Ann is a frustrated business owner who has been trying to hire a marketing manager for the last eight months. Her last attempt was disastrous: over $6,200 spent on recruitment ad placements and 63 resumes screened. After 27 interviews in one week, four selected applicants were brought in for a second meeting. Not one of these finalists was offered the job.
What went wrong and why was Ann so upset? Simply stated, the company had been attracting the WRONG people! An analysis of the job placement ad revealed too much emphasis on job-related hard skills and experience, as well as a strong promise of an attractive salary. But it was lacking a clear description of vital job-related soft skills needed to excel on the job and in Ann’s company environment. Most importantly, the ad was “selling” the wrong benefits to the wrong people – no clear mention of the most important selection criteria top players are looking for!
If you want to attract top players, you need to understand that your challenge is not to find them, but to attract them! Hiring is like marketing–if you do not know what top players are looking for, they will never show up. You have thousands of competitors when it comes to attracting the best, knowing that the war for talent is raging and that every business like yours is willing to over-pay, compromise and sacrifice in order to attract top players.
The 4 selection criteria for top players
You can always evaluate an applicant against four general levels of motivation in finding a job. The first two criteria are quite logical and your margin of negotiation is rather limited. The last two criteria are much more irrational, more emotional and have proven to be so much more important to top players. The good side of it is: you have ample room to compete on these last two. As a matter of fact, the four criteria below are presented in increasing sequence of importance:
A. Nature of the job. Top players look at doing what they like to do. No matter how tough the job market conditions might be, you want to detect and attract those who would not compromise too much on their life-long aspirations. Communicate clearly in your job ad that you are looking only for those who are passionate about what they do. Always give priority to those applicants who demonstrate a good persistence in their professional orientation.
With young applicants, it is important to detect why they decided to take a specific academic orientation. Were they purpose-driven or merely going through school without any specific future intention? Watch out for the purposeless applicants who mostly look for a job “to make a living.”
B. Salary and other compensations. Qualified applicants know how much they are worth. Even if the current job market is a “buyer’s market,” make sure you offer your selected players an attractive package which will motivate them to work for long term rewards.
But if you really want to attract top players, offer performance-based rewards, such as bonuses or profit sharing. Reduce the fixed part of the salary and provide larger performance-based rewards which drive personal and organizational efficiency–and also reward commitment to the future.
Watch out for the skilled or experienced applicants who try to sell you their talent at a higher fixed salary with no desire for performance-related rewards. The coming years will be bright for you and your business, provided you are able to surround yourself with able, group-dedicated and future-driven collaborators!
C. Working environment. While your employees will say that they want a new job for better pay, reality might be different. People do not leave their company, they leave their boss. According to recent studies, nearly three out of five employees feel that their bosses frequently fail to honor their promises and 37% say they do not give credit when due. Another 23% said their supervisors blame others to cover up mistakes or minimize embarrassment. Most employees leave because of a difficult relationship with a supervisor rather than dissatisfaction with their salary. Over 77% of them find a new job with no higher pay.
Be aware that top players will first judge your company through the same irrational criteria as any potential customer would with a supplier. The recruiter’s attitude, employees’ friendliness, the smile on the receptionist’s face, etc. are factors which will attract–or scare away–good applicants. So be clear in your message: you will hire only someone who wants to have fun on the job, enjoy great team work and contribute to others as much as he/she will be contributed to.
D. Challenges & future. Many applicants primarily search for job security. Top players don’t care about it. They mostly want to face challenges and meet their potential. They are future-oriented and they want to prove that “they can do it.” They instantly respond to those “mission impossible” types of assignments. They buy a bright future to which they feel they can contribute. Being part of a future-oriented team is a major reward by itself; financial reward comes on top of it.
The key factor is: does the applicant want to take an active role in the expansion of your business? Is he/she responding positively to your challenges? Many employers tend to be too nice and too promising during the hiring process. The truth is: scare your applicants by being clear and totally transparent about the current challenges or difficulties. Then, and only then, show them the future.
Top players will love it. Other applicants will naturally shy away, which is exactly what you want! If you don’t present challenges first, you will indeed attract the wrong prospects for the job. Job security should be the reward of creating and contributing to a bright future, not a God-given right that you, the employer, must assume for every challenge-shy employee. Challenge is THE keyword. A bright future is the reward!
So, in order to attract the best and avoid the rest, put all your attention on developing your competitiveness on the last two criteria. While the first two do not give you much room to successfully beat the competition, these two irrational, emotional criteria offer unlimited possibilities to show–and make the difference!
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