Selecting the superior talent from a pool of candidates - that's your main focus when trying fill an open position at your company. To reach this objective, most will concentrate on perfecting the interview process; screening resum├ęs more harshly, developing harder interview questions, performing more thorough reference checks, etc. And yes, this can certainly work when trying to find the best employee among a group. But, what if the group itself is, well, shit?

This one aspect of hiring is easily the most overlooked. Most companies believe that by casting out the largest net possible, they'll catch their prized fish among the crowd. I couldn't disagree with this more. It's a bad strategy, and as you'll find out, actually has the opposite effect. Yet company after company does it. If this is how your company is finding candidates, and you're seeing continual low performance and/or a high turnover rate, a weak candidates pool is most likely the reason why.

It Starts at The Beginning

Ed Catmull, one of the leading visionaries at Pixar, tells an insightful story in his book "Creativity Inc." The anecdote revolved around the climax scene in one of Pixar's films and the challenging process that followed. You see, this particular scene just wasn't having the emotional impact they always aim for. They watched this section of the movie countless times, and could not pinpoint what was wrong. The scene was shot beautifully. The dialog was right on cue. Everything was exactly how they wanted it, but it just did not work.

Feeling a bit defeated, they decided to take a break from this one scene, and watch the film from the beginning... That's when they saw it. It wasn't that the climax scene was weak, it was that the opening segment didn't create enough initial conflict. As a result, you weren't truly drawn into the story, and the pivotal scene of the movie was just - eh. This false start was exactly why that one major scene lacked so much punch, and it all started at the beginning.

This situation, although about movie editing, absolutely relates to the impact of a bad start in hiring, and how people often focus on the wrong area when trying to fix a problem.

It's cliche, but people are constantly looking to resolve the symptoms, and not the issue. If you're frequently dealing with bad hires or under performance, take a step back and realize it may not be your interviewing process, it's the candidate pool that's causing your headaches and hurting your bottom line.

How to Get It Right

More often than not, the first point of contact a candidate will have with your company, is the job posting. This is where you start gathering your applicants, and why I always tell myself this phrase, "Job Posts Equal Marketing."

Now I don't believe this to be groundbreaking. In fact, I find that many smart recruiters already know this to be true. Unfortunately, despite knowing this, most don't treat the process this way, and the job postings reflect that. I mean, how often do you a see a job opening that starts with a generic write up about the company, small position summary, a list of tasks, and a few bullet points of desired accomplishments/experience? ALL THE TIME! Just go to Google Images and search"Job Postings", that's all you'll see. There's no differentiation. They're too wordy. And there's certainly no marketing going on. (End rant.)

So how do we fix this? Well the golden rule of marketing is - know thy target audience. In order to do that, you have to ask questions like...

  • What type of person does this position need?
  • What is going to drive them towards success?
  • What type of person thrives in our culture?

The more in depth the questioning, the better you'll communicate with your ideal candidate. That's why I always recommend creating a Candidate Persona for each new position.

Now truth be told, I didn't actually start at the beginning. Sticking with the movie theme, I guess you can say I "Tarantinoed-it." The reality is, before you can even start asking questions about the candidates, you have to look and think deeply about the open position itself.

  • Is it needed?
  • Why is this position important to the company?
  • What will this position achieve within 1 year? 6 months? 3 months?

These question are really just the tip of the iceberg. I have an article called, "Positional Profile - A Company Lifesaver," and it's dedicated to building out these positional priorities. I highly recommend you read it as a follow up to this piece.

Why this is Right

By taking a comprehensive look into the open position and the type of candidates needed to fill this role, you've given yourself a lot of valuable information, which can be used throughout the hiring process. Most importantly, this information can be be used to explore the most effective advertising avenues for this opportunity - the first initial contact between you and the candidate.

By performing this research, you may discover that the candidates you're looking for, never search certain job boards. Or maybe they prefer a challenge, so posing a difficult question on a highway billboard, could be exactly the way to attract the candidates you seek. Or maybe you have the ideal candidate in-house, and the open position is actually at a lower level within the organization.

Realizations like this matter, as they can significantly hurt or help your bottom line.

Suggested Follow-ups:

Article By: Tom Kieley

About the Author

Tom is the creator of Fulfillingly. He absolutely enjoys giving people the tips and tools they need to find a satisfying career or dependable employee. Tom does
this by combining years of experience with incredible outside sources.

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