How to Spend Less Time Weeding Out Low Quality Candidates (and Attract the Best)

Last week, I spoke with the VP of IT at a well-known company regarding improving quality of hire. He told me his interview process is first rate, they’re posting their jobs on all of the major boards and he’s upgraded his job postings to include videos, graphics and clever employer branding. Yet, the quality of people applying is no better than it was before.

The week before, I spoke with the head of talent at a major European company who voiced identical problems.

And, at a recruiting conference last month, the 750 recruiters in attendance considered their number one challenge to be improving their yield at the top of the funnel.

I told them all the same thing: Too many companies spend too much time weeding out the weak candidates, rather than attracting the best.

Then I offered the following advice for attracting the best people.

1. Use a different funnel

The best people will not apply, but they will engage with a recruiter or hiring manager on an exploratory basis.

2. Forget the skills

In your job post, describe the challenges and projects the person will work on, not the skills he/she needs to have. For the single most important skill, you can say something like, “Use your vast knowledge of high speed turbulent air flow to help increase the speed of the the Musk Hyperloop.”

3. Tell stories

Forget posting internal job descriptions. Rather than me telling a story about how to write stories, here’s an example of one.

4. Remove the pressure

In your messages, mention you’re doing your workforce planning for the next six months and would like to engage in a preliminary conversation to determine interest. This is guaranteed to double your response rate.

5. Replace employer branding with job branding

Lead with a compelling job title or email subject. In the first line, emphasize what the person will be doing and tie this to the ideal candidate’s intrinsic motivator. This concept jumps out in this email example. Employer branding is most effective for entry-level jobs, but it's not as effective for senior staff and management positions.

6. Eliminate the generic boilerplate

No top person cares about the hyperbole. Customize the recruitment advertising to the person you’re targeting and assume the person is not desperate to take a lateral transfer.

7. Sell the discussion, not the job

The best people don’t need to apply. That’s why you need a different tactic at the top of the funnel. The best one is to engage in a preliminary conversation about some future role.

8. Forget the box checking

There is not one high performing and highly satisfied passive candidate who is interested in doing more of the same. So don’t check their boxes. Instead, describe your biggest challenge and ask them if it’s of interest, and if so, ask what they’ve accomplished that’s most similar.

9. Offer a 30% increase

As part of your initial conversation, tell the prospect you’d like to find out if your opening offers a 30% non-monetary increase. Then look for it in terms of job stretch, faster growth, more satisfaction and increased impact. A 30% non-monetary increase is the minimum floor for attracting a top-tier passive candidate.

10. Try harder

You’ll need multiple emails and voice mails to get 50% of the people you target to call you back. Don’t give up until they do.

Attracting the best people is a critical first step, but only the first step. Recruiting, interviewing and hiring these people is what really matters. It takes about 10-12 very talented prospects to hire one great person. This requires exceptional sourcing and recruiting skills and the full engagement and support of the hiring managers involved. While challenging, when it comes to improving quality of hire, the effort is worth it.