5 Signs That Your Company Doesn’t Want Talent

5 Signs That Your Company Doesn’t Want Talent

By Orin Davis

I have written again and again about companies who claim that they want talent but don’t have the hiring practices to back it. Think your firm is bringing in the talent? Not if it’s showing one of these five signs:

1) “We’re not hiring [for ____ position] right now”

Even as you are saying those words, someone is recruiting your best-fit candidates. Talent is always in demand, and if you are not showing demand, then the talent will be reeled in by someone who is. You may think that you don’t have the money just to hire a good candidate when you find one, but think about the costs of a hiring process. Consider the lost productivity on your team, the time spent interviewing, and the many days that someone isn’t doing a job that actually needs doing. Are you so sure that there is talent aplenty (and that you can find it!) at the very specific time you are hiring? If not, you end up with someone mediocre after a long, costly search, while your best candidate got hired out from under your nose because you weren’t hiring when (s)he walked by.

Inversion: You are always hiring! If you meet someone worth hiring, get them in the door interviewing immediately and help them invent their own ways of contributing value to the company.

2) Formal position descriptions

Talent doesn’t fit in a box – that’s why it’s talent! If you are trying to squish your hires into a narrow range of pre-defined roles and responsibilities, you are asking for people to fail, hate their jobs, or devolve into just coloring within the lines and not using their talent. The whole point of getting top people in the door is that they do for your company what they do best. If you are boxing that in, expect problems, and a letter of resignation.

Inversion: Starting right at the interview phase, have every hire engage in a job crafting process in which you discuss the potential scope of the job with the candidate. Exchange visions of the position and see if you can come to a value-producing agreement. Even better, describe the position right from the job posting as a flexible vision of what the new hire will do, and ask that candidates take that vision and make it their own in the cover letter.

3) Stipulating a college, major, GPA, or SAT score

Nothing screams “We hate talent!” more than “from a top-tier university” in a candidate spec sheet, for several reasons: (a) Those rankings change annually; (b) The rankings are pretty random; (c) Top talent goes everywhere; (d) Different universities have different specialties; (e) GPA varies wildly by university and major; (f) SAT score is predictive of very little (but see Jonathan Wai’s take for comparison); (g) Every major includes meta-skills that are convertible to any job.

At best, using those stipulations slices off a big chunk of your talent pool and your diversity. At worst, you are fomenting homogeneity. As much as these measures may be expedient and defensible, CYA [cover your…actions] hiring gets you many things, but none of them are top people.

Inversion: Stop relying on arbitrary hiring metrics. Start looking at whole people and their actual experiences, interests, and capabilities. They are far more predictive than random measures that don’t even reflect intelligence. If you are always hiring, expediency is less of an issue.

4) Formal resume submission systems (a.k.a., “Don’t contact the hiring manager.”)

There’s a reason that Liz Ryan calls automated hiring systems the resume Black Hole. Unless a resume has the right keywords, which usually give no indication of talent, it won’t even be read, and neither will the cover letter! Automated hiring is begging for people to game the system and send in their keyword-laden resumes, which makes finding talent a proverbial needle-in-the-haystack search, not to mention a crap shoot. Worse yet, many companies explicitly tell candidates not to contact the company or hiring manager, which means that high-quality people cannot ask for more details so that they can understand the needs of the firm and highlight their fit with the company. In short, you are expecting to get top hires by making them squeeze their way through an arbitrary and tiny opening, which doesn’t jibe well with creative and innovative people who almost never fit in that little box.

Inversion: Make hiring a personal process! Since you’re always hiring, you will get people who want to make a contribution to your company in valuable and unexpected ways. Be open to the possibilities!

5) “We hire only the best people.”

A statement like that smacks of silly elitism, and suggests that your company cares more about looking like it’s elite than actually being elite, especially in light of the fact that almost every company on planet earth can make a similar claim. It reflects an over-focus on hiring talent, and not enough focus on retaining and enabling talent. As with passion, hiring for talent is only worthwhile if you give your best people room to capitalize fully on what they bring to the firm. If your top talent is languishing in the confines of a job description box, your best will go elsewhere, and your succession planning pipeline will turn out to have a huge leak.

Inversion: Make your workplace a great place to work, and ensure that your employees can do and be their best on the job. Companies like that have the talent coming to them!

The adage in business is that it is more about attitude than aptitude, and that’s as true of hiring as it is of execution!

If you have any questions or would like to know if we can help your business with its innovation challenges, please contact us here or email us at solutions@prescouter.com.

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