Finding Transcendent Talent: How to Recruit and Manage the Best of the Best

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Sep 22, 2011

The economy is perking up. Hiring is on the rise in corporate America. Recruiters and recruiting firms are flourishing and our clients are seeking transcendent talent to help them thrive today and in the future. Executive recruiting firms like Lucas Group are seeking that talent as well.

What constitutes transcendent talent? What professional and personal characteristics should you look for in high-performing recruiters? How do you recruit, manage, and incentivize top performers and help them become million dollar billers?

Over the last three decades in the recruiting industry, I have learned how critically important talent, cultural fit, and professional achievement are in our world. Below are a few of the lessons that I’ve learned in my career that have helped Lucas Group grow from a four-person shop helping military personnel transition into the business marketplace, to a major executive recruiting firm with offices in 15 cities across North America and successful recruiters working in every major industry.

Finding the Perfect Fit

What type of talent are we actively recruiting? Top performers, certainly, but we’re looking for people who have demonstrated success through good times and bad. We are also looking for people with long-term potential. The secret to mutually profitable longevity is to hire recruiters who excel under a variety of economic circumstances. Lots of people excel in a hot market, but we look carefully to find those who exhibit steady and strong performance—through both bull and bear markets.

What traits should you look for when hiring experienced recruiters?

  • Sustained performance — We want people who’ve shown sustained and progressive success over the course of their careers.
  • No Job Hoppers — Job hoppers are usually a long-term resource drain, so we look for people who demonstrate employment stability–stability, not rigidity!
  • Multi-media — The days of spending 30-40 hours a week working the phones are changing as multiple media devices and social media broaden our communications opportunities. We look for people who embrace technology and use it intelligently.
  • Exceeding expectations — Above all, we look for recruiters who are consummate professionals and who set high standards for themselves, demand the same from their colleagues, and remember that our clients’ success correlates directly with our success.

You cannot and should not rely solely on hiring people with years of recruiting experience. People new in the workforce and those with industry (but no recruiting) experience also belong in your mix. What traits are we looking for in these potential employees?

  • Academic success
  • Drive —as evidenced by such things as:
    • holding a part-time job while in school
    • pursuing a degree while working full time
    • active engagement in extra-curricular activities–be they academic, athletic, cultural, or service-based
  • Team players — References to mentors and team-oriented projects in the interview process indicate a willingness to share both the responsibility and the credit
  • Signs of leadership — Were they the captain of a team? Did they start a student group or interest group? Have they been a mentor? Are they engaged in some type of community service?

Demanding High Performance

Today’s workplace is a very different place than when I broke into the business some 30 years ago. It’s more diverse, more technologically sophisticated, and less office-centric—people can work anytime from anywhere these days. Once you’ve hired top talent, it’s critical to nurture and manage that talent.

Establishing high expectations and setting a professional tone are critical to success and are especially important in creating a culture of high performance. Successful people want to work in successful environments. High expectations and fair evaluations attract high performers, so establish and maintain high standards and measure performance against those standards.

At Lucas Group, we “measure everything we treasure.” We’ve developed a balanced scorecard that assesses key indicators that can predict future performance. Unlike simply reviewing revenue performance, this scorecard is forward-looking and helps us to hire, train, and develop outstanding talent.

It’s also important to strike an appropriate balance between structure and flexibility in the workplace. As the work culture evolves, I understand both the need for flexibility in the workplace and the imperative of performance. Flexible work hours and office environments should never impede strong performance. Flexibility is not a right, it is a privilege earned by people who consistently prove that they meet and exceed their metrics.

Motivating Transcendent Talent

Compensation is an obvious motivation for meeting and exceeding your goals. But money alone does not guarantee sustained excellence. As we have been discussing opportunities with top performers around the country, we’ve learned that—contrary to popular belief—money is not their primary motivation. Factors like a having meaningful work/life balance, resources that foster success, the ability to work independently but within a team structure, and recognition for outstanding efforts are all important.

For instance, I make it a point to personally call or write a note to our recruiters to celebrate individual and team successes. Recruiting is tough work and we collectively get more “No’s” than “Yes’s.” Recognizing success sincerely and personally is extremely important in a sales environment.

There are other important variables as well. They may not be as obvious but they can make a difference in the quality of the relationship and the performance potential of any recruiter.

  • Information — A robust information infrastructure gives high performers a springboard to success. It is what separates the truly professional executive recruiting firm from the single resource shop.
  • Technology — The delivery of information how I need it; where I need it; when I need it.
  • Training — Even the best performers need to continuously improve. Systematic training allows recruiters to stay abreast of issues and technology that sustain high performance.
  • Performance Management — Finding and retaining those “A” & “B” players while filtering out the non-performers.

Financial incentives are certainly important. Equally as important is creating an environment that fosters success, provides the resources to achieve it, and celebrates it when it happens.

Seizing the Opportunity

Most of us in the industry would agree that the economy is improving. It may not be thriving across all sectors but, hopefully, our darkest economic days are now a distant memory.

Successfully hiring, managing, and nurturing high performers are the most important things that recruiting firms can do to assure their own success. The processes and approaches above have contributed significantly to Lucas Group’s sustained performance. I hope that they will contribute to yours as well.