4 Tips for Hiring Top Talent

June 22, 2010

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Hiring managers today have a larger pool of applicants from which to choose. Nonetheless, many employers are realizing how hard it is to attract and hire the best employees.

Employer optimism in the global labor market is gradually improving, according to recent data. With business confidence levels on the rise, increasingly more employers are beginning to consider hiring workers, even if only to restore or maintain, rather than increase, staff.

The seasonally adjusted results of the latest quarterly Manpower Employment Outlook Survey, released this month, indicate that employers in 30 of 36 countries and territories have stronger hiring plans compared to 12 months ago, and 23 reported improved quarter-over-quarter hiring prospects.

Manpower Inc. found that U.S. employers anticipate favorable hiring conditions for the third quarter of this year. Of the more than 18,000 employers surveyed, 18 percent expect an increase in staff levels in Q3 hiring plans, while 8 percent expect a decrease in payrolls.

"Although we are still facing a difficult labor market, more employers indicate confidence about the direction of their businesses, and with that comes an intention to increase their workforces," Jonas Prising, Manpower president of the Americas, said in a statement. "We are in the early stages of the jobs recovery, and although we have a long way to go, the job market will continue to improve from here."

In a recent survey of more than 400 senior global executives conducted by StepStone Solutions in partnership with the Economist Intelligence Unit, 41 percent reported a current shortage of talent in their organizations and 44 percent said they find it increasingly difficult to recruit talented employees. Half the respondents plan to ramp up recruitment over the coming year.

For those companies looking to hire, finding the right person can be a daunting or overwhelming task.

In their 2008 bestseller Who: The A Method for Hiring, co-authors Geoff Smart and Randy Street argue that most companies focus on the "what" rather than the "who," and that hiring "A" players is the most important part of any leader's job.

Based on consulting insights across hundreds of companies over 13 years, as well as interviews with CEOs and investors, Smart and Street boil down their recommendations into a four-step process for managers to improve their hiring success rate. The following are four pillars to successful hiring, according to Who: The A Method for Hiring:

  1. Scorecard — Determine what an "A" player is. Carefully develop a written "scorecard" with quantifiable outcomes you expect the person to deliver. This card, designed by the hiring manager, lays out the definition of success for a specific role. Next, identify the competencies required to deliver the business outcomes in a way that fits the needs of the role and company culture. "Once created, this is used in every step of the interview process to score and prioritize candidates," growth equity firm General Atlantic explains.
  2. Source — Source the best candidates using your personal and professional network. "This sounds obvious. But it is uncommon," the authors summarized at CNBC. "Unsuccessful business people don't make the time to tap their networks and try to rely on 'arms-length' sourcing strategies, such as posting on job boards, placing ads, and using recruiters." As Robert Hatta, vice president of entrepreneurial talent for venture development organization JumpStart, recently said in a Crain's Cleveland Business interview: "In the same way that it's best to look for a new job before you need one, it's best to look for talent before you have a pressing need."
  3. Select — Rigor is important in the interview process, yet picking the right candidate requires more energy and interviewing time than many managers bother with. At Harvard Business Review, Smart and Street recommend applying more-diligent-than-usual selecting and questioning. For each job the person has had, find out the following: What was the person hired to do? What were his or her biggest accomplishments? What were his or her mistakes? What would the former bosses say about him or her (verified with reference checks)? Why did he or she leave?
  4. Sell — Because true "A" players are likely in demand, a lot of value gets lost when hiring organizations fail to follow through. Hiring managers should sell candidates by remembering what candidates care about: fit with the company; family support for joining the company; freedom to make decisions; fortune; and fun.

Of course, each of these four process stages entails many more steps than what's mentioned here.

Smart and Street claim that the cost of making a hiring mistake is 15 times the person's annual salary, and that managers who invent their own approaches not only waste time, but also produce a 50 percent failure rate on average. Clearly, employees can make or break a business, which makes hiring the right person for the job all the more critical as employers begin to look at rebuilding their workforce.


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Who: The A Method for Hiring by Geoff Smart and Randy Street Ballantine Books, Sept. 30, 2008

"WHO" You Hire Can Cost You — New Book on the Perils by Gloria McDonough-Taub, Geoff Smart and Randy Street CNBC, Oct. 30, 2008

Seven Steps to Smarter Hiring by Marshall Goldsmith, Geoff Smart and Randy Street Harvard Business Review, Dec. 23, 2008

Hiring for Success General Atlantic, Aug. 12, 2009

Q & A: Robert Hatta, Vice President of Entrepreneurial Talent, JumpStart Crain's Cleveland Business, June 14, 2010

...Employment Outlook Survey Reveals Strong Hiring Outlook for the Third Quarter of 2010... Manpower Inc., June 8, 2010

...Employment Outlook Survey Reveals Continued Momentum in U.S. Hiring Outlook Manpower Inc., June 8, 2010

Businesses Sailing into a 'Perfect Storm' for Talent as Global Economy Improves StepStone Solutions and the Economist Intelligence Unit, March 4, 2010

How to Improve Your Hiring Practices by Christine Lagorio Inc.com, April 1, 2010

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