Special Sauce

One of my prouder childhood achievements was beating the 30-second BigMac “challenge” as a 9-year old in desperate need of a promotional “Hamburglar” glass.

Dad took me into the local McDonald’s, I took a few calming breaths, then wove a tapestry of hamburger ingredients so seamlessly that it was if I was on autopilot…“twoallbeefpattiesspecialsaucelettucecheesepicklesonionsonasesameseedbun…” 4.3 seconds, gents. I can’t even explain it to you, I was just in the zone.

eBay says $10.99, I say priceless

eBay says $10.99, I say priceless

Or something like that.

That’s a long preamble to my original thought when drafting this post–the concept of “special sauce.” Back in the day, the Big Mac’s claim to fame was the Special Sauce. They even kept the recipe “secret” to add to the illusion that this was a key differentiator no one else could replicate. It took me years to get the right combination of Thousand Island and Ketchup to crack the code.

But I digress.

It’s an interesting time in the recruiting world, as I’m sure you’ve noticed from the candidate and recruiting perspective. On the majority of the positions I manage, there are at least a handful of very strong candidates.

So now, “Special sauce” is the gist of my favorite line of interviewing. And here’s why:

– Ask someone about their greatest “strengths,” and you can count on the grocery list of rehearsed answers to which we’ve become accustomed. “I’m a people person.” “I’m a multi-tasker.” Blecch.

– Ask someone about their “special sauce” and you get a much more personal, original, and spontaneous response.

Is this ground-breaking? Nah, it’s trivial in the great scheme of things. But trivial is sometimes the medicine for a stale interview. Knock down a wall of formality, get conversational, lose the script and have a little fun.

Btw, my special sauce? Easy. Give me 10 minutes and I can make anybody laugh.

What about you?



Recruiters – Serving Two Masters (or more)

Not to get all Biblical on you, but the good book does say “No one can serve two masters.” (Matt 6:24) It actually says a whole lot of things, but for now let’s just focus our attention here.

Now, ol’ Matthew traveled with a pack of recruiters himself, so there is some wisdom in heeding this advice. But in our daily grind or balancing loyalties and clients, recruiters truly have a complicated dynamic.

As a matter of fact two “masters” may not even cover it for some of us; but it’s clear that there is an ever strengthening movement toward valuing our external clients as much as we might value our internal clients. In addition to our hiring managers, the recruiter is also facing an increased expectation to consider the candidate experience during the hiring process. We have one client that pays us, one client that needs us – who gets the lion’s share of our attention? And, more importantly, who can do both effectively?

One school of thought is that because a recruiter has two clients, a focus on one can only come at the expense of the other. In this scenario, there is a single continuum measuring the focus of the recruiter, with “candidate” and “hiring manager” representing the opposite extremes of the scale. So, if you were to focus on “candidate experience,” you move closer to the candidate side of the spectrum, and further away from the experience of our internal client.

That’s an either/or situation that doesn’t really hold water. In reality, we have two continuums operating simultaneously. The candidate and the hiring manager each have their own scale, both demanding our focus, both capable of improving or suffering independent of the other. That explains our current situation – we have a buyer’s market and seller’s market both competing for our recruiting bandwidth. The result of which is the loss of the most precious commodity we possess – TIME.

Seriously, what happened to time? Wasn’t technology supposed to make things better for us?


IF – it’s the right technology…and, IF we know how to maximize the capabilities of said technology.

Now we have “front end,” “back end,” metrics dashboards, automation, ATS, and whatever the CEO’s sister is going to sell us next year – and we STILL can’t get out of our own way.

Never fear, the gang at FOT is here to help you get a reset via our roadmap for building a high performing Talent Acquisition/Recruiting function.  Join FOT’s Kris Dunn and RJ Morris for our June webinar (sponsored by the recruiting experts at CareerBuilder) on June 24th at 2pm Eastern (1pm Central) entitled, Moving Past Smile and Dial: 5 Ways to Build a Recruiting Function Your CEO Will Love,

 The recruiting profession is a village, not a desert island. Get on board with your tribe and gain some brain capital – As a bonus, FOT will also provide a FOT Checklist – 10 Things To Do Today to Maximize Your Ability to Attract Great Talent – to all who register.  Learn what you do well, learn what you might do to improve, and learn how to get back a little of that chronological capital – TIME.

Sympathy for the Devil

Besides the distinction of being a kick-ass jam, the Rolling Stones classic tune “Sympathy for the Devil” offers an interesting discussion on the duplicity of human nature. We’re a funny bunch of monkeys, my fellow HR professionals… as “good” as we may strive to be, we still are not above using whatever means necessary to achieve the ultimate goal. Lie, cheat, steal, or… make a deal with ol’ Fire-Britches himself.

In Human Resources, we hear lies every single day. There’s a motivation to lie when you’re job is on the line. For example, in the case of the job seeker, it may be because the candidate experience is largely designed to force the hand of anyone hoping to make it past the “currently employed” knockout punch. Ask anyone who has been unemployed for a significant stretch of time whether or not honesty pays in their job search effort. It becomes easy to eliminate applicants when we have an SEO mentality. So, if it gets me in the door, I might forget to add my “end date” for my last (excuse me…”current”) employer. HR is the gatekeeper, and we designed a fence to keep them out… so the candidate may build a Trojan rabbit in which to gain access.

But what about US? How many rationalizations, half-truths, and smokescreens do you communicate from the HR desk? Ever been through an acquisition or merger? Are the rumors and innuendo you hear throughout the workplace generally of the optimistic or fatalistic variety? As the HR “insider,” we are often the point of contact for many employees trying to gain more certainty of their future. The universe will not tolerate a vacuum of information—so we stretch, embellish, guess, hypothesize (i.e., lieto employees instead of telling the truth, many times because we are handcuffed from sharing sensitive information.

How about the fabled recruiting pitch? Staffing is infamous for painting a rosy picture to potential candidates, some of which disappears like a fart in the breeze once we get the candidate on board.

Then there’s the sometimes awkward disposition phone call to the candidate(s) not making the cut. Do we explain to them that they talked with marbles in their mouth, had breath like a dragon, appeared to be a dedicated over-blinker, and/or had the energy level of a dial tone? Or, do we soft-pedal (lie) the feedback to let them know that “despite overall positive feedback, we have decided to pursue a stronger candidate.”

Employee investigations, performance reviews, even exit interviews—there is ample opportunity to utilize some fuzzy talk in our efforts to accomplish the greater good… or, to avoid the worser bad (I just made that up—it looks terrible, but I’m sticking with it).

The point is we just can’t help ourselves and, in some cases, it’s an occupational hazard. Our integrity will, at times, take a coffee break.

So, if you meet us, have some sympathy and some taste. I know it’s puzzling you, but it’s the nature of our game, so to speak.