Every manager and company leader wants to hire great people.
It's their mantra after all. Yet after 40 years of working with managers and executives of all levels, all functions, and at companies big and small, I find just about everyone puts up unnecessary roadblocks to prevent this from happening. The problems include too narrow a focus on efficiency, cost control, avoidance of mistakes, and not enough of an understanding of how great people are found and hired. Doing the wrong things quickly and cheaply is not how you hire stronger people.
Here's my top 10 list of things that managers (and companies) do to prevent them from hiring the best. If you want to start seeing and hiring more top people you might want to try not doing them.
1. Filter candidates on skills and experience.
The best people do more with less, get promoted faster, work better with multi-functional teams, and handle bigger projects sooner. Unfortunately these attributes are filtered out for the sake of efficiency.
2. Target the wrong talent pool with the wrong marketing messages.
There are few top-third people who are actively looking on job boards and willing to consider what appears on the surface to be a lateral transfer or an uninspiring job. As shown in this survey, most top people find their jobs through some type of referral or networking process.
3. Use compensation to save time but prevent the best from being evaluated.
The best people tend to make more than most. And while they might consider a different compensation mix, the discussion is usually cut short before it even begins.
4. Look for a person to fit the "perfect" job rather than modifying the job to fit the perfect person.
Why not look for high potential people who are "one-offs" from the standard job description and modify the job to fit their needs?
5. Use of generic traits.
Advertising for traits like "results-oriented" and "strong people skills" is just as bad as saying we want to hire lazy people and those who can't work on teams. (Actually this might work.) Instead, look for the people who achieved comparable results, and you'll discover they have exactly the traits needed.
6. Believe gut feelings, first impression bias, and that the "Halo Effect" predicts performance.
Most interviewers go out of their way to prove people they like are fully competent and those they don't, aren't. This is a great way to not hire the top half and a likely way to hire those who will become part of the bottom half.
7. Allow a "hire in our own image" mentality to exist.
We all like to hire people just like us. This is also called the "super cloning" hiring technique and it's a great way to prevent diversity of thought and action.
8. Use gladiator voting.
Adding up a bunch of yes/no votes from people who use a bunch of random interviewing techniques is a great way to hire the consensus candidate, not the best candidate.
9. Accept a safe "no" vote with no proof that it's justified.
A "no" is safe and it's easy to make. Hiring high potential candidates with a different mix of experiences and skills is risky for most managers. It's easier to say no than yes to someone who's a bit of a misfit or needs some seasoning, coaching, or training.
10. Don't make hiring managers responsible.
If hiring mangers aren't measured on the quality of the people they hire, they'll hire someone who can deliver results in the short term, and worry about the long-term consequences in the long term.
There are few top people who start as a perfect match on skills and experience and are willing to take less than they're worth compensation-wise, endure the "weeding out" and impersonal vetting process most companies use, and take a job that on the surface seems at best a lateral transfer. Despite the obvious, companies continue to screen out high-potential candidates, diversity candidates, returning military veterans, anyone who looks or thinks a different way, and just about anyone who wants a better job, not an identical job. These are exactly the people these managers and companies complain that they're not seeing. While there are plenty of things companies can do to raise the talent bar, stopping doing the dumb stuff is the first step.