Recruitment v Seduction

A professional recruiter who I have advised — real pro — put up an article on Twitter that caught my interest. It discusses the essence of recruitment failures and why they happen. It takes a long time to get to the nub of things, but it is filled with wisdom.

I had also been building a file to write about this and they both came together at the same time. I take an earthier view of things having been in hiring mode for more than three decades.

I have always maintained that a good CEO is always recruiting and that recruitment is a seduction — meaning you want to create a reaction in the target that they want to work at your company rather than you need them to fill a job. Perhaps, overly subtle, but it is the way I think and I always had good luck in hiring.

Here’s a hiring challenge for you.

How did we get it so wrong, Big Red Car?

Here are the criticisms of how you are recruiting today:

 1. You are relying on outmoded notions of how recruiting works, chief amongst them you are relying on an old paradigm — antiquated recruitment. You’re filling jobs, not creating relationships.

You are looking at the “flow” of available candidates rather than going after the candidate who is gainfully employed and happy. The best folks are NOT looking for a new job.

 2. You are not looking at or believing the data. In most instances, let’s be honest, you are a slave to instinct.

In addition, you codified a process that may no longer make sense, you believe your own intuition because you’ve been doing it for a long time, and you revere your own gut feelings.

[HR folks are amongst the most conservative persons on your upper management team. They are not risk takers. Admit this.]

 3. You are not keeping score and evaluating what works and what doesn’t. Sure, it’s not product. I get that. Do you?

There may be no real CEO interest in the process. This is a critical and fatal flaw. CEOs have to be talent spotting all the time.

 4. You are not evaluating the cost of recruitment and, therefore, don’t understand it from a financial perspective.

How much does it cost to recruit a super star v a “good” candidate? Is the investment worth it?

How much does a continuing vacancy cost in time, treasure, and friction?

When you have a lot of vacant positions, what is the cost to productivity?

What is the cost of a “toxic” employee — both the cost to keep him, and the cost to replace him?

What does your hiring experience really say about your brand?

 5. You blame your lack of success on the “talent pool” or the “competition” rather than on your own recruiting failures. You are delusional. The problem is you.

What, Big Red Car?

Let’s take a second and really hold the mirror up to what you are doing. Let’s broaden the conversation.

 1. Weak recruiting is an indictment of your company, your brand. If people aren’t beating the doors down, it says something both to the recruits, but also your current employees.

 2. You are only talking to people who are looking for a job. This cuts you out completely from those who you really want — the super stars who have jobs today. That is why you have to develop a “seduction” mentality v a “recruitment” mentality.

 3. Slow hiring is always a sign of weak hiring. Sorry. Just a hard truth you need to understand.

If you are a CEO and this is a revelation, you need help. Go get it.

 4. In every instance wherein I see weak hiring, I see a ponderous, tedious, painful hiring process with a series of gates that requires the applicant to pack a couple of lunches to make it through the process.

I have never met anyone who has said, “I thought they were a good company, but their hiring process confirmed they were a great company.”

Datapoint: SmashFly says that 74% of those who start an application process abandon ship without seeing it through to the end. OK, who’s paying for that churn? You are, CEO. 

What do we do, Big Red Car?

Here’s the mojo, the juice:

 1. First, you think about seduction v recruitment and you make the decision you are going to seduce people to work at your company — the best people in the industry, not just the people who are looking for a job.

 2. You catalog all the reasons why anybody would want to work at your shop. This becomes the seduction message. Please blow your own horn, but don’t be obnoxious.

This is the first really secret sauce action point. You spin the brand in such a way that it is fresh, enticing, something that is attractive, and real. Keep it real.

You take the same care creating this message as you do making your annual strategic plan or prepping for a huuuuuge board meeting.

 3. You put this message out there to your existing employees at every opportunity you can. You hone that message until it reads like a great novel. You tell THAT story whenever you can.

 4. You get feedback from your employees as to whether they are believing it by conducting an Anonymous Company Survey on a regular basis and asking them what they like and dislike about the home team.

The Anonymous Company Survey

 5. You then use the existing work force to find the right people — those stalwarts who are not actively seeking a new job — through employee referrals with a financial reward given to the person who makes the successful referral. 

Your existing employees know who the best people are in your industry because they bump into them at MeetUp or conferences or talking their brand in a social setting.

 6. You approach these winners like you were recruiting a spy network and you work for the CIA. You know who they are, their work history, why your employee referred them — you are prepared long before you begin the seduction.

 7. You are ready to go at warp speed on day one. Recognize that someone who has a job is going to be skeptical, but you are peddling a “better” story, a better place to be, a better brand — and, yes, a better job.

 8. First contact is important. You plan this to be non-threatening like you were just having a cup of coffee with a pal. The first touch is the most important one. Get good at this.

 9. You get the CEO involved earlier and more decisively because you want to win these competitions before the competition knows the super star is in play.

 10. You keep score on the process and know how long every step takes. You run this like a Tiger Team and you close quick. All the paperwork (like job descriptions, Basis of Employment docs) is done and you have a world class on-boarding effort.

You set standards and you want to get to the finish line in twenty-one days from the first touch. [Totally arbitrary, but based on experience. Typical employment turnaround time is more than seven weeks.]

Wow, Big Red Car, that’s a little different, no?

OK, dear reader. Here are the top line points:

 1. You are seducing the best people and that will require a more sophisticated approach. Anybody can place an ad and dance with the people who are looking for a job. Then it becomes a dance contest.

 2. You recognize that super stars want to work for fabulous brands. You fashion and tell your happy brand message.

 3. You recognize that compensation and benefits are part of a package: compensation, benefits, short term incentive compensation, long term incentive compensation, and “something special.” You can use this thinking to inform yourself.

Designing Compensation Packages

 4. The happy brand message differentiates your brand from the competitors by focusing on the nature of your jobs, not the logo.

Your jobs are exciting, special, fulfilling, and contribute to the creation of a better world. They are meaningful.

Your jobs put a team member on a winning team and in contact with winners. The team and the leadership are in constant contact.

Your jobs are either aspirin — they relieve the pain of living — or vitamins — they improve the quality of life.

Your jobs are creating the future.

 5. This differentiated message has to be practiced, genuine, and aggressive. Beware the typical HR person who is worried about “exposure.” New message may require a new messenger. This is a CEO issue.

 6. Get the word out via your normal public relations channels, conduct Internet searches to see if your differentiated message stands out from the crowd, and see how it plays in the social media. Heard of

How about employee retention, Big Red Car?

Ahh, one of the most important elements in scaling a company. Keep the people you already hired happy.

You are hiring for two different reasons: to grow the company, but also to replace people who jump ship to that other company/brand that is better at hiring and retention.

Conduct what I call “employee retention interviews” in concert with your Anonymous Company Survey. I used to do this in tandem. First, the survey, then a chat with folks about what I learned from the survey. It is a one-two combo.

Employee retention is the low cost solution to churn and hiring. Do it.

Make sure you retain your super stars with as much care as you seduce new ones.

OK, dear reader, there you have it. Think about this. It could work for you. God bless us all.