Talk to anyone looking for an employee with the right skills and well, let’s face facts, just-in-time recruiting just doesn’t work anymore.

“Most companies do not even think about their staffing needs until it literally hits them over the head”, according to Bernadette Hill, owner for Talent Tap. “Just-in-time may work in manufacturing but fails miserably when ‘we need to find this person yesterday’ job openings occur. “The last minute rush to publish a classified ad before the weekend deadline in response to a resignation or termination are outmoded techniques and inappropriate in today’s environment.

Not only is this approach too expensive and inefficient but it jeopardizes and compromises both the integrity of the search and selection process. The individual hired is many times only the best of the bunch, not the one qualified for the job.

Hill has identified three key reasons why the traditional approach to hiring is a serious disadvantage in today’s labor market.

First and most often, there is not enough time for managers and all those other employees affected by this new hire to reach a consensus regarding the personality and competencies this person will need to successfully perform the job.

Second, the accelerated time frame for this manager to reach a decision increases the likelihood that they will interview too few people and make a “shot gun” decision

Finally, the lack of a defined hiring process, coupled with the increased chances of hiring the wrong person, can mean very costly personnel turnover problems and decrease a company’s overall profitability.

One successful solution for clients of Hill has been something called “pre-cruitment”. Pre-cruitment takes the proverbial high road to staffing by linking the effectiveness of recruitment and hiring efforts to profitability. Since labor is no longer plentiful, availability on an-as-needed basis cannot be taken for granted. Fierce competition for both workers and profits magnifies the effects of even a single hiring mistake.

Preparing your organization to pre-cruit competitively and recruit effectively requires several steps.

1. Prepare a competency-based job spec. Effective pre-cruiting begins with preparing job specifications, including identifying what soft and hard skills are required, for all key positions. Many organizations are beginning to complete job audits, or job analysis, that engage key managers and job holders in identifying these core competencies

“The process was eye-opening,” says Lisa Horst referring to the job analysis conducted in the fall of 2001 by Success Performance Solutions. Horst is the Catalyst for Growth and Development at Rettew Associates, Inc., an engineering and environmental consulting firm headquartered in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Rettew was looking to fill some project manager positions. Thirty to forty people were already employed by Rettew in this key position, says Horst, but one more time she faced the dilemma of finding the right person for the position.

Feedback among the managers following the job analysis was very favorable and the result gave the company a much better idea of what is necessary for success in the project manager position, reports Horst.

2. Pre-identify A Level Candidates. Pre-cruiting never stops. Precruiting is a sustained and consistent effort. This enables a company to have time to search and identify where the top talent is available when they need it.

Many of Hill’s clients have out-sourced their recruiting efforts to her.
Not only can she pre-qualify potential candidates as an objective third-party but she acts as a spokesperson for the company, which includes promoting that company in the labor marketplace.

Hill builds what she calls a “community of qualified applicants”, a candidate database specifically for her clients. Once she pre-sells the company and qualifies a candidate, many times the flood gates open. While recently interviewing an applicant for a high-profile sales position, the candidate recommended several other potential individuals including his sales manager who was only looking for another job. Her most successful sources of highly qualified candidates come from other candidates that she has pre-qualified who just spread the word.

3. A separate applicant assessment process. Apart from the interview process, Hill uses behavioral and personality testing to pre-qualify candidates and enhance the interview. Hill considers herself a good people reader. But despite thousands of interviews and ten years in the business, she relies on the tests to confirm more than her instincts.

She breaks down her qualification process into three steps:

First she tries to disqualify the high-risk and undesirable candidates from the pool. Secondly, she evaluates the potential candidates on the personality qualities and skills described on the job specs provided by the manager. Third, she tries to uncover the fatal flaws that many candidates are so good at covering up….until they are hired.

Hill uses personality tests to help her to confirm her opinions in the disqualification and evaluation steps. But she finds the tests most useful in uncovering the potential flaws before wasting her client’s time and money interviewing job candidates who won’t make it. One client has estimated the savings from her pre-cruitment process in the thousands just by avoiding flying in unqualified or poorly candidate matches for interviews. If she uncovers something that might indicate a poor fit, Hill re-interviews the candidate and re-checks references before making a recommendation.

“Recently one candidate kept coming up with excuses why we couldn’t check his references. Weeks and weeks went by.” According to Hill, the employer was really impressed with his credentials and pressuring to extend an offer anyway. “I just had this bad feeling and the tests suggested a very strong ego as well as a short fuse.” In the end, the tests predicted everything about his behavior. This candidate had lied about completing some paperwork requested by my client, he never submitted his references, and the client was saved from hiring a real con-artist.

Pre-cruitment has also helped Peripherals Plus Technologies Inc. move away from the many traps of reactive hiring, according to Mike Schmelder, Vice-president of consulting services. Working with a pre-cruitment specialist has helped PPT to communicate a consistent and professional message to all candidates, whether or not they are currently hiring, resulting in a pre-qualified database of workers when a position opens.

By the time Hill presents an applicant to her clients like PPT, they are pre-qualified, pre-screened and come with what some might consider ” a user’s guide”, a report complete with how to interview, and if hired how to manage, motivate and even coach the candidate.

Pre-cruitment is a proactive solution for companies that understand the competitive edge in the future will go to companies who have the lowest turnover, lowest vacancy rates and highest productivity.

Ira S. Wolfe is founder of Success Performance Solutions. He is the developer of CriteriaOne™, a blueprint for employee retention and productivity.