Tag Archives: talent acquisition

The Candidate Cocktail

Next week (June 10-12, Denver) I am honored to deliver a keynote at the HCI event for “Strategic Talent Acquisition.”
The title for my presentation? “The Candidate Cocktail, How Sweet It Is.”

I’ve got a theory, and it’s a pretty good one – this competitive hiring market is no accident. It’s a confluence of events (past and present) that created a job-seeker we’ve never encountered before.

If you can’t make it to the #hcievent in Denver, check back in with HR Hardball for my follow up posts on this subject over the coming weeks!


3 Things We’ll See in HR by 2022

On Friday of last week (10/20), I was a guest on Michael Cameron’s daily radio program “Win-Win@Work” and had the opportunity to speak about my favorite topic– building and leading a world-class recruiting team. It’s a wonderful thing when you find yourself leading a team that has hit its collective stride. It’s a magical place, a place where the beer flows like wine, and where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. Building and leading a team is the most satisfying part of the job for me, and when things are good, they are really good.

But we know in this crazy Talent Acquisition life, every day is a snapshot – who knows what tomorrow will bring, much less what might happen in 2022. So when Mr. Cameron (makes me feel younger to call anyone “Mister”) asked me at the end of our interview, “where do you see Talent Acquisition in five years?”, I’ll admit I chewed on my tongue a bit ~ five freaking years??

Since, “I don’t have a clue, Mike” is a decidedly bad answer to a live broadcast question, the little man started rummaging my subconscious mind for those thoughts I have when allowed to be future-focused. To my surprise, I think I may have made a little sense, you tell me.

Three things I expect to see in Talent Acquisition by 2022:

  1. Talent Networks/Communities Will Explode ~ If you aren’t building a community already, you better get with the program. Building virtual connections by sharing meaningful information is definitely a “long” play, but when those crops start to come in, you’ll have a pipeline of engaged candidates.
  2. Speed Wins ~ The application process is an absolute beating. Everybody seems to know this, but even with technology advances the process takes, on average, 30 minutes. That’s garbage. Find the key to that door and the kingdom is yours. The huge ATS is going to go buh-bye, and the sooner the better.
  3. Blurred Lines ~ With the increased importance of building a people pipeline via talent networks, Talent Acquisition will continue to morph into a Marketing arm of the organization. Candidate or customer, what’s the difference? We’re just scratching the surface of how to maximize the time we engage with a potential candidate, why not also capture them as potential customers? What we have here is another way to tie Talent Acquisition to financial metrics – yay metrics. Same concepts apply – who’s your audience, what kind of persona are you targeting, and how do you most effectively reach them?

There’s also one other fundamental belief I have that isn’t universally shared. Fundamentally, I still see our job being relationship-driven by talented people in recruiting roles. There’s a swell of Orwellian thinking that technology will replace recruiters as time progresses. Here’s the problem –  the HR-Tech boon of the last several years has, in many ways, resulted in white noise. Too many tools, too many gimmicks (too many blogs, consultants, and “experts” too for that matter.) I still believe the recruiting function needs to be internally based and owned by actual employees of the company. The technology that succeeds will be the kind that frees up recruiters to do what they do best – recruit. 

If you want to listen to the conversation, here’s the link. And yes, I really do sound like that.

Herding Cats….and Recruiters

Remember when you had a recruiting desk to manage? You had your requisitions, you had phone screens scheduled, interviews scheduled, you knew your hiring managers, and you developed a rhythm. Cashing checks and snapping necks.

And then they went and promoted you.

Now as the manager of other recruiters, you confirm what you probably suspected all along – recruiters are a wacky bunch to manage. It’s a high-energy, high-pressure position, and it can chew you up if you let it get on top of you. There are a few common characteristics that seem to run in the DNA of successful recruiters, but like salespeople there are 100 different combinations of skill sets and personality traits that can result in a high-powered staffing machine. It’s actually one of the things I’ve come to love over the years ~ when building a world-class recruiting team, you can’t limit yourself to a cookie cutter approach. And you have to be prepared to manage a few of the more challenging types that come along. For instance:

  • The Maverick – Always living on the edge between innovative and insubordinate, this recruiter is constantly on the lookout for a new way of accomplishing things. This creates some great new ideas, but can also result in a blindside when you realize after the fact that policies & procedures have been ignored, skipped, or disregarded. If you find yourself stretched and unable to spend much time in overseeing the Maverick, at some point you’ll be blindsided. Management Tip: Assign creative projects to this person; akin to giving a puppy something to chew on besides your shoes, you must keep the Maverick occupied with something tasty.


  • The Native – You know this recruiter because everybody knows this recruiter. Hiring managers love him/her, and the feeling is mutual to the point of sometimes confusing the reporting structure. When a recruiter goes “native” to the detriment of your ability to influence said recruiter, you have an issue. There are differing opinions on this matter, but I look at it like this – as certain as it is that a hiring manager doesn’t hire my employees, they also do not manage my employees. The job has to be bigger than “my hiring manager likes me.” Management Tip: I’ve seen too many stories like this; hiring managers love you as long as you are prioritizing them. Keep an eye on other hiring managers to make sure they aren’t playing second fiddle.


  • The Leader-in-Waiting – Smarter than you, more capable than you, and has a great plan for how the department should be run. At least that’s the opinion of the LIW, and they will, at times, share this opinion with you and others. As long as it’s not done in a way that’s meant to undermine you, taking the more mature approach of humoring them is okay. If, however, you feel a direct shot fired over your bow, it’s time for an immediate stop to it. Management Tip: Lose your ego. It’s okay to be challenged or questioned, this isn’t the Army. Consider the ideas, not the delivery – you might find some gold. Then explain how a valuable suggestion can be minimized if it’s offered in the wrong manner.


  • The Charmer – If allowed to linger, this one is harder and harder to let go because they are so darn likable. The problem is, that likability is killing their ability to close deals, push back on hiring managers, and negotiate offers. They master the relationship piece to the detriment of the craft of actually filling requisitions – similar to the “Native” but without the notches on their belt. If you have the budget for someone dedicated to sourcing or coordinating, this is your perfect fit. But the added responsibilities of putting asses into seats doesn’t fit well with the Charmer. Management Tip: Of all the types to manage, this is one of the most difficult. Good people in the wrong role are always a tough job for a manager. You have to saddle up early in the game and let them know what you know – “This isn’t for you.”

Now, as my team tries to pinpoint who currently occupies these roles (none of my current team does, I’m not stupid), I wonder what other challenging types you might add to the list?


My Talent Acquisition team recently participated in a teambuilding event courtesy of our friends at Strayboots. I can tell you we looked forward to this event for weeks, as the thought of a scavenger hunt through the middle of the Dallas Arts District was (if nothing else) an opportunity for a brief distraction from “business as usual” – the key being that “business as usual” for us at DentalOne = “hair on fire.” We literally have a motto in our Recruiting organization that translates to “we keep moving or we die.”

                    which may explain this…

With that as a backdrop, a spirited walk on the streets of downtown Dallas would be a great respite from the grind, and would give us a chance to strengthen the bonds of our team.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the Forum….

We were divided into three teams of 7 for the “hunt.” Our Doctor recruiters (led by our Practice Support Recruiting Manager), our Practice Support recruiters (led by our Doctor Recruiting Manager,) and the “Others” – a collection of cross-functional colleagues, me, and my boss. When the bell rang to start the exercise it became immediately apparent that our team-building initiative had become de-centralized. It was every team for itself, so to speak. The “stroll” turned into a brisk walk, a jog, and then finally a full-out sprint. Each team had a different pace, but one team made a decided effort to bury the others. Without mentioning names, this team was also, hands-down, the most intelligent and attractive of the bunch, and I don’t feel that’s an exaggeration at all…did I mention that was my team?

But I digress.

Sometime around our 8th or 9th task, as I sprinted to the Meyers Symphony Center, I observed that our day had become much more of a “teamwork” exercise than it was a “teambuilding” exercise. What does that mean? Let me give you three key differentiators that stood out:

  1. “Teamwork” can be immediately implemented ad-hoc. The “Others” really had very little direct working history with one another (outside of me/my boss), so an altruistic view of building the working effectiveness of our team was decidedly task-based. “Teambuilding” implies a fluid, ongoing process over time. We didn’t have time – we came, we saw, and we kicked butt by immediately assuming roles and hitting the pavement.
  2. “Teamwork” is benefited and amplified by a common goal, a finite timeline, and (whenever possible) the spirit of competition imbed in the process. Our team knew the “record” for finishing the scavenger hunt, we knew the timeline (2 hours), and we knew we wanted bragging rights at Happy Hour. “Teambuilding” (again, this is an interpretation) pulls the entire team toward a goal, and allows for mistakes and/or delays for the long-time benefit of the team – that’s nice, but our splinter cell was looking to just win, baby.
  3. Teambuilding is a constant process moving towards an eventual state of “world-class.” In a time sensitive, project-based assignment, you are at the mercy of the resources you have for that endeavor – so you succeed by working together for a common objective, possibly at the expense of those outside of your sub-team. That may change drastically for each new project and/or mix of resources. And that’s the beauty of the event in which we participated.

We want to do it again! And then….again. Mix the teams up, add a few new people to the chase, change the locale of the “hunt”…as we construct variations of our project teams and “teamwork” becomes a part of our culture that leads to the North Star we established –  to be a World-Class staffing organization. And that, my friends, is teambuilding.

On May 23, 2016 John Whitaker joined the DentalOne Partners team as Vice President, Talent Acquisition, based out of the Dallas Corporate Headquarters.   John is responsible for leading the Talent Acquisition & Recruiting strategies and initiatives enterprise-wide, and for building a world-class recruiting team.

Thanks again to our friends at Strayboots, we had the time of our lives!


Little Brothers Grow UP

Work in big corporations long enough and you start to recognize the caste system inherent in the professional community. R&D is indispensable, Manufacturing has to actually make the ideas come to life, and then somebody has to sell it, so Sales becomes critical as well. The “big 3” pillars in a company—discover it, make it, sell it. That leaves a lot of the “rest of us”—the dreaded SG&A. Support functions. Overhead. Don’t fool yourself, Human Resources professional, we’re all just an expense in the eyes of the big brass.

As a result, I always felt somewhat of a kindred spirit with my friends in IT, Finance, Legal, et al. And of course, within HR there’s a special kinship and brotherhood that… hehehe, no, not really. Human Resources has its own version of Lords & Commons, too.

I’ve got 22 years in Human Resources, almost evenly split between the HRBP and Talent Acquisition function. And one thing continually holds true— Staffing/Recruiting/TA is looked at as the tactical, administrative little brother of the HRBP.

How to define the mindset of the HR Business Partner? Pretend Senior Leadership is Don Corleone, running his empire while keeping the other families in check. His consiglieré, Tom Hagen, holds a powerful role as he remains tied to the hip of the Old Man, remaining out of sight unless summoned to take care of some of the dirty work involved with a termination and/or delivery of a horse’s head. Polished and educated, whispering advice as needed. It’s a peach of a role if you can find it.

Go on, admit it. We break into Human Resources via Talent Acquisition, then move up to a more “strategic” role [this is where I risk over “quotating” terms, but how else does one make a snarky reference?]. Hell, that’s what I did. Put in my time filling requisitions, got tapped on the shoulder, and then up the ivory tower I went. Spent the next 10 years in a Business Partner role. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an awesome job, especially at the Senior levels when you’re actually allowed in the Star Chamber with the other important folks. You feel so… necessary.

After 10 years in a corporate BP role, I finally took the leap into lone wolf-dom as a consultant. And a funny thing happened—no matter the high-level strategic initiatives being tossed around the Board Room, the topic invariably ended up in the same place—talent acquisition… how to attract, hire, engage, and retain talent. Whether it was a company of 100 or 100,000, the same issues continually arise. Get. The. Talent.

So, with 10 years of investigations, layoffs, performance improvement plans, and terminations in my rearview mirror, it was time to get back into the front-end of the employee experience. And my, how things had changed.

It’s a war (for talent.) And in times of war, you don’t need Tom Hagen. When you go to the mattresses, it’s time to put Michael in charge. You know, that little brother that used to fetch your coat for you.

The war for talent changed everything. Economic recovery and a generational transition in the workplace put Talent Acquisition at the front of the battle line as it became a candidate-driven market. The role of “Recruiter” is (or should be) the center of the HR Universe: We are the marketers, branders, and brokers for the most important corporate asset. Thanks to advances in HR Technology, we can do more, while doing it faster and better than before. We are the Steve Austin of Human Resources; we’re #WorkplaceScientists now, not just resumé screeners. And we’re just getting started.

Recruiting will continue to dominate the HR function for years to come as Boomers exit and the digital age completely dominates the acquisition of talent. Strategic, innovative, progressive, creative, and indispensable—THAT is Talent Acquisition of the 21st century.

Remember that the next time your HRBP seems a little reticent about sharing information; it’s tough when your little brother outgrows 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.