How To Make Hiring a Two Sigma Business Process

Here are some further thoughts on my last article about making your hiring a formal process instead of an event: “Hiring is #1,” the mantra chanted by 90% of all top executives, is just lip service. Few companies have actually made hiring a formal business process. The investment in resources and management attention needed to make hiring #1 has not yet been put in place by most companies. That’s why companies have so much difficulty consistently hiring top people. Until hiring is a repeatable process with metrics, it will never be #1. Hiring Can Be a Two Sigma Process But hiring can realistically be a Two Sigma process. This is about an 80-90% effectiveness rate. It’s a far cry from Six Sigma, which is less than one in a thousand errors, but still a worthwhile objective. Compared to the effectiveness of most hiring processes?? which is probably closer to .5 sigma (an effectiveness rate of less that 25%)?? 80-90% looks great. One key overriding problem I’ve noticed about most hiring processes is that the needs of the best candidates are typically overlooked. Instead, hiring processes are focused more on meeting the needs of active candidates looking for positions or on managing reams of data. But ignoring the needs of the best can inadvertently exclude them from ever applying. The Best Are Different Than the Rest Since hiring the best should be the primary objective of the hiring process, their perspective must be considered at each step. This impacts how ads are written, how websites are designed, how interviews are conducted, and how offers are negotiated. If a company’s hiring processes aren’t designed with the unique needs of the best in mind, top candidates won’t apply?? or they’ll opt out somewhere during the process or turn down poorly crafted offers. Here are some ideas for designing a hiring process around the needs of the best. One thing you’ll notice is that much of the hiring processes I’m suggesting involves quickly getting top candidates in direct contact with a recruiter. The best candidates require more hand-holding and personal contact than the average candidate, so having a strong recruiting team is important. (Send me an email if you want my checklist of the top 10 things a strong recruiter needs to do?? What Do You Need To Do To Hire Top People?

  1. Move quickly. The best candidates always have multiple opportunities, including counteroffers. This is why you must differentiate each of your jobs, and why you must get a recruiter personally involved as soon as possible. Once a top candidate is ready to move, you’d better be ready to move as well. This means that hiring managers must change schedules at a moment’s notice; HR must process offers more quickly; and pre-written scripts must be used to handle every possible objection. Recruiters hold the deal together, handling every contingency and pushing people to make decisions. This is why they must be involved early.
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  3. Move slowly. The best candidates consider more variables when evaluating a career opportunity and take longer to decide. This means you have to go faster than the competition?? but no so fast that you appear to be over-selling. You’ll need to provide your candidates with tangible proof that your opening is a better career opportunity than every other alternative. This must include a document listing all of the key job deliverables, challenges, and resources available. Back this up with org charts and strategic and operational plans. Finally, put a nice package together, listing all of the company benefits. Too many companies lead with this part. Don’t. For the best, this is a secondary consideration. Again, recruiters must be involved early to organize it all and to balance speed with information-sharing.
  4. Make your jobs outrageous. The best will explore a career opportunity if it appears to be significant. The best candidates are neither active nor passive: I call them “temporarily active.” Since they are more discriminating, when they look on the job boards to explore something it needs to immediately jump out and grab their attention. If the ad title is highly visible with an outrageous title, they’ll read the ad copy. Here’s an example of an outrageous title: “Street Walkers Wanted: Enjoy the Great Outdoors as You Visit Our Friendly Customers Every Day.” If the ad copy is also hard-hitting and compelling they’ll try to find out more. Make sure that the next few steps make it super-easy to apply, so that a recruiter can make instant personal contact. If you don’t design this into your process, the best candidates will opt out, simply because it was too hard to opt in.
  5. Balance the short and long term. The best see a new job as another step in a career journey not as the end of a job search. The best candidates balance the short-term compensation and scope of the job against the long-term growth opportunities. What the candidate will learn, do, and become is typically more important then the salary. Make sure the challenges in the job and the long-term issues are presented early and often, especially if the comp plan is marginal. Recruiters and/or hiring managers must be able to make the short vs. long case in a convincing manner, without over-promising.
  6. Provide insightful information for the candidate to give to friends and family. The best candidates always seek advice from friends and family before accepting an offer. Alternatives and options are discussed with close advisors, knowledgeable friends, and close family. Make sure that the information packet described in #2 above clearly makes the case why your opening is a great career move. If not, you’ll lose some top candidates to information “underload” (i.e., too much of the wrong stuff).
  7. Make it a solution, not a transaction. Overselling and under-listening doesn’t work. Pushing for a quick decision and selling on comp or superficial issues is transactional selling at its worst. The key to solution-selling is first conducting a thorough needs analysis and then crafting a package that balances short- and long-term needs. That’s why strong (not pushy) recruiters, as well as competent hiring managers, must lead the recruiting and negotiating effort. By offering a challenging job with lots of stretch and upside opportunities for those who deliver, you’ll get the best candidates selling you. Then, short-term compensation becomes a secondary issue.

By following a few core principles, hiring can be made into a cohesive business process rather than a series of often counterproductive steps. The most important principle is that the best are different than the best, especially in how they decide to consider a new job opportunity and whether they will accept an offer. As you design a hiring process to hire dozens or hundreds of people, don’t lose sight of what it takes to hire just one great person. It’s hard work. It’s time consuming. But it’s worth it.

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).