Thursday, April 2, 2015

The 10 Commandments of Hiring Great Talent

Guest post from Michael Travis:

Many managers — maybe most of them — struggle with recruiting.

The reasons aren’t surprising. Recruiting is a complicated skill, and very few companies or business schools teach it. Young managers are thrown into the deep end of the pool and expected to swim, and more seasoned managers have nowhere to turn when grappling with difficult problems, or when they want to tune up their skills.

Given this unhappy state of affairs, it’s worth revisiting the basic tenets of good recruiting practice. Let’s call them recruiting’s Ten Commandments:

1. Make Recruiting a Priority
Doing a great job with recruiting takes a lot of time. Most executives profess recruiting is a top priority, but very few practice what they preach. That’s because it’s so easy to put off recruiting tasks when faced with short-term problems that appear to be more urgent. Don’t let that happen. Delay is the root cause of many of the most common recruiting failures.

2. Know What You Want
Many recruiting projects founder because the hiring manager hasn’t clearly defined the job or the profile of ideal candidates. It goes without saying that if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’re not going to find it. You're not ready to start searching until you can distill the job and candidate description down to one page.
3. Treat People Well
Treating people well attracts great talent. Conversely, treating people poorly repels the best candidates first, leaving only those who are so desperate that they’re willing to tolerate poor treatment.

4. Make the Interview a Conversation
If you approach the interview as an interrogation, the only thing you will learn is name, rank and serial number. Candidates are much more forthcoming if you help them relax and engage in a conversation.

5. Get Help
We’ve already established that recruiting takes a lot of time, and managers already have too much on their plates. That’s why getting help from a competent HR professional or recruiter is so important. They provide trusted counsel, and relieve the hiring manager from many of the more mundane aspects of recruiting so he is free to focus on what’s most important — making hiring decisions

6. Remember to Sell
Too many executives approach recruiting solely as a buyer. They fail to recognize that recruiting is a complicated transaction in which both sides are simultaneously selling themselves and evaluating each other. The best candidates will walk away if they don’t hear a compelling case for why they would want the job.

7. Ask for Advice
Perfection in recruiting is unattainable. No matter how good you are, you can always get better. The best hiring managers know they don’t have all the answers, and reach out to trusted colleagues and mentors regularly to talk through knotty problems.

8. Take References Seriously
References are more important than the interview because they provide third-party testimony that balances the candidate’s self-interested story. The old guideline of three references is grossly inadequate — eight to twelve is a more reasonable number. Keep talking to references until you stop hearing new things. Only then are you done.

9. Help New Hires Get Started. A new hire’s start date is the end of the beginning. Next comes the hard work — making him a productive member of the team. Too many hires fail because they don’t learn the new business and new culture fast enough. Don’t let that happen — develop a plan to help new hires come up to speed quickly.

10.Take Charge of Your Education
Don’t expect help. Companies and business schools don’t teach recruiting, even though it’s a fundamental business skill. That means managers who want to excel at recruiting must take charge of their own education.

Following these commandments will improve any manager’s recruiting batting average. It’s worth remembering, however, that recruiting is just one piece of the talent puzzle. After great people are hired, they must be convinced to stay. That means identifying top performers, helping them develop their skills, and showing them a compelling career path.

Michael Travis, principal of recruiting firm Travis & Company, is on a mission to help companies completely avoid the negative consequences of a bad hire by finding the right candidate the first time, every time. He is sharing his tried-and-true techniques to hiring smart in his new book, Mastering the Art of Recruiting: How to Hire the Right Candidate for the Job. Considered an expert in topics relating to executive search, Travis is frequently featured in the media and his insights have been in outlets like The New York Times, Boston Business Journal and Executive Recruiter News. For more information visit

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