The Best Are Different Than the Rest

Would you be open to explore a situation that’s clearly superior to what you’re doing today? This is what you need to ask top candidates when they are about to consider whether they should apply or evaluate a career opportunity with your firm. Who could say no? If candidates do, then you known you’re in trouble! Do your ads, employee referrals, direct sourcing calls, or networking approaches insure 100% yeses? If not, it’s time to review how you’re treating top candidates. The best candidates are different than average candidates. If a company’s hiring processes aren’t designed with the unique needs of the best in mind, top candidates could be excluded or inadvertently eliminated every step of the way. The best candidates always have multiple opportunities, including counteroffers and other opportunities soon after they start a new job. The best see a new job as another step in a career journey, not as the end of a job search. They tend to consider more variables when deciding to explore a situation or accept an offer. Job content is critical. What they’ll learn, do, and become is part of the decision-making process. The company and who they’ll work for?? and with?? is critical. They consult with more outside advisors, and take longer to decide. Most hiring processes at most companies ignore how the best make these important decisions. If you’re going to treat your candidates as customers, you’d better understand how they make a buying decision and what information they need to make it. Here are some of the more obvious problem areas you should consider, to see if your sourcing and hiring process are inadvertently ignoring the needs of the best. After all, it’s hard enough to hire top people without erecting artificial barriers.

  1. First contact is dull. If your verbal pitches to potential candidates or attempts to get referrals are boring, forget about it. You need to describe compelling career opportunities, not jobs. If your posted job descriptions don’t describe opportunities that are clearly superior to what the best candidates are doing today, you don’t have a chance to hire a top performer. If you want to hire better people, you need to offer better jobs.
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  3. Ads are dull. I just went to ten websites of companies that are members of the Electronic Recruiting Exchange. I found only one that described a compelling job. Every other job sounded like, well, every other job. Each provided a little information about the company, then one sentence or so about the job, and then a list of required skills and experiences. But the best won’t consider jobs that aren’t fun to read about or don’t offer challenges and opportunities for growth. You need to treat candidates as customers, and with respect. These ads treat candidates as commodities. A boring ad is a waste of money. If you’re not getting dozens of top candidates for each ad, your ads need to be rewritten.
  4. The website is designed for candidates looking for a job, not those looking for a better job. While it’s getting easier to apply online, there are few inducements for a hot candidate to apply for a job with your company unless the person is looking for a job. I just went to another ten websites looking for a great job, and tried to experience what it would be like for a hot candidate to look for a job. Only one?? it was an auto rental company?? made me want to apply and be part of the company. The others offered just jobs. The best are different than the rest, and they must be treated that way. But little of the technology built into websites is designed for attracting the best; it’s designed to manage data. If filling these positions is important to the growth of your company, do what I just did. Evaluate your own hiring process. Rewrite your job descriptions and make them compelling and easy to find. Make sure the experience is positive. Ask yourself, if a hot candidate is casually looking for a job and comes to your website, what is the chance they’ll find the job and decide to apply? Then ask, why would they come to your website? Sourcing is marketing. Treat candidates as customers. The best are different than the rest.
  5. Screening process eliminates the wrong candidates. If you filter out candidates based on skills and years of experience, you’ll frequently eliminate top performers from other industries, or those with great potential but who are a little light on experience. Instead, try to use performance or accomplishment filters. Things like awards won, patents filed, articles written, speeches given, budgets managed and team projects led are often better filters for separating the best from the rest. Validated biodata screening tools like the ones ePredix offers are also becoming more popular. Do your ads demand experience and skills? Some offer challenges and opportunities. What do you require, and what are you screening for?
  6. The application process is burdensome. If a hot candidate gets this far, how long does it take to apply for one of your posted jobs? Unless you have some inducements along the way, if it takes more than five minutes from beginning to end you’ll have a high dropout rate. The only ones remaining are those desperate for another job, not those that want a better job.
  7. The interview process is unprofessional. The best want to earn the job. It has more value this way. Do your recruiters and hiring manager switch to sales mode once they meet a hot candidate? This not only cheapens the job, driving some top candidates away, but it also results in making unnecessarily inflated offers. Also, by over-selling and under-listening, the interviewer never knows if the person is really any good?? until it’s too late. Conduct comprehensive in-depth interviews of people you suspect of being hot candidates. They’ll appreciate your level of professionalism, and respect you for using it with them. Not only will you know if the person is as good as you suspect, but you’ll also demonstrate the type of person, manager, and company you are: one with high standards of performance, and a place the where the best can really be the best.

Hiring the best should be a process, not an event. Winning the talent wars is a bad term. The implication is that once the war is won, the company can go on to do something else. The war is never won. Processes, procedures, systems and management commitment must be 24/7. A tiger team project is a great way to launch the war for talent, but it’s also the worst way to win it. You need to be building a replicable process of hiring top people that is part of the company culture, not a sideshow. The new buzz is human capital management, talent relationship management, winning the talent wars, and creating a talent-driven culture. This is all important stuff. Hiring top people is number one, after all. But in all the hurly-burly, while looking for that magic bullet, we still have a tendency to lose sight of what it takes to hire one great candidate. A company first needs to learn how to hire one great person. Try it out. It’s hard. Everybody needs to cooperate and be involved, including HR, compensation, line managers, executives, and the recruiting team. Then they need to do it again and again and again, until it becomes a habit. Don’t forget how to hire one top person as you build systems to hire dozens or hundreds. Each great person is unique. Treat them all this way. The best really are different than the rest.

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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