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My Secrets to Hiring Great People

Posted on: June 29th, 2010 by Fred Clayton

I imagine your company’s in-house talent acquisition/staffing associates are doing all they can to help you fill important open positions on your team. Here’s how you can guide your internal recruiter to bring forward candidates that are a cut above without requiring a lot of your own time in the recruitment process:

1)      At the outset, set the bar high.
When briefing your staffing person on your open position, know what you want and clearly communicate it.  Be specific about the knowledge, skills and experience you prefer and what you will accept at a minimum (and your minimum must be more than “meets requirements”).  Equally important, share the big picture.  Explain where your group is headed and why this particular person will be crucial to helping you get there.  Articulate precisely what this candidate must achieve in the first year or two for you to know that you hired the right person.  This will help your recruiter “visualize” the opportunity and describe it to potential candidates as a great opportunity, not just a job.

2)      Offer to help.
Introduce your recruiter to someone that you know and consider to be a “star.”  By meeting your “benchmark” candidate in person early on your recruiter will observe first-hand the attributes you value in top performers which will enable them to hit the ground running.  Also, volunteer your “rolodex.”   Provide your recruiter names and contact information for 10 to 15 people whom you know well and whose judgment of people you trust – executives who have “A players” on their team.  Direct your recruiter to call them on your behalf, describe the opportunity on your team and ask for nominations/referrals to people they personally can endorse as “high-potentials” or recommend as excellent sources of referrals.  By doing these two things you will save your recruiter precious time and, equally important, focus them on high-quality targets for recruitment.

3)      Expertly size up candidates.
Let your recruiter do the heavy lifting here.  After all, she is a trained interviewer and therefore, an expert resource to you.  But, keep her honest.  When presented backgrounds on several candidates that have been identified, ask only about the one who tops her list, and why.  Challenge her, to be certain she screened based on your very clear instructions and that her interview found evidence that confirms this candidate meets your high standards.  If you agree, invite your recruiter to join you for an in-person interview with the top prospect.  If you do not agree, explain why and send her back to the drawing board.  This exchange will save time and keep your search on track.
Before the joint interview, agree upon each’s role and direct your recruiter to take the lead.  Your role: Mainly observe and listen during the interview and only pose questions that will help you gauge the candidate’s emotional intelligence, character and professional motivations.  Your recruiter will cover the rest.
At the conclusion, if you are enthusiastic about this person’s candidacy, it is up to you to “set the hook” by presenting information about the company, your group and the position that will cement the candidate’s interest.

4)      Getting the one you really want to say “yes.”
Remember: It’s not all about you.  Great candidates have choices, usually including the opportunity to continue forward at their current employer.  Reeling in an “A player” requires your skillful involvement at this stage in the process and cannot be left to your recruiter, no matter how able.

How well you listened during your interviews and discerned what makes the person tick is the secret to successfully landing your candidate of choice.  The story you told about the company’s vision, your group’s role in it and the vitally important part this person will play must closely align with their professional passion and ambition.  If it does not, no amount of compensation is likely to win them over.

Only you can negotiate the “psychological contract” with the candidate which marries their capabilities and ambition with the career opportunity you have laid out.  If you are in sync, odds are the candidate will enthusiastically say “yes” to your proposal; but, if in the eleventh hour you have yet to win their commitment, there are a couple more things you can do:

  1. Personally call the reference your recruiter believes is the candidate’s closest mentor.  Engage him as though a peer and focus the conversation on your sincere desire to learn how best to manage this person and help them be successful.  You will likely glean from him new information about the candidate, perhaps even some indication why he has been hesitant to accept your offer.  Depending on the rapport that is struck, you may even be able to directly ask the reference’s counsel on how to win the candidate over.  At the very least, you will have left the impression on the mentor that you take seriously the candidate’s career and that you have his best interests in mind.  This message will surely find its way back to the candidate.
  2. Consider asking another senior executive at your company to meet with the candidate.  Select the one who you believe will best “connect” with the person and reinforce all that you have shared about the opportunity without coming on too strong or overdoing it in any way. Brief the executive on where you stand with the candidate and what you want them to do.  An open and honest visit about the company and the opportunity it provides top performers is what you want this executive to reinforce.  Also encourage them to frankly answer questions posed by the candidate and listen for information that might help you “tweak” your offer of employment to overcome any lingering obstacles that are keeping them from saying “yes.”

Do these things and you will surely see the caliber of candidates rise and your success rate in landing “star” candidates will climb.

Happy “hunting.”


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