Talent in today’s business environment is the catalyst of success. This is proven time and again by those companies that rank recruiting and talent as their number one priority, year in and year out. Companies like Apple, Disney, Nike and Google all rank a commitment to hiring top talent as their number 1 priority. These organizations are also all on Fortune’s list of Most Admired Companies.
Does this mean these organizations never make bad hires? NO! What this means is that these companies work hard to avoid bad hires, also called mis-hires. By training their managers on best hiring practices and adhering to company wide guidelines around how to recruit, interview and select candidates, these market leaders proactively set the bar higher than other competitive organizations.
It is imperative to have a great hiring system in place. While other resources can and should be used in this process development, we will lay the groundwork here to set up a proper recruiting and interviewing structure.
Why? Mis-hires are Costly
Most people do not understand the severity and cost associated with hiring the wrong person for a job. According to Dr. Brad Smart of Topgrading.com, approximately 25% of all managers are top performers, which translates to a 75% mis-hire rate for managers alone.
In his book Topgrading, Smart estimates the cost of a mis-hire ranges between 5X and 24X an employee’s compensation. Conservatively, the overall cost of mis-hires for managers to the US economy has been estimated at $864.5 billion annually. This might not cure our national debt, but it would certainly go a long way to reduce it.
The causes of mis-hires are many, but the top 7 reasons for it are:
- No clear definition of the hiring requirements. What are the MUST HAVE items?
- No clear ownership of the hiring process. Who is ultimately responsible for the hire?
- Reliance on one person to make the decision for the hire. Who else interviews?
- Hiring for functional attributes ONLY. Do they fit in with the team or group?
- Hiring based on interview only. Are they really who they say they are?
- Lack of thoroughness in the process. Who validated their claims? References?
- Poor onboarding. How do we acclimate them to our team / company / products?
Referrals – Whether it’s your top manager or your top salesperson, the old adage of “birds of a feather flock together” generally rings true. Not everyone that gets referred should be hired, but make it a practice of asking for them so employees send them over. Oh, and by the way, pay them for those who get hired! Some companies are willing to pay a recruiter $30,000 or more for a hire yet are not willing to pay their own employees. Good talent is not cheap.
Job Board / Careers Sites – While most sites will flood you with “active” candidates, there are still some good ones that troll the job boards. Boards like indeed.com, which was purchased by Tokyo based Recruit Co. Ltd. for $1 billion, scour the internet for open positions and then aggregate them back to their own site. Indeed, seems to be the most active job board; and while LInkedIn is trying to build a business around their recruiting platform, experts suggest that Indeed has a stronger hold on the market… for now.
3rd Party – Whether it is through contract services or third-party agency, recruiters still have a very strong impact on hiring today. There are many reasons why this could be true, but the primary reason is that good niche executive search firms have connections and relationships that most hiring managers do not have. Why? Because their livelihood is knowing who the players are in a given market and building rapport with them so that when an opportunity comes up that’s a match, they can call them and potentially represent them to a company. By knowing more players in an industry or local market, recruiters continue to remain relevant even in this digital age.
How Do We Differentiate and Define Talent?
Back in 1959, Peter Drucker predicted that the major changes in society would soon be brought about by information. He coined the phrase “knowledge worker” and said that we were moving to an age when people would generate value with their minds more than with their muscle. This shift from a machine and labor perspective to one of intelligence and information was very radical for its’ time.
Fast forward almost 60 years, and the view of talent has drastically changed, but Drucker’s prediction did come true. Look no further than the most influential companies in the world to see that knowledge workers in the field of Information Technology have definitely led the pace for success.
In Jack Welch’s 2001 book, Straight from the Gut, he provided an overview of his way of differentiating talent. Welch found a ranking tool he liked — the “Vitality Curve.” Every year, the company asked each of its businesses to rank all their executives. They had to identify the people in their organizations that they considered the top 20 percent, the middle 70 percent, and finally, the bottom 10% — by name, position and compensation.
Those who did not perform to expectations were generally let go. This was the first delineation of workers into a keep / don’t keep mentality based on differentiation techniques. While many still use this or a similar methodology, GE stopped using this methodology about 10 years ago, and recently stopped their annual review process all together.
One of the people who helped establish the GE ranking system was Dr. Brad Smart, an internationally recognized management psychologist and consultant. Dr. Smart called his work Topgrading, and after writing a book on the subject, he has gone on to develop materials and training on the Topgrading approach.
The term topgrading was coined by Smart and his son Geoff in a 1997 paper co-authored by the father son duo. Smart was able to define and categorize employees based on an alphanumeric scale ranging from the letter A to the letter C. While most of your employees rank in the B filing order, the goal is to hire “A” players.
What Are A Players?
A Players are those top 10% employees who can achieve the targeted goals and more. They are the employees that stand out and accomplish goals. They are action oriented and “do” more than they “say” they will do. According to Smart and later his son Geoff, focus on your “A” players when hiring and expect great things from your group.
According to Smart, A Players tend to be:
- Surrounded by high performers
- Hard workers
- Resourceful (Most important!)
- Effective leaders
Break them out in this way:
A Player = top 10% of talent for the pay = high performer
B Player = next 25% of talent = good/adequate performer
C Player = bottom 35% of talent = chronic low performer
We will use the term A players in the rest of this article to identify those top 10% that we want on our team. These are employees that can bring you 10X on your investment in them. They can lead a company, drive your sales and expand your R&D further than any other employees can. You want them, need and MUST have them to have a GREAT company.
Hiring A Players requires managers always be on the lookout for talent. Even if you are not actively searching for your next hire, do not let “I don’t have any openings” be the reason you do not sit down for 30 minutes and talk to a potential All- Star in your respective industry.
When you do have an opening, sit down with your trusted advisors and managers and script out what your position requires for someone to be successful. We tend to consult our clients on a 3-fold strategy. First you must consider what the cultural fit within your team or company require. If you have a culture that requires thick skin and limited emotional leeway, then that must be the first criteria you use when interviewing. Hiring for cultural fit first will make the training, onboarding and management that much smoother.
Be on the lookout for talent every single day. Your main operator, engineer, salesperson or global director of sales might call you today and let you know they are leaving; or you might need to promote another A player in your organization quickly. Whatever the reason, you need to know what talent is available in your team, your company or in your coverage area at all times.
Managers should also be in touch with their team. Ask your team who you should be talking to for potential openings. Because of professional associations and LinkedIn, your “A” Players are generally in contact with others potential A Players that might be open to talking
These are a few of the competencies that you may be looking for, but identify those that are most important, because your interviews will require you to build questions around the ones you choose.
Now that you know the ideal cultural fit, the competencies required to be successful and the technical MUST have items to meet or exceed expectations, it’s time to build out your hiring team and your interview plan.
Remember that you need to measure everything if you want to improve it or manage others through it. Go to this page to find the 6 Metrics Every Hiring Manager Should Have On Their Dashboard. Also, do you want to know the #1 reason why new hires fail? See that here.
Building Out Your Hiring / Interview Team
Remember that YOU, the hiring manager, are ultimately responsible for all the actions taken when making this hire. This includes the actions of recruiters, support staff and interview helpers.
“Why recruiters,” you ask? You have a responsibility to work with your recruiting partners by providing them with the specifics of what you are looking for, the feedback on information submitted and building a partnership to ensure success in finding your next A Player. Take time upfront to develop the ideal candidate summary, then take time to screen resumes together. If you do this at the beginning of a relationship, less will be required in the future to have the results you want.
Choose your recruiting partners carefully. Remember they are the message of your brand (the company’s and yours personally). A good recruiter is able to tell a story around a company that is compelling and easy to understand. This is how they are able to attract good talent to the interview setting. By working with them to educate them on this story, they can bring in better candidates.
By having the questions below answered, your recruiting partner (internal or external) should be able to attract the right talent to you and deter the wrong talent from moving forward. A great job description should make that happen:
- What are the details of the opportunity and what are the reasons why someone should be interested in learning more about the job and the company?
- Why is the role open? If it’s an expansion position or free because of promotion, that is great, but what if it’s a vacancy? Why should great candidates be interested in a role that didn’t work for someone else?
- How will the person be trained, rewarded, compensated and evaluated in the new role?
Your Best Hiring Team
Your hiring team should consist of yourself, a peer, your manager and HR. This is the minimum required for a quality interview team. Many of our clients hold off on interviewing with the hiring manager’s manager until a final interview, which is fine, but make sure they are involved in the process.
Each person will have a specific role in the process. If this person will have dotted line responsibility to another manager, add them to your interview team as well.
Once the team has been identified, it’s time for your first meeting. This is where the timeline is established for when you need this person to start. Remember that a quick hiring process is around 70 days. Start by putting an ‘X’ on a calendar on the day you need you position filled (person in the seat) and work backwards to establish the overall timeline. Your timeline must have flexibility in those areas that are the most volatile in the process.
Typically you should put the most flexibility on the recruitment aspect of the search process. Why? Recruiting for a given job has the most variables of any step in talent acquisition.
In order to recruit top talent to an organization, the talent must be:
- Willing to accept the call or email to learn more about the new job
- Willing to make a move
- Enticed by the opportunity and Compensation
- Contractually able to move to the new company (NDA / Non-compete)
Unless they fit into all the categories above, they are not a viable candidate for a job. This doesn’t even account for the most important aspect of the search, which is finding people who meet your 3 tiers listed earlier (Cultural Fit, Competencies, Technical Skills).
Many times, it can take weeks just to get top talent on the phone; for these reasons, you should give the recruiting period more leeway in the process timeline. We educate our clients on a 3-week window from start of recruiting until we can provide a slate of candidates to review. That doesn’t mean the recruiting is over; in fact, we don’t stop recruiting for a role until the new person has been on the job for 30 days. Sound crazy? Have you ever had someone start and leave within the first 30 days? It happens, and even the most rigid hiring plans cannot account for people’s actions.
Interviews should be well thought out and thorough. Your organization should have a process and book that explains ways to uncover certain aspects of your candidate’s aptitudes and attitudes so that you ensure the best hire possible for your open job. If you do not have this type of resource, ask your HR business partner to work with you to establish some of these questions based on the criteria you have set. Your HR business partner has been trained in this area and will be more than happy to help you hire your next all star.
8 Tips/Keys to a good interview:
- Allow the candidate to relax at the start of the interview
- Ask open ended/behavioral questions
- Allow for conversation and dialogue (this is not an interrogation)
- Listen more and talk less
- Provide non-verbal signals of understanding and attentiveness
- Dive deeper in points that need to be clarified
- Allow for periods of silence
- Do not use hypothetical questions
By allowing the candidate to relax, you will be able to see a much broader picture of who they are and how they work. By contrast, if a candidate is not at ease, they will only give you the information they have been practicing for the past 24 hours. You will get nothing more out of the session, which generally leads to the interviewer have little more information than was on the resume. By gaining rapport early, you should be able to ask questions that provide a good understanding of what this person is really all about.
Ask questions that require dialogue and details. A quick google search of “behavioral interview questions” can give you voluminous examples that can be tailored to your needs. The ten questions below came right up on my last search of the internet, and they should provide a good reference for how your questions should be asked during the interview.
Questions to reference:
- Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way.
- Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation that demonstrated your coping skills.
- Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem.
- Give me an example of a time when you set a goal and were able to meet or achieve it.
- Tell me about a time when you had to use your presentation skills to influence someone’s opinion.
- Give me a specific example of a time when you had to conform to a policy with which you did not agree.
- Please discuss an important written document you were required to complete.
- Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.
- Tell me about a time when you had too many things to do and you were required to prioritize your tasks.
- Give me an example of a time when you had to make a split-second decision.
Provide verbal and nonverbal cues that keep the candidate talking without disruption. A slight nod while they are describing something will show them that you are attentive and listening. Raising the eyebrows on something they are clearly excited about will show that you understand their feelings and are looking forward to hearing more. After they finish answering a question, a quick prompt of “Then what happened” or “What else” will lead you into additional information that you would otherwise NEVER get if you just go with their first answers.
Overall, your job is to uncover whether this person will be your next “A” player. We do this by asking very open questions and probing for details. If there are no details, there is typically no depth / truth to their answers. People can be trained to answer interview questions. Look on amazon, and you can find all kinds of books about this subject. Many of them are written by recruiters looking to either find new ways of building revenue, looking for ways to reduce time spent on the subject or both.
The key to selecting a great “A” player candidate is having a truly open and honest discussion post interview. Each person who interviewed the candidate should be open to discuss their likes, dislikes and questions about their interview session without worry of negative backlash if someone else is of a different mindset.
The way to make this work is by having each person provide specific examples for each of their findings. For example, if Interviewer A says, “The candidate was very closed to new ideas on how to tackle this issue.” They must back that up with the specifics around why they felt this way. Instead of having “gut” feel provide the feedback in the room, this necessitates excellent notes be taken during the interview so that each person can go back and provide concrete details around their observations.
For this reason, interview guides should be considered by your company’s Human Resources department that allow for notes, comments and questions to be captured during the interview. This information should be returned to HR once the interviews are complete for proper disposal.
A grading scale, while not mandatory, can also be used for each specific area that the interviewer is grading the candidate on, but if this is to be used, it must be trained upon and consistent for each person involved. When decided on a finalist list of candidate; those candidates who will have final interviews with either the hiring manager’s management or a final interview with the hiring manager, the team must determine what, if any, voids exist between the candidates experience, expertise, motivation and successes and those traits required to be successful in the role that is being recruited.
We could spend hours on this topic, but ultimately the hiring manager must decide if he has the time and patience necessary to fill any voids that any candidate may have in order to be successful. Most managers know that there are some things that can be trained and some things that can not be trained. Know what you and your team have in the well before trying to draw from it on day one with a new employee.
An ideal candidate is one that has
- Experience in the general area or discipline that you are hiring for…
- Proven success in the area
- Proven achievement of a top 10% individual in the area or discipline you are considering hiring the person for
- A good fit culturally with the organization and the hiring manager’s team
- A positive attitude
- An attitude and aptitude of learning (that desire to continue growing to be better)
Making the Offer
There are books and training classes written just about this one topic. A good closer knows how to get the candidate to say yes. A great closer knows before this point whether the candidate is going to accept.
Our suggestion? Leave this to the pros. Either the recruiter (internal or external) who has built the relationship with the candidate, the hiring manager who the person will be working for, or the HR lead who has lead the process with the candidate should make the final offer. Cerca Talent suggests that they are prioritized in the order presented. Most recruiters understand how to present an offer based on the information they have gleaned from a candidate during the entire recruitment process.
Most recruiters know more about the why’s of each candidate than the hiring company does, and that allows for more dialogue in the offer process. Calling a candidate and saying, “we liked you and want to offer you the job at $45,000” can fail miserably if you don’t have all the information.
By the offer stage, the recruiter should know where they will and will not take a job, and that information should be in the hands of the hiring manager before an offer is presented. There are certainly exceptions to this rule. When Cerca Talent is working higher level retained searches, there are times when the candidates are not willing to provide their compensation information.
During these recruitment processes, I will use a range to gather the necessary information so that each group (candidate and client) know where we are in the process and generally a given range that could be an acceptable starting point to begin negotiations. This topic could be its own course, and we are working on the book as we speak, so for now, leave this to the pros. It can save everyone a lot of time, money and heartache in the end.
As a last discussion point, but certainly of equal or greater importance as the discussion above, we find that Talent Branding plays a major part in how companies and brands are perceived in today’s market. Companies like Glassdoor and others are helping to define the brand of many companies in the market today, but why would you want someone else making these important, even crucial, decisions for you and your company?
This “new” idea of Talent Branding has been kicked around for years. Some say it’s the overall look and feel of the company (including on-line); others say it’s the internal pulse on how people like or dislike the organization, and some even say it’s complete nonsense.
Our findings are that it is so important that your company’s livelihood might just depend on it. We have already established that your people can dictate the success or failure of an organization, so it’s safe to say that the attraction of the right talent to an organization is the catalyst for the final outcome, whatever that may be, for the overall company.
Research shows that people make a decision whether they like or dislike a webpage in less than 1 second. There is also research that shows that hiring managers decide in the first 5 minutes whether they will hire someone. All of this information points to a decisive and judgmental group of people — in this case candidates or future employees — that we need to be proactive in attracting, capturing and retaining to our company brands, but many companies think marketing only pertains to their “end customers”… they are wrong!
What Impacts Talent Branding?
Talent Branding is the overall encapsulation of all things that attract or repel your future employees to your company. These things include: job boards, landing pages, advertisements (print and online), employee reviews, candidate reviews, career pages, application software, application processes, interview processes, interview teams, communications, feedback and employee engagement. Since this list is not exhaustive, one can see that Talent Branding should be taken very seriously.
Remember, your company’s future depends on it.
First and foremost, what gets measured gets managed, so you have to start measuring everything in order to improve your Talent Branding. Areas to focus on can differ by client, but we start by measuring information about your Brand Reputation, Careers Page and Applications Rates (drops, incompletes, etc.).
We then try to define what the ideal candidate is for your organization. Remember that the “soft” skills or experience are just as important as their previous employment and education. If we don’t know exactly who our ideal candidate is by way of attitudes, values, etc, it’s very hard to segment your Talent Brand to attract this type of person.
We work with our clients to help them identify who that person is by building a persona around who is the perfect candidate / employee for your team. Sound strange? So did the name Google, but today is readily understood in every language around the world as a Proper Noun, Noun, Verb and Adjective. Is this Google worthy? Not yet, but as more and more companies align their Talent Brands around those people who thrive in their corporate environment, the business world as we know it today is going to change.
What Services Are Offered?
Cerca Talent offers a Growth-Driven Design Offering that allows us to activate integrated Talent Branding Campaigns, strategically designed to achieve Talent Acquisition and Talent Retention goals and business result.
Talent Branding Report
Your Talent Brand is the foundation upon which your entire organization and Talent Campaigns are built. It includes:
1. Talent Brand Strategy
2. Application Process Analysis
3. Careers Page Analytics and Analysis
4. Key Messaging
5. Brand Identity – helping you identify the right talent to your organization with your unique needs.
Deliverable: Talent Brand Strategy and Report
Cerca Talent+ Skills Training (On Site)
Many of our clients want their internal recruiters taking the first shot at filling requisition. We could not agree more with this philosophy. Use the right tool for every job! Allow our team to sharpen those tools to provide the fastest and most effective searches from your internal team. It includes:
1. Requisition Planning
2. Technology Assessment
3. CercaTalent+ Recruiter Training – On Site at your location (3days)
4. CercaTalent+ Metrics
5. Weekly follow up
6. Quarterly assessment and re-training
Deliverable: Cerca Talent+ Training – On Site
Cerca Talent+ Skills Training (Remote)
Many of our clients want their internal recruiters taking the first shot at filling requisition. We could not agree more with this philosophy. Use the right tool for every job! Allow our team to sharpen those tools to provide the fastest and most effective searches from your internal team. This time we do it remotely using our technology to train your staff at a reduced cost. It includes:
1. Requisition Planning
2. Technology Assessment
3. CercaTalent+ Recruiter Training – 2 Day Course
4. CercaTalent+ Metrics
5. Weekly follow up
6. Quarterly assessment and re-training
Deliverable: Cerca Talent+ Training – Remote
Other Services Offered Upon Request.
Let’s figure out what is going to help you in your quest to find those “A” player that will provide you a 10X return on your money. Our team is here to help.