Nobody Gives up Top Talent

Anytime you're hiring, a critical question you must answer is:  Why is the person you're considering available?  When you ask the candidate this, you're likely to hear a variety of answers that make sound good on the surface, but certainly bear closer examination.

 "...I was a victim of downsizing."

"...I disagreed with my manager about how to handle the job." 

"...I didn't think it was a good fit." 

The bottom line is, all of these answers (and many, many others) point to one conclusion -- the person you're talking to was NOT a top performer in their last job.  Companies work very hard to find ways to hang onto their top talent, and the pretty much never just put them on the street.

Sure, there are a few circumstances that might result in a top performer being  put out on the street, but they're uncommon.  Maybe a complete closure of a division where everyone was eliminated, or perhaps the merger of two businesses -- and even then, the employee you're talking to was almost certainly considered to be in the weaker end of the talent pool.

If the employee was sent away, they are almost certainly not a rare catch. 

Of course, that doesn't mean they aren't valuable, or even perfectly suitable for the job you're trying to fill.  But don't kid yourself into believing you're looking at a superstar that just had a run of bad luck. 

Some of the worst hires in my career were people out of a job (or soon to be out).  One manager I hired was so headstrong that nobody wanted to work with him and he refused to listen to direction from above.  Another was extremely tentative and folded under pressure.  A third hire from this "pool" was extremely abrasive, and couldn't seem to get along with peers.  And yet a fourth turned out to be downright dishonest.

Digging deeply into the backgrounds of others from this group has helped me dodge a few bullets.  The last one was a candidate that interviewed well, but had, I learned just before making an offer, a major attendance problem in her last position.  That's hardly a characteristic of top talent. 

In fact, I can only recall one employee I hired out of the "available" talent pool that worked out, and in his case, he voluntarily left his last position due to improper actions (read: unethical) undertaken by his boss. 

The easiest way to avoid this trap is to make your most critical hires from the ranks of the employed.  If you go this route, however, you have to package your opportunity as the "chance of a lifetime" or as "a big move up."  Nobody willingly/easily gives up their top talent, and if the candidate is really good, you'll be in a fight to reel them in right up to the time they show up for work the first day.  In fact, if you don't sense this is a risk you probably don't have top talent. 

When looking for top talent, I can't overly stress how important it is to get a true picture of the candidate's performance in their last/current job.  And not from their resume, or their references.  Instead, you need someone that can give you an unbiased, objective opinion.  To find this kind of source, I've used business contacts, Linkedin contacts, and friends of friends to make the necessary connections.  When those options didn't pan out, I'd ask the candidate's references to give me contact information for someone else that worked closely with the candidate, and then would get yet another contact from that person.  I'd keep going until I had someone I thought was objective.  And I rarely was willing to delegate this research to someone else.  What is said in such investigative discussions --nuance, and tone -- sometimes tell the entire story.

So when you're searching for top talent, you should begin with the belief that these folks (for the most part) are not eagerly running around searching for new jobs.  Certainly, they are unlikely to be unemployed.  Start with the assumption that the candidate is a poser, and dig until you are convinced this assumption is incorrect.  Only then will you likely find the kind of performer you're really after.  16.1

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If you are intrigued by the ideas presented in my blog posts, check out some of my other writing.  Novels: LEVERAGEINCENTIVIZEDELIVERABLES and now HEIR APPARENT (published 3/2/2013) -- note, the Kindle version of DELIVERABLES (a prequel to HEIR APPARENT) is on sale for a limited time for $2.99.

Julia McCoy challenges the wrong man when she picks a fight with the head of Matrix Corporation's Ethiocupro subsidiary.

Julia McCoy challenges the wrong man when she picks a fight with the head of Matrix Corporation's Ethiocupro subsidiary.

To the right is the cover of the audio version of INCENTIVIZE.  This novel takes the reader on a trip through some of the most remote areas of the volatile Horn of Africa, as the story follows Ethiocupro's attempt to get rid of a pesky auditor -- permanently.

These novels are all based on extensions of my experience as a senior manager in the world of public corporations.