17 March 2009

Learning from a lost job

As readers of my eBook, Succeed Quickly or Fail Slowly: A High Performance Framework for Recruiters, will know, I regard a recruiter's job filled ratio as the most important statistic to track over time.

This is because every job not filled contains many lessons and the only way we really know whether those lessons are being learned is through a consistent increase in the job filled ratio of a recruiter. I was a very competitive recruiter and hated to not fill any job and that attitude assisted me to reach a fill rate of 92% (across one year).

As a leader I was constantly reviewing the fill rates of each team member to ensure there was a consistent upward trend. Deconstructing each job that was lost or withdrawn was an important learning process for both me and the recruiter concerned.

It is crazy to spend a vast amount of time prospecting for new jobs when, in my experience, very little time is devoted by recruiters and their managers, to truly understanding how specific processes and skills could be improved to ensure a higher proportion of jobs taken are filled each week, month, quarter and year. It's like pouring more and more water into a bucket and never bothering to find out why water seems to be leaking out of the bottom.

To dismiss an unfilled job as ‘bad luck' or ‘just one of those things that happen' is simply careless and lazy. I am not saying you will fill 100% of the jobs you take or that, at times, things happen that could not be predicted or expected. However every lost or withdrawn job represents precious time you invested for, in almost all cases, no financial return.

When you next give yourself time to review the jobs you worked on and did not fill, here are some questions you might ask yourself to assist in uncovering areas for improvement. Not all of these questions will be relevant all of the time and this list is by no means an exhaustive one.
  1. Did the client meet with me at their premises to provide me with a complete job brief and a personal viewing of the work environment?
  2. Did the client accept feedback I provided with respect to the job brief?
  3. Did the client promptly sign and return my terms of business?
  4. Did I send across a written interpretation of their verbal brief (and any agreements we made) and receive a confirmation in return?
  5. Was this job in my target market?
  6. Was the salary or hourly/daily rate in line with the calibre of candidate being sought by the client?
  7. Did I effectively manage the client's expectations about the time it would take to find an appropriate candidate?
  8. How effective was the job ad I wrote?
  9. How effectively did I use my database to identify suitable candidates before I wrote and posted a job ad?
  10. What candidate sourcing methods did I use and how effective was each method?
  11. How effectively did I screen candidates over the phone?
  12. How effective was my assessment of candidate resumes?
  13. When I interviewed my preferred candidates, how effectively did I understand each person's skills, competencies and motivations?
  14. Did I ask all interviewed candidates the same competency questions to ensure ease of comparison?
  15. How effectively did I manage candidate expectations about salary or rate?
  16. How effectively did the resumes and candidate summaries/consultant comments of each shortlisted candidate represent each candidate?
  17. Did I present shortlisted candidate resumes face to face with the client or at least provided the client with a verbal presentation over the phone prior to emailing resumes?
  18. Did I verify the candidate's relevant academic results, qualifications and permits/licenses/visas?
  19. Did the client provide specific and timely feedback on the shortlisted candidates? If not, how effectively did I manage this?
  20. Did the client provide specific and timely feedback on candidate interviews? If not, how effectively did I manage this?
  21. Did the client interview all shortlisted candidates? If not, why not?
  22. Did I act on my ‘gut feel' when I suspected that either my client or one of the candidates was not being straight with me? If not, what were the consequences?
  23. Did the client provide a positive impression to my candidates at interview? If not, how effectively did I manage this?
  24. Did I conduct effective reference checks with the relevant referees?
  25. How effective were any independent candidate tests or assessments?
  26. How effectively did I manage the offer process, including the client's dispatch of a written offer?
  27. How effectively did I manage the resignation and counter offer process?
  28. How effectively did I stay in touch with the preferred candidate(s) to keep them ‘warm' during the whole process?
  29. How frequently did I keep my commitments to my client?
  30. How frequently did I keep my commitments to my candidates?
  31. Did I ask for assistance or feedback from someone more senior than me when any aspect of the process was not going to plan?
  32. Was this a job I should have declined or referred to another recruiter?

Nobody likes to fail and not filling a job is a failure of sorts. However, potentially it is only a small failure. A big failure is not learning from that lost job. A huge failure is losing another job by making the same, preventable, mistake(s). A (career-limiting) disaster is continuing to deny that you have any responsibility for any lost job.

Ensure that a lost job only means lost revenue rather than both lost revenue and a lesson unheeded.

If you total up the potential fee/margin income of all the jobs you didn't fill in the past 12 months the potential maximum cost of unheeded lessons is staring back at you. Is it a scary figure? What are you going to do about it?

"Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently." - Henry Ford

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