Making It Into The End Zone

The end game is everything. This part of the recruiting process comes to down to hiring a great person within reasonable compensation terms. At this point, it doesn’t matter how great your sourcing is, or how accurate your interviewing and assessment skills are, or how well you manage your website or handle all of your candidate resumes. In all the bustle, we can too easily lose sight of the real goal: closing the deal. What I find most surprising is that no company in the world, large or small, would consider sending out its salespeople to sell its products without some degree of sales training. Salespeople for commodity products like office supplies get training. Salespeople for high-tech products that require customized solutions get training. Yet few managers and recruiters, who need to persuade the best talent to join their team, get training in this very important skill. Convincing a top person to choose a new situation from among competing alternatives requires knowledge of human behavior, of the career management process, and of solution-selling techniques including needs analysis and negotiating skills. Are the people responsible for this activity in your company fully trained and competent enough for the task? If not, you’ll never make it to the end zone ? and you’ll wind up losing the best talent available. The best always have multiple opportunities. It doesn’t matter if they’re actively looking or waiting for your call. A professional, sophisticated presentation of career options is a prerequisite before any members of this elite group will accept an offer for new employment. With nudging, they might explore a situation that has the potential to offer opportunity and growth, but it takes much more to pull the deal together. Make no mistake about it: this is where corporate and third-party recruiters really earn their fees. If a candidate needs a job, and has few options, recruiting and closing are easy. It becomes more like order-processing at this point. When compensation, geography, and job duties dominate the candidate’s decision-making process, anybody can close ? with or without special training. The decision to accept is simple. But once multiple opportunities come into play, one of which being staying in an existing position, candidate decision making becomes more complex. Short-term tactical needs move quickly down the priority list, replaced by the longer-term strategic career and growth opportunities available. This decision is no longer about getting back on the payroll ? it’s about selecting the best career opportunity. You know you’re in a different ballgame if your candidate views getting the new assignment not as the end of a difficult job search, but as the beginning of a career. How well you manage and understand this difference will determine the caliber of the candidates you represent, and those that get hired. The best candidates first accept offers based on the what they’ll learn, do, and become. The career opportunity is at the top of the decision-making criteria list. Who the person will work for next enters into play. How well the direct supervisor conducts the interview, establishes a vision for the job, and how well this person comes across as a mentor, supporter, and coach are critical aspects of the acceptance decision. The company strategy and vision are also important. Whether the new opportunity has a direct impact on overall company importance is a question each top performer asks him or herself as they ponder the decision to accept an offer. The professionalism of the team, the resources available and the opportunity to make changes are also evaluated at the outset. Compensation and geography are part of the decision, but not until the more important career issues are understood and accepted. The bigger the opportunity, the less important the compensation requirements. So if your budget is tight, make the job bigger. Within this decision-making framework, you can develop some obvious dos and don’ts. You must describe exactly what the candidate is expected to accomplish, the specific challenges inherent in the job, the resources available, the environment, the politics, the expected timeframe, and the importance of the effort to the overall company’s success. Your goal is to create a career gap or strategic value in the job. This is what the candidate will do and become over the course of the next year compared to every other alternative. This is an itemized list of why this opportunity is clearly superior. Getting this job represents the beginning of a new career, not the end of a job hunt. Don’t ask people if they’ll relocate as a condition to evaluate the job. This is a short-term tactical decision that needs to be made in the context of the long-term opportunity. Asking it too soon will preclude the best from even considering what you have to say. In the same vein, delay any compensation discussions until the end of the first interview at the earliest. Any sooner and it will inadvertently exclude the best from consideration. Great candidates will always compromise their salary demands for a great opportunity. Almost 70-80% of my placements over the last 20 years either involved a relocation, initially overemphasized competencies, or offered a less-than-stellar comp plan. If I eliminated candidates based on the original criteria, I wouldn’t have had much of a career. Nor would I be writing these articles or offering advice. And always remember that the best candidates don’t make these weighty decisions alone. Spouses, friends, advisors and children will get involved. This career gap is what the candidate will use to influence others to his/her cause. It will be used to overcome a relocation, a less-than-expected increase in pay, and to help bear a temporary hardship. Without this gap, all you have left is money. And in the middle of the night with too many personal choices and much doubt, money offers little consolation to a candidate who wants and deserves more. The bigger the career gap, the less likely competitive offers or counteroffers will even be considered, much less accepted. You’re offering a career, not just another job. Creating this gap is what recruiting is all about. Hiring the best requires personal, individualized career counseling. The hiring manager and recruiter must work in concert to pull this off. This requires openness, trust, a complete understanding of each person’s role, and an equally complete understanding of real job needs. Every now and then you might hire a great person using unprofessional recruiting techniques, but in the long run your hiring methods will cause many of the best to withdraw from consideration somewhere along the way. And then the real loser of the end game will be you.

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Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).

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