Why Not Hire the Best?

Everybody says they want to hire superior people. So why do most corporate HR and staffing departments still do everything they can to prevent getting the best person hired? As I met with third-party recruiters, staffing managers, vendors and company executives at the Kennedy eCruiting conference in Las Vegas last week, this yawning gap took on awesome dimensions. On one extreme were the “Top Talent is King” people: John Sullivan, Peter Weddle, me, and every recruiter who knows that it takes hard work to hire top talent. The opposing camp consisted of those corporate staffing managers who believe that data management, reporting, filling positions, and the systems that serve them are the driving forces. The person who really suffers here is the hiring manager. How many companies have invested the time and money to insure that their hiring managers are exceptional interviewers and exceptional managers? If hiring top people really was important, this is the first step that would be taken – but it’s not. The result is hiring managers who often don’t know the real job, and are weak interviewers – assessing on beliefs, biases, and personal perceptions, with little insight on what it really takes to hire the best. There’s good news for recruiters in all this. It represents an opportunity for recruiters to step up and fill the void. If done properly, your role in the hiring process will expand. You’ll become a sought-after advisor, not a necessary evil. In the process you’ll be able to sustain your business during the current slowdown, and build it for the for the next recovery. Here are some ideas on how to change your systems to attract the best.

  1. Define the real job. Ask the hiring manager what the person taking the job needs to do to be successful. Every job has 5-8 deliverables that determine job success. Here’s one example: hire three key engineers and launch the prototype of the new color PDA by next spring. It’s certainly more relevant than searching for a BSEE and five years’ electronics background.
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  3. Define the real job in your ads. You’ll source better candidates by writing compelling ads that emphasize the challenges of the job, not the skills. This way you won’t exclude the top performers; instead you’ll attract them. “Use your CPA to develop an international reporting system” is much more effective than the typical requirements, like “CPA, international and internal reporting required.”
  4. Motivation is always based on needs. Change your sourcing by going after candidates who are motivated by the challenges and opportunities inherent in the job, not motivated by just getting the job. Modify your ads by requesting a half-page write-up of a comparable accomplishment to be included with the resume. Put this same request in an auto-responder to eliminate the unqualified candidates from consideration. Use a similar approach in your referral programs. A great job carries further and attracts better people in the network than an average one.
  5. During the interview, tell your candidates what they’ll be doing and then get detailed examples of comparable accomplishments. Put some stretch into these required accomplishments. This will get your candidates to recognize the opportunity in the job, without a formal sales pitch. Make your candidates earn the job – don’t give it away. The best people want to challenged. Not only will you increase on-the-job motivation and reduce turnover, but you’ll start to get your comp budget under control. Opportunity is always the preferred trade-off to compensation.

What it adds up to is becoming an advisor to your clients. Sit in on interviews and help them assess competency. Staffing departments shouldn’t prevent third-party recruiters from working with hiring managers, if they can provide this value-added service. A recruiter can’t advise a top candidate on a career move, if he/she doesn’t know the job, the company and the hiring manager. Don’t accept the status quo. Lead the change – your companies and clients are expecting it. <*SPONSORMESSAGE*>

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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