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Seven reasons why you’re not recruiting the best people for your growing business

Recruiting talented people is the single most significant difference you can make to your business. It’s way more important than anything else. Get more A-Players into your company, and the pace will go up. Not only that, but your ability to deliver quality work for your customers will increase exponentially. There’s less stress about winning bigger projects because you know it will happen. In fact, there’s less worry all around.

Contrast this with having fewer A-Players. You start to drive towards efficiency, bureaucracy and repeatable processes. Your B and C-Players can’t cope with anything else. You stifle any thought or talent in your business when you do this. And you lose any good people that you still have. 

The other day, I was at an event where the speaker drew a diagram inspired by Sun Tzu’s ‘Art of War’. ‘Let’s say you have 100 people in an army,’ they explained. ‘Twenty of them will be shirkers. Seventy will be OK but nothing special. Nine of them will do your killing. One will be a leader.’ This intrigued me as it perfectly matches our definition of A-Players (i.e. the top 10% of available talent for a given job, salary and location). These are the people you want in your business. 

So why aren’t you recruiting them?

1. No talent assessment process

You won’t increase your business’s talent unless you prioritise it. We suggest all our clients put in place a talent assessment process. This is a deliberate way of reviewing all your people and ranking them A, B, C or Toxic A-Players. And you don’t just do this once. You revisit it every quarter.

Most new clients have around 10-30% A Players when they start working with us. With persistence and focus, they increase this. One has recently reached 64% A-Players after only two years. The goal is 90%. And it can be done – take our word for it!

Every quarter, we review this productivity metric with clients. We also make sure there’s a framework in place that can help us spot where we have a behavioural mismatch. We’re looking for Toxic A-Players here. People with high levels of social currency who don’t fit the culture. 

2. No scorecards

‘Do you know what’s expected of you at work?’ This is one of the core questions of the Gallup Q12 staff engagement survey, and one of the reasons you need a system in your business that defines the expectations in each role. Only then will your people know what good looks like. 

We recommend using job scorecards. Why are these important to recruiting good people? Because they will give you an understanding of clear targets and definitions of A-Players. You can determine the return on investment you’re looking for in the role. Say you’re hiring a new salesperson for £100K. What does that job need to deliver to be a sound use of your money?

3. Dull job adverts

dull job ad

Do some research. Google your company’s adverts versus your competitors’. Do they stand out in any way? If they don’t, you’re unlikely to attract top talent.  

You need to sell the job through an engaging advert to differentiate you from your competition. If you’ve done the work on the job scorecard, you can be crystal clear about the expectations of the role and the salary. People will self-select as they read your ad, and the field of applicants is narrowed down to those who will do the role for the money you’re offering.

Above all, write job ads from the perspective of what you’re offering rather than what you want. Sell your culture and everything it offers to recruits.

4. Poor interviews

Job scorecards will help you understand how to interview for each role and the important questions you need to ask. Too often, managers interview on gut feel. This is amateur and haphazard. As well as using job scorecards, make sure your interviewing managers construct questions around your core values.

Every interview should be conducted by two senior managers minimum. Don’t outsource it to more junior HR people. It’s too important. You need to put time and attention into getting this right. 

Research from Google shows the optimum number of interviews in any recruitment process is four. The first can be a telephone screen; the rest should be done in pairs. Also useful is a ‘bar-raiser’ (as they call them at Amazon). This is someone who’s not directly involved in the team and is not emotionally engaged in the outcome. They are involved purely to interview for cultural fit and get a veto on final decisions.

5. Lack of data on previous recruitment

Too often, we go into businesses and find no data on previous recruitment decisions. I ask, ‘Who hired all these C-Players?’ I’m met with blank looks. Your bar-raiser should be someone who has proved they can consistently hire A-Players. And your interviewing managers need to be A-Players themselves if they hope to attract fellow A-Players to join.

We encourage our clients to keep records of who hired whom on their HR system. I used to have someone working for me who’s now MD of a great UK business. But he was shocking at spotting good people in interviews. If there were three candidates, he’d always pick the wrong one. So I told him he couldn’t hire anyone anymore! 

6. Weak verification

You know that C-Player that’s been in your business for three months? Did anyone take up their references? No? Why not? We see this all the time. There’s no excuse for it. The nature of LinkedIn means you’re only a few degrees of separation away from someone that will know this person well. Get in touch with them and ask them the million-dollar question, ‘Would you enthusiastically re-hire this person?’ And watch for the pause before they reply. It speaks volumes.

Another question you could ask is, ‘I’ve just hired x, who I understand used to work with you. What should I do to get the best from him/her?’ Then read between the lines of their answer.

This shouldn’t be your job in the first place. Any A-Player candidate will have a good relationship with their former boss. They should willingly give you glowing references.

7. Recruitment process takes too long

A-Players are in high demand. Take it from me. Your competitors will snap them up if you don’t act fast. You must speed your process up.

We helped our client Smartsourcing to do this. Their process used to take 40 days from CV to offer. They drove it down to 20, then 10. They’re currently attempting to drive it down to 4. That’s a 10x improvement in less than a year. 

Look at ways you can industrialise your process. What can you do at every touchpoint? Maybe some things in parallel? Or put in place online tools that deliver results quickly? It’s something that we’ve done in our coaching business. We get all the candidates to do their Working Genius survey, Patrick Lencioni’s profiling tool. In the past, we used to do it later in the process, but now we do it before the initial telephone screen. Half don’t bother, so that screens the time wasters straight away!   


Written by business growth coach Dominic Monkhouse. Find out more about his work here. Read his book, ‘F**k Plan B’ here.

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