By Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
The hiring process is often a complicated one. There are many factors to consider that involve firms, hiring managers, and human resources professionals. But as a career and leadership coach, I’ve seen that sometimes hiring practices can actually undercut an organization’s goals.
Targeting Only ‘Passive’ Applicants
When I started my first search firm in the early ’70s, my business partner and I were inexperienced. Potential clients often asked, “Why should we hire you when there are so many recruiters who all find people the same way: running ads in the Sunday New York Times?” (Remember, these were the pre-internet days.)
After struggling with the question a few times, I came up with an answer. “We don’t find the best person who reads the Sunday New York Times.” (After all, we didn’t have the budget for that.) “We find the best person available. That person is not actively looking for work. They are happy where they are.” The recruiter was impressed and gave me 14 jobs to work on.
Out of that experience, I developed “the myth of the passive candidate,” or the idea that finding someone who isn’t on job boards is superior. It is common for recruiters to aggressively pursue passive applicants. But what happens when a recruiter finds a candidate on LinkedIn (which makes them a passive candidate) and they have their resume on a job board (which makes them an active candidate)? In one venue they are passive, and on another they are active. How does that work?
To avoid this, don’t confuse the information (your recruiting or referral source) with the fiction that one source makes a candidate more superior to another. Their competence is what matters, not the source of the referral.
Misrepresenting Jobs To Potential Hires
I was a recruiter for decades, and it didn’t take long for me to figure out that some job hunters lie about open roles. But I also saw that some job seekers also misrepresent themselves to job hunters. After all, a recruiter likely won’t tell a potential hire, “I’ve got problems with my team, and I need to hire someone to help me save myself.” Instead, they put on a happy face and talk about having a “terrific team of people,” just as candidates only share the best version of themselves.
This can lead to a poor fit in your company, which ultimately sets the new hire up for failure. So, how can you possibly assess how someone might fit your group if both of you aren’t 100% honest? Start by telling candidates about the positives and the challenges they could face if they’re hired. Don’t sugarcoat it. If anything, this will save you the agony and expense of a making a bad hire.
Ignoring Feedback From Past Employees
As a coach, I often hear complaints from people who are “at the end of the line” with their job. Unlike years past, when these people ultimately leave their organizations, they are able to share the good — and the bad — of what they saw as employees. There is a rich repository of company reviews online that offer an insider’s look into working at a firm. These reviews could reflect managers who bully their staff, a disconnect among senior leadership and employees, lack of work, disengaged team members, etc.
This is why it’s important to learn from those reviews. For example, one review might say that you talk transformation but are, in fact, acting like you have formed an industrialized workforce working on an assembly line. By using that feedback as a teaching tool, you can ultimately improve your business and create a place potential hires do want to work.
Creating A Negative Environment After You’ve Brought On New Hires
I’ve worked in offices where staff would label speeches from our bosses with a number to summarize what type of lecture we just received. For example, I remember someone saying, “They gave a ‘№1’ today. That was, they gave us a speech about how we needed to put in more time at work even though many of us were already working 60 hours a week and only seeing our kids on the weekend. We dubbed this speech a “№1” because it was clear that the owner was №1 in their eyes, and we, the employees, weren’t.”
Just as you look for the words and actions of your staff to be congruent, they are looking for the same from you. Your staff keeps score, even if you’ve just hired them, so keep your promises to them just as you would with clients. Remember what it was like when you sat in their seat. Is this the kind of leadership you wanted? Didn’t you roll your eyes on your way out of the meeting?
You might be trying to drive your team for results, but you could get off on the wrong foot with new hires and lose your authority if you don’t respect your team, which only contributes to turnover. Instead, try creating moments where you tap into their real desire to do good work. If you don’t believe they have it, you either made a poor hire or curated an environment that causes that desire to evaporate.
Successful hiring doesn’t occur from a cheat sheet. It requires your authenticity and care so that you can find new hires who are inspired to do great work.
The environment you create for your team might be the single biggest determinant of success, and potential hires feel it when they interview. That’s on your shoulders to create, and too few spend time with that. Hire inspired people and keep confining systems out of their way.
Ⓒ The Big Game Hunter, Inc., Asheville, NC 2019, 2021
ABOUT JEFF ALTMAN, THE BIG GAME HUNTER
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a career and leadership coach who worked as a recruiter for more than 40 years. He is the host of “No
BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 2000 episodes. He also hosts Job Search TV on YouTube, Amazon and Roku, as well as on BingeNetworks.tv for Apple TV and 90+ smart sets.
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