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Ask the Headhunter/ General Management

Ferocious Recruiting


by Nick Corcodilos
Contributing Writer

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A marketing exec chewed me out about an edict I issue often: If you’re not spending 15% to 20% of your time recruiting, then you’re not a good manager.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. “I get paid to do marketing. HR does the recruiting.”

A manager’s job is to manage people and the work, not to do the job all by himself. But every manager has to do his or her own recruiting or face necrosis of the team—because no matter what HR says, recruiting is every manager’s job. You can’t be effective at managing people if you don’t spend a big chunk of your time finding and hiring good people you can manage—and who can do the work. And you can’t wait for HR to do it for you because with 3.2 million jobs vacant in America, HR isn’t getting the job done.

I’m going to show you why you should do your own recruiting and hiring.

Kayak founder and CTO Paul English recruits virtually all the time—himself. In a Fortune story, “Kayak Takes On The Big Dogs,” English says:

“It’s something I’m pretty obsessed with. The joke at Kayak is, if we have a business trip out of San Francisco, when the plan lands, my colleagues will say, ‘How many people did you hire on this flight?'”

Does that sound a bit over the top? Kayak is kicking its competitors’ butts in the travel industry. The company is growing, but it’s also profitable. English attributes much of his success to the way he hires. A company founder who recruits all day long naturally has other ideas that fly in the face of contemporary HR doctrine. Here are a couple of practices that give Kayak its competitive edge—and that you need to consider adopting:

“I think most people hired at Kayak were not looking for jobs.” Fortune reports that English’s success in hiring stems, in part, from the fact that Kayak will create positions just to get great people—who aren’t looking to make a change—to come on board. While other companies hire those who comes along through job postings, Kayak is actually recruiting the people it wants. English says from start to finish, it takes him just seven days to make a hire this way.

“We also don’t look for specific skills.” English says he looks for talent that he and his team can develop. That’s something conventional HR practice can’t deal with. English told Fortune: “When I meet someone who's incredibly talented, I'll try to figure out their talents, their interests, and we try to figure out how we can use that at Kayak. It's a pretty aggressive process.” That’s recruiting. (“If You Need Skills, Hire Talent” is a short tutorial on this method of recruiting.)

My favorite Kayak recruiting policy turns one HR practice on its head:

“If you go to our job site, we don't have job descriptions.” How’s that again? Kayak doesn’t publish job descriptions. (Is that blasphemy in HR? See “Roasting the job description.”) In fact, if you search for jobs at Kayak on, CareerBuilder, Indeed, and SimplyHired, you’ll come up with zip, nada, no job listings at all. How’s that possible? Says English in the Fortune article: “We say that if you're known as a team leader and someone who was the most successful in your sales job or product design or whatever you did, we want to talk to you.” And that’s exactly the message on Kayak’s one and only jobs page: If you think you should work here, drop a note and tell us why.

Kayak does something else that flies in the face of HR dogma. Virtually every HR department on the planet warns job hunters not to contact managers. The classic threat goes something like this: “Contacting a hiring manager will result in your disqualification as an applicant.”

But Kayak’s jobs page (which has no jobs listed on it) invites you to talk to employees or managers. “We also suggest finding someone on our team on LinkedIn to see if you know someone well who knows us well, and then use them for an introduction.”

Fortune calls Paul English a “ferocious recruiter.” I think he’s just a great manager. Every other employer and its HR department are eating his dust.

How do you recruit? Come clean on the Discussion Forum—where I promise to give you more good tips if you’ll fess up to your foibles.

About Nick Corcodilos

Nick Corcodilos writes "Ask The Headhunter," a weekly blog on in which he shows you how to tackle the daunting obstacles that job hunters and managers face when trying to work together. From time to time, Corcodilos also will provide feature stories offering insights into various management career strategies, In addition, his newest books, Keep Your Salary Under Wraps, How to Work with Headhunters and How Can I Change Careers?, are available as PDFs.