THE BLOG
07/02/2014 05:22 pm ET | Updated Sep 01, 2014

Recruiting Bob McDonald. Why?

Why is the former CEO of Proctor and Gamble most likely to be the next Secretary of Veterans Affairs?

The answer is something that's rare in most organizations. Good recruiting!

Forget, if you can, just for 30 seconds, all the politics. Your likes and dislikes. Instead, look at the principles behind the recruitment and expected hire of Mr. McDonald. Why "principles?" Because every hire is unique. There is no step-by-step instruction book or magic algorithm on recruiting. If there was, everyone would buy it and there would be one expert instead of millions.

We can pretend that recruiting is easy. Or that a computer can do it as well as a person. But in the end, we need principles deep and wide enough to both point the way and allow for individual differences in each recruiting job.

Think of what it's like to walk into a dark room and turn on a light switch. The principles, the same ones used in Finding Work When There Are No Jobs, are like the light that goes on when you flick the switch. They don't tell you what to look at or what to do. But they do help you see down your own unique path.

The Five Principles, which will be showcased from a recruiter's perspective in Finding Talent As the Jobs Disappear (Think Different Press. Pub date: Feb 2015) can all be seen in Robert McDonald's recruitment.

And if you hire, you can use them too. Matter of fact, you might even be using them now. What are "The Five?"

I. Finding the Story

Automated hiring is often initiated by data. The computer picks up key words. The math says that the key words correlate to desired job traits. All logical thoughts. And no one can argue with math. The problem comes when you ask, "Is a story MORE than the sum of its words?" Or put another way, "Is the resume or application really who the person is? Or is it simply data?" Those moments when they really performed. Not simply results. Proctor and Gamble's balance sheet did not get McDonald the V.A. job. Results are the scorecard. There is also a game. The way you got to those results. That's the story. McDonald was born in Gary, Indiana. In fourth grade, his family moved to Arlington Heights Illinois. He's a West Point grad. He had a life before he had responsibility for five billion customers and a global brand promise. There is a deep, rich, story here. Not just experience. A story. And those involved in choosing McDonald found that story.

II. Hearing the Music

The heart of this principle is "fit." For a seasoned recruiter, that's the only explanation required. A novice needs more because "fit," means something different for every job. Understanding the way fit can mirror the elements of music can help. And the need for help looms large because there is nothing concrete or measurable about fit. Fit is the judgment call of the experienced recruiter who can sense that a candidate, like Bob McDonald, would naturally "sing the same song" as the wounded warriors who will be his new customers. Fit is in the vision of bringing harmony to a culture that has lost it's way. Fit is in what's between the lines that's needed to engage employees in a way that instills they all move to the rhythm of the same drum. McDonald's selection was a surprise. That his recruitment involved hearing the music of a fit would not be a surprise to the long time recruiter.

III. Communitizing

Unlike most hiring done today, McDonald was actually recruited. Two top White House aids asked a group of CEO's for recommendations. The White House advisors leveraged a community. The actively went out and FOUND their candidate. That's real recruiting. That's also what we mean when we make community a verb. It's not simply a network transaction. It's a community. Gone are the days when it was normal for one person to make a hiring decision. It now takes a community.

IV. Solving a Mystery

Picture a leader who has proved himself capable of making good on the promise of a brand to 5 billion customers. Getting that done is a mystery to most of us. McDonald has done it. The issue here is as old as time. Finding a need and filling that need. Is the need for years of experience? College degree? Doing exactly what you did at another V.A.? Thinking about solving mysteries is a way to prompt thinking about real needs and the talent required to fill those needs.

IV. Practicing Stewardship

The health and welfare of the nations military is a sacred trust. Demanding more than just words. It's larger than any one person. Practicing Stewardship means that you take care of something larger than yourself. One need not be a war hero to practice stewardship. What the recruiter must look for is the answer to the question, "Can this person see the mission deeply enough to know what it means to go beyond self and take care of that mission?"

McDonald's confirmation and success at the job are still open questions.

But the recruitment? From the observer's view, it was done with principles.

It was good.