Talent Acquisition

How to Win the Recruiting Game by Hiring Intelligently

Too often, executives think about recruiting in terms of making specific individual hires or filling a certain number of open positions. But, the truth is, smart recruiting is not just about hiring that exclusive individual or choosing the best candidate for that one available position – recruiting is about building the capacity of the overall team. You don’t win at recruiting just by landing a coveted candidate or filling a few positions or by the sheer number of hires – you win by enhancing the overall capacity of the organization.

Tremendous corporate wins have been achieved based on this strategy. Consider the intense battle between Google and Yahoo in their early days. Both companies went back and forth making claims about how many billion web pages were indexed by their respective search engines. The real battle, though, was over which team had the most capacity to get the work done. That difference in team capacity led one company to a market value of over $350 billion, and led the other company to get out of the search game by handing it to Microsoft.

While you can leverage recruiting technology to help teams execute well on any recruiting strategy, the hiring plan itself needs to be right to lead to these kinds of radical results. As such, below are a few key points on how to hire more intelligently:

Turn Your Team into a Talent Magnet:

Conventional wisdom is that A-players hire A-players, and B-players hire C-players. Often overlooked, though, is the fact that A-players also attract other A-players. If you have an exceptional team, make sure the world knows about it. Use your team as part of your recruiting pitch. Talented people want to work with other talented people – they want to be challenged and be part of a community of exceptional colleagues who will help them drive their own careers forward. As part of your overall recruiting strategy, look for ways to build on the strengths of your existing team and reinforce a winning culture within your organization. Don’t just look at what the job candidates are bringing to your company; look at what you already have in place (talent, culture, mission) that can help you craft a compelling story to offer to candidates. The best organizations sell themselves.

Focus on Capacity, Not Headcount:

Many companies build a hiring strategy that focuses on the number of hires that the company wants to achieve by a certain period of time, when in reality the company should be looking to add a certain amount of capacity. Focusing on headcount is misguided because it’s only looking at one side of the equation – it’s looking at inputs instead of results.

Number of hires is not usually a good indication of successful hiring. By focusing on a number of hires instead of overall results and capacity, you might accidentally hire too many of the wrong people, or hire too many people too soon. A headcount-based hiring approach will often result in the new hires feeling under-utilized, or burdening the hiring manager with having to on-board too many people at once.

For example, if you want to add $5 million in revenue, achieving that result might take 10 average salespeople, or just 5 high performers. Managers easily get too focused on the number of hires they want to make, rather than the capacity they want to add. Your organization might be better off hiring more slowly to find exactly the right top-performing sales people, rather than quickly ramping up by hiring 10 people who are merely average. Instead of thinking about “how many people do we need to hire,” start thinking about “what do we really want to achieve in terms of our organization’s capacity,” and then hire with those results in mind.

Look for Potential, Not History:

When making a hiring decision you are essentially trying to predict whether a person’s future performance will be sufficient for the company’s current needs. It’s tempting to use past performance as a guide but there are two major problems with that. First, you can almost never verify past performance or how much help they were getting from other team members, and second, even if you can verify it, their performance almost certainly took place in a different environment with different challenges and different resources.

Instead, research from companies like Google has shown that hiring people for their fundamental skills and abilities leads to better outcomes. Of course past performance is a good indicator of those abilities, but beyond a brief initial resume screen it comes down to getting a more detailed understanding of what they know how to do, how willing they are to learn, how they communicate, etc.

Ideally people in the role the candidate is applying for will interview and ask questions that reveal how the candidate would work on problems that are like the ones they will work on in the future.

When thinking about how to hire intelligently, it’s worth remembering that talent is the lifeblood of an organization – there may, in fact, be no other single function of the business that will have a more direct impact on outcomes. Recruiters and hiring managers need to have real discussions about how to measure talent coming in in a meaningful way. Once everyone is focused on the right metrics it can be much easier to build productive, high quality teams. Such teams have a snowball effect on long term recruiting success and indeed the success of the entire company.

Remember that the real end goal of hiring is not just to boost headcount or fill a certain set of positions – it’s to achieve specific results and build the capacity of the organization as a whole.

It’s hard to get on the path, but it’s a path that has led many companies to tremendous victories, and made the quality of their teams famous.

Author: John Jersin is the Co-founder and CEO of Connectifier, a recruiting technology software company that helps recruiters quickly and effectively connect with hundreds of millions of candidates.  

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