The Most Common Error in Recruitment

recruitmentAs a teenager I had a heck of a time learning this lesson and I wasn’t different than any of the guys that I knew. We often tripped over ourselves to get the attention of, or accommodate, the girls we liked. I was a slow learner… I married at 29.

Recruitment, we have defined in other entries as the “process of attracting” individuals to your company and team. Having been a partner in a successful recruitment agency, owned a leading job site, and consulted in sales management for more than 25 years, I have witnessed over and over again the subtle dance that seems to draw amazing talent to brilliant leaders.

It turns out that this subtle dance is relatively easy to engineer. Helping your sales managers avoid the biggest error in recruitment is half the battle.

The Innocent Mistake

Here’s how it looks. John, the energetic and highly competitive sales manager at XYZ, knows exactly where to find his next recruit – his competition. One night he survey’s his competitor’s website and identifies a competitor in his open territory – Tammy. The next day, a quick series of telephone calls to key contacts reveals evidence that Tammy is a reputed performer. John swings into action and a direct contact is made with Tammy. John explains who he is and invites Tammy for a “get to know you” coffee. Tammy knows XYZ, a big player, and accepts his invitation thinking that she might get some good intelligence anyway.

Introductions are warm and the conversation open when the two meet. John asks a few questions about Tammy and her experience, and she shares her experience willingly. John, seeing this openness, begins to describe his opportunity. He pours on the accolades for his peers and brags about his company’s ambition to expand. Tammy is polite and listens well. John’s interest in her becomes more obvious as he pours on the charm. As the conversation winds down, John has to ask, “Would you be interested in discussing the opportunity further?” Tammy, ever generous and charming gently lets John down by responding, “John, let me think about it for a little bit and perhaps we can talk again. I am happy at ABC but this was a very interesting conversation.” Disappointed but not crushed, John accepts the offer to speak again and promises to be in touch.

Error: Direct, fast and strong

On the plus side, John’s approach, direct, fast and strong demonstrated confidence. He’s a “get it done guy!” On the down side, Tammy wasn’t given the chance to even get interested before she got the feeling she was “wanted”. Her feelings about the experience were exposed in her discussion that evening with her husband. When he asked about her day, she said “Great, I had a kind-of-coffee-interview with XYZ today- they’re after me but I said no.”

We want what is difficult to get. Remember scarcity? Once upon a time I must have looked like a panting puppy. Maybe John did too. John and his opportunity lost much of his attractiveness by coming on too strong.

Several challenges are found in the example above:

1. John is the worst guy to share information about his opportunity. His conflict is obvious to Tammy. How can she believe this competitor who clearly “wants” her? Robert Cialdini, in his book Influence, suggests that Tammy needs “Social Proof” which is best delivered by someone else.

2. If Tammy was unhappy about her current position it could work. And why is that a problem? Sometimes it isn’t. But often people are unhappy because they are failing. Because of this problem, this approach, when it works, frequently delivers mediocre performers.

3. John’s expression of interest in the opening “kind-of-coffee-interview” was clear enough to Tammy that she told her husband XYZ wants me – she and John seem to know this. Under these conditions, what is the likelihood John will implement the difficult selection experiences, such as testing, in-depth interviews, roleplays and job trials that create dissonance and increase motivation for the job on the part of the candidate. Not likely, particularly, if and when Tammy is a top performer with significant proven performance. Imagine how John would have to sell a short but intense series of selection activities to her then. Tough job when you have already implied that you have selected the candidate.

Answer: Engineering

Great recruiters engineer a series of experiences that cause a potential candidate to:

• Become aware of the opportunity
• Explore it’s unique benefits in contrast to their current situation
• Develop a relationship of trust with their potential manager
• Earn the respect of their prospective boss
• See themselves more successful in the new opportunity

Four strategies described in my previous entries have proven successful for our key clients. It turns out that in nature, attractiveness has universal qualities.

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