Hiring Smart - and Fast

As senior vice president of human resources, Susan Loker, 51, wrestles with the biggest challenge facing Cambridge Technology Partners: hiring enough of the right people to maintain its meteoric growth. "Our average age has risen -- gasp -- to 31," she quips. "Two years ago it was 27. We're young, eclectic. The problem isn't finding people; it's finding people without dissipating the culture."

What kind of people are those? "People with lots of energy and flexibility," she says. "People who can articulate their views and push back, people who can teach as well as learn."

Loker is a stickler for numbers. She regularly reviews a set of leading indicators of CTP's hiring performance: total headcount, turnover, job-offer acceptance rates, average age, diversity, college degrees, where new hires come from by region, industry, and background. "We look at all these numbers quarterly," she says. "Some we look at every week."

To unearth great candidates quickly, CTP encourages employees to make nominations. Any employee who refers a winning candidate receives a $1,000 bonus. When times get unusually tight (as they are now), the bonus grows to $3,000 per successful referral.

Referrals are a critical source of talent for the company; more than one-third of its hires began as referrals. But that's not the only reason Loker tracks this figure. "Referrals are a good indicator of how people feel about working for us," she explains. "If people are happy, they'll refer other people to us."

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