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CERA - career and recruiting success

It's important to use the right standards. Using a point system can help in the screening process.

When I was a kid of about eight or ten, Dad and I had another one of those philosophical discussions he was wont to initiate.

No, wait! This isn't another one of those sappy, sentimental stories I tell. This is business. Honest!

Anyway, Dad just launched into this talk about point systems. "Now there are two ways to deal with people," he began, "You have this point system. With one, you give a person an automatic 100 points and then let them lose points or keep them." I listened, waiting for the point.

"The other way," he continued, "is to let them start with zero points and then do things to earn 100 points."

Well, he was talking about trust and confidence on the one hand and respect on the other and a few other things. Drat it all! I keep starting everybody off with their 100 points and then they force me to see I should have used the other system.

Whether we realize it or not, we use these point systems all of the time. Actually, we weave use of the two throughout the same transaction, depending on what we're trying to accomplish. For example, put out an ad. You're giving every applicant 100 points. Depending on how they respond and in what way, they start chipping away at their 100 points in order to eliminate themselves from the running. The sloppy presentation. The application that has absolutely no relevance to what you advertised in terms of direct or even lateral experience. Oops! Minus 35 points.

Ultimately you get the candidates who are in the 90th percentile and above (sometimes this takes a while) and you start calling them in for personal interviews after you've done a preliminary telephone screening. During the telephone screening and the personal interview, you're starting them off with whatever points they have left and letting them build back up to 100. And there are some doozies out there who will definitely shoot themselves in the foot.

Those times when you start chipping away at points are when the applicant becomes overbearing. Then there's the one who's so confident that they're actually smug and egotistical. "Yeah," you think, "you'll fit into this team atmosphere really well." Don't you just love it when you ask why they want the job and they start telling you about the benefits package they're anticipating you'll offer. Or you ask why they left the last (or some previous) job and they start telling you about all of the faults and injustices as well as low mentality of those others. And then you start thinking, "And if I bring you on board and you get dissatisfied, you'll say these same things to my customers, competitors and vendors. Yeah, I really need you on my team." Dearie me! Poor candidate just lost 55 points!

This point system philosophy isn't novel and definitely not unique to the recruiting and sourcing industry. Most people have an internal scorecard they're keeping on the interactions they have and just don't consciously acknowledge it. Any person who's a good listener and interested in their audience will pay attention to the facial and body language to know whether they're racking up points or losing them right and left. The really smart ones will check the point losses and get on track while in your company. The next tier, will get it a few minutes later. The point losers will call you back wondering what happened.

There are examples of nonbusiness point systems. When applying for membership on some board or special focus committee, the governing board wants to know what sort of background and experience you have. Other places require documentation of certain career and experience milestones in order to earn points that ultimately merit certification as a master of that area of expertise. Each constructive step toward professionalism and more articulated knowledge earns more points so that everyone who applies has the potential for being a viable candidate.

Toastmasters International uses such a process for one's becoming the ultimate designation, the Distinguished Speaker. Although that is not a point system, per se, the criteria are set and apply equally and unequivocably to all candidates. One must merit the position by solid, documented activities. Another example of a merit point system is one used by universities to establish fellowship eligibility.

In fact, some companies even use a point system for establishing quality assurance controls and a uniform standard for determining whether a product is fit for market. Isn't that basically what you're doing when sourcing and interviewing?

So you don't have to feel guilty about using one system to the exclusion of another. The essential issue is, realize that you do need to use a point system of some sort in order to measure the qualifications and best fit in a uniform way. Use the system that will eliminate when you have too many and qualify when you're gathering just a few.

I like the way Dad went into wind-up mode of this lecture. "But you should follow one of those two systems to deal with people. Neither one is wrong or right. It's up to you which point system you use but you should use one."

Additional Resources: See also StaffingU course offerings in CERA Recruiter Tools and under "Training" in the Education Center

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Originally published February 2, 2001