A Leader’s Guide to Hiring Top Talent

Picture of Richard Smith
Richard Smith

Across all industries and levels, companies are finding it difficult to hire. Various reports show millions more open jobs than there are candidates to fill them, so recruiters are becoming more creative, resilient and enterprising as they seek your next team members. But it’s not only the job of HR to fill the roles that could make the difference in achieving your company’s goals. Leaders have a big part to play as well.

Here are key aspects of today’s hiring climate you should consider when seeking your next hire.

  1. Operate in Attract Mode. The time to act like you care about your employees and their development, opportunities, and priorities is not only when you desperately need to hire. Thirty-two million unique users visit Glassdoor each month to learn about your company’s interview process, compensation package, and even the correspondence from first recruit contact to final word. Candidates are doing research. They’ll read about poor communication, unprepared managers, and lowball offers. Remember that the candidate you may think isn’t right for one opportunity could be excellent for another one. And they have former colleagues and connections who could be potential hires as well. Don’t keep hauling out that old interview question, “Why do you want to work for us?” Prepare reasons why someone would want to work for you. Abandon the idea that anyone would love to have the job and sell it.
  2. Understand Candidate Motivations. When I speak with candidates for key roles right now, they tell me that compensation is lower on the list for them than other priorities. They are looking for trustworthy leaders who can develop them, an interesting job that challenges them, and an organizational culture in which they feel a sense of belonging. Larger studies tell the same story. A recent Pew Research Center study polling Americans who left their jobs in 2021 noted that 63% cite no opportunities for advancement as their reason to quit; the same percentage that resigned over low pay. As well 57% of respondents left their job because they felt disrespected at work. It’s definitely not just about the money. Is it a flexible work schedule? Bonus Potential? The opportunity to do something new? Exposure to leadership? Hearing from candidates about what’s most important to them can help you provide the organizational insights they’ll need to make a decision.
  3. Look for Transferrable Skills. Right now, you may not find a marketing professional with the exact number of years of experience you’d prefer who also has expertise in your specific industry space. But you will likely find outstanding marketers who come from adjacent industries, with the technical know-how to be successful in the role once they learn your business. Or, maybe an individual who has direct industry experience in a product support role wants to move into sales. Their technical knowledge could make them a powerful salesperson when trained in your company’s technique. Consider first the skills and professional level required for the job you’re trying to fill. Hiring managers need to be open to candidates whose backgrounds may not be an exact match but could be very effectively utilized. We need a paradigm shift versus a talent shift. The walkover could be easier than you imagine if the candidate’s prior performance is impressive, and you’d reap the benefits of more diverse skills.
  4. Commit to Lead, Not Manage. People don’t leave companies; they leave bosses. Demonstrate during interviews that you can build relationships with your direct reports, rather than treating the process like a transaction. This doesn’t mean you should learn their pets’ names or find out about their hobbies in interview two. It does mean that you should be open about your style of interaction, especially in a remote work setup. And that you’re able to lead, guide and develop them, rather than simply manage their tasks. Free pizza on Fridays or gym memberships don’t make up for employees not being developed in their jobs and provided regular, actionable feedback.
  5. Streamline Talent Acquisition. Limit interviews to decision-makers and key colleague relationships. Shorten the time between interviews and hold no more than necessary. Employers are pursuing candidates aggressively, and I’ve seen several companies lose great potential hires simply because they took too long to decide on them. When you meet with candidates, don’t waste time on filler questions. Let each interviewer know the role they should play (for example, talking about skills, culture, or evaluating team fit) and create discussion guides that structure productive conversation. Also, provide feedback to both candidates that proceed to the next round, as well as those who do not. Remember, they’ll both likely share their experience with others.
  6. Have Meaningful Dialogue. Allow candidates to talk about their proud moments and those that required correction or a rebound. Ask questions about projects completed or experience that demonstrates their ability to do the job. Look for repeated patterns of success and find out if the candidate has the skills and abilities to solve problems or contribute fresh thinking. Then, gauge them appropriately.
  7. Make a Compelling Offer. Employees and candidates are being transparent about compensation packages and perks on forums like LinkedIn and other networking sites. If you really believe a candidate is a correct fit, don’t waste time trying to save a few bucks. Chances are, they know exactly what they can command and will expect you to respect and make a fair and competitive offer. Great candidates have ample options.
  8. Close the Deal. Once the offer is made, even before it is accepted, call the candidate and congratulate them. Tell them how excited you are to have them become part of the team and discuss the opportunities ahead. If you see a path for their responsibilities to grow and evolve, share that with them as well. There may be competing offers, and you’ll want to give them every reason to choose yours.

Using these suggestions as a guide, you can help your recruitment team secure the candidates you need in a most competitive talent market.

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