Jim D’Amico — A Profile of an Exceptional Corporate Recruiting Leader, Part 1

Note: this two-part article is part of my continuing series of profiles on exceptional corporate recruiting leaders

The first time I met Jim D’Amico, he was explaining how he convinced his healthcare CEO to let him try just about anything in recruiting, as long as he could show a positive ROI and a significant direct business impact. This “CEO influencing feat” is, unfortunately, quite rare in recruiting, but it is even more amazing because it occurred in the ultraconservative healthcare industry. I, for years, called this approach “business impact HR.” And after hearing about how Jim D’Amico so effectively implemented his version of it, I’m convinced that the recruiting industry could learn a great deal from a profile covering the many successes and the learnings of this amazing corporate recruiting leader.

He is currently the global talent acquisition leader at Celanese, and he is also a board member of ATAP, the professional recruiter organization. He is a prolific author with more than 16 articles posted on LinkedIn. As a TA leader at Spectrum Health, his organization was so innovative that it was named “the recruiting organization of the year” (by ERE). At Spectrum, through analyzing annual requisition velocity, he established weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual hiring goals. He then created “a weekly visual tool to give recruiters and hiring leaders literal line of site to what we were all working towards. This helped us increase annual hiring from 6,000 per year to 7,200 per year. The weekly measure of output and the combined partnership with the hiring manager also produced a 10 percent reduction in time to fill.”

Note that throughout this profile, whenever possible, I have used direct quotes from Jim D’Amico (they are surrounded by quotation marks). Most of his key learning points are also provided in bullet point format for easy scanning. 

Understanding Jim D’Amico’s Keys to Success

Part of my profile-development processes involve asking the targeted recruiting practitioner to analyze their past and to identify the key factors that made them successful. In Jim D’Amico’s case, those top success factors include:

  • Be a student of your business — I fully agree with Jim that you can’t succeed in recruiting until you first fully “understand the basics of how your company operates and makes money.” More importantly, “you need to deeply understand how each function within the company impacts the business. This also means you must be able to read a balance sheet.” He also notes that additionally, “you need to know the language or jargon of your industry. Language is a cue to thinking, and it will help you better understand and communicate with your customers.” In fact, one research study showed that fully knowing the business and the business model was more impactful than a HR person’s knowledge of HR.
  • Learn from the best!  obviously, as the world of recruiting continues to change more rapidly, continuous learning becomes even more critical. Jim D’Amico has provided a list of the top authors that he continually reads and learns from. They include “John Sullivan, Lou Adler, Tim Sackett, and Matt Charney.” I would add reading Jim D’Amico’s and Kevin Wheeler’s articles to that list. He recommends that you “find voices that resonate with you and read and learn from them.” He also urges, “commit to learning something new each day!”
  • Get comfortable with data — unlike too many TA professionals, Jim and I are both strong advocates for data-driven decision-making in recruiting. Jim notes that “data is your friend.” He also says that “for too long, TA pros have suffered a lack of credibility, based on an inability to articulate strategy or business impact (real and projected).” He also says that “quality data allows me to articulate trends and results in a way that justifies decisions and strategies and to plan for the future.” It also allows him to “drastically reduce, the all too often, emotionally based arguments and objections that customers will raise by answering uniformed emotions with demonstrated facts.” He suggests that TA professionals “know and be able to articulate the difference between corollary and causal, and how to solve for each.” Finally, he recommends that you learn about the value of data-based decision-making by reading these books, “Freakonomics or Moneyball as a starting point and then graduate to Naked Statistics.”
  • Embrace and learn from failure  Jim fully understands what I call the Silicon Valley approach to learning quickly from failure. He recommends that you “take risks and learn from your mistakes.” He also recommends that you “allow those around you the same freedom” (to fail and learn).
  • Master the fundamentals of recruiting — as Jim notes, “The foremost lesson I learned was to know and master the fundamentals. My father always taught me you were better, in the long run, learning the trade than the tricks of the trade.” To Jim “this means you need to know how to source, recruit, interview, and close. Everything else will follow.”
  • Always have mentors — Jim attributes much of his success to the “support and the ability to learn from those that have experience in the areas you are interested in.” He further suggests that “your mentor needn’t be in your field,” as long as they are “a coach and confidant that can help you develop.”
  • The ability to improvise — Jim’s pre-recruiting background is unique in that he reveals that “Second City was instrumental in my development, particularly the concept of agreement (“yes, and …”), and the wonderful way you learn to think on your feet.” Obviously, in the fast-evolving field of talent acquisition, agility is essential.

Firms That He Admires in Recruiting

You can best identify who is an innovator by the companies that they follow and admire. Here are Jim’s most admired firms.

  • Google  Jim and I both share a mutual admiration for Google and its data-driven recruiting. He states that he has “a huge TA crush on Google. They analyze everything, and I love that they will try different things (billboard with a problem to solve, not having hiring managers interview, etc.). It also puts a premium on identifying the right talent and has the lowest recruiter-to-employee number out there. Great to watch, and as a TA geek, I would kill to spend a day discussing those analytics with them.” Google could learn even more about proving the ROI of great recruiting from Jim D’Amico.
  • HRU Technical Resources — Jim notes that he also has “much respect for the street-level brawlers that don’t have Google money or resources, like HRU, Tim Sackett’s firm.” Although not corporate, “Tim is smart and resourceful and is leading the way in “affordable” recruiting strategies, that can easily translate to corporate strategies.”
  • Disney  Jim is also a fan of Disney. He notes that “they hire top talent consistently, and particularly have one of the best entry-level hiring programs. I value their ability to identify quality so much, that “Disney” on a resume will always get a call from me.” I would add Sodexo, the U.S. Army, Intuit, and Nestlé Purina to his list of the most-admired recruiting functions.

Highlighting Jim D’Amico’s Best Practices and Top Success Areas

Often the best way to learn from an exceptional professional is to identify and adapt their best practices. To facilitate that learning, the top best practices that have been implemented by Jim D’Amico’s are listed below. And in most cases, there is a blue underlined direct hyperlink that provides a direct connection to an ERE.net article that Jim authored covering the subject of that best practice.

Reporting and data-driven best practices

  • Report on what matters too who really matters — Jim and I both strongly recommend that you unambiguously “show how you impact business performance.” Jim notes “The volume and time to hire may not matter to the C-suite, but the differentiated quality of hire always will.”
  • Understand cause and effect data and analytics — Jim recommends that you “start by understanding the difference between causal and corollary data.” He also notes that “many TA leaders immediately, and often irrevocably, lose credibility when they present corollary data as causal and build the wrong plans to solve the wrong issues.”
  • Develop simple predictive analytics — I have found that historical metrics that tell you about “last year” have only one-tenth the value to executives compared to forward-looking predictive metrics. Jim notes that developing predictive metrics “isn’t as hard as you think, and you can start seeing trends pretty quickly.” “Especially if you “align your interview competency scoring with your performance competency scoring (this works best if performance is measured quantitatively).” “If you collect the necessary data on candidates, hires, current employees, and measure against performance, the commonalities and differences”… will reveal what predicts and what doesn’t.”
  • Know your enemy, as well as you, know yourself — I have found that most TA functions are so internally focused that they fail to conduct periodic competitive analysis. Jim suggests knowing “your competitor’s interview process, sourcing strategy, and value proposition?” He further reveals “you have to be better than the competition, but if you don’t know what they do, how can you be better?”
  • Use visuals to communicate — Jim finds that you need to simply but clearly present your data and results. And that means that you should “simplify complex processes with graphics to facilitate easy to understand communication with customers.” We both agree that “the dynamic process map (linked) is an easy way to set expectations and show who controls what (Blue = TA, Red = Hiring Manager). He notes that this was “a great tool to set expectations with Hiring Managers at Spectrum Health.”
  • Decide fast — Jim recommends that you “be decisive because analysis paralysis is a death sentence.” “But be prepared to course correct quickly if need be. TA is a battlefield, and the flexible leader wins.”
  • Continuous improvement – Jim emphasizes the importance of “taking time to assess your current state against your desired future state. Solicit customer feedback and participation and build plans to close the gaps. Repeat at least every three years, if not sooner.”

Recruiting-specific best practices

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  • Know how to close candidates — offer failures have widespread repercussions because all of your recruiting work doesn’t result in a hire. So, Jim says “one of the hallmarks of truly great recruiting organizations is their impeccable ability to have nearly 100 percent offer acceptance rates.” In fact, recruiting organizations managed by Jim D’Amico have reached an acceptance rate as high as 98.5 percent.
  • Measure rejected candidate referrals — this is one of Jim’s favorite metrics, and it is unique within TA. “Measuring the number of referrals from rejected candidates is a bellwether metric because it reveals the quality of your candidate experience” (because unhappy candidates don’t make quality referrals). Jim notes that these referrals also “result in excellent candidates!”
  • Technology should not replace disciplined recruiting skills — Jim suggests that “you can’t build a castle on a shaky foundation! So, don’t get lazy and keep your foundation recruiting skills razor sharp, even as you implement new technologies.”
  • Realize that candidate “turn downs” are preventable — Jim notes that “turn downs are horrible.” They result in painful outcomes including, “first the hiring manager (and by extension the business) does not get the candidate they most desired.” And second, “they often result in a longer process, which may be detrimental to the business, and result in a lower quality of hire.” “Turndowns are so easily avoided, simply by doing your job right from the beginning and following the proper steps of preclosing.”

Note: next week’s Part 2 of Jim D’Amico’s profile will cover how he measures effective recruiting, how he continuously learns, and several additional best practices and recommended actions.

 

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Dr. John Sullivan

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," Staffing.org called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website www.drjohnsullivan.com and on www.ERE.Net. He lives in Pacifica, California.