This is a true story about my first recruiting lesson. You might find it useful if you want to hire more young professionals.
My first management job (in the early 1970s) was as manager of capital planning for Rockwell International's Automotive Products Group located in the Detroit area. This was a billion-dollar business with plants located around the United States, Europe, Australia, and South America. I was green and had never hired or interviewed anyone before.
On the third day on the job, my boss, Chuck Jacob, the controller, called up around 9 a.m. from the University of Michigan where he was interviewing MBA students. Over 20 people had signed up to be interviewed, and Chuck needed me there to help. We had to hire six new financial analysts to work in the financial planning and budgeting department, so these were critical hires for us.
I sat in for one 30-minute interview with Chuck at 11 a.m. to learn the basics of interviewing, and then interviewed eight more students later that day on my own. What transpired that day and in the next few weeks provided some useful lessons on how to hire top young professionals.
Here's what my first 30-minute hiring lesson was like:
After asking the candidate a few questions about major accomplishments for about 15 minutes, Chuck grabbed a piece of blank paper and said, "Time is your most critical asset. You must use it wisely. How well you manage the first 10 years of your career will determine how successful you ultimately will be." He then went on to draw a graph. (As you follow along below, you might want to draw a similar graph. You'll be able to use this the next time you're interviewing any young professional who has multiple hot opportunities.)
Chuck labeled the horizontal axis "time in years" and the vertical axis "learning, impact, and growth." He broke the time scale up into rough increments from zero to 10 years. He then went on to draw a learning curve that was steep at the beginning for the first year or two and then flattened off. Chuck said that this curve represents the growth curve of most MBAs right out of school. In the first year or so, there's a great deal of learning going on, but after this, growth slows down. After a few years of this flatter growth, some people either get promoted or move on to something more challenging.
He then drew another learning curve on top of the first curve around the three- to four-year mark on the graph. He repeated the part about how people have one to two years of rapid growth with a quick fall off, and then after another two to three more years, people start looking for something else to do.
Looking at the graph, Chuck went on to say that for most people during the first six to eight years of their careers, they generally only obtain two to three years of really high-impact experience. He then said that the key to career success is to maximize your learning by jumping onto another high-impact growth curve as soon as the first curve starts slowing down. Then, you'll need to repeat this pattern over and over again.
If you do this two to three times in any four- to six-year period, you'll gain 10 years or more of equivalent experience over your peers. He then said - and this was the key to the recruiting part - that we can offer you this type of growth opportunity at Rockwell. IBM, Ford, and P&G can't come close. So if you'd like a career opportunity like this, we'd like to invite you to our offices and we'll prove it to you. As a closer, he pointed to me and said, "Lou has only been with us a year. He got his MBA a year ago, and now he's a manager. If he keeps it up, he could become a director within a year or so." (By the way, Chuck was the controller of this billion-dollar group, and he was only 28 years old.)
With that pat on the back and limited training, I then conducted eight more 30-minute interviews using essentially the same process. At the end of the day, we invited eight of the 20 students we met to dinner that evening in Ann Arbor, made five offers, and hired three. Over the next 45 days, we hired three more MBAs. As best as I can remember, all were promoted within a year or two, and many - if not all - became senior-level executives in a variety of major companies.
Here are the big lessons I have learned in recruiting young professionals that are still applicable today.
This article originally was published in the Electronic Recruiters Exchange (www.erexchange.com). Check out the ER Exchange for more great recruiting information.
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