Are You Recruiting “Out of System?”

My wife is a former college volleyball player (I met her when I was the student assistant on the team, there has to be an HR story in there somewhere!), and this week the NCAA is having their national championship “Covid” D1 volleyball tournament in Omaha, NE. Needless to say, we’ve been watching a bunch of volleyball.

ESPN has been carrying the entire tournament on their network of stations (Hello, Ocho!), but unlike the Men and Women’s NCAA basketball tournament, all the announcers have been calling the game from home, which is a bit different. One of the things that one of the announcers keeps saying is “Out of System”. It’s a newer term being used in volleyball.

Basically, for volleyball, you are “in” system if you follow the normal strategy, bump, set, spike. Meaning everything went as planned. You are “out of system” when things don’t go as planned. When a team has to scramble to get the ball over the net. Maybe the first pass was bad, so now you do another pass, and then someone sets the ball over. You are now “out of system”.

Do you allow “out of system” recruiting?

You have a recruiting process. You have worked so hard to get everyone in your organization to follow “the” recruiting process. Why? Because if we have a recruiting process, we can become more efficient, more effective, scale easier, etc. The reality is, you want to be “in system” when you’re recruiting for your organization.

You are “out of system” in recruiting when you start allowing things to happen that don’t follow your process. Hiring managers hate following your process! Ironically, they also hate when someone doesn’t follow their operational process, but I digress!

What does “out of system” recruiting look like?

  • The hiring manager hires someone for their team without an approved requisition or without your team knowing. “Calm down, Tim, the CEO said I could!”
  • When a hiring manager decides to use an outside recruiting agency to fill their requisition but didn’t tell you, ask you for permission, or even get a signed contract.
  • When a hiring manager, or an executive, “walk” down a resume to you and tell you to ‘hire’ this person. Without an interview. Without assessments or screening.
  • When a hiring manager requests a one-time process change for an applicant, a requisition, or just for their department/location. “Look, Tim, I want to follow your process, but we have some critical timing to meet here, so we need to bend some rules.”

Is recruiting out of system really that big of a deal? If you are hiring a few people a year, probably not. But the bigger you get, the more people you hire, out of system recruiting can wreck your department, and your career!

The reality is we create, fine-tune, and follow a recruiting process because we need to continually find the best way to hire good hires in a repeatable fashion. Notice I didn’t say “great” hires. Great hires are like rainbows, you never know when you’re going to get one, but I can almost always tell you when normal stuff is going to happen (i.e., rain) with current technology.

Consistency and repeatability are the cornerstones of great TA leadership. If you are recruiting within your system, you should be able to have hiring managers that know what to expect and that they can rely upon you and your team to produce. Out of system recruiting is the first sign you’ve got some HMs that don’t trust you or believe your team can get the job done.

By the way, your ability to recruit out of system is also a valuable skill to have! I want to follow the process and make it repeatable, but when I’m pushed beyond our capability for whatever reason, my ability to scramble and get the job done also shows great leadership.

The key being, I, the TA leader, decided when we needed to go out of system, not a hiring manager who is just worried about her own needs. My ability to know the best way to go out of system, and understand how we’ll get back to in system should be a decision made by those who created it.

I find that many TA departments are running out of system on a daily basis. We had a process/system, but it was hard to maintain and eventually we just became comfortable with chaos. You’ll never be great at recruiting if you don’t have a system that is repeatable. The first step to a great system is knowing you won’t allow out-of-system hiring!

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