One Simple Idea to Remove the Lid on Hire Quality

© Nyul | - Don't Put a Lid on Quality of Hire by Rethinking the Job

Over the past few months I’ve asked hundreds of recruiters and hiring managers to tweet some of their biggest hiring challenges. Here’s a short list that covers 90% of the problems they described.

  • Not seeing enough good candidates
  • The best candidates want too much money
  • Hiring managers misjudge candidates
  • Too many interviewers focus on presentation skills rather than ability
  • Too many technical people focus only on technical ability
  • Hiring managers can’t recruit the best talent
  • Recruiters spend too much time screening resumes
  • Recruiters can’t recruit the best talent
  • Recruiters can’t screen candidates properly
  • Candidates take counteroffers
  • Candidates shop our offers around to get better offers
  • Our reputation isn’t good
  • We don’t have a great employer brand
  • We can’t attract passive candidates
  • Our job descriptions are boring
  • We don’t pay enough
  • Our location is not desirable
  • There’s too much competition

A few years ago I prepared the video below with LinkedIn proving beyond any doubt that the root cause of all of these problems is simply using the wrong strategy to hire the right people. The issue is summarized in this concept:

You can’t use a surplus of talent strategy of weeding out the weak, when a surplus of top talent doesn’t exist. In this case you need to use a process designed to attract the best.

This idea is graphically presented below:

Most hiring processes are designed with a left to right “weed out the weak” focus. This starts with a job description listing a bunch of skills and experiences a candidate must have in order to meet some arbitrary threshold of ability. These are then matched to a candidate’s resume listing his/her skills and experiences. If the person passes this filter some recruiter calls and discusses the job based on what the person gets on the day he/she starts. If both agree that the title, location, compensation and company are a reasonable fit a formal interview is arranged. However, rarely do the people hired have a great understanding of what they’ll be doing or could become if successful. That’s why employee dissatisfaction has hovered around 70% according to the Gallup group for 20+ years.

This left to right process puts a lid on quality of hire since anyone who can do the work who has a different mix of skills and experiences is automatically excluded from consideration. More important, few of the best of these diverse and high potential candidates would even dream of applying since the job at best is a lateral transfer. And since it’s a lateral transfer the only reason for applying would be more money and a more convenient location.

By thinking right to left using an “attract the best” mindset all of the traditional hiring problems listed above magically disappear.

But it does take a different strategy and a different process. In this case the idea is to first define what a person needs to do and what he/she could become if successful. This then needs to be converted into a marketing campaign that invites people to engage in a discovery process to see if the position offers a true career move.

For example, we’re now helping a small company in the Portland area hire a marketing manager. Here’s the full job posting for the spot and below is the opening invitation. As you read the full post you’ll notice the complete absence of the traditional laundry list of skills, experiences and responsibilities. Despite this omission what the person needs to do to be successful is abundantly clear.

Of course, as soon as recruiters start talking with people for this role there’s a natural tendency for the candidate to ask about the compensation and the recruiter to box check skills. I suggest that neither should be done.

Instead change to a right to left perspective and focus on the career opportunity inherent in what the person will be doing, who he/she will be doing it with, the culture of the company and what the person could become. This is not easy when it violates years of conventional wisdom so I suggest to those involved in these types of conversations to adopt this advice:

Don’t negotiate the terms of an offer (compensation, title, location) before the offer is understood. I suggest that when candidates ask about the money, recruiters should say, “Let’s be frank, if the job doesn’t represent a career move, what we pay you won’t matter. So let’s first see if the job is a career move. And if it is we can then determine if the compensation fits.”

Of course, a savvy candidate will then ask the recruiter for the definition of a career move. I suggest recruiters respond with, “A career move as a minimum must offer a 30% non-monetary increase consisting of the sum of job stretch (a bigger job), faster job growth, more job satisfaction and more impact.” The idea is that rather than selling the job, sell the next step – an exploratory discussion to see if the job represents a career move.

These conversations are akin to the discovery process used in solution selling. It starts by fully understanding the buyer’s needs and then offering a custom solution. What’s important is that when done properly and a true career move exists all of the “Day 1, Get” factors are negotiable. That’s why you can’t negotiate the terms of a job offer before the person knows what the job offers.

When recruiters who haven’t read this post ask a candidate about compensation in the first few minutes of the first call I tell candidates to say, “It doesn’t really matter what you pay, I won’t be interested if the job doesn’t represent a career move. So let’s discuss this first and then we’ll see if the pay fits.”

While the logic of attracting people by using a right to left hiring process is commonsensical, in practice it’s hard to implement since it violates years of bad practices. The problem begins to go away when the company adopts a strategy to improve quality of hire and increase ROI rather than reduce cost and improve efficiency. In my mind, getting faster at doing the wrong things makes no sense even if you feel good doing it.