... you can't use the same methods to hire the A-team that you use to hire everyone else.

As hiring needs accelerate, I'm doing a number of talks for recruiters and hiring managers on how to reengineer their hiring processes to find stronger talent. It turns out that this involves as much dismantling as it does rebuilding. I refer to this overhaul as The Staffing Spiral of Doom--Catch 22. If you're not into videos, following is a quick introduction to the Spiral of Doom and what you need to do to get out of it. Once you do, you'll discover hiring the A-team is pretty straightforward.

The process of hiring the A-team begins by classifying all new hires into one of three big groups. The first is those who shouldn't have been hired in the first place (about 15-20% of total hires). The second and biggest group (about 50-60%) represents the core team. These are the solid people who have the skills and meet their performance objectives on a consistent basis. The third group is the A-team, the achievers. These are the over-performers who consistently exceed their performance expectations.

Most companies want to hire more people on the A-team but find it extremely difficult for a number of big reasons. The biggest: Companies spend most of their efforts figuring out ways to hire the core team more efficiently. The problem here is that you can't use the same methods to hire the A-team that you use to hire everyone else.

The Catch-22 in all of this is that people who lead their company's hiring efforts make excuses as to why they can't do these five things (an excuse buster is offered below):

1. Rewrite your job descriptions.

Recognize that when hiring for experienced staff and management positions those on the A-team are typically fully-employed. In this case they have no interest or need to take lateral transfers. That's why I suggest jobs be described as a series of performance objectives, not a list of skills and experiences.

2. Prepare career-oriented messages.

Skills-laden generic job descriptions are useless for recruiting marketing purposes. The best people, whether looking or not, will not respond to hard-to-find job descriptions that are designed to weed out the weak. Here's a 5-step plan for writing recruiting messages that attract the best by focusing on their long-term motivating needs.

3. Recruiters need to be able to recruit passive candidates.

Hiring managers should only need to see four candidates to hire someone for the A-team. If they need to see more than this, it's likely recruiters are spending too much time working with the best people who apply, not the best people available. Screening active candidates is not recruiting. Recruiting is convincing a passive candidate that your job represents a career move. If two to three of the four people being presented are passive candidates, you know your recruiters are real recruiters. In this case you'll never need to see more than four candidates to hire one for the A-team.

4. Hiring managers need to be able to assess and attract A-team caliber people.

The best people want to work for managers who can mentor them and accelerate their career growth. Using a performance-based job description in combination with a performance-based Interview is a great first step since it sets up the opportunity gap.

5. The talent acquisition strategy must be customer-driven.

In this case the customer is an A-team prospect. Few companies benchmark how their current A-team members were hired, which is how steps 1-4 were developed. This is a good place to start. More important is the need for senior executives to do more than just talk about the importance of hiring the A-team. Here are 10 ideas on how to convert talk into walk.

Note: To shortcut the legal excuses, here's a white paper prepared by one of the preeminent labor attorneys in the U.S. He demonstrates why the above steps are not only in full compliance with state and federal employment law but will also attract more diverse and high-potential talent.

While there's nothing wrong with being efficient when hiring core team members, but being efficient doesn't matter when it comes to hiring the A-team. And when it comes to hiring the A-team it begins by converting skills-infested job descriptions into career opportunities. If you don't do this, nothing else will matter, even with the best of intentions.

Published on: Mar 12, 2015
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