Do You Recruit like a Talent Magnet or a Gatekeeper?
Updated: May 16, 2019
Consider how your company recruits. Is there more focus on attracting talent or on minimizing the risk of a new hire? It is possible to both engage great people in the process, while also ensuring that you maintain a high bar. But it’s time to throw Talent Acquisition out the window.
I believe that I see recruiting in a way not shared by many.
Where most see an HR function, I see Sales and Marketing. Where many see their recruiting challenge as one of ‘Talent Acquisition’, I quite frankly don’t get that at all. Too many recruiting departments are designed like purchasing functions, where “orders are filled”, scarce skills are “sourced”, candidates are treated as commodities, and talent is acquired for the lowest possible price.
Historically, this approach made perfect sense. I am from a mining town and decades ago, my grandfather and his peers would line up at the gates of the mine, waiting to be chosen for work that day. The Foreman would walk out in the morning and select his workers for the day, making picks based on physical appearances – who looked strong and capable enough to get the job done. Labour was an abundant commodity, with plenty available to fill the order of the day. Personnel departments were designed around these economics and were trained to be discriminating buyers of manpower.
However, in our strong economy, even general employment stats don’t support hiring this way. “Post it and they will come” is not a viable strategy anymore - certainly not in tech, and definitely not for any company that needs the best people to succeed. When there are lots of great mines and few great miners, we have a problem with the old approach.
Everywhere we see companies behaving like there is an unlimited supply of people and time, despite the skilled talent shortage. Recruiting practices still mimic the mine foreman, walking out, picking the miners that will gratefully accept whatever work is on offer... Are we so stuck in our ways that we can’t evolve from the commodity hiring mentality? I think something else is going on…
There isn’t a people shortage, there is a talent shortage. Not the same thing! The problem isn’t that there aren’t enough resumes out there - it’s that most of them belong to people you shouldn’t hire. This leads to the mistaken idea that a company can just pick the best miners. It doesn’t take into account that the best miners have lots of great choices, and it is not enough to just assume they’ll choose you.
Hiring is risky business because making a mistake is expensive. If you hire no one and blame the talent shortage, isn’t that better than hiring a room full of potential misfits? We’re more concerned with what happens if we let the wrong people into the company and it’s become the job of the internal recruiter to weed out the imposters and the time wasters that want to sit quietly and take a paycheque. But what are we missing out on?
Breaking it down, we have 2 problems that are in opposition.
The wrong people want to work for you
The right people don’t know you exist
Look at these 2 problems and choose the one you’ll solve.
Most will choose the one that avoids risk rather than the one with the big upside. An internal recruiting function is built to address the question of risk - it puts process, tools, and rules in place to weed out the potential cultural misfits, technical lightweights, and the unwashed masses. Almost every HR person is trained to reduce costs and eliminate risk and will focus on NOT hiring the wrong guy. But if you focus only on looking for imperfection, you will find it almost every time.
It’s time we start working from a different set of assumptions.
What would happen if you recruited like a sales team? Of course, qualifying people is a critical part of the process, but focus your recruiting energy on attracting and bringing in the best, then expect greatness from the people you hire. Rather than looking for a perfect fit for your culture, you create a culture that is designed for the most talented people; that inspires their best work and accommodates their harmless imperfections.
Accept that you’ll fail a few times before you get it just right. But in the process, you’ll unearth hidden gems and build an environment that perpetuates success.