills with a particular coding language? Cultural fit? Most “bang for the buck”?

Being a Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance fan, I believe “the best” is synonymous with Quality. And Candidate Quality is perhaps the most underutilized recruiting metric of all. That said, it’s simple and quantifiable in my world: a minimum 75 percent of “submitted” candidates should interview. Lower volume, higher hit rates with an emphasis on “the best” (read: Quality), which is an aggregate of the aforementioned categories, plus many more (e.g. professional/academic background, life experience, cultural fit, etc.). There is only one path to Candidate Quality, and it does not involve a “post and pray” approach to job boards or Ctrl + F keyword searches on résumés; it is picking up the phone, listening to, learning from, and exploring the latent motivators and strengths/weaknesses of talented people, each of whom has a unique story to tell, unique value to offer. Keyword searching will yield apples-to-apples matches that are exceptional on paper, but probably nowhere else. Take the time to understand latent experience that is “between the lines” on a résumé and have candid conversations with candidates to determine proper intangibles, X factors, and “outside the box” fits.

It pays to think outside the box, because Quality comes in all shapes and sizes. In my experience recruiting on the mobile front, I’ve noticed that someone who has a solid OOP background in C++/Java combined with drive and intellectual horsepower can quickly scale to become an Android developer (I successfully made such a hire with a large image hosting website, and another contact who turned down an offer for this role became the Android Lead at a premiere ad-free music subscription service). The best companies often want the best all-around athletes.

The importance of quality is of equal is even greater in startups. Conor Swanson, Co-Founder at LoHi Labs, a Mobile dev shop that builds products for high profile venture-backed technology companies, says, “We can’t afford to make bad hires. Hiring poorly early on can cost you the company or your reputation.”
To summarize, recruiting is not merely talent acquisition. An holistic view of Quality incorporates the equally important focus on talent development and retention. Second only to personal relationships, I decided to come to SREV when I read then-President Jeff Bizzack’s August 2011 article in Forbes entitled The Four Core Tenets Of A High Performance Company. A brief excerpt:

Insane Investments in People—Do Things No One Else Does: This is what I like to call Winning As a Team. Smart companies have developed a scientific approach to who and how they recruit, and how to keep people motivated. Businesses should ensure their people think about their career path as less of a day-to-day job, but rather as an on-the-job MBA.

Sold. Two months later, I began my first day as a ServiceSource employee.

The temptation to place less emphasis on quality is very real for recruiters, particularly those at a rapidly expanding organization tasked with leading a company through hypergrowth. In part two of this post, I’ll explain how to reconcile quality, volume, and cost so the terms need not be mutually exclusive

Andrew is currently responsible for Technical and Executive Search for ServiceSource (SREV), which he joined shortly after the company’s IPO to establish internal recruiting. Andrew has nearly a decade of experience building recruiting and technical teams, working with high-growth technical startups in the Denver-Boulder area such as Photobucket, mywedding.com, EffectiveUI, ibotta and others via his own consulting company, D3 Inc.

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