21st Century Staffing Innovators
Talent leverages everything.

21st Century Staffing Innovators


  Key to Recruiting Success


Individual Staffing Assignments: Two Case Histories
willshed.com - an enterprise start up
Tiger Products Inc - a high skill recruitment for an established firm


CASE ONE: willsched.com 's Start-up Recruiting Needs

willsched's mission in life

A new venture capital financed start-up, willsched.com's mission in life is to change the way that we all share calendar information via the Internet. Bill Jeffries, the CEO, has just been formally hired. He has been involved in the effort to find the capital for some months. The other main player in the venture is Suzique Masmad, the Chief Technology Officer. She is the developer of willsched.com's new approach to Internet calendaring. At the moment, she is the only other person on willsched's staff.

Bill and Suzique: willsched's founders

Bill approaches Nanita Jofe, one of 21st Century's senior recruiters. They have worked together in the past. Bill tells Nanita that he needs recruiting help. They arrange to meet. Suzique joins them.

Nanita quickly gets a sense of where they are. Bill has worked in large organizations and start ups before. He understands the need for structure. At the same time, he does not want to make things so rigid at willsched that they do not have the ability to grow properly, and flex with the inevitable changes they will need as they move to market.

Early days

Suzique needs programming talent. She is a "super programmer" herself, and does not have much staff management experience. She has worked as an applications architect and senior programmer in a couple of very innovative small software companies. It was through these connections that she met Bill. He is a serial software entrepreneur, who had enough money of his own to partly fund the needed seed capital. Bill got excited about her idea. Through his connections, he found the rest of the seed capital needed to allow her to produce a first prototype of the product. She used friends as "software contractors" to do this. She was careful not to make any permanent commitments, and now wants to put a younger team together that will stay for the duration.

While Suzique was building the prototype, Bill wrote willsched's business plan. He identified two people who were willing to join willsched as CFO and head of marketing. He has worked with both before.

Bill pitched his business plan to his contacts in the local venture capital community. He did not get much traction until the prototype started to come together. However, once he could show a version of it, he quickly found first round funding.

I need a CFO

Unfortunately, the person Bill wants as CFO is no longer available. He needs a CFO right now, one who can roll up his sleeves and do, but grow as the company grows and become the Chief Admin Officer. That means that the right person be able to set up and manager HR and purchasing processes, as well as financial management and accounting ones. Like all start-ups,managing cash flow will be key to survival until product revenues are real.The new CFO must do what needs to be done in a way that is super lean at first, but still capable of up scaling as the company grows.

And we need software engineers

The person who Bills want to hire as the marketing lead will wait until there is something real to sell. Bill is not too concerned about filling that position right now. Suzique must turn the prototype into a marketable product within 6 months. She knows she needs staff, not friends. But she has little hiring experience. Bill intends to be deeply involved in recruiting these these software folks. It must happen in a hurry. That is why he has contacted Nanita.

21st Century Staffing Innovator's Response

Hiring for both performance capability and culture fit

Nanita, talking briefly about 21st Century's focus on always recruiting to both performance and culture fit, starts to ask Bill and Suzique about what kind of culture they intend to create at willsched. They are a little taken back. Nanita explains why this is s need. In her experience, the first 6 to 10 hires at a start-up implicitly define the culture for a considerable period. Often, start-up leaders are so concerned about getting something done, that they focus completely on hiring for ability. They want the best performers they can get.

Creating culture in start-ups

However, if these folks' personal values about organizational life are misaligned, a fair amount of the early energy in the company goes towards sorting these differences out. The way to avoid this is to explicitly think about the nature of the culture they intend to create. Then they can hire people who both have the needed performance skills, and whose personal values align with the intended culture. Nanita suggests that in a day or so, they spend the best part of an afternoon going participating in an organizational culture and values clarification session. She will one of the founders of 21st Century to facilitate this. He has had experience do this before, both as a CEO and as a consultant to others starting up organizations. She will brief him before hand. This makes sense to Bill. He agrees.

Making the job concrete

Nanita moves on. The CFO hire is crucial. It needs to happen sooner rather than later. She asks Bill if she can spend an hour or so right after this meeting working with him to understand his vision of this role. She wants to focus on job performance metrics. She wants to have insight into the 4 to 7 concrete measures that Bill will use to evaluate this person's performance in the 1st 3 months on the job. Based on these, she also then want to understand the ones for months 4 to 12.

Bill gets what she is after. These performance measures will concretely clarify and prioritize what he wants done by the person in the CFO role. It will also clearly send the message, lean at first, but capable of growing with the company as it grows. Candidates who "get this" will talk explicitly about how they will make this happen. Candidates who do not will "push" against this, indicating that they may not have the experience and personal flexibly to do well in a fast growing start-up.

Nanita tells Bill she will write her understanding of the role and metrics into a short performance map and a network opportunity note. She will do this tomorrow. They will give Bill a chance to verify her understanding of the CFO role, and its evolution to the CAO role. The network opportunity will be used will be used to kick start the networking portion of the search process for this person. Once Bill has agreed to it, it will go out to the CFO related and other relevant network contacts that 21st Century maintains.

Turning a technical vision into specific roles

Suzique is somewhat impatient while this dialogue is occurring. Nanita now turns to her. She asks Suzique if she can share her vision of the technical and software development environment that she intends to build to develop the marketable product. Suzique enthusiastically describes her sense of both the hardware and software she will need. Nanita watches both Bill's and Suzique's non-verbals as Suzique talks with tremendous energy for about 5 minutes. At the end of her verbal run, Bill talks about the need to preserve cash by using "pay as you use" approaches to hardware acquisition, rather than purchase. He sees this as a cash flow management technique. He says that is why he wants the CFO so badly. He wants to allow Suzique to concentrate on development, not having to worry about the acquisition side of these things.

Nanita then asks Suzique what skills and talents she needs immediately. Suzique talks rapidly for about 5 minutes. What Nanita gets from this is that she wants people who were "like the friends" she worked with, but younger and more likely to be committed to her team over a longer period of time. Nanita concludes that Suzique wants people as skilled and experiences as her friends, but more likely to defer to Suzique as the "boss". Suzique will need to be indirectly coached in in sorting the work that she needs to do into appropriate roles. Nanita senses that this is why Bill wants to be involved in this recruiting.

Start-ups often hire in "bursts"

Nanita turns to Bill and asks if she can both summarize and lay out the beginnings of an approach. She starts by remarking that in her experience start-ups go through "burst" hiring phases. They crucially need talent. They find some people. Then they settle in to integrate these new hires. It takes a while before they move onto the next "burst" hiring phase. Bill smiles. He obviously recognizes this as an accurate reflection of his past experience.

Treat us as your recruiting arm

Nanita reviews 21st Century standard practices: - time based billing, modification of standard project work templates for each hire underway, networked outreach to find individuals in the hidden candidate pool, behavior based final candidate evaluation. She suggests that willsched consider engaging 21st Century as their recruiting arm, at least for the next 3 to 6 months. They do not need to decide this right away. Rather they can consider this once the CFO and the first of the hires for Suzique are complete. If they do so at that point, they will be able to access 21st Century's progressive discount schedule, which is based on total hours billed.

Let's get going

Nanita indicates that she will be the overall lead on willsched's recruiting. She will immediately start the CFO search. She would like to bring Mercedes (Merdy) Lansing in to handle Suzique's recruiting. Merdy has deep experience with hiring agile and other software developers. Merdy and Nanita come to the last part of the culture clarification session. They need this insight to manage the culture fit dimension of the hires.

She concludes by committing to summarizing all of this in a proposal letter. She will bring it to the meeting on culture. Bill asks if Nanita still wants to meet now about the CFO. Nanita says yes. She turns to Suzique and asks if it all right to get Merdy in to meet with her as early as tomorrow. Suzique can get a chance to meet her, and decide if she is comfortable working with her. Suzique give Nanita her e-mail address and cell phone number. Nanita says that she will have Merdy call Suzique either later today or early tomorrow morning to set up the meeting. Suzique thanks her and leaves. Bill and Nanita turn to the CFO role.

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CASE TWO: Tiger Products Inc. Hiring High Performance Staff

The impact of bad hires

Monique Hendroid was deeply perturbed. As the head of Tiger Inc. Design Engineering group, she knew she was in trouble. Her HR group recently scoured 3 new design engineers and 2 software engineers for her. She had hired them after interviews with double that number candidates. After three months, it was clear that only 1 of the design engineers was a good fit to her group. The second design engineer got along with people, but not really the strong performer she needed. Everyone in the group liked her. The last one design engineer hire clearly had the skills, but could not get along with anyone in her group. The guy just did not know the meaning of the word "team work".

The story was similar with the software engineers. One was simply under skilled. She had misread his abilities during her interview with him. She remembered how well the conversation between them had gone with chagrin, almost with shame. Now it was clear that he could not do the job. The second software engineer hire got along well with everyone in the software group, had the required technical skills, but did not have the drive and the energy that needed to get the work done. Monique had come to the conclusion that he just liked getting along with people more then he liked doing any real work. In her head, she kept telling herself "He is just a social butterfly."

What went wrong

Monique scored herself 1 of 5 on her last hiring round. Not exactly a passing grade. She wanted to blame HR. But her sense of integrity as a engineer kept her from doing so. They had sourced the candidates. But she had done the interviewing. She had decided on who to hire. She tried to tell herself that this was the first time she had full responsibility for hiring. But deep down, she knew this was just was an excuse. She had simply not interviewed effectively. That needed to change.

Addressing the problem

This situation was having a terrible impact her group's ability ability to meet delivery target dates. She needed to address the issue. She fully intended to deal with all four individuals before their probation period came to an end. For that, she needed her boss's support . She decided that she better "fall on her sword" now with her boss, Ezrine, and come clean about these her "bad" hires. She had learned it was better to face up to problems with Ezrine. Ezrine would help you if you took responsibility, and crucify you if you did not.

Ezrine was not exactly sympathetic. However, she did offer help. She suggested that Monique talk with Winston, the head of recruiting to see if there was a better way to handle the next round of hiring. In the meantime, Ezrine agreed to call Irena, the head of HR. . Ezrine would tell her that she agreed with Monique's decision to let the 4 under-performing folks go before their probation period came to an end.

Not much help from recruiting

Winston, the head of recruiting, was both sympathetic and unhelpful. He had just lost his senior recruiter. She had taken a job at another firm. His remaining recruiters had a full work load at the moment. They could not really deliver a new candidate short list covering 2 design engineers and 2 software engineers candidates as quickly as Monique needed them. Winston agreed to having a recruiter load the same job ads as the ones they used the last time on their Internet job boards. This recruiter will monitor the resume response. run the same key word analysis as as the last time, and forward the sorted resumes to Monique.

This will not work

Discouraged, Monique caught Ezrine in her office one night they were both working late. She told Ezrine that she thought that Winston's approach would not work. The last time, the HR recruiters had done preliminary interviews and presented her with a short list of qualified candidates. They had also done all of the support and administration work needed to bring the people that Monique wanted to hire on board.

Monique accepted that Winston has problems, and could not really do more. But this approach was not to solve the delivery problems in any significant way. Ezrine agreed. She focused on the first issue, budget. Letting the 4 under performers go now would create some slack in the salary budget for the rest of the year. Ezrine also had some other budget under-runs she could divert to this issue. She suggested that they look at bring in a recruiting firm She would breach the idea with the Irena at a meeting they were scheduled to have first thing in the morning.

Let's get going

Ezrine asked Monique to stay behind at the end of a meeting reviewing the design group's target delivery dates. It has not been a great meeting.The representatives from marketing and manufacturing were making unhappy noises about the potential slowdowns.

Ezrine's report on her meeting with Irena was upbeat. Irena had been looking for an opportunity to work a recruiting firm called 21st Century Staffing Innovators. She had directed Ezrine to their web site. Irena had agreed that she would pay for part of the cost of using them, if Ezrine and Monique decided to use them. Irena also wanted Winston involved if they moved ahead. Irena hoped to see some skill transfer happen to Winstow's group. Her exit interview with Winston's departing senior recruiter had raised some concerns. The departing recruiter had left to go to a firm which into network recruiting and behavior based candidate assessment. Ironically, this company started to use these techniques after they had engaged 21st Century to do some recruiting for them.

It's a possibility

Monique surfed to the 21st Century web site. Among other things, she discovered their E-learning programs on hiring and interviewing techniques. She bought the first one. Working through it that night at home gave her some insight into what had gone wrong in her previous hiring interviews. She was ready to find out more about 21st Century.

Meeting with 21st Century Staffing Innovators (21CSI)

Monique, Irena and Ezrine met with Shelley Kapstery, a lead recruiter at 21st Century. Shelley focused on engineering and IT professionals. She took them through them through 21CSI's approach to recruiting. Rather than repeat what wa on their web site, she walked them through on an example. She told them that was based on the way that 21CSI normally handled professional recruiting, not on any one specific client case.

Monique had lots of questions about the process. Ezrine was concerned about cost. Shelley responded 21st Century billed on actual hours utilized, rather than on a contingency or retainer basis. 21CSI's hourly rates were set to include the cost of all support materials and services. Irena want to make sure they would not ignore the posting on the Web job boards to which Winston's staff had already committed. Shelley indicated that this would be no problem. She understood that Winston was to be involved involved in the whole process. By the end of the meeting, Monique was ready to sign up.

O.k. to go ahead

Next morning, Ezrine informed Monique that Irena and she had agreed to go ahead with 21st Century for all four replacement recruitments. There were two conditions. First, Monique needed to invest time in this process, making it her top priority. Monique agreed enthusiastically. Second, Monique was to manage both cost and progress carefully. Ezrine and Irena had a cost sharing agreement. But Monique would have to stay on top of the biweekly invoices. She needed to get work estimates and manage the time based cost actuals against the estimates much like she would any other project. Ezrine and Irena want to to hold short biweekly progress review meetings, at which Monique report on progress to and cost. Monique's time tracking was to extend to her own time and the time of any one else who got involved in this recruitment activity.

At the end, both Irena and Ezrine wanted to do a post completion review. Irena wanted to understand the implications, if any, of what they had learned for Tiger's internal recruiting processes. Ezrine wanted to avoid a repeat of the previous "bad" hiring experience.

Finally, Ezrine reminded Monique to involve Winston in the process. She cautioned Monique to not let him slow down the recruiting. Irena had all ready talked with him. She had clarified his role. He was to observe and to look for improvements they could make to Tiger's recruiting processes. 21st Century was to treat Monique as the hiring manager, the client to be satisfied, just as his recruiting group would if the work was being done in house.

21st Century Staffing Innovator's Activity

Getting started right away

Shelley sent e-mails to Monique and Winston wanting to get started asap. Monique agreed to meet at 10AM the next morning. Shelley had requested a 2 hour time block. Winston would attend, but had to drop in and out, since he had other things he needed to do during that time. He did not want to slow things down.

When Shelley arrived at Tiger's offices, she was accompanied by Dick Irusha. She introduced him as the recruiting coordinator who would be working with her. Dick would be setting up the Internet working environment that they would share document and resumes. He would act as a project administrator / recruiting coordinator / meeting scheduler. Shelley summarized his role as "Keeping everyone connected - me, Monique, Winston, candidates and himself - and in the loop all of the time, every time".

Diving in

Shelley started by taking Monique and Winston (who joined them shortly after they started) through 21st Century's standard project template for a professional hire. She stated that her objective for doing this was two fold. First, she want everyone involved to be onto the same page about the anticipated sequence of events. Second, she needed to collect the information that Dick would need to modify the template for this specific set of recruitments. That could mean adding or taking away activities.

Once they had gone through the template. Shelley facilitated a discussion that lasted for the next hour and a half. By the time they were through, Monique and Shelley had agreed to the following. Monique was reassured, even though she realized that some of the work that was to follow was not work that she normally thought of as part of recruiting.

What happens next

  1. Shelley will send Monique 21CSI's standard confidentiality agreement via e-mail, binding 21st Century to it. Based on this, Shelley and Dick could then have access to useful internal Tiger documents. Monique would send Shelley Tiger's standard non-disclosure agreement. Monique and Shelley agreed that this e-mail exchange will serve to establish the confidentiality / non-disclosure intent between the two firms. They both know that it will take would take some time to get documents through the internal approval process. They just want to get moving in the meantime.

  2. 21CSI's standard professional role project template will be modified to deal with the two recruiting streams - design engineer - 2 positions; software engineers - 2 positions. Dick is to circulate the results by e-mail tomorrow. He is to include access directions to the private Internet workspace he would use for document exchange with this update.

  3. Shelley and Monique agreed that they will find at least 8 short list and 5 final candidates for each stream, planning to hire two individuals from each set. Winston, who had to leave at this point, agreed to get Shelley Tiger's compensation and bonus structure information for each job stream. He will also forward information on Tiger's approach to benefits.

  4. Since there were no current job descriptions for these roles, Shelley will meet tomorrow with Monique to interview her about the roles. She will then draft the performance map for each. As well, she will prepare the 1 paragraph network opportunity announcement that will be used as part of the network search for candidates. Shelley will have these drafts to Monique on the day after next.

  5. Monique will start to think about appropriate 3, 6 and 12 job performance metrics overnight - 4 to 7 for each role. Dick will e-mail her some generic examples for similar roles as soon as he got back to the 21CSI.

  6. Monique will get one of her current design engineers to send Dick a description of the technical environment in which they worked (hardware and software). She will do the same for the software engineers.

  7. Winston will arrange for one of his recruiters to connect with Dick about posting the jobs on the Internet job boards that Tiger normally used. Dick and this recruiter will work out the details of the key word reviews, and appropriate resume forwarding to 21CSI.

  8. Once Monique has reviewed the position profiles and the networking announcements, 21CSI will start the network part of the recruiting. Monique agreed that Tiger will be identified in these announcements, since it will be on the Internet job boards. 21CSI will use its network of people related to these two role. The intent of these is to get the word out to individuals in the hidden candidate pool - people who are currently employed and not actively looking until someone in their personal network contact them and said "Hey, I think that this might interest you."

  9. Once the position profiles were complete, Winston will forward them to the Tiger HR folks who maintained current job descriptions, so that they could be used in their normal process.

  10. As soon as the Internet job board postings and network search were in place, Shelley will get together with Monique to do a competency card sort for each position. Focused on the "non technical" skills, this will identity the top 10 or so personal and interpersonal competencies required for each position.

  11. Shelley will prepare a set of an initial candidate selection filters based on the performance map, technical environments and competency profiles. These will be in the form of short mini-cases. Essentially, they will ask candidates "what would you do in this situation". Monique will review them for relevance and accuracy. Once finalized, they will the basis for winnowing relevant resumes to down to the short list for each position. People with promising resumes will be contacted by phone or Skype. Shelley will get them to respond to 2 or 3 of these cases. These initial interview last about 15 to 30 minutes.

  12. As soon as Shelley has 5 to 7 initial short list candidates for a recruiting stream, Shelley and Monique will meet. Shelley will take Monique through these resumes, as the results of her "what would you do in this situation" conversations. The objective of this initial review is to make sure that Shelley and Dick were focused on the type of candidates that Monique considered "good candidates". Monique will short these resumes into a "I like best - to - I like worst" order in this meeting.

  13. Based on this,Shelley will make any changes to the "what would do in this situation" filters she is using. Dick will starting arranging face-to-face meetings for the strongest short list candidates. Shelley will spend about an hour with the candidates. About 20 minutes of this meeting will be spent on "selling the opportunity". Another 30 minutes will be spend on some of the "what would you do in this situation" cases. This time Shelley has the ability to probe in more depth. The remaining time will be used to make sure that there is a "compensation expectations" overlap.

  14. At end of each short list candidate meeting, Shelley will fill out two rating sheets that she has prepared for this recruitment. Each contains 5 to 7 rating factors. The first deals with "How I think that this candidate will perform on-the-job?". The second covers "How I think that this candidate will fit into work group and Tiger's culture?"

  15. As more promising resumes came in, Shelley will keep updating the short lists through telephone / Skype interviews.

  16. While this is happening, Monique will think through two problems that her people in each role have to deal with in the normal course of their day-to-day job. These problems need to be more substantial that the "what would you do in this situation" mini-cases. One will be "self work" and the other will be "group work". Monique will talk them through Shelley. Shelley will finalize each in one page handout. These will the basis for evaluating final candidates.

  17. Once Shelley had 8 to 10 strong interviewed short list candidates for a stream, she will meet with Monique to review them. They will look at the resumes, Shelley' rating sheets, and any notes she has on the individuals. Monique will rank order them from top to bottom.

  18. Dick will start making arrangements for the top five to go onto the final candidate stage. Shelley will contact each one, inform the individual that they are moving onto the next stage, and brief them on the presentation they are to prepare. They are to be prepared to talk to a group consisting of Monique (their eventual boss) and 3 to 5 peers (people who they will be working with). The first 10 minutes will focus on how the candidate will approach the "self-work" problem. The second 10 minutes, the candidate will talk about how "I" would approach the "group work" problem. This will be followed by a discussion with the group, very similar to a normal group problem solving meeting. It will last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. Shelley will be present to "facilitate" the meeting.

  19. Monique is to pick who on her staff she wants to be present at these meetings. Once she had done so, Dick will arrange a telephone conference call in which Shelley will brief everyone on what to expect and how to interact with the candidate. During the conference call, Shelley takes them through the two rating sheets they will be asked to complete at the end of each session with a final candidate. Shelley stresses how important it is that these be done right after the meeting, before they talk to one another about their impressions of the candidate. That can happen as soon as the rating sheets are complete.

  20. Dick will schedule these meetings between this group and the final candidates. He will do his best to schedule them one after another. Normally, they can do three of these meetings on a day. This allows time in between each meeting. It is the least disruptive way of scheduling them.

  21. Dick will take all of rating sheets for each candidate, and summarize them on a single form. He will use a "initial coding" scheme (e.g. B for Monique, P for work peer, R for Shelley ... ...), so that the spreads in the ratings are obvious.

  22. Shelley and Monique would meet to review the results, and rank order the final candidates from best fit to worst.

  23. Dick will set up the final meetings for the top candidates with Monique in their rank order sequence. Once she is through with a meeting, she will decide if she wants to make a offer to this person or not.

  24. While this happening, Dick will connect with Winston to ensure that the offer letters, follow up, and on-boarding actions are scheduled for final candidates that accept the offers.

Do you think it will go well

In her first review meeting with Irena and Ezrine, Monique reported on what has been agreed. At the end, Irena asked Monique about how she felt about things so far. Monique responded that it was quite different from the last round of recruiting. However, she was finding that she was now very clear about what she was looking for in candidates. Based on the work she had done with Shelley so far, she already knew that she would have never hired the 4 under-performers if she had gone through this process previously. She thought that 21CSI's emphasis on both performance (based on the job performance metrics) and culture fit (based on the independent predictions of people who had interacted with the final candidates about work related content) will be critical to hiring the right people this time. All three found that conclusion deeply reassuring.


With the inevitable fits and starts that come with coordinating a number of people with independent schedules, the recruitments proceeded. By their end, Monique had hired 4 new people. All got through the 3 month probation review easily. By the end of their first year, 3 of the 4 received solid performance ratings, and 1 person was rated as a high potential outstanding.

Monique never hired on the basis of simple face to face interviews again. She always included "what would you do in this situation" presentations to a group of 3 to 5 potential peers in her staff selection process. She also attended a number of the other 21CSI E-learning and Face-to-Face professional development programs for hiring managers.

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