Decreasing employee rotation from 30% to 0%

Decreasing employee rotation from 30% to 0%

[Spoiler: this will be a very honest and transparent post]

There are two types of sales people: hunters and farmers – and similarly, there are two types of companies: some are good at attracting employees, and others at keeping them. In an ideal world, we’d have both competencies: of hunters & farmers or – like in our analogy – of attracting & keeping employees.

Admittedly, although we are a company full of active and retired recruiters, we couldn’t fully nail the “attracting the right people” part. To explain how we went from 30% rotation to 0% in a matter of years, we need to share a bit more about how we are structured.

Background & initial situation

Career Angels is a flat company with two types of roles: Career Angels (experienced HR / recruitment / talent management consultants) and so-called Mini Angels (our brilliant, amazing support staff).

When we started expanding slowly in 2012, our team members attracted people who stayed thanks to their friends and the atmosphere; in time we needed to grow faster and started hiring people off job ads. Once somebody stayed longer than 3 months, they stayed with us “forever” (some are still with us), or it ended naturally and by mutual agreement after at least 3 years.

The phrasing “Once somebody stayed longer than 3 months” already hints at the fact that not everybody did. For both roles – Career Angels and Mini Angels – the rotation revolved around 30%, and for a period of 6 months, even 50%. The definition of rotation was “newly hired employees who left (through their own or our decision) within their first 3 months.”

Why was it so high? We need(ed) a unique combination of skills because we work fully digitally, we are very quality-driven and we expect our new members to be very independent while still following clear instructions.

As meticulously as we track the efficiency of job hunting channels (see our Job Hunting Reports), we’ve also always tracked everything we could when it comes to our own recruitment processes:

  • source of candidates
  • wording of the job ad
  • test scores (English, logical puzzles, Clifton Strengths Finder – also known as Gallup Talents, Career View Test by Decision Dynamics)
  • assessment of candidates by interviewers (usually 3-4)

At the peak of our rotation reaching 50%, we sat down to analyze the above elements to identify who or what had predicted the expected performance best. Admittedly, we once thought that one of our colleagues would have “the best nose” or intuition. Long story short, the predictability of the test, particularly one, turned out to be better than any intuition of ours: Career View by Decision Dynamics.

An important comment: before we slowly started trusting the test that seemingly was more consistent than us, we ran trials for almost 2 years:

  • we hired people we would normally hire, but the tests did not recommend them
  • we hired people we would normally not hire, but the tests recommended them

The tests always turned out to be correct at some point. In other words: we were proven wrong. Every single time. What a humbling revelation for a team of highly experienced (ex-)recruiters.

Again: why? How can a test (or a series of tests) be better at predicting if somebody fits our team than people who are part of it? And to re-phrase that question: what are the flaws of the “human recruits human” system?

From our perspective, there are two: wrong assumptions and (un)conscious biases. And I’d like to give you examples of how we addressed both:

1) (Un)conscious biases

Example 1

We had a candidate who wanted to join our support team. They had passed all tests, but the two people who had done the screening call and had administered the tests had concerns. The candidate had a Skype interview with our founder, Sandra Bichl, who said, “My first impression of the candidate: a squeaky, high-pitched voice that was terrible to listen to. And a seemingly very giddy personality.” But we hired the candidate anyway because we needed to test the test and, let’s be honest: how often do you speak with somebody who works only remotely? Turns out, this young professional actually has a very pleasant voice and a charming personality. What we had observed was simply stress and then our human bias took hold.

Example 2

We had another candidate who tested ideally, but wouldn’t make eye contact and seemed very fidgety, indicating that they might not be able to focus long enough to deliver high-quality work. Long story short: we hired them and it turned out, the candidate was just very introverted and simply stressed during the meeting.

In both cases, the candidates proved to be good hires that deliver reliable, high-quality work. And they are still with us today.

2) Wrong assumptions

Before gathering all those insights, we had a fairly traditional recruitment process that started with selecting candidates based on their CVs. And here’s what’s wrong with that:

  • A CV is “only a piece of paper with words” – the majority of people writing CVs are not experts in writing them; they are not experts in the job market or in positioning themselves against competing candidates; they are experts in their own fields.
  • Most ATS match the words from the job description against the words from a candidate’s CV; the problem? See above.
  • A CV shows a history of roles in companies without context; if there are too many changes, candidates are quickly disqualified not even making it to the interview round. Knowing how much work recruiters have and how many competent candidates there are, there’s simply not enough time to speak to everyone, hence these individuals usually don’t even get a chance to present themselves.
  • When setting selection criteria, we might do it too narrowly – at least that’s what we, Career Angels, did. In the CV selection stage, we had always excluded candidates who did not have at least 5 years of experience in recruitment at a recruitment company. We believed it to be an important criterion. Once again, we were proved wrong.

What we’ve changed:

  • We allow (almost) all candidates into the recruitment process if they boast the right level of seniority (which is still important for our clients who are between 35 and 60 years old) and are somehow connected to the job market and people development.
  • We encourage all candidates to apply: after a career break, freelancers, out of maternity or paternity leave, unemployed, employed, managers and specialists.
  • The process itself: if a candidate passes all four tests, we hold a feedback session with them (instead of an interview) and offer them cooperation on the spot.
  • All rejected experienced candidates also receive a feedback session. The rejected junior candidates in particular receive written feedback. That practice boosts our employer branding and candidate experience substantially.

What has changed for us: we have more competent and diverse candidates and a rotation of 0%. No exceptions.

Consequently: we have substantial savings thanks to fewer recruitment errors; we save approx. 30-40 hrs on interviews per recruitment process, we avoid spending 2-3 months of on-boarding and training 2-3 times a year. When you are a small or medium-sized company like us, recruitment mistakes are very expensive.

Why does this work? The tests look at natural talents and competencies, not what might or might not be in a CV – a piece of paper with words. Additionally, the tests help us avoid (un)conscious biases during interviews.

It was a bold move. But it works and it’s efficient.

Do you have a problem with rotation? Or performance? Are you open to innovative, bold ideas? Talking with us might be a good idea!

  • If you’d like Career Angels to help you improve your recruitment process, contact us via e-mail at | Subject: Decreasing employee rotation