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Column: The trick to hiring great people

Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979 and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community.

In this special Making Sen$e edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.


Question: Hiring great people is everybody’s goal, but it raises two challenges. First, how to attract candidates with those rare, valuable qualities into your pipeline. Second, how to identify them in the interviewing process when every candidate is telling you how talented, motivated, curious, and ethical they are. Thoughts?

Nick Corcodilos: “Hiring great people.” Yada, yada, yada. You’re right. It’s everybody’s goal. It’s become a throwaway tag line for human resources departments everywhere — but few employers really put processes in place to find and hire great people. Rather than go out and actively find who they need, employers take whoever comes along!

Let’s talk about two fatal flaws in the entire recruiting and hiring process.

Just-in-time hiring

First, we try to attract people when we need them. I call that “just-in-time hiring” and it’s a huge mistake. This limits us to cold, calculated, rushed recruiting methods that don’t work well — like posting jobs online and waiting for algorithms to deliver matches instantly. Worse, such methods trigger responses from job seekers that are almost as automated as the job postings! They’re likely the wrong people. We all know how easy it is to apply to 100 jobs all at once! (See “Why cattle-call recruiting doesn’t work.”)

As a hiring manager, you express it well: “Everyone is telling you how talented they are!” We’ve all seen it — candidates with the “I’m your (wo)man” smile on their faces.

But to recruit effectively, we need to attract the right people long before we need them, patiently and thoughtfully, so the working relationships that result will be based on common interests, not common desperation. When a company needs the right talent, the right key words just won’t do!

Fill the pipeline

Second, we try to “attract people into our pipeline.” Pipeline means database. Database means impersonal — and it means loads and loads of resumes. But the right people we really want aren’t out looking for our pipelines. We must find and enter their pipelines, their career tracks and the critical points in their work lives.

That’s real recruiting: Going to the people you need. Don’t wait for them to come to you.

People make career changes only at certain inflection points in their professional lives. We can be there with the best of them when they are ready — we can already be a part of their lives. Or we can lay our automated online traps and wait for anyone to come along. Catching people who are chasing jobs is no way to find the right people for your business.

Go to the people you need to hire!

Forget about your pipeline. Crawl out of it and get into the world of the people you need to hire!

The people you want are busy in their professional communities, doing their work, talking shop with peers, taking education courses, speaking at industry events, writing articles for professional websites and hanging out with the opinion makers in their industries. Why aren’t you there with them?

You can catch them when they’re ready to make a change because you’ve already gotten to know them as peers — and they already know you. This is what hiring via personal contacts really means!

Find work-related forums where the best people in their fields are talking shop. Talk shop with them, get to know them, establish your own cred and you’ll always have someone to turn to when you need to fill a job.

You can’t really identify the people you want in the interview process. At that point, it’s too late. You identify them on the job, and in the throes of dialogue they’re engaged in with their peers. Then you follow them and get to know them. Talk to them about a job when you know them well enough. Not when your pipeline needs to be filled. (See “Recruiting: How to get your hands dirty and hire.”)

Yada, yada, yada, we need to hire great people! Yup. Go find them long before you need to hire them.

Dear Readers: If you’re an employer, how do you find great new hires? Do you go to them, or do you wait for them to appear just in time? If you’re a great worker, how do you meet the best employers?


Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps,” “How Can I Change Careers?” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

Copyright © 2018 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.

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