Welcome To Opportunity Gap, Home of the Stars!

Top candidates are still the stars of the recruiting trade. They are also very different from ordinary candidates. And if you want to hire your share of these stars, everything you do ? the way you find them, interview them, and close them ? must also be different. Despite all the technological advances in recruiting, very little has changed over the past 20 years in what you need to do to hire great people. Here are some basic conclusions that are as true today as they were when I started in this business more than 20 years ago:

  1. Stars don’t generally respond to traditional advertising.
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  3. Stars always have multiple opportunities.
  4. For star candidates, a new job is a beginning. For the rest, a new job is the end of an ordeal.
  5. For stars, the opportunity, the culture, the chance to make an impact, and the team involved are more important than the compensation offered. Geography is still on the list, but towards the bottom.
  6. For star candidates, the decision to accept an offer is a long-term, strategic one. Typical candidates consider it a short-term tactical decision. As a result, stars go slower in rejecting or accepting an offer, and always seek outside advice. Typical candidates need to move quicker, and compensation and geography are more important than growth.
  7. Stars like to talk about their accomplishments. The rest would rather not.

To attract a great candidate to your company during the course of the interview, you need to create an opportunity gap. This represents what the candidate will learn, do, and become by taking your job. This opportunity gap is what the candidate will discuss with his or her friends and family as your offer is evaluated. This opportunity gap is what will offset a modest increase in compensation. This opportunity gap is what will prevent a counteroffer, or some competitive offer from being accepted even if the pay is greater and the title sounds better. You create this opportunity gap by asking questions. Creating an opportunity gap is what good recruiting is all about. It’s about listening, counseling, advising, and asking challenging questions. It’s not about selling. You can’t create this opportunity gap at the end of the interview. Then it becomes selling. You must start creating it in the ad, and build upon it in every question and in every interview. This is marketing, not selling. By creating demand and interest, stars candidates will then sell you. Here’s how to create this opportunity gap. During the interview, describe some of the biggest challenges the candidate will face. Ask the person what they’ve accomplished that’s most similar. Dig deeply. Understand the size of the team, the resources, the environment, the results achieved, and the process used to achieve these results. Describe the stretch within the job. This could be in managing a bigger team, a bigger budget, or the launch of some new products. Then ask the candidate how they’d handle these challenges, and how they’ve handled similar challenges before. Listen and probe. Don’t talk. Give these great candidates the courtesy of understanding their accomplishments. This type of questioning addresses a number of critical needs essential to good recruiting. First, star candidates want to talk about their accomplishments. This starts the recruiting process. Second, it allows the interviewer to remain objective, overcoming biases and natural emotions. By describing the job as a series of accomplishments, you are better able to assess motivation and competency. Some star candidates aren’t great natural interviewers. This processes puts all candidates on the same footing, so you are measuring job competency, not interviewing ability. Finally, this type of questioning also filters out those candidates who are either incompetent or unmotivated. Good recruiting is comparable to solution selling. Solution selling differs from transactional selling in a number of ways. In a catalog-like transactional sale, quantity and price are the critical variables. Whenever a product needs to be modified to meet the particular needs of a customer, it is referred to as solution selling. This requires a longer sales process than when buying a product out of a catalog. Solution selling requires thorough needs analysis and product customization. Star candidates always examine a job from this solution-oriented perspective. If you want to be an effective recruiter, jobs must be presented with this solution-oriented approach in mind. If you try to use a heavy-handed transactional approach in a situation that requires a customized solution, it will backfire. That’s why pressuring and selling don’t work in cases where candidates have multiple opportunities. It’s not about the price, or compensation; it’s about the opportunity. Good recruiters need to be career counselors, not salespeople. Good recruiters also need to be good interviewers. Superficial, emotional decisions based on first impressions and personality brand you as incompetent in the eyes of both your candidates and clients. Stars deserve your insight, your trust, and your negotiating skills. You’re not selling cars, you’re changing people’s lives. Stars are different. So are star recruiters.

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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