When looking to hire great talent, don’t snatch defeat from the jaws of victory

When looking to hire great talent, don’t snatch defeat from the jaws of victory

Steve Jobs said that, as a CEO/Founder, ‘hiring the best people is your most important job’. Jim Collins, leadership guru and author of ‘Good to Great’, said, ‘great vision without great people is hallucination.’ Hiring is a big enough challenge in today’s talent short market without scoring own goals. Getting it wrong hurts. There are some simple steps you can take to avoid such mistakes.

Rejection hurts

You get turned down. Rejection smarts. This can feel and be the most painful of experiences. You scout the talent market intently and screen the many suitable and unsuitable candidates presented to you. You conduct many interviews with multiple candidates. A number of colleagues do too. Lots of time has been committed; you’ve taken lots of time out of the business. Much optimism over the ‘perfect’ candidate has been created. But they turn you down. You are back to where you started. Too much work, not enough human resource, unhappy customers, and restless investors. Why you ask?  There is a fair chance it was your process that let you down.

Bad Hires are worse

In the short term this doesn’t feel so bad, you have someone to hand off some tasks too, some ‘good news’ to share with the team, and those investors. But things soon don’t seem quite right, it’s not always easy to work out what, like a bad smell it can take time to find the source. You question if you’re imagining it. You get annoyed at those that ask you about it. Much time can pass before you find the dead rat in the cupboard. By this time the dead rat, or bad hire, has made a lot of people feel sick, disrupted your company, and now you must find out just what trail of destruction it left, and work out how to fix it. According to Brad Smart, author of ‘Top grading’ and ‘Who?’ the cost of a bad hire is between 1 and 27 times their salary. The more senior the hire, the bigger the cost. There is a fair chance it was your process that let you down.

Other consequences can be worse still

If only it were just the time and money you’d wasted! Whether a ‘no-hire’ or a ‘dead-rat’ the consequences can be real and painful. Do your top talents start to question your judgement? Do they get tired of being over-burdened and think about leaving? Assuming they didn’t already leave when they smelt the dead rat! Are your investors and customers starting to question how you run the company? Perhaps worse still, do the talented people who chose not to join or continue in your recruitment process tell their talented friends how much your company sucks, and that they should not apply to join you in the future? This does happen.

Process and momentum

Your hiring process, and the momentum of it says a lot about your company. It certainly does to those in the process. And those in your company waiting for that new colleague to make their lives and work easier. Process is important. Momentum, not necessarily speed, is important. It can be too fast as much as too slow! What does a disorganised process say about you and your company? One that goes round in circles? One that is long-winded, or very hasty? Repetitive, disjointed, illogical? How you handle the recruitment process, to the candidates, says everything about you and your company. That is why, oftentimes, the best candidates will withdraw from a process mid-way through or decline an offer if and when one is made. They have choices. They are in demand. They will be judging you as much as you are judging them. Don’t be found wanting.

Avoid the mistakes

A good process doesn’t have to be long. In fact, it shouldn’t be a long or complicated process. A good process saves you and your team a lot of time. It creates a positive experience for the candidates you want to attract. Companies rightly sweat over their customer experience. Sweat too over your candidate experience, you need great employees as much as you need great customers.

Plan. Have a clear well written job description. Know how many interviews you need, with whom, and why. Keep momentum and communication between each stage. Be clear in advance what you can afford to pay, what bonus, perks, stock options etc are part of the package. Have an offer letter and employment contract ready to go before you start the process.

Think in advance what do you need to know about the candidate and their experience? How is it best to ask or test for these things? How do you assess if there is a good alignment of values and culture? Who is best to ask which questions, plan so you don’t miss anything out but that you also don’t have several people all asking the same questions. Have everyone write down their impressions and thoughts immediately after their interview. Have a recruitment committee that shares all feedback before an offer is made, or a candidate rejected. Reject respectfully.

Have between two and four stages, this includes interviews and any presentations required. The whole process should take between two and four weeks. It should feel for the candidates a coherent and pleasant experience. Not without some challenge, good candidates aren’t after an easy life, they are after a big challenge and opportunity. Offer letters should be made in writing, including all remuneration details, within 48 hours of an offer being made, ideally 24 hours.

Make your life easier, and your hiring more successful

A good process should make your life and that of your team easier. It is a positive experience for the candidates, including the ones you don’t offer or hire. Think reputation and future hiring. Even an awful candidate may have a talented brother, sister, or best friend. It should eliminate rejected offers and bad hires. It should be repeatable and adaptable to different types of roles. It should be embedded in your culture and processes.

Good hiring is the key to the success of your business. Finding and attracting top talent is hard. Do the work to make your life easier, to give yourselves the best chance of a positive result.

At Hyperion Executive search we are experts at not just finding but also delivering top talent across all leadership and senior functions. We can support and advise you through the entire process, and that includes working with you to help create hiring processes that deliver time and again.

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