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The Next Big Hiring Thing

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I was in Europe this past week and two major companies asked what I thought was the next big thing to impact the future of hiring.

I didn’t answer the question.

Instead I said since the birth of the Internet and job boards in the early 1990s there have been 8-10 next big things. There have been another 8-10 since then, with LinkedIn probably the biggest. Yet when I ask companies around the world if they’ve won the war for talent only a very very few say yes, but timidly. And even for these companies it’s a constant battle. For most companies it’s an endless war.

This rather caustic summary prompted a few more questions. The biggest one always relates to what’s wrong and why. What’s wrong relates to the big gorilla in the room – the hiring manager. Recruiters, talent leaders, sourcing experts and HR gather at hundreds of events each year and talk to each other about the next big thing. I’ve been to hundreds of these over the past 15 years. Rarely are there any line managers in the room. But all of the so-called HR and recruiting experts don’t make the yes/no hiring decision. Hiring managers do.

And until hiring managers have the primary voice on how to design the next big thing there won’t be one.

There is also a mathematical problem involved with designing the “next big thing.”

Everyone can’t attract and hire the top 25%. Once the next big thing gets developed the early adopters get first user advantage. The latecomers get the leftovers. The shelf life of most new recruiting and hiring ideas is about 3-4 years. This is when diminishing returns sets in and everyone then gets average results. LinkedIn Version 1.0-2.0 blew the lid off this at about six years. If you’ve had it that long you can track your email response rates to see when the drop off accelerated.

So even if recruiting technology companies start relying on hiring managers to spec and design their products there will never be the next big thing for more than a few years. While these can be very impactful, the long-term winners will be those companies who do the best job of using these tools more creatively and more effectively.

Now back to the U.S. and a program I’m doing for a small high-technology company doing exotic work in the area of material science. The CEO has a brilliant idea. She wants every one of their employees to refer enough extremely talented people to ensure each employee is responsible for one new hire per year. Their growth restraint is people and by doubling their technical team in size every year it will drive their revenue growth at the same rate.

Here’s what I’m advising. It starts with this assumption: It takes 10 great referrals of passive candidates who aren’t looking to hire one of them and it takes about 2-3 months to make it happen. Starting before you need to hire these people is part of the solution.

The Next Big Thing: Hiring Manager Do-It-Yourself Hiring

  1. Start a proactive outreach program. Have each employee connect with every previous outstanding coworker from previous companies. This is where LinkedIn becomes a great tool. Mention that your company is growing rapidly and you want to keep these people apprised of future opportunities.
  2. Create a future vision. One of the European companies I’m now working with came up with an unusual corporate branding program focusing on empowering their diverse customers to think differently. This was developed in concert with the talent team and resulted in an awesome five-minute video. Hiring managers will need to have something similar to send to their network to get everyone excited.
  3. Expand the network with weak connections. When you send the vision message ask for the names of other people you could contact who your connection would highly recommend for related positions. Pester these people to get at least one or two additional names every 3-6 months!
  4. Establish contact. Connect with these second degree connections mentioning the referrer’s name. Highlight the fact that your company is growing and you’re building a self-driven career network. Make them first degree connections.
  5. Nurture the network. Engage and meet with these new connections regularly. Keep them apprised of your company’s vision, where you fit in and where future opportunities might exist.
  6. Repeat the cycle again and again. As you meet these people explain some of your upcoming roles and how they fit with the company’s bigger vision. Try to get a few names every year of other remarkable people. Keep it going and pretty soon you’ll have some great names of people who are ready to move when an opportunity presents itself.

Diminishing returns are less likely if the jobs are remarkable and the network is deep, talented and constantly expanding. Most important you’ll have eliminated the wasted effort focused on weeding out people you’ll never hire and instead be spending it on attracting top people.

This is the next big hiring thing: Giving hiring managers the responsibility for hiring top talent, giving them the tools to do it and measuring and rewarding their success.