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
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