A Hiring Top Talent Checklist

When the supply of top candidates falls short of demand, you’ll need to rethink how you find, recruit, and hire top talent. The following checklist will help. Under conditions of talent scarcity, if you do the following steps as described, you will hire more top talent and close each search faster than ever before. Eliminate or compromise any one of them and talent quality and your personal productivity will suffer. This process is described in detail in my book, Hire With Your Head, but I thought this checklist would be a useful summary.

A Checklist for Hiring Top Talent

Implement a Bottoms-up vs. toptrendpk Top-down hiring process. Most hiring processes are designed to weed out weak candidates rather than attract top performers. Consider how your job descriptions are written, how ATS systems are designed, and that hiring managers expect candidates to come in overwhelmed by the opportunity to work at your company. If you want to hire top people, you need to redesign every aspect of your hiring process to accommodate their needs, not somebody’s in comp, IT, or legal. This is Marketing 101 – be customer-driven. A big employer brand can hide these weaknesses. If you’re only seeing top people, it really doesn’t matter whom you hire.
Don’t use job descriptions to describe the work – prepare performance profiles instead. Performance profiles list the major performance objectives of the job and include a clear employee value proposition. Top candidates decide to apply for, consider, and accept those jobs that offer the most stretch, satisfaction, and career opportunity. A performance profile captures it all. A job description captures none of it. Worse, job descriptions preclude the chance of hiring top people. For one thing, they’re boring. For another, many top people have less of the requisite skills listed. That’s why they’re top people.
Understand how top people in your job class decide when and how to look for new career opportunities. The best medical sales reps, senior executives, three-year CPAs, marketing managers, and every other top person, don’t look for jobs the same way most people do. You need to develop a mini-sourcing plan for each job type that includes, among other items, the niche job boards some might use, your employees they might know, the mentors they’ve had, their possible LinkedIn connections, what types of work they like to do, the groups they join, and the recognition they’ve received. On top of all this consider when and how they look. For example, if 75 percent of them find jobs through networking and you’re using SEO advertising, by the time you find them, they’ll already have another job.
Prepare compelling job-specific advertising based on the intrinsic motivators of top performers in that class of job. One size does not fit all. What works for retail clerks won’t work for sales reps or accountants or managers or anybody else, for that matter. A CEO most likely wants to turn around a company; a counselor wants to turn around a life. A top retail clerk might want the flexibility to pursue a degree, while a top engineer might want to design the latest widget. You need to capture this in your job title and in your first paragraph of your online posting.
Don’t sell the job, sell a career discussion. A career move is a big deal. Don’t rush it. Engage with your prospects – especially those that are just beginning a career search – in a discussion about the potential career merits of your open position. If there is one, move the process forward in a slow and methodic fashion. There’s a lot of recruiting that goes on here, but doing this well represents the difference between top recruiters and the other 90 percent.
Use an exploratory interview to gain interest. Career focused candidates are less willing to apply, but quite willing to engage with a hiring manager in a collaborative discussion about the career merits of an open position. It takes a bit of finesse to pull this off, but it starts by first convincing top prospects of the career opportunity and then having the candidates convince you of their capabilities. More important, in the process of convincing you, they’re also convincing themselves.
Ensure everyone on the hiring team understands real job needs. There are few things less professional than different interviewers representing the job differently. This is one sure way to turn off a top prospect.
Use an evidence-based interview and assessment process. Hiring a top person should be a deliberative process with each interviewer sharing evidence about the candidate that confirms the person is a top performer. This should be used in combination with a formal scorecard covering all job needs. Forcing raters to justify their evaluations rather than letting them rely on gut feelings, intuition, or some narrow criteria, ensures the best person gets hired, not the best presenter or the most technically brilliant.
Implement a formal career evaluation process allowing the candidate to compare opportunities. Candidates should also use a formal decision process to compare opportunities. This needs to include all short- and long-term criteria (e.g., job content, compensation, growth opportunities, work/life balance, culture, manager, team, etc.). The company introducing and using this approach will be the only one able to fully present its case. (Contact us if you’d like to learn about this critical step in recruiting top performers.)
Implement a “Raising the Bar” strategy. As the hiring recovery begins in earnest, there will be a tendency to focus on filling positions with the most competent person currently available, rather than the best person possible. This default strategy will quickly lessen the overall talent level of a company, especially if some of its best people voluntarily leave for greener pastures. Quality standards need to be imposed, including a means to override a weaker manager’s hastily made decision.
Using this checklist as a guideline will certainly enable you to find and attract more top talent, and ensure that you hire the lion’s share. Hiring the best in a down economy is no simple matter; in a growing one it requires a complete rethinking of the market. This checklist is a good way to get started.

Lou Adler is the president of The Adler Group and Amazon best-seller author of Hire With Your Head and the audio program Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Hire Top Talent. Adler is a noted recruiting industry expert, speaker, and columnist for SHRM, ERE, RCSA, Kennedy Information, and Learn more about Lou Adler’s Performance-based Hiring methodology at: Learn about our training programs for recruiters and hiring managers

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