More From the Frontiers of Recruiting and Selection

I believe that we are in the golden age of recruiting. The talent pool hasn’t been this rich since the early 90’s. While the economy has been recovering, there are still plenty of talented unemployed (and underemployed) people. Technology has allowed for more companies to find more people (and vice versa).

In a parallel development, social media has allowed companies to connect with their customers in an almost 24/7 way. Where as before they could reach out passively (via TV/radio/billboard ads), through social media they can send targeted ads and offers based on what the customer tells them. Now Zappos is essentially combining social media and recruiting.

The gist seems to be that since Zappos has frequent openings they are always recruiting. They believe that by getting to know potential candidates better (and candidates learning about them) they will have a better idea of who the best ones are because they have greater knowledge about them. Which begs the question of what data which is gathered in this portal is Zappos using? Is it based on skills, abilities and personal characteristics? Shopping habits on the Zappos site? Both?

If they count posts or contacts, they could be assessing for extroversion. Or, analyze them for writing. Clearly, each recruiter is looking for people like them, which on one hand may improve fit in the short-term, but may be ignoring skills and abilities that would lead to higher job performance.

The frequent interactions would allow a recruiter to ask interview-like questions, probe for specific experiences and skills in a much more casual environment. For Zappos, that could lead to some real-time evaluations (“We have a position opening that requires skill X, let’s see who is online or in our database that has it.”).

For applicants who already love the brand, it’s a great opportunity. They get to interact with people who (theoretically) share their passion and feel like they are part of something, even if they do not get a job. Of course, part of the risk for Zappos is that, even though they are very clear about matching people with jobs if there is a fit, they will alienate some people who love the brand and interact a lot with the company but never get a job. But, that happens to a certain extent in traditional recruiting as well.

This approach to recruiting does seem to be a significant leap. It meets millennials where they live, which makes a large talent pool available. The approach also has the potential of gathering a lot of valid data about a person in a less stressed atmosphere, which may be more predictive.

How are you using technology to up your recruiting game?

For more information on pre-employment testing and skill assessment systems, please contact Warren at 310 670-4175 or

Looking for Summer Help

No, not me. But, are you? Summer internships are key to for college graduates entering the job market. In fact, data suggests that it is a huge differentiator on a resume. The reasons are obvious: Employers want to hire new people who have work experience. Not that there is any research which supports that this previous work experience (usually making copies, running errands, taking notes in meetings, etc.) actually predicts performance. But, it does show some work drive and interest in the field. And, well, you have to have some way to screen resumes.

More intriguing is the movement of companies going away from unpaid internships. This is not driven by altruism, but by lawsuits, or threats of them. Profitable companies have always used this rationale for not paying interns, “Well, we the students are getting valuable experience,” which is correct, yet incomplete. The full statement would read, “We provide the students experience, we get way more applicants than slots, therefore we can get away with exploiting them.” If the work the interns perform is valuable to the company, then pay them. If it’s not, then why bother with the costs of setting up and managing the program?

Let’s say you use your internship programs as a bit of a tryout for students you would consider hiring (which, I think is a good strategy as you get to see their potential and work habits up close for a period of time). If your internships are unpaid, you have pretty much eliminated any college student who cannot afford to go three months without any income. This can really limit the talent pool from which you can draw and defeats the purpose of it being used as part of your selection process.

Having a summer internship program can be a huge win. You can get some short-term projects done, give a young person some valuable work experience, and kick off your new hire selection process. By paying your interns, you make your program fairer to them and a more effective part of new employee evaluation methodology.

For more information on pre-employment testing and skill assessment systems, please contact Warren at 310 670-4175 or

People and Technology—The Search For a Fit Continues

I had the opportunity to speak at a CCNG Improving the Customer Experience event in Columbus this week. It brought together contact center operations people from all over the Midwest. Among the topics of conversations was getting the right people in the right places given the changes in how people contact companies and how they respond to these requests.

Clearly, how people interact with companies has changed. The term “call center” is becoming a misnomer because while many people still call to get support, they also look for it on the web, via chat, e-mail, mobile applications, social media, or some combination (c’mon, how often have you been on hold trying to get support while you are simultaneously searching a website for an answer to your question?). The different ways to reach the company are referred to as channels.

Likewise, the technology in contact centers has allowed companies to manage calls differently. It’s more than routing them to Asia. It also includes sending calls to agents who work out of their homes, asking you if you’d rather be called back when they are ready to answer your call, and use of automated systems to solve a problem before you even get to a representative.

While the above is new and still evolving, companies still need people to respond to most of these contacts (automated chat and IVRs only go so far). So, how do they know if they have the right people in these places?

Let’s start with this basic premise: Don’t make assumptions about how the work changes (or doesn’t) in the different channels, even if the type of contacts received are the same. This is because the needs of the customers and their expectations may differ based on how they are trying to reach you. For example, people looking for tech support via chat may be more interested in getting their problem solved than venting about it compared to those who use the phone channel. Data shows that it takes a different set of skills to handle the two. It’s critical that you do your homework on each channel, including the call and customer characteristics before developing a profile of which agents are likely to succeed in which.

Several of the stories I heard about home agents fell into two camps. One was that it was used as a “perk” for the best agents. Second was the challenge of keeping these agents engaged so that turnover is managed. Regarding the selection of agents, companies regretted not looking more closely at the work environment before sending their best agents to work at home. This is because not everyone thrives in multiple environments. While working at home sounds like a good deal, not everyone can stay focused with the additional distractions, lack of social interaction, etc. So, in some cases the centers lost some productivity of their highest performing agents and they weren’t around to help mentor other agents. A better solution would have been to analyze the work of a randomly selected group of agents who were willing to work from home and compare the performance factors to those in the center.   Then, agents who meet those criteria could be selected to make the move.

The placement of agents in an at home situation or in another channel should not be a reward. Rather, it should reflect the best fit between agents’ skills, abilities and personal characteristics (SAP) and the job. This is best done through a validated selection process that demonstrates a relationship between the SAPs and the job. This leads to selecting people who are most likely to be successful, which is a win for you and for them.

What processes are you using to determine who works where?

For more information on pre-employment testing and skill assessment systems, please contact Warren at 310 670-4175 or

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