Bob had a look of shock in his eyes, one I hadn't seen in the 18 months we'd been working together. Bob owns a thriving landscaping business and he wanted to get my thoughts about adding someone to his office staff. I asked several questions before serving up the one that triggered the look. "Why would anyone great want your crappy little job?" (Did I say that out loud? I cringed after I said it.)
Bob was making the mistake that virtually every hiring manager makes: viewing his employment opportunity from only his perspective. Bob had scoped the job narrowly to fit the duties of the last under-performer in the role. And the decision about where and to whom the position would report was like a bad organizational "comb over" to hide a known dysfunction. Finally, he was focused mainly on the filters he was going to apply to the candidates: What qualifications should he require? What questions should he ask? Bob, ever the outdoorsman, was about to go fishing for a new hire with bait likely to attract only people who are either desperate for any job or hate the one they have.
Jim Collins in his book, Good to Great, taught us all about the critical importance of getting the "right people on the bus." Not that we needed someone to tell us that, right?. Every one of us who has ever had an employee knows how much easier life and business are when we have a great one. And yet, when most employers begin the recruiting process, the main question they are asking is "How do I select the best person for my job?" Instead, the first and perhaps most important question they should be asking and answering is "why would anyone great want to work for me?"
Here's the thing: Every superstar performer is already rocking it somewhere else. And if their employers are paying attention, they are compensating their stars well, giving them new and broader responsibilities, recognizing them for their accomplishments and praising their good work. Why would anyone want to leave that!? (Granted, not all employers are paying attention to their superstars. Are you? Just checking.)
So, "Why WOULD anyone great want to work for you?" Short answer: to get something their current employer can't or isn't giving them. Most people think money is the answer. But money is rarely the reason superstars go looking and is frequently outranked by non-financial motivators. (And if a superstar is leaving their employer solely because of money, beware. You may not want them.)
Some differentiators that could be authentic and unique to your company and attract superstars include:
- Your vision and your purpose are bold, clear and compelling and star performers want to be a part of it.
- Your product or service is in an exciting, emerging space and superstars want to learn it
- Your company is like the university for your industry where people are taught best practices, learn new skills, techniques and approaches, and are constantly learning and growing.
- You offer flexible work arrangements. (A handful of savvy business owners are using this approach to attract superstar moms who want to be home when the kids get back from school.)
- You'll train the person who is a superstar at something, but has no relevant expertise for the position you're offering. (One of the best hires I ever made was someone who had no relevant experience for my opening. But she was a double major from U Penn in Math and Chinese. And no, she was not Chinese.)
BTW, Bob ended up increasing the scope of his opening, cleaning up its reporting relationship and hired a bright, capable raw talent with a great attitude and minimal experience. One month in, he's thrilled with the hire.
Having an attractive answer to the "why" question can shake loose those great performers from other companies. Now, you may be feeling that none of the possibilities above apply to you or your company. That's ok. So, how WILL you differentiate your next opening so that great performers will want it? It's up to you. You'll get what you attract. The better your bait, the better the fish you'll catch.