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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!

4.  Hire.com

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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