For recruiters today, it’s simple to identify 20-30 ideal candidates for just about any staff or mid-level manager position. All you need is the ability to use LinkedIn’s powerful filtering system, a bit of basic Boolean and some knowledge of what the best people do differently than the rest. For example, searching on the term “patents” will bring up strong engineers and “quota” will bring up sales people who are proud they made it.
What’s hard is getting these people to respond to your messages. What’s even harder is getting these people to talk to you and convincing them that your opening represents a career move.
But in my mind, this is the essence of recruiting. Recruiting is not waiting for someone to apply to your job or answer your email saying he/she is ready to move. It’s proactively reaching out to top-notch people and persuading them to at least consider the idea of changing jobs. So, how do you do it? By adding job taglines to all your job descriptions. The tagline is the little sentence that captures the jobs purpose and will make candidates want to apply. And creating it all starts with the intake meeting...
Using the intake meeting to determine the perfect tagline for your job post
Creating a great tagline starts during the intake meeting with the hiring manager. The primary objective of this meeting is to convert the job into a true career opportunity for someone. As an absolute minimum, this requires the following information and commitment from the hiring manager:
Get the hiring manager to develop the employee value proposition (EVP) explaining why the spot is a better job for someone who already has a good job doing similar work.
Get the hiring manager to answer this question: What’s the one single skill, strength or competency that drives on-the-job success?
Obtain the hiring manager’s commitment to have an exploratory call with someone who can do the work but needs more information to seriously consider the job.
Based on this you’ll be able to create some compelling messages and taglines that inspire the “right” person to read the full job posting, respond to your emails or return your voice mail messages. I refer to this as job branding.
Using job branding and taglines to capture candidates' intrinsic motivators
Cost Estimator: Your attention to detail drives our corporate profitability.
I created the following for our own operations manager who we hired more than 10 years ago and is still with us. The tagline stood out like a sore thumb with a message that said, “This job is talking about me.”
Operations Manager – aka Jack of All Trades and Master Juggler
To develop these taglines, I seek out the wisdom of Abraham Maslow and his hierarchy of needs, Zig Ziglar’s belief that “sales is helping people get what they want,” and Coach John’s Wooden’s Pyramid of Success.
Based on this basic understanding of human nature and the driver of on-the-job success, you need to create a tagline that will capture the candidate’s intrinsic motivator. This is the only way the “right” person will read or listen to your message and respond. Some examples will help you understand this messaging concept.
Here’s one a talent leader used to find nurses for a hospital’s medivac program:
Flight Nurse – Helping Save Lives Everyday
Here’s one we created for a controller of a small movie film production company. The CEO wanted someone from a big entertainment company.
Oscar-Winning Controller – Get Out of the Numbers and Make a Difference
Here are a few new ones we’re now testing.
This is for a Quality Assurance Manager for a manufacturing company that needs a person to spend most of the time on the factory floor:
Quality Assurance Manager – Get Dirty. Don’t Assume Anything.
Here’s one for a Sales Operations Manager who needs to provide sales leaders the info needed to manage a sales team tripling in size over the next 12 months:
Sales Operations Manager: You and Salesforce.com Bring Insight Never Seen Before
Of course, getting a person to respond to your messages is critical, but this is just a starting point. These taglines will certainly help, but then the person needs to be compelled to read the entire job posting or email (which both need to be as exciting and as compelling as the tagline) or contact you directly. Then on the first phone call the recruiter needs to demonstrate that the difference between what your opening offers and what the person is doing today is a true career move. And if it is, the next step is an exploratory conversation with the hiring manager.
Hiring top talent requires a multi-level sophisticated marketing program in combination with a skilled recruiter and an engaged hiring manager. But it always starts with a great message that captures the attention of the person in less than 140 characters.
I was reading this article by Harvard professor Todd Rose on Fast Company, "How Job Descriptions Undermine the Hiring Process." Rose is the author of the new bestseller,The End of Average. He contends skills-based job descriptions don't predict ability, motivation, or performance because the context of the job is not considered. Rose defines context as the underlying circumstances of the job, which includes the critical performance objectives, culture of the company, resources available, and the hiring manager's leadership style.
Rose believes the continued use of these skills and experience-based job descriptions by most companies is misguided and suggests they create an artificial barrier to entry for the best people. The best people are those who can actually do the real work in the real situation but who have a different mix of skills and experiences.
Of course, I personally love Rose's solution: performance-based hiring. This is the approach I've been advocating for more than 30 years. The key: Define the work you need done before defining the skills and experiences a person needs to have to do the work. Skills and experiences are variable -- some people need more, some less. However, as long as you can prove the person is both competent and intrinsically motivated to do the work as described in the context of the actual situation, you will hire a top performer. Just as important, the person's level of skills and experience, whatever they are, will be exactly right.
About a year ago Rose contacted me to discuss this idea, so while I was surprised to find the article on Fast Company, I wasn't surprised about his conclusions. He told me he wanted to describe the impact performance-based hiring can have on hiring stronger people in The End of Average. In the book he demonstrates that society is accelerating its shift to more customized products and services and away from the outdated one-size-fits-all mentality of the 20th century. The shift is evident in fields as diverse as automobile design, education, medicine, TV, shopping, and how your phone and watch can be personalized to meet your whims. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. However, as Rose points out, HR is nowhere to be seen, and in the case of hiring, is still using prehistoric thinking to hire people in the modern age.
In his book and article Rose provides an overview of how performance-based hiring can be a game changer for hiring stronger people. Here's the quick summary:
Rather than describe the person you want, describe the job you want done. When opening a new requisition, define what the person must achieve in terms of performance in order to be considered successful. One example cited in the book is how Callum Negus-Fancey, the CEO of Let's Go Holding in the U.K. (a brand marketing firm), hired an HR leader by defining success as, "implement an HR system from scratch that could meet the needs of a bunch of highly creative out-of-control marketing types." In the article you'll discover how and why he hired a pharmacist for the job.
Convert behaviors, skills, and competencies into outcomes. During our first conversation Rose asked me how I define universal competencies like good communication skills as a performance objective. I suggested that any competency should be defined by determining how it's used in the context of the job. For a customer service rep, good communication skills mean listening to the customer's needs and figuring out a course of action. For an engineer, it's working with product marketing and explaining how design specs need to be modified to meet customer requirements. If you don't have this context, assessing a person's communication skills is based on the interviewer's perceptions and biases. That's how bad hiring decisions are made.
Focus on thinking skills and comparable performance, not identical experience. As part of the interview, it's important to get an example of a comparable accomplishment for each performance objective. To handle any gaps, I also ask candidates how they'd address work they haven't done before, to understand the person's problem-solving, thinking, and planning skills. I refer to this as the Anchor and Visualization questioning pattern, which is a great technique for evaluating leadership and potential.
At the end of our conversation, Rose asked me if I thought the current shortage of talent is attributed to a national skills gaps. "No," I responded, "we have a thinking gap, and we'll continue to have one as long as people are force-fitted into ill-defined jobs." Thank you, Todd, for proving it.
In an earlier post I suggested that all work is comprised of four basic building blocks or job types – the Thinker, Builder, Improver and Producer.
Thinkers, the first kind of job, come up with great ideas. Builders, the second kind of job, convert these ideas into reality. Improvers, the third kind,make this reality better. Producers, the fourth kind of job,do the work over and over again, delivering quality goods and services to the company’s customers in a repeatable manner.
When job descriptions are described by work types it’s easier to match a person’s strengths and interests with the actual job needs. This approach allows recruiters and hiring managers to better predict on-the-job performance, satisfaction and engagement during the interview and assessment process.
The first version describes the need for a creative Thinker with enough technical skills to do the job. The traditional way reads like a standard techie Producer.
While the person hired needs software skills to do the work, it’s how these skills are used on the job that determines job fit and ultimate success. Traditional job descriptions don’t highlight these critical on-the-job outcomes but the use of work types ensures they stand out. The expected job results can then be used to both attract the right people and assess them accurately.
Here’s how the four work types can be used to develop performance-based job descriptions.
Bring up the four basic work types during the intake meeting:
These are the people who create and develop new ideas, products and ways of thinking about processes, people and tasks. They range from business strategists to creative artists.
During the intake meeting ask the hiring manager to describe what a person needs to do from a strategic, creative or long-term perspective. For a product manager position one hiring manager told me the person needed to lead the development of a three-year product roadmap. This was a substitute for “Must have an MBA from a prestigious university.”
These people convert ideas into something tangible. Typically they’re entrepreneurs, inventors, turn-around experts and those who manage major one-time projects.
To get at this trait I ask hiring managers to describe the biggest project the person would need to handle. For a plant manager’s job is was, “Overhaul the entire factory workflow in six months.” This replaced the need for “10+ years of high volume stamping experience in the automotive OEM industry.”
These people focus on managing processes, people, and departments. They upgrade or redesign existing processes, products, systems, procedures and ways of doing business.
To figure out the Improver tasks, simply ask the the hiring manager what the person needs to improve or upgrade during the first year. For most jobs these objectives relate to reengineering and redesign related projects.
These are the people who apply their technical skills, execute repeatable processes, and sell and service customers, suppliers and co-workers. Quality starts with them.
During the intake meeting ask the hiring manager to describe how the person will use a specific skill or competency on the job. For example, “5+ years experience selling industrial filters,” converted to “Identify and prioritize the major accounts in the south east territory and increase sales by 10% during the first six months.”
How to apply these work types to your job description
Most jobs can be described with 6-8 performance objectives. Once listed, put them in priority order and classify each one by work type. The most important will be at the top of the list. To ensure a good match, during the interview have candidates describe their major accomplishments most related to each of the top 3-4 performance objectives. Using the fact-finding process I advocate the candidate’s preferred work types will stand out.
Matching people with opportunity starts by fully understanding the opportunity and then defining the types of people who find this opportunity the right match. The work type approach is an important bridge for matching all types of people with all types of opportunities. LinkedIn advocates it. The work type approach operationalizes it.
Over the past year on these pages, I suggested there were a number of things a job seeker could do to get a (better) job rather than wasting time complaining about the unfairness of the process. Following is recap of what I consider the most important advice on how to hack-a-job rather than applying directly. (Here's a link to the video series summarized below.)
Don’t spend more than 20% of your time applying directly to a job posting. Unless you’re a perfect fit, it’s a waste of time. Here are some ideas on how to spend the other 80% of your time.
Use the job posting as a lead. Once you see a job of interest, search for all the jobs the company has posted. Then use some of the non-resume ideas below to connect directly with the department head or someone connected to the hiring manager.
Become a true networker, not a glad hander. Networking is not about meeting as many people as you can. It’s about meeting a few well-connected people you already know who can introduce you to a few well-connected people you don’t know.
Use the backdoor. If you’re not a direct match on skills and experience you need to be referred by a company employee or someone connected to the hiring manager. This will get you to the top of the resume stack since there are fewer gatekeepers watching the backdoor.
Prepare a non-resume. If your resume isn’t a perfect match, but you’ve done something related, you’ll need to narrow the focus and amplify your accomplishments. A one-page job proposal or a video describing a major comparable accomplishment might just do the trick.
Do some pre-work. An MBA student took my suggestion to prepare a competitive analysis for a company he had targeted. He sent it to the VP of Marketing and landed an interview. Mini-projects like this are a great way to demonstrate your ability.
Send the department head a performance-based job description. If you’re familiar with the job, you might want to reformat the posted job description by describing some of the likely performance objectives. Send this to the department head with a summary of a few of your related accomplishments to get an interview.
Offer a free or low cost trial. There’s always a risk in hiring someone. To reduce this risk, offer to work on a small project on a contract or temp-to-perm basis.
Learn the 2-minute answer to any question. Get a two-minute egg timer. Find a bunch of standard interview questions. Turn the timer over and force yourself to answer each question out loud for the full two minutes using this technique. This will be great practice and a real confidence builder for an actual interview.
Control the interview. Ask the interviewer to describe actual job needs. Then give a two-minute example of something you’ve accomplished for each one.
Divide and conquer. You don’t need to possess every skill listed on the laundry list of qualifications to get seen or hired. Long ago I had a candidate for a controller spot get hired by describing some of the related things he had done extremely well and how he could quickly learn everything else.
Prove you’re not overqualified. There are two dimensions to being qualified for any job. First, you need to be competent to do the work. Second, you need to be motivated to do it. No matter how competent you are, if you can’t prove you have proactively done this work in the recent past, instead of sometime long ago, you’re now overqualified.
Interview yourself and send someone your answers to our Performance-based Interview questions. This Performance-based Interview template will help you get prepared. This video explains the process. To get an interview, send a recording of your answers to someone you found through the backdoor.
Get phone screened if your appearance or age will send the wrong message. In The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired I suggest that a 30-minute phone interview focusing on accomplishments will minimize biases due to first impressions. Job seekers should request this type of phone screen if there’s any chance they won’t be assessed objectively.
If you don’t want to wade through each of the links above, here's the condensed video version. The tips are also hidden in plain sight between the paragraphs in The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired. Whatever approach you use to try these ideas out, I can guarantee they're more likely to help you get your next job rather than complaining about how unfair the system is.