Hiring Principles: The One Document Every Recruiting Leader Needs to Make

[This first appeared on LinkedIn's Talent Blog, by Paul Petrone, who wrote an article based on John Vlastelica's top 5 rated presentation at the LinkedIn Talent Connect conference in Anaheim, California.]

John Vlastelica has identified the root of all evil, when it comes to hiring: misalignment.

Vlastelica, founder of training firm Recruiting Toolbox Inc and organizer of Talent42, who previously worked as a recruiting director at Amazon and Expedia, believes the key for an organization to consistently hire well is to have everyone on the same page, philosophically. And, at his presentation at Talent Connect Anaheim this fall, he explained how to accomplish exactly that – create essentially a two-to-three page document that clearly defines your company’s principles on all things hiring.

The goal is for everyone in your organization to be operating with the same mindset, so hiring is consistent across the board and fits in with your company’s goals and values. Because ultimately, the content within the document you create is actually less important than its widespread adoption, Vlastelica said.

“This is a big opportunity area for us as talent acquisition leaders,” he said. “We need to clearly define how we, as a company, want to hire.”

Vlastelica emphasized that when you are establishing these principles, it shouldn’t be an idealized version of how you’d like to hire, it shouldn’t come exclusively from HR and it shouldn’t outline each and every process. Instead, it should be the core tenets of your hiring philosophy, and championed by your company’s executive team.

“This isn’t something you want to go off and build on your own somewhere,” he said. “This is something you need widespread buy-in on.”

An overview of what should be in the document

The document should clearly state your company’s point-of-view on all things hiring. That means it should…

1. Define the role of the hiring manager: Who is in-charge of what.

This section should primarily focus on one thing: the expectations of a hiring manager.

To write this section, Vlastelica recommended meeting with the best hiring managers at your company, to discover how they share the hiring load with their recruiters. For example, how involved were they in sourcing? What role did they play in screening, interviewing and selling? How did they engage with their recruiter?

Once you have those expectations clearly defined, it should help set the minimum expectations for the hiring manager role, and improve the hiring manager-recruiter relationship across your entire organization, Vlastelica said.

2. Define the hiring bar and hiring criteria: What does a good hire look like.

Vlastelica said different companies value different things when hiring. Some companies care heavily about where a person went to college and the companies they’ve worked for, others care more about the candidate’s interview performance and work samples.

Your company should have a point of view on this. And whatever you value, you need to make it clear, so “what’s good” is clearly defined across your organization’s diverse group of hiring managers. He recommended calling out:

  • Trade offs: What is your company willing to compromise on? Do you value hard skills more than soft skills, or vice versa? When defining our target hires and making hiring decisions, how much weight do we give to pedigree (schools and companies)?
  • Weightings: How do you weight the different requirements in the job profile? For example, do your software engineering managers need to be great coders? Or is it more important that they are great managers?
  • Do you need to hire an A-plus candidate for every role? Or, for some roles, is it okay to hire a B candidate? What do you mean by A and B candidates?
  • Does your company prefer to hire more generalists or more specialists? Does that point of view change for entry-level hires versus execs, for technologists versus sales?
  • What’s your commitment to hiring a diverse workforce? Should your hiring teams be hiring more women into certain roles?

Again, the goal here is to move away from hiring manager-specific opinions on things like pedigree. If you want to ensure your hiring teams are hiring the right profiles across your org, and making good long-term hires, then your company should have a point of view that’s clear and well communicated. So, be honest: If the college a person went to really matters, make that known.

3. Define how you hire: The nuts-and-bolts of your hiring process.

This section should be more on practicalities that should list:

  • Your philosophy on interviewing contractors. Do contractors and temp workers you want to convert into a full-time employee role need to be interviewed? You should have a point of view on that, as some organizations with really high hiring bars end up with sub-bar hires because of a missed interview.
  • Your approach on internal candidates. Do you interview them? Do you encourage your hiring managers to always look internally, before they look externally?
  • Your philosophy on candidate experience. What should a candidate expect during the interview process? What are the minimum candidate experience expectations you have of your recruiters and interviewers?
  • Your approach to employee referrals. Do referrals get treated differently than other candidates during your sourcing and interviewing process?

4. Define how you make decisions: Who makes the final call and how.

Finally, the document should detail who makes the hiring decision and how. That means detailing:

  • Is it a democratic decision, where members of the hiring team vote, or does the hiring manager have the ultimate say?
  • Should the most senior person in the interview process share her feedback at the end, to avoid bias?
  • If there is significant doubt in the decision, do you hire that person anyway? What’s your company risk-profile for hiring imperfect candidates? It probably depends on what the concern is (i.e. is it trainable?).

Be specific about the tradeoffs you’re willing to make.

Tying it all together

Many of the things listed here might appear pretty basic at first, and I’m sure that you have a strong opinion on each one. But does everyone in your company share that point-of-view? Is every hiring manager and recruiter at your company hiring in the way you and your execs hope they are hiring?

If your hiring principles aren’t clearly listed and defined, the answer might be no. And that can hurt your organization’s ability to make the right long-term hires.

One thing to keep in mind: These principles aren’t designed to be so top-down and so specific that you don’t allow for exceptions or so your organization never takes a chance; instead, these are designed to drive alignment on a shared point of view on who you hire and how you hire. These are guidelines. And, it isn’t to say this document can’t change either - of course it can, just like anything in your organization can change.

What’s most crucial though is that everyone in your company is operating off the same playbook, so you keep your hiring culture, now matter how much you grow. And that’s most easily achieved by writing out a playbook, in two-or-three purposeful, clear pages.

[Learn more about how we help companies uncover their hiring principles, get alignment on what good looks like, upskill interviewers and hiring managers, and help companies put the right processes in place to select the right top talent.]