Talent Management

Hiring Mistake #7 – Fishing in Shallow Waters

fishinginshallowwaterMost of the methods used to attract candidates bring forth candidates who are floating in the shallow end of the pond. They fall into what we call the “aggressive” candidate pond – those who typically have excessive turnover, are toxic, and cannot deliver the performance you desire. These are frequently NOT the best candidates (I think this is known as a classic understatement).

Over the last 25 years of leading hiring workshops and seminars, I hear in almost every presentation that finding enough good candidates is one of the greatest hiring frustrations of executives and managers. It doesn’t seem to matter whether the economy is going straight up, straight down, or sideways – it’s always tough to find good people. Filling seats is easy. Run an online advertisement on a job board (the most common tactic), get 300 responses – 298 of which you can’t figure out what keyword they clicked on to apply to your ad. 2 in the group looked good, but they went off the market in the blink of an eye. 3 weeks later you’re looking at everyone else’s retreads, rejects, and poor performers.

How to Get Depressed Over Finding Candidates Depressing element #1: Most companies have a tendency to attract the bottom 1/3 of the candidate pool. One of the key problems in hiring is that if all you are seeing is the bottom 1/3, then you are doomed to fail before you even start the hiring process. it doesn’t matter how great the job sounds, the stellar rep of your company, or your personal charisma in the interview – if all you’re seeing is the bottom 1/3, then that’s the group from which you’ll hire the next member of your team.

How you write your job ad and where you place it dictates who you get. When you run job advertisements geared to pull candidates who need jobs, that’s pretty much what you get – okay sometimes you get lucky and find a good one – but most of the time you get the bottom of the pile, the best of the worst, or as one of my clients called it the other day: the cream of the crap!

Depressing Element #2:  Not only do your job ads attract candidates floating near the surface of the pond – you then consider that to be the entire candidate pool from which you can make your choice. This group of candidates who land on your doorstep through traditional job advertising (read:  job descriptions masquerading as advertising) is at best 10-15% of the viable candidate pool. There’s a huge universe of potential candidates who are much better- and you’re letting them slip through your fingers by focusing on the wrong group – the aggressive candidate group seeking a new job.

You’re acting like the basketball coach of your local public high school – trapped in to taking whomever shows up that year. Unlike your local public high school, you have unlimited ability to attract better talent. Why do you keep pretending you’re the coach of a high school team adding people to your team just because they showed up?

Depressing Element #3: We start the entire hiring process by attracting the bottom 1/3 of the candidate pond. If that’s not bad enough, you compound this hiring mistake by turning off the very best performers. Top talent doesn’t care that you want someone with 2 years of X, and 4 years of Y, and knowledge of ABC systems. They want to know what’s in it for me? What am I going to learn, what impact will I have, and what will become for having been in this role. If you can’t answer those questions in specific detail, then top talent takes their hand and pulls it down. We want them to raise their hand. We want them to show excitement to learn about your very special opportunity.

When you tell the world about your job ad in the tone of a drill sergeant barking orders of what you deamnd, you REPEL, DISGUST, and TURN-OFF top talent. Top talent DOES NOT CARE what you want as an employer. 99.9% of all job ads fall into the category of either the entire job description or a modified version of the job description masquerading as a job ad. This is NOT a compelling description of an opportunity for a top performer. It’s basically a job description – and it’s worthless as a tool to attract great talent. Is it any wonder why most executives and managers are frustrated by the process of finding great employees?

Why Do We Keep Failing At Attracting Great Employees?

Why do we post job descriptions on job boards and let them masquerade as job ads? They’re boring, mundane, depressing, and lack anything top talent would be interested in exploring.

We do it because we’re programmed to do it. This is what the retired guy did 25 years ago, who trained my boss, who trained me. We call this tribal hiring. How many of the things that go on in your company are tribal – you have no idea why it’s done that way – yet that’s the way you’ve always done it. Like passive sheep, we follow blindly in the footsteps of our ancestors.

Why do we do this? Why do we fall victim to tribal hiring. Why are we using the same recruiting practices that have been in existence since Henry Ford started cranking out Model-Ts on the production line? Perhaps, that’s the subject for another blog post.

Was it Benjamin Franklin who said that doing the same thing over and over hoping for different results was the definition of insanity? Is your company the poster child for the Definition of Insanity when it comes to finding great employees?

Overcoming the Hiring Mistake of Fishing in Shallow Waters First, if you want to attract better candidates, you’ve got to develop a Compelling Marketing Statement. A Compelling Marketing Statement is like the royal trumpeters announcing to the world something special. We take an entire chapter in our book,  “You’re NOT the Person I Hired”, and focus in on this one subject. As you probably know, the digital version is available for downloading FREE from our website. You can also find FREE examples of Compelling Marketing Statements on our website by clicking here.

Secondly, you’ve got to use the three primary best practices in hunting for the best talent. The best are NOT going to simply show up on your doorstep begging for a job. They’ve got multiple offers, decline to interview regularly, and are choosy when it comes to deciding when they’ll raise their hand to express interest in a job opening. To effectively find great talent, you’ve to go to where they are “hanging out”. No longer does a “build it and they will come” approach work in attracting great employees.

The three primary best practices that could yield great candidates include:

Raising the quantity and quality of employee, customer, client, vendor, and supplier referrals of great talent Using a Compelling Marketing Statement as a job ad, placing it in front of where your target candidate will most likely see it Moving from 6 degrees of separation to 1 degree of separation through effective networking, both off-line and on-line with social media We’ve produced a ton of content related to finding great employees. Check out our videos, audio programs, and other content here on Vistage Village. Future blog posts will explore each of these best practices, including the writing of a Compelling Marketing Statement in more detail.

Share your story of falling victim to the hiring mistake of fishing in shallow waters, OR your story of how you overcame this very common hiring mistake.

Category: Talent Management


About the Author: Barry Deutsch

Barry Deutsch has been a popular Vistage Speaker for over a decade in the areas of hiring and retention. In recognition of the value of his presentations, Vistage has given him the prestigious IMPACT Speaker of the Year Award. He is a co-aut…

Learn More

  1. dexterkuan

    April 30, 2012 at 3:59 am

    I guess a few things come into play here.

    Policy is one. Why hiring mistakes keep repeating is because a pre-set amount of policies has been set, and people are following it too closely.

    My opinion, what matters most is not the qualification, but more of the values which a job applicant has. Yes, experience does matter, but it is just to speed up the learning curve. But, one step back, learning a job too fast makes it boring and routine. Of course, efficiency is key. Hence, I emphasize on the need for the development of “values”, because values bring people further in their job.

    And of course, job applicants make up a huge bulk of the 1/3 desperate-for-jobs. Most of the great employees are being well retained in other organizations, and they know that they are good. Sometimes, they may look for other opportunities, but they often ain’t desperate enough to go jobless before finding another job.

    Dexter, Singapore

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *