How to Fit a Square Peg Into a Round Hole

Last week I had the privilege of attending the 2014 Recruiting Trends Conference held in Alexandria, VA.   The conference was a three day event jam packed with Recruiting Industry experts sharing their best practices. This included opening remarks by Dr. John Sullivan and presentations from experts at companies such as: NASDAQ, Linkedin, Glassdoor, Simply Hired, Deloitte, Time Warner Cable, Northrop Grumman, The National Security Agency, The Adler Group, The Sourcing Institute, Shahid Wazed International, Employment Screening Resources, TalentRISE LLC, Cognizant, and International Association of Employment Web Sites (IAEWS).

This was a great opportunity for me to listen to some of the best local and nationally renowned recruiting minds. I always cherish any opportunity to get out and interact with the thought leaders in my industry. I typically find that these types of events (like the upcoming RecruitDC Spring event) really invigorate me personally and professionally. I come away from these events feeling rejuvenated about my trade and ready to test out my newly sharpened tools.

Spoiler alert: This new found jubilee doesn’t always last very long. Tell me if this example sounds familiar- you come back from one of these Recruiter Networking events skipping and whistling, full of promise. You have all your notes from the event and you’re ready to turn your organization’s approach to recruiting on its head! Then you check your email and you have 20 fires to put out and you still haven’t checked your voicemail. Your hiring manager is wondering where their perfect candidate is and why another candidate hasn’t accepted their offer and then your security officer is asking you why another candidate never took their drug test while three other job seekers are asking you why you haven’t found them a job yet. Before you know it you’re fully immersed in the daily muck a recruiter has to wade through.

By the time you get your chance to talk to management you’re exhausted. You try to state your case anyway because you know the full value of what you’re proposing. In a previous blog post, I spoke about the importance of keeping your leadership informed about what you’re seeing on the front lines. You read that post and you know how important this is to the success of not only your career but also your company’s competitive advantage in their market.

You know your current methods of recruiting aren’t producing a winning product. However, because you’re exhausted, you essentially regurgitate everything you learned all at once. Management, now feeling overwhelmed, doesn’t see the value in your proposals for process change. They believe that when it comes to recruiting processes thinking outside the box is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Just fill the current open positions, that’s what you need to do for success. The “just in time” mentality your company has about recruiting seems to be an undefeatable mindset. You go back to being just another order-filler because, as management says, you just can’t fit a square peg into a round hole.

A few years ago this used to really get me down, and it wasn’t until the next Recruiter Networking event that I’d start to feel good again. However, as I’ve grown and progressed in my career I actually figured out the secret. You can in fact fit a square peg into a round hole. It’s actually rather easy. For the purposes of this post, the round hole is your company’s overall recruiting strategy and the square peg is the process or idea that you want to implement.

Here’s the secret: start with a smaller square peg. It’s that easy. Don’t try to take an idea the same size as your overall recruiting strategy and cram it in, it simply won’t fit. However, if you start small it’ll fit with plenty of wiggle room.   Implement the best practices you learn in small beta rounds. Lars Schmidt once told me that he called this approach his “pilot approach”. Management is much more receptive to an idea if you tell them you’d like to pilot it first. There isn’t as much risk involved and they know they can pull the plug at any time with no commitments on their end. They aren’t overwhelmed by too much process change all at once.

You can then begin to gradually grow your process or idea so that the square peg grows. If you are fluid in your approach, it will naturally adapt and change form to fit into the confines of the round hole. Just as water expands to fit the shape of its container, your new process will adapt to fit your company’s overall recruiting strategy. This method of small installations will allow you to take that high you get from Recruiter Networking events and infuse it into your day to day. You can take charge of your recruiting career and turn it in the direction you know is best.

For me personally, I have pages of notes that I took from the 2014 Recruiting Trends Conference and I am already plotting my course to implement a few of the best practices I learned…one step at a time.


Please send any questions or comments to  Be sure to also follow me on Twitter @RecruiterMann23

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