I’m attempting to boil everything about talent strategy into a simple diagram. It’s taken me 30 years, but I think this infographic is pretty close. It divides the entire talent market by size, candidate quality, job-hunting status and qualifications. If you look closely you’ll discover how to find the best people for any type of job. (Here’s the video version.)


When the demand for talent exceeds the supply, it takes better jobs, stronger recruiters and fully-engaged hiring managers to hire the best talent. This is represented by the vertical axis. The horizontal axis represents two distinct recruiting strategies, transactional on the left, and consultative on the right. The left high-tech process emphasizes cost of hire and efficiency, while the right high-touch process emphasizes the quality and business impact of those being hired.

Candidates who apply to a job posting are shown in the small blue box in the lower left corner of the talent market. For every one person (“X”) who applies and is skills- and experience-qualified (SE Qual), there are 20-50 times as many people who apply and are not qualified. This is represented by the red box in the bottom left. A great deal of effort is spent separating the reasonably qualified from the unqualified.

These same resources could be better spent sourcing and recruiting in the Talent Sweet Spot–shown in the upper right corner. In a talent scarcity market there are very few people in the top 25% who apply directly for a job. These people are typically found via a referral or hard work on the part of recruiter.

Note that people on the right side of the talent market graphic are performance-qualified which is different then being skills- and experience-qualified. Performance-qualified means the person has achieved comparable results to what’s actually required for on-the-job success and the most performance-qualified people–those in the Talent Sweet Spot–do it better, faster or more often. Not surprisingly, these people achieved these results with less skills and different experiences–that’s how they got to be the best. Unfortunately, all of these performance-qualified people get filtered out of consideration when using a list of arbitrary skills as the prerequisite.

Sourcing and recruiting in the entire talent market is essential for building a stronger and more diverse workforce. Shifting to a performance-qualified assessment process is the first step. Here’s how to use the Total Talent Market infographic to help you make the complete shift.

Five Barrier Busters for Sourcing and Recruiting in the Talent Sweet Spot

One: Implement a Quality of Hire talent strategy.

Here’s a calculator you can use to determine the ROI of hiring candidates in the Talent Sweet Spot. By focusing on quality of hire rather than cost of hire, annual ROIs in excess of 750% can be achieved.

Two: Shift to a performance-qualified assessment by redefining the top 25% in terms of the results achieved rather than the skills possessed.

Any job can be described as a series of 6-8 results-based performance objectives. Using these performance-based job descriptions candidates can be assessed by digging deep into their major comparable accomplishments using a performance-based interviewing process.

Three: Shift to an Attract In vs. Weed Out sourcing approach.

Indeed, job postings are useless relics that should be discarded. Use compelling emails to instead drive people to career-oriented stories. To hire more performance-qualified people you’ll need to replace traditional employer branding programs with a just-in-time referral program that delivers the best talent as soon as they enter the job market.

Four: Implement a consultative vs. transactional recruiting process.

Recruiting in the Talent Sweet Spot is a multi-step process comparable to solution selling. This recruiter competency model covers the 12 skills a recruiter needs to master in order to recruit and hire the best people for any critical job.

Five: Offer 30% career moves, not lateral transfers.

The best passive candidates are willing to discuss jobs that offer growth, stretch, increased impact and learning. If the sum of these is greater than 30%, compensation becomes less important. Lateral transfers with big compensation increases are short-term recipes for disillusionment and disengagement.

The Talent Sweet Spot is easy to see on a map but pretty hard to get to without a lot of effort. These directions will help. Once you arrive, you’ll discover the journey was worth it.