Feb 3, 2011

How many times have you heard one or more of your clients state:

“I will not settle for anything but the best.”


“I want to hire the best candidate available.”

Although a worthy pursuit, for many clients, hiring the “best,” in most instances, may be an unobtainable goal. Actually, Herbert Simon may have said it most clearly in his reverse juxtaposition of an old saying:

“The best is the enemy of the good.”

In reality, many managers, working with a limited or distorted understanding of what they are attempting to accomplish through their open position, move ahead looking for the “best” candidate when they have no idea how to define “best.” In so doing, they miss out on many “good” candidates who could meet or surpass the performance outcomes necessary to be successful in the position. In holding out for a nondescript vision of “best,” they miss out on “good” — thereby ending up compromising with “average.”

As Peter Drucker so accurately stated in The Definitive Drucker:

“In order to hire excellent performers, you must first be clear in your mind what excellent performance will look like.”

Adding to the manager’s challenge is their general lack of training in job analysis and performance based selection techniques. With this shortcoming, it is little wonder they many times fail if they attempt to execute the hiring process utilizing internal resources only. Furthermore, these same shortcomings will compromise the results that could be achieved through most independent recruiting firms. Because of this inconsistency in results, many clients have adopted a quantity approach when utilizing outside resources. Obviously, this becomes self-defeating as the individual recruiting firms realize they cannot commit the necessary resources based on the level of competition.

Conversely, consider for a moment what it would be like to be a hiring manager who had total confidence in their outside recruiting firm. This confidence is the result of experiencing the benefits of a client centered hiring process. Inclusive in this process is a proper job analysis as well as the establishment of realistic, performance-based selection criteria and position outcomes. Additionally, under the direction of the outside recruiter, the process is always completed within an acceptable time line.

Which manager would you want to be?

The results of research we have been conducting for over twenty years strongly suggest that the vast majority of hiring managers actually do want to hire “good” candidates if the following two conditions are met:

  1. The hiring manager feels confident that the process leading up to their decision has been thorough, exacting, and that it provided them with all the information they required to make a confident hiring decision.
  2. That the process they followed was accomplished within a realistic time frame, which still allowed the new employee sufficient room to achieve the required outcomes through the position.

Summed up in one statement:

Managers will make their decision when they feel confident that the hiring process has been properly served within the time frame allotted for its completion, producing a good, qualified, and interested finalist.

However, keep in mind what Robert J. Ringer stated in his 1973 breakthrough book, Winning Through Intimidation,

“… Before a person closes any kind of deal … he always worries about the fact that there may be a better deal down the road. It’s an uncontrollable instinct: at the last moment, the thought has to at least occur to a person that he might be missing out on a better deal somewhere else.”

This is true for our clients as well. However, the client’s sense of urgency will determine the appropriate time line and, if this sense of urgency is strong, it could force the client into compromising his or her decision and hiring the wrong person. Therefore, the control factor in these situations, as it should be in all hiring situations, must be the process that is followed in attracting, evaluating, and hiring “good” candidates who are available given the time constraints created by the sense of urgency.


The differences between how a good and an average candidate conduct their respective job searches is substantial. Unfortunately, most clients do not take these differences into consideration and as a consequence rarely hire enough good candidates.

Hence, the importance of the hiring process. As explained in our previous articles, when properly executed, the client centered process is designed to attract good (and possibly the best) candidates while building confidence in both the client and the candidate, so that when the time arrives to make a decision, they both will have all the information they require to make the right decision.

Bottom line: when we control and execute with our clients and candidates a properly structured process, both parties will have confidence in their decisions. Their confidence grows and is nurtured because the process has been thorough, exacting, founded on realistic and mutually agreed upon performance outcomes and selection criteria, and also because you have been uncompromising in your commitment to the principle that “the process makes the placement.”

As always, if you have questions or comments about this article or wish to receive my input on any other topic related to this business, just let me know. Your calls and e-mails are most welcome.

this article is from the January 2011 print Fordyce Letter. To subscribe and receive a monthly print issue, please go to our Subscription Services page.


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