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Corporate Recruiting – 5 Acts of Brilliance and 5 Mistakes

As a trailing baby boomer who’s had more jobs than Larry King’s had wives, I’ve been fortunate to experience first hand some of the best and worst moves in corporate recruiting and staffing: Cisco Systems, HP and Cadence to mention a few.

corporate recruiting

1. Cisco Systems

Brilliance:  CEO John Chambers led breakfast meetings monthly where he solidified a new hire’s decision to join Cisco (greatly impacting retention), encouraged new hires to ask the toughest questions (gather new hire fresh perspectives) and reinforced corporate culture straight from the top.  It was an impressive commitment that was one of many company culture examples that helped us recruit top talent.

Mistake: After cutting staffing from 700 people to a dozen during the dot com bust (a necessary step), years later tried to replace senior recruiters with inexpensive, inexperienced outside contractors.  Lesson: Can’t hire the best talent with junior recruiters.

2. Cadence Systems

Brilliance: VPHR that cared more about the business than HR.  I wasn’t surprised that Tim Unger’s career progressed from VPHR for Cadence to CEO for numerous companies.  He seemed to understand Cadence’s business more than many of the execs running their own departments.  For staffing, he helped us justify the funds to build an amazing research and sourcing department to feed our internal recruiters (back in the 90’s when sourcing functions were unheard of).

Mistake:  Company was unprepared for abrupt resignation of iconic CEO at the time.  Lesson: Always have a backup plan!

3. HP

Brilliance:  “The HP Way” became the #1 taught management style at the time and created more recruiting pipeline than one could handle.  Getting in deep with academia allowed HP to cherry pick the brightest students.  And their “business casual” dress code was attractive to students and employees alike when everyone else was still wearing suits.

Mistake: Decision by consensus culture turned many inspired individuals into bored drones who dreaded the endless decision-by-committee meetings.  Lesson: empower individuals to make decisions and keep meetings small and short.  Holding “stand up” meetings would have greatly reduce meeting times!


Brilliance: Rebel culture.  This Austin-based start-up taunted, “we don’t need no stinkin’ resumes”, and made their mark by nurturing talent pools and improving candidate experience.  They were the first to have a “Chief People Officer” and “Talent Ambassadors”.

Mistake:  They used VP of Sales for target practice, firing them quicker than a disgruntled JetBlue flight attendant.

5. Decision Toolbox

Brilliance:  The best recruiters earn first choice of  recruiting assignments based on several weighted criteria: passion/attitude, written/verbal communication, consultative posture, sourcing skills, talent/niche and KPI’s (time to present winning candidate, client survey score,…).  And there’s a company culture that drives over the top service in unconventional ways.

Mistake:  Flying under the radar.  Being overly concerned that competitors will steal the secret sauce can lead to missed opportunities to shout from the rooftops about something one’s passionate about.

What have you learned from your staffing journey?

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  • " In my entire career of recruiting and hiring people since I became a manager in 1979, working with you, (DT Recruiter), was the most rewarding experience of my career in recruitment. You are truly a professional and you made this a very pleasant experience. I would recommend you and Decision Toolbox to any of my friends and associates. "
  • " (DT Recruiter) is a true professional and excellent recruiting partner! She sought out the exact requirements we were looking for. Only one candidate was presented to the CEO and hired! He was skeptical of the process from the beginning and is now an advocate of DT stating that it "worked like clockwork"! Great job to the DT team! "
  • " (DT Recruiter) is fantastic! She is responsive and upbeat. She keeps her commitments. She is an attentive listener. I enjoy working with her. "
  • " DT delivered fantastically. Your write-up and screening provided me with a limited number of candidates, but they were high-quality.  (DT Recruiter) was very professional and kept me on-track with regular follow-up, which was a very high value deliverable to me. This ensured that issues and candidates were fresh toward eventual hiring. I would very much ask for (DT Recruiter) for our future business with you. "
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