Rapid Ramp-Ups

© 2005 Johanna Rothman.

Sometimes there's no time to use the usual hiring process. When you're in a crunch, you need new thinking.

Imagine this scenario: you've just discovered there's a high-risk/high-return project. It won't take long, but it will take people you don't have right now. Is there a way to hire people to do this work — but more quickly than you've ever hired before?

Yes. But the way you hire here has to be different than the ways you've hired before.

First, think about hiring as a project, with a beginning, middle, and an end. In the beginning, you'll do all the preparatory work so you can perform the interviewing in the middle, and at the end you'll check references and extend the offer. Here's one way it might work.

When I'm under time pressure to hire people, the first thing I do is spend 15-20 minutes on a job analysis. I block off time for the job analysis, assuming that the first few things I think about are the most important. (If you've never done a job analysis, give yourself an hour to think about it, not just 20 minutes.) And I don't start with what this person will do in the job. Instead, I start with how the person will work: with whom the person will work, how much management, the variety of roles this person will play. To continue our example, imagine you want to hire a project manager for this high-risk project. I'd write down the project team already in place, the potential roles to hire in addition to the project manager, and any challenges to working with these people.

Then, I write down the activities and deliverables associated with the project management role. In the case of a high-risk project, I might want to monitor the project myself more closely than others. If so, I'm going to search for a PM who knows how to measure different aspects of the project and what the measurements mean. I'll proceed with as much of the job analysis as I have time for.

Now I'll bring in the HR folks. I'll hand off my job analysis and ask them to write a job description and an ad. I'll depend on them to post the ad online and in print, where our demographic audience is likely to look. And, for a senior technical person or a project manager, or manager, I'll use an external recruiter. I've worked with recruiters by myself and through HR. You decide how to work with them — make sure that whomever chooses the recruiter and signs the contract understands where this recruiter's strengths lie and under what circumstances the recruiter will be paid and how much.

As I wait for resumes, I'll develop the phone screen script (about 20-30 minutes). In the course of developing the phone screen, I may realize I have to change something in the job analysis, so I let all relevant people know.

If I have great HR people or a great recruiter, I'll start receiving resumes within 24 hours. I make it a point to screen resumes within 24 hours of receiving them, determining who I will phone screen, who I'll reject, and who I might phone screen later. I respond to the HR folks or the recruiter with why I'm rejecting specific candidates, and start phone-screening the candidates who seem reasonable.

Some of you are probably saying, “How can you possible screen the resumes that fast?” The reason to use a knowledgeable HR person or a recruiter to help you screen resumes is that you will receive many fewer resumes for the position. It's possible that for this project management position, I'd only receive 10-20 resumes a day. It takes me a minute or less to review a resume and decide whether I want to phone-screen that candidate. And, because I don't phone screen everyone, it only takes me an hour or so a day to phone screen candidates.

While I'm waiting for the resumes to arrive, I work with my primary interviewing team (three-five other people) to set aside time in each of their schedules over the next couple of weeks to interview people. If I'm overloaded, I ask an administrative assistant to do this instead. I'll also line up the secondary interview team (another four-five people) who will interview the candidate for a second interview.

I meet with the entire interview team, and discuss who will ask questions in which area, and who will run the audition. Once we all know our parts, we're ready for our individual interviews.

So, it's now been two days since I first started looking for this candidate. I've spent time on the job analysis, developing a phone screen, and phone-screening candidates. Because the other interviewers have made time in their schedules already, I'm ready to interview a candidate. I'm expecting to continue my phone-screening work each day until we find a candidate we want to make an offer.

Each person on he interview team will interview each candidate for a 45-minute time slot. If I'm really rushed, I'll arrange with the candidate to sit with an HR person at the end of the interview, while the entire interview team and I evaluate the candidate. If necessary, we'll make a same-day offer, contingent on reference checking.

If I don't need to make a same-day offer, the last interviewer will escort the candidate out and then join the rest of us for a 15-minute standup meeting to evaluate the candidate. We decide then and there if we want to pursue this candidate or end the interviewing. If we want to pursue the candidate, I ask either HR or an administrator to arrange an interview with the secondary interview team.

At the time of a secondary interview, I ask the candidate for his or her references. I start checking references while the secondary interview team meets with the candidate. By the time the secondary interview team gathers in my office to evaluate the candidate, I generally have at least one reference checked. After making sure the candidate is someone we want to offer a position to, I'll check the rest of the references, within a 24-hour period.

I work with HR to draft an offer as soon as I know we want to make an offer, even while I'm checking references. I aim to finish checking references within 24 hours, and to have the offer ready then. Candidates who receive offers within a day of their last interview are impressed by our speed.

Then all I need to do is negotiate the first day. Voila! If I find candidates early, it's possible to spend less than a week hiring someone. It does depend on your support from within the company, but it is possible.

Hiring quickly isn't the only answer to ramping up quickly. Once you've hired quickly, you need to integrate the person quickly, and that will be the topic of my next column.

Like this article? See the other articles. Or, look at my workshops, so you can see how to use advice like this where you work.

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