Talent Acquisition Tactics: Hiring Elite Candidates
While not as high-pressure as hiring for executive and C-suite roles, elite candidates pose a unique challenge for many companies looking to attract star performers to their shores. But just what is so different about hiring the top 5% of industry talent that it merits its own set of talent acquisition tactics?
There’s the best you can hire, and then there’s hiring the best. The former is essentially choosing the most suitable applicant, while the latter is all about searching for someone who is above and beyond your dream profile.
Elite candidates are the people you hire to lead teams, innovate on products and services, identify and strategize for lucrative opportunities, and generally take your company to the next level.
Whether you’re looking for a seasoned veteran to lead your newly created data science department or a senior engineer with that special creative spark, chances are you’re after top performers. And that means changing your tactics to acquire their talent.
Here are five non-negotiable aspects to consider when developing talent acquisition tactics for elite candidates.
Tell them how the company plans to grow.
Top performers require more than just a huge salary and lucrative benefits in order to be swayed. More often than not, they’re motivated by a sense of belonging that can only be found when they’re part of something bigger than themselves.
Every interview is as much a chance for candidates to learn about the company as it is for recruiters to learn about candidates. When it comes to top-tier talent, know that they’re doing more due diligence than the average applicant.
A good place to start is with your mission, vision, values and current three- or five-year plan. This tells top candidates that your company not only has a solid base on which to move forward, but is thinking about long-term growth over short-term gain.
Show them their path and role in that growth.
Once you’ve explained to an elite candidate where you’re heading, they need to know their part in that journey. You’ll of course want to customize this part of your strategy to suit the specific role you’re hiring for.
If you’re hiring for a head of sales position, this might include the revenue figures you want them to achieve. For a creative director role, the discussion might include new business acquisitions or winning pitches.
But beware: even the most ambitious candidates can be put off by unrealistic goals and targets. If you’re hiring for a non-executive senior engineering position and their role includes revenue targets, it might send out the wrong message.
Don’t delay, dawdle or deceive.
When it comes to interviewing elite candidates, there are some things you just can’t afford to do. These deal-breakers are more than likely to result in the candidate dropping out of contention, with no dearth of suitors at that.
The first thing you want to avoid is any kind of unnecessary delay. Top performers are usually more understanding than most candidates about sudden developments that might cause an interview to be rescheduled or postponed. Just ensure those holdups don’t become frequent and that they always have a valid reason.
Another thing to avoid is playing any kind of waiting game. With elite candidates, not only should you be quick to respond to queries, you also might have to make exceptions to protocol and process. Remember, if you aren’t willing to cut through red tape and roll out an offer, there’s no shortage of competitors who will.
Last but certainly not least, never try to trick, lie or deceive your way into hiring an elite candidate. Don’t even misrepresent data to serve your purpose. Elite candidates know all about the dark arts of recruiting and will identify any shortage of integrity with eagle eyes. At best, you’ll end up losing out on a game-changing team member; at worst, your employer reputation will take a hit.
Know their true worth.
Just because top performers are looking for a company with a positive work culture, real opportunities, and shared values doesn’t mean finances aren’t a consideration. In fact, it might be even more important to them than you imagined.
You might be able to hire an entry-level professional for a salary that’s lower than market rate, but there will be no such luck with the very best in the business. Not only do they know what their value is, but they probably also know how much they can expect to earn a year or two down the line.
Elite candidates go above and beyond in every aspect of their roles, most often in terms of the amount of time and energy they expend. As such, they expect to be compensated fairly for their considerable efforts. To avoid any difficulties, make an offer that’s on par with their market value and respects what they bring to the table.
Don’t hire them if you plan on telling them what to do.
The iconic Steve Jobs once said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”
Elite performers are not just professionals with awards, accreditations, influence and several years of experience. They’re innovators, leaders, trump cards, game-changers and wild cards. They come with a level of expertise that’s all their own, which is exactly why you want to hire them.
The quickest way to lose an elite candidate soon after hiring them is to set them up with a list of tasks to complete, protocols to adhere to, and lines not to cross. While these rock stars will be only too willing to follow existing company processes, it’s best to largely leave them to weave their special brand of magic, however they do it.
Elite players improve everything around them.
Many companies pursue or hire elite candidates for the wrong reasons. Some think it boosts their social or industry credibility; others just don’t want them working for competitors and rivals.
The only acceptable reason to hire a star performer is to make your company stronger, your office happier, and team wiser. They make their work their passion, their environment more pleasant to be in, and the people around them more effective.
An investment in elite talent isn’t just another big number on your books or a status symbol. It’s a statement of intent and a partnership that will only flourish in the right conditions.