When the Hiring Gets Tough, the Sharp Get Sharper

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Because it looks as if staffing shortages won't go away any time soon -- and in fact, may get worse before they get better -- we are always on the lookout for articles on gaining a hiring edge over competitors -- by attracting talented prospects and ensuring you hire the right people.


We like this CIO.com interview with the CIO of Kohl's, who has hired 200 people in his tenure of two-plus years with the retailer, while keeping turnover at less than 5 percent. It is packed with interesting takeaways, including Jeffrey Marshall's fondness for conducting job fairs focused on specific skill sets such as Sella network management. The fairs yield more qualified candidates than advertisements for specific positions, he says.


Marshall's interview process is pretty intensive. It begins with a phone call with a recruiter, followed by a video conference with Marshall and interviews with the potential boss, peers and even folks like business partners. The interview teams then meet, discuss and make a decision. While it is a fairly costly and time-consuming process, Marshall says the company's commitment to it -- coupled with the low turnover -- "sells well with candidates."


If Marshall's opinion of a candidate differs from the majority, he defers to the group.

If I'm trying to bring in a change agent, I'll push harder for that individual, but at the end of the day, that person has to flourish in the existing environment.

He does not, however, require unanimity. In fact, he welcomes some degree of dissent because it's a sign of a balanced team composed of different types of personalities. Just as important as a candidate's technical skills is his or her ability to satisfy the needs of the business and work well with other team members.


His biggest hiring mistake, says Marshall, has been hiring for specific posts or to solve short-term problems rather than taking a long-term view.


A nice complement to the CIO.com piece is this Seattle Post-Intelligencer blog that details a recent panel discussion with the CEOs of three tech firms. One CEO uses the acronym ABR -- always be recruiting -- to describe how he constantly assesses his personal contacts for possible hiring leads.


Two of the companies award hefty cash incentives -- up to $2,000 -- for employee leads. The panel also seems committed to the idea of options to attract workers, with one saying that 20 percent of a company's options should be reserved for employees.


The trio also addressed issues relating to venture capital. One notes that easy money can be just as problematic as scarce funding.

If you are not getting scrubbed by the potential investors, who are asking tough questions as to why they should give you money, you are not getting all of the value that you can get out of raising money.

A state in which it is difficult, but not impossible, to raise money yields "the best outcome," says the CEO.