Burn Rate

What are you looking for?

Not long ago a colleague was breaking down her experience with a small but growing firm, and her ultimate decision to withdraw from the application process although she was deep into it.

“I didn’t want to get burned” she said.

Puzzled momentarily with a small explanation I knew exactly what she was talking about, and, as a headhunter originally, I empathized with her immediately.

You see, the role she was interviewing for was vacant. [Ed: if the question, ‘why is this position vacant?’ is not part of your standard set of inquiries, make it one immediately and henceforth.] Sometimes vacancies exist because the incumbent was promoted, or perhaps took a new role.

And sometimes it’s becuase things are pretty hot and people are getting burned.

In this instance the firm had burned through two managers in two years. That’s not a hell of a track record. Further, even though they’re back at the well a third time, it’s not clear they’ve yet analyzed much less understood their own complicitness is failing to deliver the right candidate.

As we’ve discussed before in different circumstances, until you are ready to learn from the past you are doomed to repeat it. My friend was convinced she’d be number three and opted out.

Now, we’ll never know for sure if that’s would have come to pass, but the track record forced the loss of a viable candidate.

Recruiting is a serious business. Much as we laugh about butts in seats and pretend it’s all about the numbers the truth is fitness works both ways. We look over candidates and savvy ones examine us looking for the right opportunity to bring their strengths to bear. Marcus Buckingham anyone?

From the company point of view looking for additional candidates without understanding where the problems were in the past is like trying to put a Band-aid on while sitting in a bathtub full of water and wondering why they won’t stick. It’s just not going to work.

The reasons for hiring miscues thankfully is relatively short:

  • You didn’t know what you really needed in skills and abilities (often number one)
  • You didn’t understand the goals and deliverables of the role
  • You painted a recruiting picture that was fantasy not reality (you sold the sizzle not the steak)
  • You exaggerated the upside and minimized the challenges
  • You flat out don’t know how to interview

While there may be a few ancillary elements, these “top five” are the problems that will most often manifest in recruiting and result in hiring the neophyte who will often fail through no volition of their own, or in seeing the more experienced candidate bail as they read the tea leaves.

Want to slow down your burn rate? Do a better job on the front end of hiring during the recruiting process. Ask yourself these questions and if guilty of same stop, do not pass Go, do not collect $200 and do not recruit anymore until each point has been addressed.

Hiring mistakes – bringing on the wrong person, or filling the wrong role – can largely be eliminated if you practice the discipline to get clarity on the role and the environment. Do this now before the recruiting machine throws another stack of digital resumes on the bonfire that is your office conflagration and watch more talent get burned in the process.

Only you can prevent forest fires.



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