Executive Search: The Quality Conundrum

Cognitive dissonance best describes my reaction to a recent Recruiting Roundtable Research Report that suggested that the use of advanced assessment tools and structured interviewing may not significantly increase in quality of hire. The report espoused data that was contradictory to my long held belief in the positive correlation between having a comprehensive selection process and quality of hire.

In search of more data, I discovered another major study by Leadership IQ of 5,247 managers covering more than 20,000 hires that points to deep-seated flaws with the interviewing and assessment process used by most companies. Perhaps the most salient statistic was that only 19% (one hire out of every five people hired) in a typical hiring process were classified as an unequivocal success. The study also indicated that 46% of new hires fail within 18 months.

The hypothesis given by the Leadership IQ Study was that the majority of hiring managers surveyed reported that they ignored subtle clues and were too focused on other issues, too pressed for time, or lacked confidence in their interviewing ability. The study also indicated that hiring managers emphasized technical competence over candidate motivation, coachability, emotional intelligence, and temperament.

While not much credence was given to the hiring process in these reports, the Recruiting Roundtable report offered some redemption for the value an experienced recruiter can bring. The report concluded that “recruiter skill” does correlate to improvements in quality of hire.

The top three recruiter skills for improving quality of hire included

1. The ability to partner and communicate with hiring managers
2. The ability to gain a clear understanding of job requirements
3. The ability to recruit / hunt (of course).

Even though I was knocked a bit out of orbit by the research findings, I still believe that a comprehensive and structured interviewing process does improve quality hire. In my opinion, the real issue is inconsistency. Unfortunately, recruiters do not have professional standards of excellence that would provide the consistency needed to correlate process to improved hiring success.

In the absence of true professional standards or accreditation for recruiting, I will now have to give more weight to recruiter instinct and experience. While I have always believed that experience and skill are important, I have been more humble about promoting my own experience and passion for recruiting. Perhaps the talent it takes to be an incredible recruiter is not different (in concept) to the talent of a star athlete, musician, or an admired artist.

In truth, the best way to improve quality of hire is most likely to include a combination of all of the elements described above. However, when selecting your next recruiter, remember that it takes great talent to hire great talent.