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10 Rules for Recruiting the Best People

CEOs who get the recruiting process right make almost every other part of their job easier

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BY Joel Trammell - 05 Dec 2017

10 Rules for Recruiting the Best People

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Legendary Texas football coach Spike Dykes once told me that a coach's success is 75 percent the players and 25 percent coaching. He said, "You give me the best players and an average coach and we will beat the best coach with average players every time."

CEOs should take this approach and own recruiting instead of abdicating it solely to HR. One of the five critical CEO responsibilities is to provide the proper resources, and people are the most important. Here are ten rules for building an outstanding recruiting function that attracts the best candidates.

1. Always be recruiting (ABR).

Good people aren't always available on your schedule. Constantly seek out top performers. Sometimes you'll have to build a relationship with people months, even years, before you hire them - especially executives. As CEO, you must lead this charge.

2. Always hire A-level talent when available.

If you run across an A player and don't have a job for him or her, create one. Stars usually come on the market because of some disruptive event--a business closing, major restructuring, or a change in family situation. Take them when you can get them. By definition, A-level individuals add more value to your business than they cost.

3. Capitalize on disruptive events.

When those disruptive events do happen, be prepared to take action. Stay in touch with CEOs who might have employees you would want to hire. When another CEO sends you a resume, that's a great reference. If you hear that a business is struggling, find out if they have any stellar people you could pick up, should the worst happen. Do the same if one of your competitors gets acquired.

4. Always be selling (ABS).

Top performers can usually afford to be picky, making it imperative that you sell your company to them. Too many managers only think about what they want in a candidate. Create a list of the five to ten reasons your company is the best place to work. If that is difficult, you probably haven't spent enough time on this side of the recruiting process.

5. Hire quickly.

Most hiring processes take too long, often leaving you with mediocre or poor performers. The longer your hiring process takes, the less enthusiastic the best candidates will be. Someone else is likely to snatch them up while you are dawdling. Two weeks is a good standard from resume in hand to offer.

6. Designate one person to set the bar.

One person in the company should interview every candidate to help maintain consistency across the organization. This could be the CEO or another high-level person. Train those employees responsible for holding candidates to certain standards to interview well and identify the right talent.

7. Employ only the best recruiters.

Recruiters who represent your company--employees, vendors or consultants--must be topnotch talent. First, they must be able to distinguish the finest candidates. Second, they must be professional and knowledgeable. If not, they will reflect badly on the company. For a fast-growing company, the recruiter might be your most important individual contributor.

8. Cultivate unique sources.

Think about sources for your business that your competition might overlook. For example, bigger companies don't often recruit at smaller, regional colleges and universities. These can be a great source of talent. Another good area of recruiting is people leaving the military.

9. Require new-hire training.

Assume every employee--at every level--will take three months of guidance to get up to full productivity. A formal training or onboarding program--covering everything from the location of the bathroom to the CEO's vision--is critical to a successful recruiting process for all employees. New hires should also meet key executives to learn about the company.

10. Track your performance.

Most companies keep metrics on many parts of the business, but recruiting is often ignored. Closely track and review metrics such as these to continuously improve the recruiting and hiring process:

  • Time to fill an open job: Keep this to a minimum.
  • Time from engaging candidate to offer: Moving quickly requires the recruiter and hiring manager to be in sync and prepared if the right candidate is found.
  • Percent of candidates accepting offers: This number should be 80 percent or better if you are laying the groundwork for an offer from day one and properly selling the company to the candidate.
  • What companies you lose to: It's one thing if you lose out on potential employees to other high-flying companies, but if you are losing to Joe's Shoe Emporium, something about your company is not very attractive.
  • Percentage of new hires rated "A" or "B" two quarters after hire (or however you rate performance): If you find that you are hiring a good number of Cs, you need to reevaluate your process.

Passivity breeds mediocrity. Simply accepting what an average HR department delivers means you had better be a really good coach!