Love vs. Victory

With Christmas approaching and New Year’s following shortly, it often seems like everyone’s just gliding through these final days. You know what tends to happen at year-end, right? People start assessing their lives and careers. It’s the classic: “2023 was rough. What am I doing with my life? 2024 is my year! I need a job I love!”

I run a recruiting agency, but my focus isn’t on “love”; it’s on clinching victories and having success. It’s a battleground of winners and losers. Tracking down the top-notch talent usually means they’re already working elsewhere when you spot them. You’ve got to win them over.

When you snag remarkable talent, it’s a win for one organization and a loss for another. It’s a straightforward win-lose situation.

Being an outstanding recruiter is all about a drive to win. Sure, loving this game (and I’m one of those who does) is great, but it’s not the make-or-break factor for success. What matters is the hunger for victory.

The best recruitment firms are consistently on the winning side. They rack up wins at a rate that overshadows their losses, like Stephen Curry hitting threes. Losing should sting, and winning should feel like that unforgettable first kiss.

Love isn’t what decides winning or losing. Some of the toughest rivals I’ve encountered weren’t crazy about what they were doing well; they were just determined to win.

Too often as recruiting leaders we feel we need to find people who love recruiting. All leaders fall into this trap, trying to get their teams to fall in love with the work they do. The belief that ‘love’ will drive great performance. Which might work, but getting someone to ‘love’ work, is really hard, and rare.

Getting someone who only wants to win, that’s much easier to find and feed.

I’m not in the love business; it’s messy and emotional. I’m in the business of winning. It’s clear-cut – it’s either a win or a loss.

HR Meets ChatGPT

Are you tired of the same old HR routines? HR and Talent Acquisition pros across the world are diving headfirst into the realm of ChatGPT. This AI wizard must be able to spice up their strategies, right!? Here are 5 popular prompts that HR and Talent Acquisition are throwing at ChatGPT:

  1. “ChatGPT, is this candidate a real person or a catfish?” HR isn’t meant to be Sherlock Holmes. We’re sick of desperately trying to unmask phony candidates – just tell me if they’re real or not! Expect a wild mix of advice in return, but how else will we know if this candidate is actually some weirdo scam artist living in his mom’s basement?
  2. “Craft a compelling job pitch for this job description!” When faced with the challenge of selling the unsellable—a lackluster job—we to ChatGPT for a miraculous solution. Yeah, it might be for the most boring job ever with a terrible salary, mundane tasks, and awful company culture, but make it irresistible!
  3. “Invent a mascot that represents our company culture!” Introducing “Happy Hootie”! Hootie is a wise owl wearing headphones, adorned with vibrant colors reflecting diversity and inclusivity. Their wings feature a mosaic of interconnected puzzle pieces symbolizing teamwork and collaboration. Hootie’s nest is a cozy library, showcasing our value for learning and knowledge-sharing. With a microphone in one claw and a book in the other, Hootie embodies our culture of harmony, where every voice is heard, and learning is celebrated. This mascot flaps around, spreading the message of unity, knowledge, and harmony throughout our workplace nest!
  4. “Craft a ‘thank you’ email to an applicant using only emojis!” 👋🙏📬📩🙏📝🤝🗣️🔜🌟 … oh sorry, you don’t speak emoji? Translation: Hello! Thank you for applying. We appreciate it! Let’s keep in touch! Talk to you soon. Best wishes.
  5. “ChatGPT, write a job description that makes even a pet rock excited to apply!” No really, that unsellable job description we mentioned earlier, we still need help. Please make this boring ass job description more appealing.
  6. “What do I respond to this candidate to show them that I’m interested, but not that interested, but still interested enough to show my interest?” *Inserts full email chain, with no regard to privacy and copyright laws* Response: I’m just a robot, I have no clue what you’re talking about.

What are my 2024+ predictions for Talent Acquisition?

Predictions, opportunities, dilemmas, hopes, wishes, I’m not sure what we should call this, but I’ve got some ideas floating around about what happens next in our little recruiting world. Most predictions are worthless. I love to consider myself a futurist in our industry, but after doing this for so many years, I don’t think I’ve ever had one prediction actually come true!

So, let’s throw out some ideas for 2024:

  • Video Interviews will become a thing! Just kidding, that would have been an amazing prediction ten years ago. I do think video interviewing technology has another life as we move forward with AI advances. Imagine being able to take a long-form video screen or interview and have AI cut you a highlight real, instantly, to send to a hiring manager. Some will say that this tech can do this now, but it’s not quite right. I want a video screen solution that takes every candidate and breaks down that 10-20 minutes of video screens and gives me their best 90-second commercial on why we should move them forward. Hiring managers will only see this. No application. No resume. Just the candidate commercials.
  • AI that constantly follows up with candidates and hiring managers. When I look back at the top recruiters in my life, the one trait that stands out with all of these people is their ability to follow up better than anyone else on both sides of the recruiting equation. AI can now do this or even act as our assistant to do this activity, but it’s not yet built out to make it that useful. I need the AI to sound and act like me. To follow up in a cadence that is like a real human. To push both sides in a way that seems urgent, and human, and brings me into the loop when it senses a real human touch or voice is needed to get it to the next level.
  • We all know there are now AI application bots candidates are using that help candidates apply to hundreds of jobs at a time. Everyone in the industry sees this as bad because candidates don’t even know what they are applying to. The reality is that ATSs and matching technology will advance to understand these applications are coming from AI and recruiting will use its own AI to combat this. So, we end up with competing AIs. Sounds awful for all involved. What’s the solution? I think it will be “our” AI (recruiters) will be better in determining which AI applications might be a real fit and then do the reach out to the candidate to invite them to “really” apply in another method to check for interest and true match. I’m hopeful our AI wins!
  • “Real” human contact becomes a recruiting luxury. Most organizations will go full automation and I back that and understand that. There’s too much to gain by going full automation. However, some organizations will understand that while the crowd goes down one path, it might be best for their brand and organization to go down another. Maybe the way to separate yourself from the pack, in the future will simply be to be more human to your candidates. To give them real people to talk to. Talent acquisition has always been about trust and relationships. The future of TA is definitely more automation in the right places of your process, but it’s also about being more human in the right places within your process.
  • Remote work is not the answer for most people. Frankly, most workers won’t have the option because their work can never be remote. Also, in 2024, GenZ will overtake Boomers for the first time as a larger percentage of the workforce. We have an epidemic of loneliness in the world. Having people work by themselves most of the day does not help this. Having young people do this is disastrous to our social makeup of society. I’m not saying you don’t offer up flexibility. Young people still want that. But don’t think just because you want to be remote as a Millennial or GenX, that’s the right decision for your entire organization. Humans are social animals. We have been since the beginning of mankind. Pushing everyone to remote work isn’t evolution; it’s just bad for society. Treat them like adults, be flexible, and be robust in building culture.
  • Come see me at SHRM Talent in Las Vegas on April 14-17th. I’ll be keynoting and launching my new book, The Talent Fix, Vol. 2. We can talk shop. Be social. Discuss the future of TA. Basically, we can nerd out on all things talent!

What predictions or ideas do you have about the future of Talent for 2024 and beyond?

Spice Girls Know Best

The Spice Girls have always had it right: “If you want my future, forget my past.”

But not HR. HR remembers everything. Once you’ve made a mistake, it’s hard to expect a clean slate in the future. Mark still holds the title of “top salesperson” despite a dry spell lasting three years. Jessica has the “drama queen” label from an incident 18 months back, even if there’s been no repeat. Once labeled, it sticks.

So, what’s the game plan?

If you screw up, if you sense that label, or if a specific issue has warranted repeated discussions, it’s time to consider a career move to a new organization. Pay attention to the number of discussions—once is a potential oversight, but twice or more likely lands you a Lifetime Label. These labels echo stick. Messed up with a subordinate? You’re forever “that” boss, unless you marry them, and even that comes with its own label. But get divorced? Back to square one.

This idea also extends to positive instances which is a good thing and a bad thing. Remember the manager who transformed a struggling business into a standout? Despite multiple failures in similar roles, their name popped up each time a struggling business nearby needed help. However, their initial success owed much to the team’s efforts. Placed in similar situations with different teams, they failed. Yet, the past clung, painting them as the ultimate “fixer.” HR just can’t forget your past!

The real issue? HR won’t acknowledge this tendency. So, if you truly want to “zig-a-zig-ha” in your career, sometimes, moving on is the only way forward.

Reality check! Your candidate experience is probably fine

Here’s the deal about candidate experience: it’s often pitched like it’s some tangible product, but truth be told, it’s not.

We’ve got these big shots in the industry telling us otherwise. They thrive on advising companies spooked about the fallout from a candidate having a bad experience. But let’s face it, that story’s made up. Sounds necessary, but it’s not.

Here’s how Candidate Experience probably came to be:

  1. Imagine this scenario: an exec’s relative applies for a job online. The system does its thing, rejects the unsuitable candidate, and sends the usual ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’ But here’s the twist!
  2. The exec learns that their bright relative got zero interaction or even a shot at an interview. Cue the family drama.
  3. To save face, the exec lays into the Talent Acquisition head about the treatment of candidates.

And voila! Candidate Experience drama unfolds—all because a relative got snubbed.

The exec, not wanting it to seem personal, drums up other reasons, and everyone just follows suit. “Treat candidates like our customers! Turn them into fans of our brand! Treat them better than ourselves; it’s a talent edge!” We start buying into this spiel, thinking our methods stink. But the fear that a sour candidate will boycott our products? It’s blown out of proportion. Only a tiny fraction think this way—just par for the course in Talent Acquisition.

For most Talent Acquisition leaders, what we’re doing is just fine. We treat candidates like regular humans, communicate whether they fit or not, and it works. Yeah, some of us might have some wonky processes, but we don’t have any huge issues. The biggest fib in HR? Making Candidate Experience out to be a big deal. Candidates aren’t asking for much—they just want to know we received their application and our thoughts on their fit. Treat them like people: a simple ‘thanks, but no thanks’ or ‘we’re interested, here’s what’s next’ does the trick. Be communicative.

It’s not brain surgery; it doesn’t need a ton of time or cash. You don’t have a real problem. I get it, everyone’s telling you otherwise, so it feels real. But trust me, it’s not!

The Quest for Simplicity!

Ever wondered why HR Departments insist on tangled processes? Truth is, we all crave simplicity. But peek into our organizations and complexity rules the roost. The harder we try to simplify, the messier it gets. Surprisingly, the culprit’s closer than you think—it’s you. Yes, YOU. Yup, making things complicated? It’s kind of your thing. Go ahead and pick up that red pencil in the photo and circle “Complicate” instead, you know you want to!

Harvard Business Review dropped some knowledge bombs:

“There are several deep psychological reasons why stopping activities are so hard to do in organizations. First, while people complain about being too busy, they also take a certain amount of satisfaction and pride in being needed at all hours of the day and night. In other words, being busy is a status symbol. In fact a few years ago we asked senior managers in a research organization — all of whom were complaining about being too busy — to voluntarily give up one or two of their committee assignments. Nobody took the bait because being on numerous committees was a source of prestige.

Managers also hesitate to stop things because they don’t want to admit that they are doing low-value or unnecessary work. Particularly at a time of layoffs, high unemployment, and a focus on cost reduction, managers want to believe (and convince others) that what they are doing is absolutely critical and can’t possibly be stopped. So while it’s somewhat easier to identify unnecessary activities that others are doing, it’s risky to volunteer that my own activities aren’t adding value. After all, if I stop doing them, then what would I do?”


Ron Ashkenas. “Why Organizations Are Afraid to Simplify.” March 28, 2013. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2013/03/why-organizations-are-so-afraid-to-simplify

Turns out, people love complaining about being swamped, but secretly, they enjoy it. Being busy is like a gold star.

Managers cling to tasks like lifelines. Admitting something they do is low-value or unnecessary? Terrifying. Especially when job cuts loom large. They’d rather sell the idea that what they do is crucial, even if it isn’t.

Here’s the kicker: you can break this cycle. How? Reward people for axing pointless work. Right now, we hail the overworked, perpetually busy folks like heroes. But let’s not forget the silent achievers—the ones who nail it in half the time. Somewhere down the line, ‘working smarter’ morphed into ‘work smarter and longer.’ Truth is, most folks can’t work smarter, so they pile on hours and glorify every task as vital.

Cracking the Code

In the world of recruiting, most conversations I’ve heard come in coded language. Understanding the true meaning behind these terms can be both revealing and enlightening. Let’s decode a few together:

1. “Offer Pending”

  • What it implies: “I’m preparing to extend an offer.”
  • What it means: “I’m uncertain about the candidate’s willingness to accept, or they haven’t responded yet.”

2. “Professional References”

  • What it implies: “Previous supervisors providing insights about your work.”
  • What it means: “References like your parent’s friend or your old coach don’t cut it. My boss wants your previous boss to tell us how great you are versus your priest telling us how great you are.”

3. “Market Offer

  • What it implies: “Salary based on local industry standards.”
  • What it means: “We didn’t anticipate market changes; here’s what we can afford based on projections from a couple of years ago.”

4. “Excellent Benefits Package

  • What it implies: “Comprehensive benefits covered by us.”
  • What it means: “Similar benefits to others, but ‘Excellent Benefits’ definitely sounds more appealing.”

5. “An “A” Candidate

  • What it implies: “Top-tier talent with impeccable credentials.”
  • What it means: “This is the best person (and only person) we could find to accept your marginal pay rate, crappy location, and iffy company culture.”

6. “Niche Recruiter

  • What it implies: “Specialized in specific skills or industries.”
  • What it means: “You think you need someone who specifically recruits only for what you are looking for. The reality is a great recruiter can find you whoever you need regardless of skill/industry, but it makes you feel better if we tell you we have that specific niche.  So, YES, we are “niche.”

This recruiting jargon effectively masks reality and creates a culture of polite misdirection. We “dance” with each other and tell each other what we want to hear – and we leave with this wonderful false sense of security that everything is fine. Yet, when crucial decisions are at stake, transparency does matter. When in doubt – Speak the truth.

Unlocking Talent Gold: Embracing Hiring Veterans

In HR and talent acquisition, we’re always on the hunt for the ultimate hiring solution. We’re willing to explore almost anything that promises better talent for our organizations. So, it perplexes me that most organizations overlook a massive talent pool – veterans. Let’s dive into why hiring veterans is a game-changer:

Teamwork – The military hones teamwork skills like no other. While a lot of companies find it hard to get their teams to work together, veterans are all about teamwork.

Following & Giving Directions – HR pros always have the best stories of employees struggling with basic instructions. Leadership training discussions are recurrent, focusing on the need for clear direction. Veterans bring an ability to both follow and give concise directives—a skill set sorely needed in organizations.

Pressure Handling and Deadline Management – When someone’s life or safety is at risk, you learn how to work under extreme pressure, which probably pales in comparison to much of the pressure we put on ourselves and our employees in normal work situations.  Regardless, having individuals who can not only handle pressure but thrive under pressure, are skills our organizations need.

Planning and Organization – Military training instills impeccable planning and organizational skills, an area where many employees struggle. Hiring managers often stress the importance of being organized, and veterans are really good at it.

Flexibility and Adaptability – Change is a constant in organizations, and managing it consumes resources. However, veterans excel in adapting to change, drawing from a background where constant adaptation was the norm. Their ability to navigate change smoothly is a skill that organizations desperately need.

So, why the struggle in hiring veterans? It’s not about the veterans but about HR professionals stuck in a rigid mindset. We’ve cultivated a culture fixated on matching every single qualification in a job description, missing out on the potential of great individuals. It’s time to shift from instant gratification to investing in training and nurturing talent within our organizations.

While we are at it, let’s dispel some myths around veterans:

  1. Misconception: Military service is for troublemakers or those not smart enough for college. Reality: For many the military is a strategic choice, not due to a lack of intelligence or options.
  2. Misconception: Veterans are rigid and only understand top-down management. Reality: Today’s veterans are well-versed in soft skills leadership, adaptable to various management styles.
  3. Misconception: There’s no time or resources to train veterans. Reality: Not true – plus haven’t you already had that position open for 6 months? The fact is, this is an organizational choice and you as an HR Pro have the influence to change it. There are many resources out there for organizations to train returning veterans.

We have great men and women who make a personal choice to keep this country great.  As employers and American citizens, we owe these men and women a chance. At HRU Tech, 28.6% of our new hires in 2020 were Veterans. Grab this free eBook, crafted to elevate your Veteran recruitment approach to new heights. They deserve a shot, and this resource can help to make that happen.

Maximizing Employee Referrals: The Key to Hiring Success

Referral hires often stand out as the cream of the crop in any company’s recruitment efforts. It’s a simple equation:

Good Employee + wanting to stay a good employee + employee’s reputation = usually good people they recommend to HR/Recruiting to go after and hire

I’m like Einstein when it comes to HR math! However, here’s the challenge: despite this equation, many companies struggle to receive enough referrals. We’ve analyzed our referral process, fine-tuned collateral materials, and even leveraged technology to automate referrals. Yet, the numbers remain short of our expectations and needs.

There’s a straightforward but often overlooked aspect: giving employees explicit permission to share job openings within their personal and professional networks every time a referral is needed for a specific position.

HR excels in roll-outs—we’re masters at initiating programs. However, where we often stumble is in the continuity of these programs post-roll-out. Brutal truth, but true.

So, how can you ramp up your referral game?

  1. Establish a program (surprisingly, not all companies have one).
  2. When in need of a referral, ask for it every single time. Assuming that employees will naturally share openings isn’t always effective.
  3. Specifically “give permission” to employees to share job openings on their social networks—Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok you name it!

BEST PRACTICE TIP: Create departmental email groups. When a relevant position opens up, send an email to the group with standard referral language and an easily shareable hyperlink along with clear instructions.

Granting “permission” triggers action—it’s a psychological thing, and it works wonders. Think about it, like you were a 5 year old.  Your parents tell you, you can’t ride your Green Machine in the street.  Then, one day, Mom is out getting her nails done and your Dad sees you doing circles in the driveway on that Green Machine and he goes “Hey, why don’t you take that into the street?!”  What do you do?  You immediately take that bad boy for a ride in the street! Dad “gave you permission” and you ran with it!

Referrals aren’t quite the same, but it’s surprising how some employees question whether they’re allowed to share job postings with friends and family. Don’t assume—they might surprise you.

So, empower your employees. Give your employees permission to get you some referrals! Or what if you allowed anyone in your company to hire?

The Role of HR as Coaches

There’s an article by Atul Gawande in The New Yorker discussing the importance of “Coaching.” Gawande, a writer and surgeon, talked about coaches as not just teachers but as observers, judges, and guides. From the article:

The concept of a coach is slippery. Coaches are not teachers, but they teach. They’re not your boss—in professional tennis, golf, and skating, the athlete hires and fires the coach—but they can be bossy. They don’t even have to be good at the sport. The famous Olympic gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi couldn’t do a split if his life depended on it. Mainly, they observe, they judge, and they guide.

Gawande, A. (2011, October 3). Personal Best. The New Yorker.

In my HR role, I’ve always believed that HR can act as coaches across our organizations. But there’s often pushback, like “You can’t coach me in Marketing, Operations, or Accounting.” Exactly—I’m not here to teach you those things; I hired you for that. Building a coaching culture starts with hiring people open to being coached.

More from the article:

Good coaches know how to break down performance into its critical individual components. In sports, coaches focus on mechanics, conditioning, and strategy, and have ways to break each of those down, in turn. The U.C.L.A. basketball coach John Wooden, at the first squad meeting each season, even had his players practice putting their socks on. He demonstrated just how to do it: he carefully rolled each sock over his toes, up his foot, around the heel, and pulled it up snug, then went back to his toes and smoothed out the material along the sock’s length, making sure there were no wrinkles or creases. He had two purposes in doing this. First, wrinkles cause blisters. Blisters cost games. Second, he wanted his players to learn how crucial seemingly trivial details could be. “Details create success” was the creed of a coach who won ten N.C.A.A. men’s basketball championships.

Gawande, A. (2011, October 3). Personal Best. The New Yorker.

In working with adult professionals, coaching isn’t about teaching new stuff but helping them analyze and improve what they already do well. Instead of fixating on weaknesses, HR can help make employees’ strengths even stronger.

Coaching has become popular lately, with various types like leadership or life coaching. But coaching for professionals is less common. I believe in HR professionals acting as more hands-on coaches, working daily to improve skills that directly impact the business, not focusing on personal challenges.

One big challenge for HR transitioning into coaching roles is that many employees lack self-awareness, just like us! A great coach helps someone see things in themselves they didn’t notice before.

If HR can build this self-awareness in organizations, it could lead to some amazing changes.