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The Solution to the Three-Legged Stool Hiring Problem

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If you’re a job seeker, what would you do if you could only apply to 4-5 jobs in any given month?

I suspect you’d be a lot more focused and conduct a lot more due diligence before hitting the apply button. I also suspect that recruiters would pay a lot more attention to you since they wouldn’t need to pour through hundreds of resumes of people who just indiscriminately hit the apply button.

Now what would you do if you were a recruiter or hiring manager and were told that your new operating guideline was that you were only allowed to formally interview three candidates and you had to hire one of them? I suspect that you would completely overhaul your entire hiring process, focusing on finding great people to hire rather than hoping the perfect person magically appears.

Last week at LinkedIn’s Talent Connect 2017, four thousand people descended upon Nashville to discuss every possible hiring problem that exists and what to do about them.

I pretty much told everyone it would be a great party, but a waste of time, no matter how good the feelings, unless they could answer the above two questions and implement the solution.

Then I proved it with the following opening comments to about 700 people in a breakout session. Surprisingly, no one left the room.

  • Why do recruiters need to review 150 resumes to make one decent hire, but only 3-4 referred candidates to make one great hire?
  • Why do we hire people we know based on their past performance and potential, but we hire strangers based on their past experience?
  • Why do hiring managers want to hire candidates who can hit the ground running, but the best people who can hit the ground running want to run on different tracks?
  • While we all want to hire more diverse people, why do we expect them to have the same skills and experiences and look and sound like everyone we’ve already hired?
  • Why do recruiters and tech vendors get excited about doing the wrong things more efficiently?

With this rather controversial opening, I then went on to explain why these issues still exist and what to do about them. As you’ll discover, the long-term solution revolves around the three-legged stool concept of integrating strategy, people and process that’s designed from the perspective of how top people make job changes.

The Strategy Leg: Supply vs. Demand Determines the Talent Strategy

Too many companies design their hiring processes based on the assumption there’s a surplus of top talent ready and willing to work for them. While a flawed assumption, the premise results in a “weed out the weak and avoid mistakes” mentality at each step, including how job descriptions are written, how candidates need to apply and how they’re interviewed.

The strategic point in all of this is that you can’t use a surplus of talent model when a surplus of talent doesn’t exist. In a talent scarcity situation you need to attract the best in, not weed them out. This requires a high touch relationship approach offering true career growth rather than an impersonal transactional process offering people ill-defined lateral transfers.

The People Leg: Offer Career Moves, Not Lateral Transfers

Regardless of the job, the best people have no need or desire to consider ill-defined lateral transfers. Generic job postings that over-emphasize “must have” skills, experiences and competences are proof of this surplus of talent process design mindset. Employer branding helps little.

Instead jobs need to be customized to attract top talent based on the person’s intrinsic motivators to excel, and the evaluation process must be slowed to demonstrate that these jobs offer true growth. This is comparable to the discovery step in solution selling where buyer and seller develop win-win solutions. As important, the decision criteria used to make an offer and the criteria used by the candidate to accept it must be aligned emphasizing long-term opportunity, not short-term convenience or compensation.

The Process Leg: Think System, Not Steps

Too many hiring processes today are nothing more than a bunch of independent processes duct-taped together to form a so-called hiring process. Rather than thinking of hiring as a sequence of interlocking and interdependent components, the result is a competition for resources to optimize individual steps rather than the entire process. For example, at Nashville, I contended that the use of behavioral interviewing exacerbates the problem by focusing too much on avoiding hiring mistakes – which it does admirably well – rather than attracting the best, which requires a mutual respect and discovery process. Behavioral interviewing ignores this essential component of an attraction-based strategy.

Performance-based Hiring corrects for this fatal systemic flaw by designing every step in the hiring process based on how top people – both active and passive – look for and change jobs and how they make career hiring decisions.

Walking on All Three Legs: Walk the Talk

If talent is #1, then hiring managers need to be hired and measured and promoted on how well they do!

To get started walking this path, try to figure out what you’d do if you were a recruiter or hiring manager or business leader and were only given three shots at hiring someone. I suspect you’d work backwards building some type of three-legged stool. And even if it was a bit off kilter at first, you’d soon figure out what you’d need to do to eliminate the problem. To get started walking even faster, if the first candidate you meet is not hirable, stop everything and figure out why not, because you only have two attempts left.